vegan rhubarb panna cotta

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The alluring culinary dichotomy of sour and sweet is present in numerous fruits but enjoys arguably its prettiest expression in the vivid magenta blush of roasted rhubarb. And there’s nothing like adding a creamy, fat element to this – a tri-chotomy? I’m sorry! I know words have meaning! – to truly enhance its colour and flavour, like wearing an enormous fluffy coat with a tiny slip dress: there’s contrast and balance.

Now, you’d think my lack of object permanence would cause a container of roasted rhubarb to languish in the fridge, entirely forgotten before I’d even closed the door, but fortunately for all involved a secondary function of my brain kicked into gear, where I commence a random and often barely relevant task as if by automatism and wake up halfway through; in this case the morning after roasting the rhubarb I found myself, entirely without thinking, making a pink variation of the passionfruit panna cotta I rapturised about back in March.

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This is a delightful way to come up with new recipes – by taking an existing recipe I love and sliding in a new ingredient, mad-libs style. There is obviously no points system at play here but if there were I would give bonus credit to any such recipe where a half-assed, barely-thought-out replacement ingredient proved so deliciously perfect that at the very last minute I decided to blog about it. But subconsciously I must have known I was onto a winner because I divided most of the mixture between four glasses with a little extra in a fifth glass as a “tester” – surely the actions of a person who suspected they’d want to make sure the recipe worked so they could photograph the remaining desserts in an attractive tableau before the intermittent winter sunlight faded altogether. Also, I took videos of the cooking process for a TikTok which really makes it sound like this was all planned in advance but again: I can’t stress enough how many things I do without thinking! It’s possible! It’s horribly annoying! It’s rarely anything useful! Not once have I zoned in on myself industriously tidying my room or paying bills.

Anyway, all I was trying to say before getting quagmired in the psychological journey is that I guess I knew this was going to be delicious but I was not prepared for just how exquisite it would taste! So let’s finally get to the important part: what does this rhubarb panna cotta taste like? I could and unfortunately will say things like “sherbet cloud” and “nights in pink satin” but to be more specific, the perfumed, green apple-raspberry vibes of the rhubarb become even more pronounced when roasted and cooled; this softened fruit near-on dissolves in the cream leaving nothing but tiny threads interrupting the otherwise plush smoothness, and each thread carries within it a tiny fizzy burst of candy sourness met but not dulled by the modest quantity of sugar. Draping it with more roasted rhubarb stops it from being too mellow and importantly, adds another shade of pink: we eat with our eyes and the sheer aesthetic power of this panna cotta leaves you full up before you can blink.

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I’m not sure if that accurately describes them or if I’ve ended up moving even further away from my point but the point is: these panna cotta taste incredible and you should make them today. And if you can’t get hold of rhubarb? Try the passionfruit version! There’s a sour-sweet dessert for all seasons! Also, I looked up the word ‘trichotomy’ and it’s actually real: my mind is always three steps ahead even when it’s two steps behind.

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Vegan Rhubarb Panna Cotta

Dreamy, pink and delicious. Recipe adapted from my Passionfruit Panna Cotta, which was, in turn, adapted slightly from this recipe at anisabet.com.au. Roasted rhubarb is a method suggested in numerous Nigella Lawson books, most recently Cook, Eat, Repeat. Makes 4-5 servings.

  • 500g pink rhubarb, cleaned and trimmed
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 1/3 cup extra
  • 1 x 400ml tin full-fat coconut cream
  • 1 teaspoon agar-agar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1: First, roast your rhubarb – slice each stick of rhubarb into smaller lengths, pack into a roasting dish in more or less a single layer, sprinkle over the half cup of sugar – and honestly, I didn’t actually measure it out, I just shook the bag of sugar over the rhubarb till it felt right and encourage you to do the same – then cover the tin tightly with tinfoil and place in a 180C/350F oven for thirty minutes. Allow the rhubarb to cool before decanting it, along with all the pink syrup that has formed, into a container and store in the fridge. This will make more than you need for the recipe but roasted rhubarb is always delightful to have on hand.

2: Scoop about 3/4 cup of the roasted rhubarb and syrup into a saucepan, along with the can of coconut cream and the extra 1/3 cup of sugar. Cook over low heat for a few minutes, without letting it come to a boil, stirring to break down the rhubarb.

3: Dissolve the agar-agar in a little cold water and spatula the lot into the pink rhubarb cream, stirring thoroughly to ensure there are no lumps. Keep stirring over a low heat – again, without letting it get anywhere near boiling – for another five or so minutes. It should thicken up slightly. Stir in the vanilla (you can really stir it in at any point along the way, I just remembered it now.)

4: Use a cup measure or ladle to divide this mixture between four or five small ramekins or pretty glasses. If you use four, you’ll get more, if you use five, you’ll get five panna cotta, it’s as simple as that. Refrigerate the panna cotta for a couple of hours – they set quite quickly, but I find the flavour grows stronger if you leave them overnight.

Serve with reserved roasted rhubarb and a little of the rhubarb syrup spooned over the top.

Notes:

  • Agar-agar is available at shops that sell vegan stuff and Asian supermarkets, it’s usually quite inexpensive at the latter. One teaspoon doesn’t sound like a lot to set all that liquid but it’s powerful stuff.
  • Use any leftover rhubarb on yoghurt and cereal, to top ice cream, add the syrup to cocktails, or just – make another batch of panna cotta!

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music lately:

Snow by Whipping Boy. I swear every dinner time a random forgotten shoegaze band will come up in conversation with my brother that I’ve never heard of and then I listen to them and it turns out they’re my new favourite band! Somehow we haven’t run out of shoegaze bands yet! This song came from Whipping Boy’s album Submarine, and I recommend listening to it all at once, but Snow has all the hallmarks of what makes the rest of the album excellent: a muffled, layered early 90s grimness coupled with remarkable, soaring beauty.

Supervixens by A.R Kane. Speaking of shoegaze; Spotify recently capitalised on the user-propelled free advertising they receive with their end-of-year listening summaries by delivering a distinctly half-hearted mid-year version, and yes, I knew I was being pandered to but unfortunately I love being told I’m special and when Spotify said: “who else but you would play Linda Eder after A.R Kane?” I was like yes, who indeed could do this? Well, now you can enjoy being special too. I’ve mentioned this song so many times on here already but I don’t care because I love it so much.

Don’t Rain On My Parade by Linda Eder. Look if you don’t have time, skip to 3 minutes and 10 seconds, the direction the notes go in compared to how utterly chill she appears to be delivering them is literally comparable to the Moon landing in terms of widespread cultural significance.

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.

Twin Peaks Ice Cream [vegan, no-churn]

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It’s a rare treat if not a luxury to witness your pop culture references made during a past era of your life hold up to scrutiny in the fullness of time; I first devised this Twin Peaks Ice Cream in 2012 for my 2013 cookbook, nearly a decade later I remain as sincerely enthusiastic about the show which inspired the flavour. (Enthusiastic but without any sense of object permanence: I sprinted around my bedroom, looking fruitlessly for a prop which evoked Twin Peaks to use in the photos before I remembered my framed picture of Laura Palmer sitting, very much on display, on my desk; when I blogged the original non-vegan Twin Peaks Ice Cream recipe back in 2017 I mentioned this picture in the text but didn’t even think to include her in the photos.)

Ice cream is my first instinct and my second nature – to me, ice cream is the reception area in my head where all flavours have to check in first before being directed to their appropriate meeting room. When you eat eggs and dairy, making delicious ice cream is beyond easy. I’m chill with admitting that my vegan ice cream journey was a slog, with the occasional frosty pitfall – no fun for someone used to being at ease with this dessert. And if I may be very honest with you, I look back on a few of my vegan ice cream recipes and feel indifferent, which is so much worse than if they’d been merely disastrous. And even the ice creams I loved had a certain chaotic vibe.

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This weighed heavily on my shoulders without lifting – my brain loves a self-imposed millstone – but I had to keep persisting. THE perfect ice cream base for all the flavours in the waiting room of my mind was out there and it wanted to find me. And after making the vegan feijoa ice cream – using a method I came up with back in 2012 – I realised the simplest and most effective vegan ice cream was hiding in plain sight this whole time.

The magic ingredient is a can of sweetened condensed coconut milk, and that plus a can of coconut cream gives you a lush, icy, creamy and monumentally delicious ice cream without any whipping of aquafaba or soaking cashews or custard-making or coagulating reluctant oils. It’s a bit of a pain to get hold of the condensed coconut milk, I grant you, but it’s becoming more readily available in supermarkets now and for the utter low-effort ice cream excellence it yields it’s worth a little detective work around that weird corner of the supermarket where they shunt all the vegan food and anything they deem “exotic”.

In this case, it’s the perfect vehicle and backdrop for coffee and cherries, those persistent motifs of Twin Peaks (in a show lousy with persistent motifs, to be fair). You might not immediately think to pair such flavours, and, well, that’s why I’m here. They’re so friendly! Special Agent Dale Cooper levels of friendly! The toasty, nutty bitterness of the coffee and the almond-adjacent sourness of the cherries are made for each other, especially when their sharp edges are mellowed out by the rich, impenetrable smoothness of the sweetened condensed milk. I’m so thrilled to have a vegan version of this particular ice cream at my fingertips, which coincides with my being ready for yet another rewatch of Twin Peaks, and I’m super excited for all the other ice creams I’m going to make using this simple and charming sweetened condensed milk/coconut cream base. Now, I’m going to tell you that you can’t taste the coconut in this ice cream but whether this is trustworthy information is up to you; I consume litres of coconut by-products every week and my ability to perceive it is probably dulled as a result. Certainly, the bolshiness of the coffee overrides most of the coconut flavour on its own.

And the presence of coffee makes this something of a morning ice cream if you will; a bowl of Twin Peaks Ice Cream for breakfast is the best conceivable start to your day.

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Twin Peaks Ice Cream

The vegan version of my cookbook recipe, this is the EASIEST ice cream you’ll ever make – no churning, no whipping, no blending, no nothing. You can absolutely substitute in other flavours (and I will be in the future) but coffee and cherry is a wonderful combination.

Recipe by myself. Makes around 1 litre.

  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee powder
  • 100ml recently-boiled water
  • 1 x 300g tin sweetened condensed coconut milk
  • 1 x 400ml tin full-fat coconut cream
  • 1 cup drained morello cherries, from a jar

1: Dissolve the coffee into the hot water. Mix this together with the sweetened condensed coconut milk and coconut cream till it’s smoothly combined.

2: Drop the cherries into the ice cream mixture and briefly stir to disperse. Spatula all this into a freezer-proof container with a lid. Place the container in the refrigerator for two hours (or thereabouts, longer is fine) – this adds extra time to your ice cream but I swear it improves the texture and flavour. Transfer the container to the freezer and let sit for six hours or overnight – no need to stir or check on it at all.

3: Allow the ice cream to sit on the bench for about ten minutes before serving to soften it for scooping – it’s not rock-hard straight from the freezer but it needs a little coaxing. 

Notes:

  • I want to emphasise again that you get full-fat coconut cream. Look at the ingredients on the label – ideally, you want 90% coconut extract or above.
  • If you have fresh cherries there’s nothing stopping you from using them but to me they seem so rare and precious that it would be hard to do anything other than eating them, unadorned, with quiet reverence.

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music lately:

I Get Lonely by Janet Jackson. It’s so elegant, with that spacious, airy opening sequence and the percussive finger snaps and the silhouette-emphasising choreography and the bustier over the white shirt and the sumptuous soul production, it’s super seductive yet also makes you feel like you’re sitting in a darkened room by a fan heater while rain hits the roof. Truly one of Ms Jackson’s very best, I loved it then and I love it still.

Natural’s Not In It by Gang of Four. At first, it’s like okay right they’re just repeating the same chords over and over and then after a while it’s like – if they change the melody in literally any way, if there is even one single goddamn bridge I will throw a table through a window and then you press repeat on the song every time it ends for the next forty minutes.

Twin Peaks Theme by Angelo Badalamenti – since we’re here – looped for ten hours: my all-or-nothing attention span either wants it over in thirty seconds or NEVERENDING and this is music made to be listened to in the latter fashion. Badalamenti’s music is more like another character on Twin Peaks – his ability to distil the vibe of the show into music form is unreal, utterly peerless. Like you could listen to his composition without ever having seen Twin Peaks and yet somehow you would know everything you needed to know and quoting deep cut lines from the show, and you’d probably be dressed up as a minor character with unsettlingly faithful attention to detail.

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.

Vegan Tofu-Fried Tofu

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On Friday I had my first professional driving lesson in at least ten years. People have been trying to teach me to drive one way or another since 2001; people have failed. I could not be car-broken. And in a nation of drivers, where 97% of society and its amenities are inaccessible without a car, this was eventually going to bite me. Learning about things like anxiety and ADHD has certainly helped me understand why I might not have taken smoothly to driving, but it still didn’t make me any more inclined to get behind the wheel. What I wanted was a Matrix-style chip in the back of my neck, uploading the necessary software to turn me into a driver – failing that, some kind of magic-adjacent experience, such as being hit over the head or electrocuting myself or being bitten by a spider. I did not want to do the work! Nor, should I! Why can’t society bend to me, why must we prioritise driving when it’s so dangerous and environmentally terrible and also something I can’t do?

Ten months of avoidance passed after I got my learners license (again) and then I finally booked a lesson. Unlike the other pros, this instructor was kind and patient and had heard of anxiety and didn’t just bark at me to drive into oncoming traffic; after 50 minutes concentrated figure-eighting around the nearby town, making serviceable left turns and even a few right turns, I felt unbelievably powerful and hyperactive, high on the absence of failure, almost too powerful – like, wait, can I drive now? Should I go on a cross-country road trip right now? Probably, right? Just to be safe?

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I bring this up for reasons twofold: firstly, I just wanted to boast that I bravely committed to learning to drive; secondly, if you’ve ever been suspicious of tofu – which I don’t respect but I do understand because we live in a society and tofu has been poorly treated in the public image – then perhaps this recipe could be the kind of successful interaction to finally make you feel like a person who not only enjoys tofu but frantically celebrates it at any opportunity. (I also recommend Bettina Makalintal’s crispy glazed tofu, I will never be without a bag of potato starch ever again.)

The recipe is Tofu-Fried Tofu, and it’s spectacularly good and inspired by Brooks Headley and his Superiority Burger Crispy Fried Tofu Sandwich. Sometimes, no matter how established the person writing the recipe, I just physically can’t follow it, and instead, I have to scan it into my head like a pdf and never read it again but use whatever key components I can remember to make a recipe based on it. Why is this? I think it’s partly the way a lot of recipes are laid out these days, and probably partly something neurological on my part, let’s be honest. The only person I don’t do this with is Nigella Lawson – at least, not as much – and I think it’s because her recipes feel as though they’re so very already in my language – whatever changes I’d make, Nigella has probably already anticipated it.

This is my roundabout way of explaining that I’m not trying to say I’m any better than Brooks Headley but I still had to make my own version inspired by his recipe rather than following it to the letter. There’s no reason why you can’t make his recipe as it’s written, I’m sure it’s amazing, and my recipe doesn’t diverge too wildly anyway. But the recipe I made is also delicious and through some trial and error, it’s exactly where I want it to be. These errors include adding cocoa to the flour mixture (I wanted to want it, but it’s not the one) and leaving the tofu at its from-the-package thickness, making for a genuinely strenuous eating experience where you practically needed a step-ladder to scale the breadth of soy protein on your plate.

These slender triangles of tofu bathe in an aggressive marinade of pickle brine, soy milk, vegan oyster sauce or Maggi, and mustard powder – which when combined is oddly potable if not wildly delicious, I really had to bargain with myself to stop drinking it from the container while the tofu was marinating in it, I wish I were exaggerating for comic effect here but if anything I’m downplaying it. The key to the flour dredge is a ton of Chinese Five-Spice powder and ground white pepper – an inelegant ingredient but one who deserves to shine, in my opinion – and double-dunking to create pockets and crevices of crumbly coating. It’s more of a KFC-esque coating – dense and softly crisp – rather than shatteringly crunchy, especially the longer it sits, and this is obviously not a bad thing.

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Between the tanginess of the pickle brine and mustard and the bumptious yet balanced spices, this is one of the very best things you can do with tofu. It makes sense to tuck it into a burger bun (I spread the base with hummus and topped the tofu with kimchi which was a chaotic but complementary combination) but you could serve these alongside chips or on top of rice. The crucial thing is to leave yourself a few for the next day, I honestly think they taste better cold than they do at any other stage of the proceedings.

[Also – I forgot to mention this last week but I had the joy of appearing on Pip Adam’s Better off Read podcast to discuss the plot devices I employ in my poetry, the way I’m influenced by film auteurs in my fiction writing (does this make me an auteur? Maybe??) and more besides; Pip is one of my very favourite writers and it was such an honour and a thrill to speak with her about writing. It’s just really fun and I thoroughly recommend you listen to it because I’m a great podcast guest and she’s a great host!]

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Tofu-Fried Tofu

This is inspired by Brooks Headley’s recipe, and the more often you make it the less effort it will seem. I can’t tell you how delicious this is cold from the fridge the next day. Makes 12 pieces.

  • 1 x 300g (or thereabouts) block of tofu, firm or extra-firm
  • 1/3 cup brine from a jar of pickles/gherkins
  • 1/2 cup soy milk (or oat milk – I wouldn’t use anything other than these guys though)
  • 1 tablespoon mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon vegan oyster sauce, Maggi seasoning sauce, or soy sauce
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons cornflour
  • 5 teaspoons Chinese Five-Spice powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • a large pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried celery (if you can get hold of it)
  • neutral oil, such as rice bran, for frying

1: If you have the time, freeze the tofu for at least a couple of hours and then allow it to defrost – this does something wonderful to the texture, but if you forgot or can’t be bothered – or just got home and want to eat this as soon as possible – don’t worry, it’ll still taste good with tofu straight from the fridge.

2: Place the pickle brine, soy milk, mustard powder, and vegan oyster sauce in a rectangular container a little larger than your block of tofu and whisk to combine. Drain any liquid from the tofu and slice it across diagonally, so you have four triangles, then sit each triangle on their longest side and slice through them twice with the knife flush with the flat side, so you have three of that same triangle, just a lot thinner/flatter. You’re cutting pages, not wedges. I hope that description makes sense – basically, you want to go from having those four triangles to having three matching sets of those triangles, which you can stack up again back into the original rectangle. If it still doesn’t make sense, watch the TikTok above and you’ll see how I cut it there.

3: Place the tofu into the container of marinade, stacking them up into their original rectangle shape, and leave for a couple of hours (although I’ve made this with only about half an hour of marinating and it still tasted good so once again, if you’re impatient or didn’t plan a single thing, it’ll work out.)

4: In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornflour, Chinese Five-Spice powder, smoked paprika, garlic, pepper, salt, and dried celery if you’re using it.

5: Drop each tofu triangle into the flour mixture, then dunk them back in the pickle marinade, then coat in flour again. This is messy, there’s no way around it, but if you just use one hand it’s at least contained, you know?

6: Pour a thin but definite layer of oil into a large saucepan and once it’s hot – when bubbles form around a spoon or whatever you stick into it – cook the tofu slices for a few minutes on each side, flipping twice. Also, this might sound weird but if you have any leftover flour mixture, stir in a little marinade and fry this dough in the hot oil too as a little cook’s treat. It’s really good and I don’t care!

7: Transfer the cooked tofu to a rack with absorbent paper on it and either use immediately, or you can store them in an airtight container in the fridge and briefly fry on each side to heat through. They’re best either straight from the pan or dead cold from the fridge, but this in-between stage is also very commendable.

Notes: As you can see, there are some aspects of this recipe you can be loose about and some which I think are very important. I’d like to emphasise that you absolutely cannot leave out the Chinese Five-Spice and the pepper has to be white – but if you only have a quarter of a cup of pickle brine left in your jar or if you accidentally pour half a cup, nothing bad is going to happen. Sometimes I add a little pinch of baking powder to the flour mixture, this time I forgot, either way is fine. Also, I realise two cups of flour sounds like a lot, but you end up needing it all to confidently double-dunk the tofu. Finally: I don’t know if you can bake or air fry this and I don’t want to find out! The oil is as important an ingredient as anything else on the list!

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music lately:

For The Love of Ivy by The Gun Club. Rhyming “hell” with “hell” four times in a row? Going loud then quiet then loud? That’s the ticket!

Matthew and Son by Yusuf/Cat Stevens (he goes by both names these days, I checked) this song is disarmingly goofy and has the distinct air of being accompanied by a high school orchestra and it’s nowhere near as cool as any of his other songs so naturally, it’s my favourite thing that he’s ever done. It is what it is!

When Love Goes Wrong, Nothing Goes Right, by Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell from the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, I haven’t seen this film in years but was reminded – on TikTok! – of how charming this number is and how crackling the chemistry is between Monroe and Russell. Their harmonies when the song speeds up a notch – “a man goes out, gets high as a kite” – are glorious. I will absolutely be rewatching this film soon.

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.

Vegan Cookies and Cream White Chocolate

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For someone who adores recipes, it’s rare that I’ll follow them to the letter without making some sort of tweak – whether this is informed by suspicion or ingredient scarcity or a general heedlessness. And I’ll still think, “what a great recipe, can’t wait to make that again.” And instead of depreciating from overuse, like a pair of cheap trackpants that immediately give at the crotch after little more than some vigorous couch-sitting, these recipes grow stronger and more anchored in your life.

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This includes my own recipes, which I simply love to write and then ignore forevermore! In this case, it’s a vegan white chocolate recipe – which started off last year as a cashew-cacao butter creation, and which was incredibly delicious – in no way requiring fiddling, you might think – and that turned into my Raspberry Rainbow Slab a few months later. Recently I tried replacing the cashews with their much cheaper cousins, the sunflower seed, and the results were astonishingly good. From there, further meddling ensued: what if I add crumbled up chocolate cookies? What if, indeed: it’s so good.

I love being vegan, but sometimes I want sweet food that isn’t super worthy and made with powerfully bitter dark chocolate. I want the okay stuff! The dollar mixture foil-wrapped corner dairy stuff! This chocolate: it’s that stuff. The inspiration was those Cookies ‘n Cream Hershey’s bars – overpriced, tiny, gone in seconds, and a dizzyingly satisfying meeting of creaminess and crunch. The Hershey’s bars are not a gourmet product – in fact, I’d say comfortably that even the best American chocolate is probably on par with the worst of New Zealand’s – but they’ve had such a hold over me.

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Turns out, sunflower seeds are the key. They’re mild, and not at all overpowering – but the resulting chocolate is definitely not as elegant as the cashew version, with a flavour somewhat akin to Easter egg chocolate. And of course, adding seasonal-based elusiveness to food only makes it seem more delicious (I’m quite sure they also use Easter egg chocolate in Advent calenders and nowhere else) so you can imagine my delight when I tasted this and realised I’d made a decent dupe of that once-a-year flavour. Add some cookie crumbs and it becomes a vegan-friendly dupe of those Hershey’s bars, with plenty to spare too. The way your teeth slide through the dense, buttery chocolate into the scattered crunch of the cookie crumbs: it’s spectacular. Hershey’s who?

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Vegan Cookies and Cream White Chocolate

This vegan white chocolate uses sunflower seeds which are much cheaper than cashews – it also makes this nut-free. It’s creamy, vanilla-y and so good, with crunchy pieces of chocolate cookie throughout – but you can also leave out the cookie and just have delicious white chocolate. (Or add cocoa to it for milk chocolate! It’s so versatile.) Recipe by myself.

  • 3-4 vegan chocolate-flavoured cookies (or see recipe below)
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 2 tablespoons refined coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste (I usually add a little more)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (roughly 250g) cacao butter, finely chopped
  • 1 and 1/2 cups icing sugar

1: Crumble the cookies into small pieces with your hands and scatter them across a brownie tin lined with baking paper. I didn’t have any cookies so made my own, by mixing 1/2 cup flour, 3 tablespoons cocoa, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, 1 tablespoon rice bran oil and enough milk to just combine (about 2 and a 1/2 tablespoons). Pat it into a circle-ish shape about 1cm thick and bake at 180C/350F for ten to fifteen minutes then leave to cool and crumble into pieces. You might not need all of it: I just ate whatever I didn’t use. The cookie dough will get crisper as it cools but if it seems to be staying soft, bake the crumbs for another ten or so minutes at 180C/350F.

2: Using either a food processor or a stick blender and a bowl, blitz the sunflower seeds until they form a fine, oily rubble, then add the coconut oil and continue processing into a paste, it should resemble tahini or peanut butter and be fairly smooth. The stick blender is my preferred method – it feels a bit ridiculous at first, shoving it into a pile of sunflower seeds, but you can use it to incorporate the melted cacao butter and it makes for smoother chocolate.

3: Add the vanilla extract and salt and blend again to combine.

4: Rest a metal bowl on top of a small pan of simmering water – without the base of the bowl actually touching the water – and tip the finely chopped cacao butter into the bowl. Let it slowly melt, stirring often, and remove from the heat when it’s mostly liquid. It’s important not to overheat the cacao butter or it’ll go gritty, and the heat of the liquid will melt any remaining solids.

5: If you’re using the stick blender, slowly add the melted cacao butter to the sunflower butter, blending to combine. If you’re using a food processor, tip the cacao butter into the blender bowl a little at a time and process to combine.

6: Add the icing sugar – it’s easier to stir this rather than blending as it sends clouds of sugar-dust everywhere. Taste to see if it needs any more salt.

7: Pour this chocolate mixture evenly over the cookie crumbs in the brownie tin – no need to stir, but give it a bit of a wiggle if need be to spread it across. If you have any leftover cookie crumbs, it looks nice to sprinkle some over the chocolate, but it’ll all taste the same in the end so no worries if you don’t. Bang the tin a couple of times on the bench to expel any air bubbles, and refrigerate for a few hours or until solid.

8: Slice into squares and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Note:

  • To make regular white chocolate, just leave out the cookie crumbs. You can also add a tablespoon or two of cocoa to make milk chocolate.
  • I’m starting to see cacao butter in supermarkets – it’ll probably be either in the baking aisle or in the weird corner where they shove all the vegan and gluten-free stuff. If you have a Binn Inn nearby I recommend looking for it there as it’s usually cheaper.

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music lately:

Death Ceremony by Grace McLean from the Off-Broadway musical In The Green, which McLean also wrote and orchestrated. This song begins with a kind of leafy, zingy Neko Case energy with the most astonishing coda about 1:50 which I have listened to on repeat easily thirty times – the way the syncopated vocals slide over each other before joining in harmony, the way McLean’s voice goes from crisp and lilting to chewy and howling and Alanis Morrisette-esque, I have chills just writing this and you should totally listen to it even if the words “musical” put you off. Like, it would obviously never put me off, but I just really want as many people as possible to hear this.

Raat by Aurat, gothic and ethereal and spooky and beautiful. Aurat incorporates the language of Urdu into heaps of their songs and you can listen to more of their music on their BandcampOh My Love is also gorgeous, joyful yet gloomy at the same time, the best kind of music.

Blinded By The Lights by The Weeknd. Despite referencing him on here I hadn’t actually listened to any of his music and somehow heard this song properly for the first time this year? Despite it being probably the biggest song of 2020? Anyway, when I heard it I assumed it must be an old song from the 80s that I’d missed but no, it’s very recent and it’s shockingly addictive! It’s the sound of neon lights in the rain, of Take On Me going backwards while Young Turks goes forwards at the same time, it’s unreal how much this song gets in your head and takes over every other possible option.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

rum and coke jackfruit

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The notes app on our phones and its contribution to our general existentialism cannot be overstated – it’s our id and ego condensed, an unkempt filing cabinet of shopping lists and auspicious dreams, of half-written poems, funny bits, bullet points, log-in details, recipes, addresses and other arbitrary ephemera.

(If this doesn’t make any sense: the notes app is a function on most smartphones that acts as a notebook for you to jot down literally anything – usually to forget about it immediately – and there’s also a good chance I’ve misused the word “existentialism” here but whatever, it’s the vibe of the thing.)

Because I ricochet from one thought to another like an earnest pinball, and every last one of these thoughts seems terribly meaningful, my notes app is rather busy. And because each note is filed away forevermore until you delete it, I’m always finding stuff I absolutely do not remember writing.

Like this note: “rum and coke jackfruit”.

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I don’t remember writing it – although evidently, I did at some point – but having found it, I decided to make good on this long-ago reminder to myself, and so we have this week’s recipe, based on that promising prompt. Jackfruit is a large fruit present in the cuisine of numerous cultures, including Bangladesh and Sri Lanka for whom it’s the national fruit, and South India and Southeast Asia. Over the last few years, it’s become increasingly common in NZ supermarkets canned in brine, which makes it straightforward to use, and its superb texture – dense, softly fibrous – and sweetly mellow flavour makes it ideal for vegan cooking.

Rum and Coke are both sweet, and somehow spiced without being spicy – and together they plus a few other ingredients create a sticky, saucy coating for the jackfruit under the heat of the oven’s grill. Now, if you were to taste this wearing a blindfold I don’t know if you could confidently name either ingredient, and if I’m very honest the rum is mostly just window-dressing because the come-hither familiarity of the title is cute – but nonetheless, this is monumentally appealing, with the smokiness from the paprika, earthy cumin, and plenty of garlic. And despite the length of the recipe, it’s easy too – a bit of simmering, a bit of scorching in the oven, and it’s all yours, to be draped over rice or tucked into tacos and sandwiches.

@hungryandfrozen

my best loop yet 🥲 Rum and Coke Jackfruit, recipe @ hungryandfrozen.com 🤠 #recipe #vegan #veganrecipes #jackfruit #foodblogger #cooking #fypシ #fy

♬ Bluebirds Over the Mountain – Richie valens

This sauce mix – by which I mean everything minus the chicken stock and jackfruit – would be excellent coating other star ingredients as well, with its general barbecue-ribs-flame-grill mood – tofu, obviously, or seitan would be great, but I think oyster mushrooms would be even better. I based the method on the pulled jackfruit recipe I made back in 2017 – before I was vegan but tentatively contemplating it – and I enthusiastically recommend you make that one too. It’s true for both recipes: no matter how much jackfruit I cook, I always wish I’d made more – you’d better write “two cans of jackfruit” in your notes app, to be safe.

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Rum and Coke Jackfruit

Sticky, smoky and sweet, this vegan jackfruit is perfect over rice, in tacos, in sandwiches – basically wherever you want something extremely delicious. Recipe by myself.

  • 1 x 500g can jackfruit in brine (300g drained weight)
  • 1 cup vegan chicken stock (eg 1 cup water, 1 stock cube)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
  • a pinch of cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 1/2 cup coca-cola
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornflour (cornstarch)

1: Drain the liquid from the can and roughly chop each piece of jackfruit into smaller pieces lengthwise. Don’t worry if there are any seeds – leave them in.

2: Place the jackfruit pieces, the chicken stock, and the unpeeled garlic cloves into a saucepan and simmer for ten minutes. Simmering the garlic cloves like this gives them a more mellow flavour and makes them easy to peel later.

3: While this is happening, turn your oven to 200C/400F, pour the olive oil into a roasting tray, and place it in the oven to heat up.

4: In a small bowl, mix together the mustard, cumin, paprika, sugar, and cinnamon. Stir in the soy sauce, dark rum, coca-cola (it’ll fizz up a little) and the cornflour.

5: After ten minutes, drain the stock from the pan of jackfruit (you can save it for later use, I’m not advocating wastefulness here.) Press down on the garlic cloves to release them from their skins and roughly chop them. Return them to the pan of jackfruit along with the coca-cola/spice mix and stir to combine.

6: Remove the hot roasting dish from the oven. Transfer the jackfruit mixture onto the roasting dish – I recommend using tongs to ferry the jackfruit pieces across before pouring the remaining liquid over rather than just dumping the contents of the pan onto the roasting dish because it will splutter when the liquid hits the hot oil.

7: Place the tray in the oven and leave for twenty minutes. At this point, remove the tray, turn the jackfruit pieces over, switch your oven to the grill/broil function and grill for a further ten minutes, keeping an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t scorch too much. By this point, the liquid should have evaporated and the jackfruit should be burnished brown at the edges.

8: Serve immediately, although you can store it in the fridge and reheat it in a hot pan if need be.

Serves – well that depends on how you serve this. It fed four as part of a rice bowl, but if I was having it with fewer extra bits I wouldn’t want to make this for any more than two people, and one person could eat the lot very easily. Making double would be sensible (in which case I’d only increase the liquids by about half – eg 1/2 cup coca-cola becomes 3/4 cup – but the spices can be fully doubled.)

Notes:

  • If you don’t have rum or don’t wish to use alcohol in the recipe, that’s all good – just add an extra teaspoon of sugar. I wouldn’t make this if I only had white rum in the house, but spiced rum could be interesting.
  • Feel free to add your preferred form of chilli to this recipe – my family’s taste tends towards the mild, but if I was making it just for myself a little gochujang wouldn’t go amiss.
  • I suspect diet Coke or Coke Zero wouldn’t have the same effect here – you need the sugar to make it work.

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music lately:

Pretty Little Angel Eyes by Curtis Lee. I’ve had of late an odd nostalgia for the songs used in my jazz dancing classes in the early nineties – those hard-working cassette tapes dubbed from other tapes by my teacher. This song was one which we danced to, and despite its chirpy lyrics and break-neck pace – I’m not sure it actually has any verses? It’s literally all bridge? – there’s something about that doo-wop sound that makes me feel super melancholy the minute the “woo-ooo-ooo” bit starts. Anyone else?

Overload by Zappacosta, another song on high rotation in my jazz-dancing years – and I’m sorry to sound ancient but WHY don’t songs sound like this anymore? When will people be brave enough to do that? Is it so much to ask?

SpottieOttieDopaliscious by Outkast. Everyone mentions the horns first – and they’re the greatest – but I also harbour deep affection for that “damn, damn, damn James” refrain. This song is seven minutes long and it feels like three – honestly, forty minutes would still leave you feeling bereft the moment it ends.

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.

Homemade Passionfruit Liqueur [vegan]

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I have but two modes: asking “are we there yet?” every five minutes; and then, without warning, forgetting completely that we’re going somewhere and arriving at the destination in a state of unexpected incredulity, saying “who put this here?” and “what’s all this then?”

This passionfruit liqueur recipe allows me to keep a foot in each of these lanes – first, there’s the infuriating, clock-watching wait for the flavour to abscond from the passionfruit pulp to the vodka in which it’s soaking. That occupied me for about a week, then I just totally forgot about it and two months passed – probably more than was even necessary to make a decent liqueur! – before I went to look in the cupboard in the garage for something else and found there the jar of fruit and liquor, patiently waiting for me like a small child at the gates of a boarding school – possibly Dickensian – on an exeat weekend.

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Depending on your neurological makeup the waiting aspect of making this liqueur may not come heavy with psychological roadblocks and learnings, but either way, it’s certainly the hardest part of the recipe. Aside from the wait, all that’s involved is throwing fruit and sugar and alcohol in a jar, which yields a liqueur of such exquisitely balanced sweetness and fruitiness, with a silky bod and a long, zingy finish – it tastes of strenuous effort but does not ask it of you.

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This is really a recipe for windfall times – we were lucky to have a heavily laden passionfruit vine absolutely lousy with fruit, and I definitely wouldn’t make this out of season. However, you could probably use any fruit here and in the interests of accessibility I encourage this, but there’s something so heedless and merry about the passionfruit which lends itself to a frivolous liqueur as opposed to, say, the stern workhorse apple. They’re not like the other fruits, they’re a cool fruit! And passionfruit’s lip-smacking sourness and beachy sweetness are just the ticket when suspended in alcohol. As for what to do with the liqueur, I imagine it would bring great perkiness to the already perky daiquiri, or you could make a zesty version of the French Martini by shaking this liqueur up with Chambord and pineapple juice. You also can’t go wrong by simply pouring measures of it into small glasses for sipping before or après dinner – or both. And of course, if you can bear to part with it, it makes a great gift.

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I was hoping an analogy or metaphor would come to me by now to link what I’ve just said to what I’m about to say – something to do with patience, probably – but there’s no way to sugarcoat this news, let alone soak it in alcohol for forty days; I found out this week that Tenderly, the publication I’ve been writing for since June 2019, will be closing down soon. This is terribly sad on many levels, not just because I’ve lost my main source of employment. Tenderly offered me untold editorial freedom and I was proud to be part of its incredible writing team. There are fewer places than ever for a writer to make their living and I hate to see Tenderly join these ex-publications, but I also feel like the work published there was really important! (Yes, even my “31 Great Songs For Horse Fans” playlist.) A few stories remain left to be published and then that’ll be that. I’m glad I got to be part of it and I’m grateful for the opportunities it gave me.

Between this and my recent birthday (which we’re still dragging out, for Main Character purposes) there’s truly no better time to join me on Patreon if you like what I do and want to support me directly and have the means to do so! My entire Patreon archives are available for as little as a dollar a month – in fact, I’m scrapping the higher levels so that literally everything is available for a mere dollar because if I’m taking peoples’ money I want to be able to sleep at night about it. If you like what I do but feel like Patreon is too much of a commitment financially or emotionally that’s also totally fine as well, a great choice in fact!

Finally – back to the passionfruit – if you’re blessed with multitudes of this fruit and have made the liqueur and still have heaps leftover, I wholeheartedly recommend this passionfruit panna cotta recipe from back in March.

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Homemade Passionfruit Liqueur

The hardest thing about this delicious homemade liqueur is the waiting. Recipe by myself.

  • 30 – 40 passionfruit (no fewer than this, but more is cool, welcome, ideal)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 750ml vodka
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1: First, sterilise a 1-litre jar. Once that’s done, start halving your passionfruit and scooping their pulp into the jar. Stir in the sugar to dissolve it a little – although the sitting around will take care of that eventually, so don’t feel you have to exert yourself.

2: Empty the bottle of vodka into the jar, add the vanilla, give it another stir, then screw the lid on and leave the jar in a cupboard for about two months. Every once in a while, pick up the jar and give it a jiggle before returning to the cupboard. You’ll probably do this every day for a week and then completely forget about it: this is fine.

3: Once this wait is over, strain the contents of the jar through a sieve into a jug, and really stir and press down with a spoon to extract as much flavour as possible from the pulp. Pour this sunshine-coloured liquid through a funnel into clean bottles, and there you have it: passionfruit liqueur. Give the bottle a gentle shake before serving, as the sieved pulp tends to settle a little.

Makes about 1 litre.

Note: the vodka I used was 80 proof which isn’t terribly punchy, hence the longer wait time to extract the flavour from the passionfruit – if you can find a bottle at 100 proof or over you can cut that time by at least half.

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music lately:

The White Keys and The Black Keys by Hazel Scott, from the 1943 film The Heat’s On, the way she plays two pianos at once so effortlessly, elegantly, joyfully! She was truly the greatest.

Ground Zero by Bam Bam, slushy yet aggressive and slightly ethereal, like snow melting over broken glass.

Every Story Is a Love Story/Fortune Favours The Brave by Sherie Rene Scott and Adam Pascal from the 2001 Broadway musical Aida. These songs are meant to be heard as one – starting with the introspective bloom of Every Story and Sherie’s mellow belt, suddenly zooming a thousand miles an hour into the rollercoaster energy of Fortune Favours and Adam’s huge, crunchy vibrato, it’s so much more thrilling than you can imagine. Elton John wrote this with Tim Rice if that motivates you to click through (it also might demotivate you, but at least you’ve got all the information.)

PS: I’ve already talked about it but once more with feeling, 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.

Feijoa Ice Cream [Vegan, No-Churn]

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On the back-left burner of my mind is a cookbook idea loosely based around taking every significant recipe I’ve ever made and interpolating it into a new vegan version of its former self. This idea is simmering away quietly and probably going to evaporate completely at some point – cookbooks need a good reason to exist! – but the structure is appealing – I like to think of all that I can eat rather than all that I can’t. Making vegan versions of old favourites is nothing new – we seek the familiar and the familiar comforts! Just type “vegan copycat” into Pinterest for a barrage of recipes. Rewriting your own recipes to fit your current self is a little different though – and since I wrote this blog for ten years before going vegan in 2018 (not to mention publishing a very meaty and buttery cookbook in that time) there’s a lot left behind which I’d love to bring with me. That’s life, isn’t it, taking what worked, reworking that which no longer does, emerging more whole than if you’d discarded those parts of you completely.

It’s also not that deep. What I’m saying is, I’ve been thinking a lot about an ice cream recipe I made back in 2012 and I wanted it, bad.

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A staunch champion of the rain and cold, even I feel a trifle lowered as summer’s stone fruit faded from view and the mornings were suddenly pitch black thanks to the entirely unnecessary daylight saving clock change (I will die on this hill!) To soften this blow comes the emerald in autumn’s crown: the feijoa. If you’ve never eaten this charming fruit before, imagine the soft gritty reticence of a canned pear coupled with the giddy just-been-kissed zing of passionfruit; that’s more or less the flavour and as you can imagine it makes the most wonderful ice cream. Back in 2012 I combined, quite off-the-cuff, sweetened condensed milk and Greek yoghurt with the feijoa flesh – as per usual it was a no-churn affair and it tasted spectacular.

For the last couple of feijoa seasons, I’ve been wondering whether I could just replace the condensed milk and yoghurt with their coconut counterparts, but neither ingredient is particularly cheap and I was nervous about the potential expensive failure. It also seemed too simple – surely some hard work needs to be involved to make it legit, like, do I have to whip aquafaba or blend up a mountain of soaked cashews here?

But finally, I tried it – and –

It worked!

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This ice cream is heavenly, with the light sour richness of the yoghurt and the PVA glue-sticky condensed milk meeting right in the middle to form a velvety ice cream base to uplift the gloriously perfumed and tangy feijoas. It’s utterly delicious, somehow tasting like rainclouds and sunshine simultaneously, a truly autumnal dessert.

@hungryandfrozen

homemade feijoa ice cream 🥰 so easy and delicious 🤠 recipe at hungryandfrozen.com #vegan #recipe #icecream #foodblogger #fyp #feijoa #veganrecipes

♬ Love Is In The Air – John Paul Young

As with all my ice cream recipes, this is no-churn. Another hill I will die on (along with disparaging daylight savings at any opportunity) is that we’re all in the clutches of Big Ice Cream Machine and we don’t need to be! Without the slightest bit of interference this feijoa ice cream is creamy (tautology perhaps but I can’t think of a more appropriate word), rich and utterly lush.

It’s also not terribly attractive – despite the promise of the Wizard of Oz-tinted feijoa exterior, none of that jade shade comes along for the ride and the flesh is more akin to oatmeal, or a stack of manila envelopes. It’s probably not going to light up your Instagram feed (as Nigella Lawson notes in her chapter “A Loving Defence of Brown Food” in Cook, Eat, Repeat: “the medium that has probably done most for the rampant championing of the colourful over the drab”) – but it tastes wonderful and that’s what counts. That being said, a halved feijoa on the side brings not only a welcome pop of green for the eyes to feast upon – you also get to eat more feijoa. An easy win.

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Feijoa Ice Cream

This is the easiest no-churn vegan ice cream – there’s no escaping its beige colour but it shines with pure feijoa flavour. Recipe by myself.

  • 15 – 20 feijoas
  • 1 x 320g tin condensed coconut milk
  • 1 cup/250 ml unflavoured coconut yoghurt
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (optional)

1: Halve the feijoas and scoop their flesh into a mixing bowl, really digging in with your teaspoon to get as much out as possible. Use a stick blender to puree the feijoa flesh. You can also use a food processor or mash the fruit vigorously using a fork or a potato masher – in which case the texture will be a bit rougher but that’s all good.

2: Stir in the condensed milk, yoghurt, and lime juice. If your feijoas are on the young and sour side, you can leave out the lime juice – it’s better for super-ripe fruit.

3: Transfer this beige-brown mixture into a freezer-safe container with a lid. Refrigerate for one hour (although longer is fine if you forget about it) and then freeze it for six hours or overnight. There’s no need to stir or blend it at any stage – just shove it in and forget about it. Leave it to sit for ten minutes on the bench to soften before eating.

Makes around 900ml – 1litre, depending on your feijoas.

Note: You can happily use more than fifteen feijoas but I wouldn’t use any fewer, otherwise you just won’t end up with that much ice cream. If you don’t have feijoas I reckon this would work with bananas or canned pears – about four bananas or two drained cans of pears should do it – and I’d definitely add lime juice if using either of these fruits, especially the bananas.

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music lately:

Dues, by Ronee Blakley. I re-re-rewatched Robert Altman’s Nashville recently, and while Gwen Welles’ character is my favourite, it’s Ronee Blakley’s performances that I love the best – her voice has this soft, buttery sorrowfulness to it which is just so affecting.

Love’s Revenge by Clifton Davis from the 1971 Broadway musical Two Gentlemen of Verona, composed by Galt McDermott who also did Hair – and you can hear it for sure. Two Gentlemen isn’t as instantly memorable but the songs still have that sunny, shambolic loveliness – very present in this ballad and in the opening song Summer, Summer

Germfree Adolescents by X-Ray Spex. The thing about this song is, that I have to listen to it ten times a day. The way it’s so hypnotic – the way Poly Styrene’s voice soars!

PS: As well as being feijoa season it’s also ME season – by which I mean, my birthday is on Saturday – and if you enjoy my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better time than now to do so by joining me behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

Roasted Carrot Cake with Apple Cider Vinegar Buttercream [Vegan]

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I love coming up with recipes – but I especially love when the recipe which appears in my head has an immediately iconic vibe, a “this will come to define you and you’ll thank it for the honour” vibe. Not every recipe has to relentlessly imply historical significance, that would be exhausting. It’s fine for some recipes to be merely excellent rather than One For The Ages – more Tony Awards red carpet than Met Gala – but when you know, you know. And as soon as this Roasted Carrot Cake entered my head: I knew. She’s a star.

Unfortunately, the first time I made it I couldn’t get the cake out of my head into the oven – the roasted carrot aspect of it was great, delicious, inspired, but the texture was okay at best. I scribbled some notes, I moved proportions around like a small prodigy at their chessboard, I put it aside. I then, with some ailing bananas, made these Banana Crumb Muffins from The Minimalist Baker – and the excellent results gave me the idea which saved the cake: more baking soda. (And then, upon looking at the cake I make the most, my Mocha Cake – well, that has two teaspoons of baking soda too. Turns out the answer was in my heart all along.) You might think two teaspoons sounds like too much, but it works and it’s exactly what the ingredients needed to spring together and form a dense, moist, rich carrot cake. 

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What makes this cake especially amazing is, of course, the roasted carrots. I’ve spoken enthusiastically and at length about my love of the fried or roasted carrot – in THE Fried Carrot Noodles, this Kale, Pecan and Fried Carrot Salad, and this Roasted Carrot Mac’n’Cheese. This cake is the zenith of my carrot preoccupation – although perhaps it’s recency bias talking – but it makes sense, right? The toasty, nutty depth of flavour and sweetness which comes from applying oil and high heat to your carrots would surely benefit a cake! In fact, I don’t know how it didn’t come to me sooner.

Roasting the carrots does add an extra step to this recipe, but you have to heat up the oven anyway, and besides, I’d rather wait around for carrots to brown than spend even a millisecond grating them. And from one extra step, you get this glowing, fulsome carrot flavour that the mere raw vegetable on its own could only dream of. It’s truly a perfect carrot cake – dense, hefty, yet light and cup-of-tea-friendly; warmed up with cinnamon and nutmeg and draped in a zingy buttercream. The buttercream uses the quick-emulsion method I devised – also iconic, as befits a cake like this – which I’ve made in various iterations before, such as these cupcakes and the aforementioned mocha cake. Here I’ve added a little more apple cider vinegar to give it a zingy bite – not too sharp, I mean, there is all that icing sugar – and its presence is vital and necessary. Yeah, you could get away with not having the icing but a fridge-cold slice of this carrot cake – feeling your teeth slide through the fudgy, wet-sand texture of the buttercream into the damp crumbs of cake and softly crunchy walnuts below – it’s honestly quite unreal.

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Roasted Carrot Cake with Apple Cider Vinegar Buttercream

An incredible vegan carrot cake: moist, dense, rich, but light, with a zingy buttercream. The ACV gives all that sugar a necessary sour edge, but I promise it doesn’t end up tasting like salad dressing – if you’re really not sure though, use lemon or lime juice instead. Roasting the carrots gives them a nutty depth of flavour – a little extra work – and so worth it. Recipe by myself.

  • 400g carrots (roughly four medium carrots, don’t worry if it’s a bit over or under)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup (or treacle, or molasses – in which case reduce it to one tablespoon)
  • 1/4 cup soy milk
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped or broken into small pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups plain flour

1: Set your oven to 200C/400F. Scrub the carrots (no need to peel) and chop them into sticks. Place in a roasting dish with the olive oil and roast for fifteen to twenty minutes, until the carrot sticks are tender and slightly browned in places. (You can turn your oven up higher if you want, but keep an eye on them.)

2: While the carrots are roasting, place the chia seeds and water in a mixing bowl and let it sit for a few minutes till the chia seeds have swollen and absorbed most of the liquid.

3: Stir the brown and white sugar, golden syrup, milk, baking soda, spices, walnuts and salt into the chia mixture, and beat well to thoroughly combine.

4: Remove the roasting dish from the oven and lower the heat to 190C/375F. Line a loaf tin with baking paper.

5: Use tongs to lift the carrots onto a chopping board (you’ll probably need to do this in batches) and chop them roughly but finely. A large heavy knife and a rocking motion – as though you were finely chopping herbs – are useful here. You could pulse the carrots in a food processor till they’re roughly yet finely chopped but that’s a whole extra thing to wash – it’s up to you. Transfer the chopped carrots to the mixing bowl and continue till they’re all chopped. Tip any remaining olive oil from the roasting dish into a 1/4 cup measure, and top up with extra olive oil till the measuring cup is full. Add this to the mixing bowl and stir to combine.

6: Add the flour to the mixing bowl and gently fold it together – don’t overmix. Spatula the cake batter into the waiting loaf tin, and bake for about thirty-five minutes – although it may need a little longer, depending on your oven. You may need to cover it with tin foil towards the end if it appears to be browning too much – again, this depends on your oven. Once it’s done, remove it from the oven and let it cool before frosting with the buttercream.

Apple Cider Vinegar Buttercream

  • 3 generous tablespoons refined coconut oil, soft but not liquid
  • 3 tablespoons soy milk, plus extra if needed
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups icing sugar

1: Beat the coconut oil, milk, cider vinegar and salt together in a small mixing bowl with a wooden spoon. Don’t worry if it looks a little unlikely! Stir in the icing sugar (sieving if you have the energy) to form a thick, pale buttercream. Add a splash of extra milk if it’s too thick. Spread over the cooled cake. (I, of course, absolutely couldn’t wait for it to cool, which is why the photos show the buttercream running down the sides of my cake.) 

Store the cake in an airtight container in the fridge. It tastes better and better upon sitting for a day, I’m afraid to say.

Note: while this is my recipe, it was making these delicious Banana Crumb Muffins from Minimalist Baker which gave me the idea to boldly increase the baking soda. (I definitely recommend making the muffins, too.)

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music lately:

Party Up (Up In Here) by DMX – Man, I’m so sad about his passing. Like, he’s got poignant songs, and it’s impossible to hear the whistles at the start of Party Up without wanting to triple somersault from a diving board landing in the splits in the centre of the dance floor, but this is the one I wanted to hear most today.

I’m a Stranger Here Myself by the queen of Golden Age Broadway Mary Martin from the 1943 Kurt Weill musical One Touch of Venus. I don’t know how this song hasn’t become more of a standard – it certainly comes out the gate confidently sophisticated and arch – but there just aren’t that many cover versions of it (Kristin Chenoweth’s is charming, though.)

Venus in Furs by The Velvet Underground. Almost irresponsibly phenomenal? And I know I repeat this mild anecdote every time I mention this song but in 2006 I briefly worked in a German bakery and one day I was playing this song on loop on the little stereo and my boss pulled up in front, walked in, turned it off, walked away and drove off all without saying a word.

PS: If you enjoy my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

The Best White Bread [vegan]

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There’s this twitter account dedicated solely to posting, every Friday, a brief clip of actor Daniel Craig announcing musician The Weeknd on Saturday Night Live, and though I don’t follow this account, every seven days enough of the people I do follow force it onto my timeline through their retweeting, and because time has become gelatinous and meaningless I seem to encounter this tweet at ever-shortening concentric cycles, though I understand a week is still seven days despite my perception of it being something much smaller. Anyway, the specific way the actor Daniel Craig says “Ladies and gentlemen: The Weeknd”, with this air of resigned gratefulness – with unabashed yet just faintly bemused gravitas – so moved by that which he is announcing – with his arms stretched wide and his head shaking in appreciative disbelief – his arms which say everything his mouth cannot – well, that’s the only way I can talk about this recipe. It’s the best bread I’ve ever made, it’s the best bread you’ll ever make, there’s nothing more that can be said, not by me, not by Daniel Craig, not even by Daniel Craig’s arms.

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It would, however, be failing the very concept of a food blog to imply nothing can actually be said about a recipe. And I’d be failing myself because I never miss an opportunity to over-explain. So here we go. This recipe comes from Nigella Lawson’s most recent book, Cook, Eat, Repeat, a soothingly expansive volume with essays that fluctuate into recipes and vice versa, and it’s the recipe I’ve made most from it thus far – in fact, it’s probably the recipe I’ve made most this year full stop. I’ve enacted some small changes to make Nigella’s recipe vegan – replacing the spoiled milk or sour cream with soy milk curdled by apple cider vinegar, the acid of which I believe has a spectacular effect on the airy crumb of the resulting loaf; I also use refined coconut oil instead of butter, since it bears a buttery flavour and has a similar melting temperature. Other than that, the recipe remains hers, via the chef Dan Lepard, although I only just realised – after having made this recipe countless times this year – that Nigella offers her own vegan option (using almond-soy yoghurt and vegetable shortening) in the book? I’m baffled at how I missed that extremely relevant detail, but that’s ADHD for ya I guess. What sets this bread apart from other methods is the on-off process of kneading for ten seconds and letting it rise for ten minutes – somehow these incredibly brief bursts of agitation make the dough flourish and swell like an inflated bouncy castle.

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I’ve made numerous loaves of bread in my time – recipes of mine, of Nigella’s, recipes ancient and modern, but nothing has ever knocked me clean off my feet quite like this one. It’s so light and soft, and crisp-of-crust, and perfect, the sort of bread the Famous Five would take to an island to eat while fighting crime (it’s a while since I’ve read any Enid Blyton and I may be conflating some storylines here), the sort of bread Da Vinci himself would’ve come up with had he devoted himself to baking instead of art and invention, it’s like finally realising a sublime dream you didn’t quite know you’d been chasing your entire life, and you know what else?

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It slices up a treat. The importance of this aspect cannot be overstated! The knife melts into the crust and peels away clean slice after clean slice without the slightest squashing – you can rest your hand squatly on top of the loaf to steady yourself as you cut with confidence that you’re not going to immediately flatten it like an old air mattress. Even I – someone who can normally only carve diagonally, producing great wide-hipped triangles of bread – can cut thin elegant sandwich-ready slices from this, mere minutes after it leaves the oven.

 

@hungryandfrozen

the BEST loaf of bread you’ll ever make 😍😩 🍞 recipe at hungryandfrozen.com 🤠 #nigella #nigellalawson #recipe #foodblogger #fyp #bread #vegan

♬ Happy When It Rains – The Jesus And Mary Chain

 

Set aside a day and make this recipe. Soon enough you’ll be wandering around, arms outstretched, saying “Ladies and gentlemen: this bread!” in a resonant and impassioned voice to anyone who will listen.

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The Best White Bread

Lightly adapted – by which I mean this is now vegan bread – from Nigella Lawson’s Old-Fashioned Sandwich Loaf in Cook, Eat, Repeat. This is simply the best loaf of white bread you’ll ever make, and worth every minute of the rise time. 

  • 500g strong white bread flour (also called “high grade”)
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons instant dried yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt or 1 teaspoon regular table salt
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) soy milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 150ml cold water
  • 100ml water from a just-boiled kettle
  • 3 heaped tablespoons soft/room temperature refined coconut oil

1: Place the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in your biggest mixing bowl – this dough needs plenty of space to rise.

2: Pour the soy milk and apple cider vinegar into a measuring jug and leave it for a minute to curdle. Then add the cold water, followed by the hot water from the just-boiled kettle (might as well make yourself a cup of tea while you’re there) and stir the coconut oil into the jug. It doesn’t matter if the heat from the liquid doesn’t totally melt the oil. (If you can’t work out how to measure the 100ml and 150ml water – which falls outside of regular cup measurements – you can weigh the water on the scales you used for the flour, as 1g = 1ml.)

3: Pour the wet ingredients into the mixing bowl and stir briefly to combine. Form into a rough ball and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or, more sustainably – as per Nigella’s suggestion – a shower cap. I hope you don’t need me to tell you that it should be new and unused. Leave the dough for ten minutes.

4: Remove the plastic covering and knead the dough for ten seconds. You can do this on the kitchen counter, I prefer to do it inside the bowl to save on cleaning. Either way, it helps to put a little oil on your kneading hand to stop the dough from sticking to you as you push the dough away and pull it back to you. Cover the bowl again with the plastic wrap, and leave for ten minutes. Repeat this ten-seconds-on-ten-minutes-off step twice more.

5: After the third ten-second knead, form the dough into a ball, cover the bowl again with the plastic wrap, and leave for an hour to rise. Don’t worry about having it somewhere warm unless your house is especially freezing and draughty (which in New Zealand is, alas, highly likely.)

6: Lay a sheet of baking paper on the bench and tip the risen, puffy ball of dough onto it. Oil your hands again, press the dough into a rectangle shape about an inch thick (I have never once measured this step so don’t worry too much) then roll the dough up into a scroll, carefully shift it into the centre of the piece of baking paper, then lift the dough up by picking up the paper on either side of the dough scroll, and lower it all into a loaf tin, which should leave you with a loaf tin, lined with baking paper, and filled with dough. I hope these instructions make sense – the Tiktok video above gives a visual of what I mean – also Nigella’s recipe tells you to line the loaf tin with paper first and then pick up the dough directly with your hands, and you can, of course, follow this reasonable request instead of mine. Leave the tin-bound dough for one final rise of about an hour to 90 minutes, until it’s billowing over the top – I usually drape the same plastic wrap from the bowl loosely over it just to protect it from local marauding insects, depending on your location this may not be an issue.

7: Once the dough looks like it’s nearly done rising, turn your oven to 200C/400F. Dust the top of the loaf with a little flour, and bake for 45 minutes. I’ve never had to bake it for any more or any less, but I would suggest placing it fairly low in the oven because it does continue to rise and can scorch a little on top if it’s too close to the heat. Store wrapped in a clean tea towel.

Note: As I mentioned before, I somehow? Didn’t realise Nigella offers her own vegan alternative in the lead-up to this recipe, despite having made this so many times I just…completely missed it. She suggests using almond-soy yoghurt and vegetable shortening and I have no doubt this would yield excellent results. 

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music lately:

Loveless by My Bloody Valentine – one of my utmost favourite albums – is finally back on Spotify after a long and parched time away. You really need to listen to it all at once, preferably lying down.

Bless Your Beautiful Hide by Howard Keel from Seven Brides For Seven Brothers. Keel really found his niche playing brawny scoundrels who were startlingly sexist even for the time period, who were constantly striding about in tight trousers insisting someone marry him (he sang a near-identical song, vibes-wise, in Kiss Me Kate) all of which should not give me cheer whenever he appears onscreen and yet! That tall man has undeniable charisma rolling off him in waves and the kind of river-deep baritone we regrettably don’t value anymore and no matter what hackneyed nonsense he’s singing, his sheer talent makes it incredibly riveting.

Shy Guy by Diana King. It’s so timeless and electrifying, and that bridge! A truly top-tier bridge (closely followed by the one in Lisa Stansfield’s All Around The World). Wherever you hear this song will instantly become a dance floor.

PS: If you enjoy my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes (including this one, back in January!) reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

tomatoes and fried mint (vegan)

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Prevailing modern wisdom suggests the best way to cook is by taking the highest-quality seasonal ingredients and doing as little as possible to them. Which is fine, admirable, whatever, but I would go one further and propose that the best thing to do with these seasonal ingredients is to fry them. How better to show your respect to anything than by dousing it in hot fat? Especially if, like the Spanish inquisition, the frying is unexpected! We’ve all heated up a tomato. Have you ever tasted fried mint?

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We’re blessed with several containers of glowing-ripe tomatoes from the garden, which magically refill as soon as they’re emptied, and I kept thinking about these tomatoes with fried mint, about how the leaves would go crisp and crunchy and the oil they’d sizzled in would become infused with their heady scent. It’s very possible, highly likely in fact, that I read about fried mint somewhere and internalised the idea – but it appeared in my head out of nowhere, compellingly, and I had a feeling it would be spectacular. That feeling was confirmed. I hesitated before including this recipe on here – I say recipe, it’s more of a vaguely-realised suggestion, a bullet point in the notes app of your phone at best, but it tasted incredible and it’s been forever since I’ve posted savoury, and as the late, sorely missed Anthony Bourdain said in Kitchen Confidential, “Good food is very often, even most often, simple food.” (For some reason I always misremember that book as being called Secrets and Knives, in fact, I was convinced one of his publications had that title; if there’s a doctor in the house I’d love to know if “constantly getting kneecapped by the Mandela effect” is something I can get a pill for.)

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With a recipe so simple as to be almost nonexistent you need good tomatoes, sweet and pendulous, the kind to make your eyes fly open as you bite into them, perhaps followed by an exclamation of “hell’s bells!” I wouldn’t really recommend making this in the shrivelled dead of winter, but right now is that hemispheric sweet spot where we in New Zealand have the last glorious crops of tomatoes coming through while countries up north are starting to post “hot girl summer” captions thus implying tomatoes are moving back into season.

But what about the fried mint? You’d think, freshly chopped and stirred into tomatoes, it couldn’t be improved upon, but this is exquisite – the leaves grow translucent and as shatteringly crisp as filo pastry, their cool heat deepened and made more savoury, more lush. The leaves and their seasoned oil coat the tomatoes with a glossy slick of darkly fresh flavour – it’s sensational, it’s captivating.

Also – and I’m truly not going to do this every time – I made a little tiktok video to go with this. 

@hungryandfrozen

recipe for ya: tomatoes + fried mint 🍅 super simple and lush 🍃go to hungryandfrozen.com for more 🤠 #vegan #recipe #recipes #foodblog #summer #fyp

♬ Cheree – Suicide

This recipe, as I said, is really, really simple, and I just ate it alongside a short length of baguette – but as with anything tomato-based, it’s amenable to variety. Stir it through hot pasta for an instant sauce, pile it onto couscous and scatter with toasted seeds, add leaves and turn it into a salad, the usual ideas. You could also apply the fried mint and its oil elsewhere – for some reason I’m thinking ice cream, but obviously couscous and so on would benefit – but as it is, the red-and-green symphony (my final hyperbolic adjective I promise) of this recipe is perfect unadorned, eaten standing up in the kitchen because it’s so delicious you’ve forgotten to sit down.

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Tomatoes and Fried Mint

There’s hardly anything to this little salad – but it’s incredibly delicious – so here it is. Recipe by myself.

  • 1-2 handfuls ripe cherry tomatoes, depending on how much you want
  • 1 handful fresh mint leaves (roughly 15 leaves?)
  • 2 tablespoons rice bran oil or something similarly neutral like grapeseed or sunflower
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon malt vinegar, optional

1: Halve your tomatoes and place them in a bowl. If they need it, wash the mint leaves and pat them dry with a clean tea towel.

2: Heat the rice bran oil in a large saucepan and once it’s hot, throw in the mint leaves and cook them for a bare minute or so, stirring a little to coat them in the sizzling oil. Try to keep the leaves more or less in a single layer. I lifted a mint leaf from the pan and crumbled it in my fingers, its brittle, crisp texture was how I knew they were done. I don’t expect you to have the same cavalier attitude towards naked heat, but basically, these should be ready somewhere between thirty seconds and a minute in. Turn off the heat.

3: Spoon the mint leaves and their oil over the tomatoes. Add the extra olive oil and salt to taste. Stir. I also like to add a little ground white pepper, I can’t help it, I love the stuff. If you want to add the vinegar, here’s a good time – I like it both with and without, which I appreciate is not helpful for your decision-making.

Serves 1, possibly more, depending on how you’re using it. Don’t forget to drink the minty tomato juice which pools at the base of the bowl.

Notes:

  • If you don’t have access to a mint plant – and why should you – get one of those mini potted ones from the fresh herb section of the supermarket – the sort which are always overpriced and die almost instantly – and rip off every single leaf.
  • In case you’re wondering why there’s two oils, rice bran oil is better for frying, the dash of extra virgin olive oil at the end is for flavour, and not suited to high heat. I free-pour both and encourage you to do the same.

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music lately:

Blank Generation, by Richard Hell and the Voidoids. Is this the best song in the world? No, that’s Roadrunner by Modern Lovers. But also: yes it is. My methodology is watertight.

Bad Religion, Frank Ocean. This song is nearly ten years old (?!!) and yet it’s still too powerful! Like, imagine listening to this while walking down the street to buy toothpaste. There’s those opening church organs and those devastating, late-in-the-piece drums and that sudden falsetto howl, and suddenly you’re sobbing into a courier van, dental hygiene forgotten. Absolute folly.

A Boy Like That/I Have A Love by Chita Rivera and Carol Lawrence from the Original Broadway Cast recording of West Side Story. I’m always listening to Sondheim but since it was his birthday the other day I decided to listen to everything he’s done in chronological order, and twelve hours later I’d made it to…1957. Anyway – the film version of West Side Story is unsurprisingly what everyone thinks of first, but the original is also glorious – I love Chita’s throaty, knowing voice against Carol’s clear soprano, and those harmonies at the end are just stunning.

PS: If you enjoy my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.