Fast Crispy Sweet Chilli Oyster Mushrooms [vegan]

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It’s 2022 and I can barely process this information because it’s just too hot. It’s too hot to think, it’s too hot to write, it’s too hot to work, it’s too hot to eat. With an emphasis on the former; I wrote “it’s too hot to think” three times before realising I’d repeated myself and also spelled the recipe title as “Sweet Chilly Oister Mushrooms” and stared at it for five minutes unable to work out what was wrong. Despite my gloom at us having strode purposefully into a new era of climate crisis, and despite my heat-induced fatigue, I still somehow have a recipe for you, but it’s easy to make, easy to read about (truly, I won’t go on much longer than this paragraph) and, most importantly, VERY delicious. I didn’t even take proper photos, just took some desultory snaps on my phone while trying to not faint in the midday sun—indeed, you can see the shadow of my phone in the first photo.

@hungryandfrozen

fast crispy sweet chilli oyster mushrooms 🍄 recipe @ hungryandfrozen dot com 🍄 #vegan #mushrooms #recipe #foodblogger #veganrecipes #easyrecipe #fyp

♬ Fade Into You – Mazzy Star

Oyster mushrooms are a somewhat imbalanced beast; the flavour is faint to the point of nothingness, but the texture is excellently chewy and robust and it’s this texture that makes them a high priority for me. Frying things till crisp and brown, however, makes anything taste important, a dash of mustard and Maggi seasoning or soy sauce gives the mushrooms bite and then finally—rather than getting you to make a sauce from scratch at this taxing juncture—you just pour on some sweet chilli sauce and call it a day. So now it’s sweet, sticky, crunchy, oily, and salty, and only ten minutes have passed from start to finish. The most demanding part was taking the photos in the blazing sunlight, and of course, you don’t have to do that. If you’re reading this from a frosty northern hemisphere location and can’t relate to my melodramatics, well, I’m very envious of you and these will still taste good in cold weather.

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Fast Crispy Sweet Chilli Oyster Mushrooms

Barely a recipe; but it’s quick and good and just what you want to be eating. Add whatever extra seasonings and sauces you like, and if you want more mushrooms, just bump up the quantities of everything else a little. Recipe by myself.

  • 10 or so oyster mushrooms, some big, some smaller
  • 1/3 cup oat milk, soy milk, or similar
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • Several dashes of Maggi seasoning sauce, or two teaspoons of soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried celery, or a dash of celery salt
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 2-3 tablespoons rice bran oil, or similar
  • 2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
  • Chopped herbs, such as basil, parsley, or chives, to serve (I used basil)

1: Trim the ends of the mushrooms (as in, the very ends, the tips where they join together, I want you to leave the stalks themselves intact) and brush off any dirt with your fingers or a paper towel.

2: Mix the 1/3 cup of milk, teaspoon of mustard, few dashes of Maggi (or soy sauce), and half teaspoon of celery salt in a bowl. Drop the mushrooms into the bowl and briefly stir so they all get thoroughly dunked. Tip the 1/3 cup flour over the mushrooms and stir again briefly, just enough to let the flour and milk combine somewhat and for the mushrooms to get coated in something, be it unmixed flour or the batter that has formed from mixing the flour and milk. Does that make sense? Don’t put too much effort in, basically.

3: Heat the oil in a large frying pan and once it’s hot, drop the mushrooms in and let them cook thoroughly on each side until well browned. Don’t be tempted to remove the mushrooms once they’re merely golden, a few minutes more patience will yield a brown and crispy coating. Transfer the mushrooms to a serving plate and spoon over the sweet chilli sauce. Sprinkle with the chopped herbs, if you want them.

Serves one, depending on the size of your mushrooms and appetite. Could easily serve two as part of a more padded out meal, like a rice bowl or tacos.

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music lately:

Summer’s Cauldron by XTC—the entire Skylarking album is absolute magic, but this song particularly captures my current vibe, as you can probably tell by the title.

Out Of Space by The Prodigy, if anything can shake me from this heat inertia and make me feel alive for the first time it’s surely this song!! This is the sort of song that makes you long for the sun in the middle of winter, so you can leap around on the grass like a happy idiot while everyone looks on benevolently.

Beneath The Lights of Home by Deanna Durbin. I love talking to my Nana about old movies. She mentioned that she particularly loved Deanna Durbin’s singing, and so I’ve been listening to her (both Nana’s opinion, and Deanna Durbin’s singing.) This song is beautiful, the kind of richly comforting arrangement that reassures you everything will be, not only okay, but wonderful.

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

Nigella’s Chocolate Pistachio Fudge [vegan]

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Between the unrepentant 100% humidity and anticipating Christmas and finally emerging from lockdown (only to find that having people expect things from me again can be as overwhelming as the numbing nothingness of the last three months), I have been witless, utterly witless. I had great intentions to achieve things this week but kept blowing all my energy and acuity on relatively innocuous activities—the Succession finale, sending one single email—and with them, my battery life would plummet like a six-month-old smartphone. I suspect I’m not the only one in this hole-punctured boat, so this is not going to be a long blog post, nor is it an emotionally taxing recipe.

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And fortunately I have the reason for the season—Nigella Lawson—to be the one set of footprints in the sand carrying me through with her boundless enthusiasm, knowledge, and reassurance. This recipe for Chocolate Pistachio Fudge couldn’t be easier—melt and stir, that’s literally it—and the results are so luscious, so elegant, so immediately celebratory and generous, you can practically tell just by looking at it who must’ve come up with the recipe.

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Somehow the simple combination of dark chocolate and condensed milk produces a flavour of immense, complex richness, almost as if there is a liqueur involved, or at least a significantly longer list of ingredients. I haven’t done anything particularly clever here in making Nigella’s recipe vegan; the sweetened condensed oat milk is very easy to find nowadays (and condensed coconut milk, even more prevalent) and the refined coconut oil is an easy replacement for butter. The pistachios sprinkled across the top (modestly, since it’s near-on double figures for a very small package of them at the supermarket) provide mellow, buttery crunch and visual opulence, their bright green almost neon against the moody chocolate backdrop.

@hungryandfrozen

vegan chocolate pistachio fudge 🍫 inspired by Nigella 🍫 recipe at hungryandfrozen.com #vegan #chocolate #christmas #homemadegift #recipes #foodblog

♬ Sugar Rum Cherry – Duke Ellington

It goes without saying that this fudge makes an excellent gift. Just make sure you keep it in the freezer (or at the very least, the fridge) both before and after it’s received. And of course, if you’re in the mood to make edible gifts for people this year, there’s my recipe list/round up at your service, and I’d also like to draw your attention to my 24 Hour Party Seitan if you’re after a main course idea for the day itself. I hope everyone out there has a Christmas that’s as peaceful and mellow as is feasibly possible, whether it’s a great big deal or just another day of the week, and I’ll see you all in 2022—a year whose repetition of numbers makes it feel impossibly futuristic, but apparently it’s coming, and it’s real! (Also It’s Coming, It’s Real by Swans was my most-listened to song on Spotify this year. You know what they say, the medium is the message!)

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Nigella’s (vegan) Chocolate Pistachio Fudge

This is almost shockingly simple, for how delicious and elegant the results are. It’s not the traditional kind of fudge—more of a general rich confection—but who cares, it tastes amazing and looks gorgeous. I’ve simply swapped the condensed milk for condensed oat milk and it works perfectly, you could also use condensed coconut milk, both are usually next to each other on the shelf and both are made by the good people at Nature’s Charm. I’ve also reduced the pistachios to a mere sprinkling on the surface, because they’re so expensive at the moment. If this isn’t something that bothers you, by all means add more. Recipe adapted by me, from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Express.

  • 375g dark chocolate (50% is good here), roughly chopped
  • 1 x 320g can of sweetened condensed oat milk or sweetened condensed coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons refined coconut oil
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons pistachios, roughly chopped

1: Place the chocolate, condensed milk, (making sure to spatula out every last precious, sticky drop) coconut oil, and salt into a heavy saucepan. Stir constantly over a very low heat until the chocolate melts, turning everything into a glossy, thick brown liquid. This only took a couple minutes at most for me.

2: Line a 23cm square tin with baking paper (or, as Nigella suggests, use a throwaway foil tray) and spatula the chocolate mixture into it, spreading it gently towards each corner in an even layer. Sprinkle over the pistachios and refrigerate till firm. That’s all there is to it!

Makes 64 squares if you slice it eight times vertically and horizontally, which seems like a magically enormous quantity to achieve from such a small amount of ingredients, and definitely justifies the cook trying a few pieces.

Store the fudge in an airtight container in the freezer (I re-use the baking paper between the layers of slices) where its texture and flavour only improves. This does soften quite quickly, or at least in this vicious heat it will, so if you’re going to give this as a gift, still keep it cold.

Notes: 

  • If you need this fudge to be gluten-free, use the condensed coconut milk instead of the oat milk
  • Refined coconut oil, specifically, doesn’t taste at all like coconut and won’t impart any such flavour to your fudge. If you get regular/unrefined coconut oil it will probably give a distinct flavour to your fudge, but will behave the same otherwise 
  • Because our tins of condensed oat/coconut milk are smaller than the dairy condensed milk tins, I increased the quantity of chocolate a little to compensate 

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music lately:

Have Fun Go Mad by Blair—just when I think I’ve excavated every possible memory, something will appear that I haven’t considered since the turn of the century and I’ll suddenly be flung back in time. The title of this song and artist may not ring any bells but click through and if you’re of a certain age you, too, can experience this backwards-flinging towards the mid 90s. This song is so uncool that it comes full circle and is in fact the coolest thing I’ve ever heard, and I’m glad to have heard it again after so long.

O Holy Night by Mahalia Jackson. It simply isn’t Christmas without Mahalia, her voice rises up to heights we can only see by telescope without even breaking a sweat.

Cherry Cherry by Neil Diamond, look, he’s not a man to whom I’ve ever given the time of day (to the point where I had to search for this song by typing “what is that one Neil Diamond song that I like, you know, that one that slaps”) but this song! It unequivocally slaps! He really pulled a rabbit out of a hat here! I’m not ashamed to say it!

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

The Annual HungryandFrozen Edible Gift Recipe Round-Up 

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To egregiously paraphrase Dickens, though I’m sure he’s quite used to it by this point: you there! What day is it? Why it’s my annual edible gift recipe round up! 

In case this doesn’t make any sense, let me explain: each December I gather a list of recipes from my prior blog posts here on hungryandfrozen.com which I believe would make ideal edible gifts, in case you want some kind of prompting in that direction, despite having the entire internet already at your disposal. It’s a self-serving action, yes, but hopefully helpful in some way – and all I ever really want is to be useful, but to also draw attention to myself in the process. I’ve kept a lot of the text in this post the same as last year’s as there’s only so many ways you can launch into this thing, and appreciate your understanding.

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This time last year I was naively hopeful that once 2021 drew to a close COVID-19 would be behind us but instead, it’s managed to get on top of us in new and innovatively terrifying ways. Just last week, after a quarter of the year spent in lockdown, I was (somewhat dramatically) not sure if Christmas would be happening at all, even now it feels like a bit of a mirage and I’m somehow overthinking it yet entirely unprepared at the same time. All of this is no reason not to cook though, if that’s what you like doing. If you’re confined to a relatively small circle of people, there are still neighbours, the postal service, any number of people nearby who might be cheered by a small jar or box of something in their letterbox, or on their doorstep (perhaps also with a note reassuring of your vaccination status if they’re a stranger that you’re giving something to). But even just you, alone, are reason enough to bake a cake.

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As for the financial pressure of this time of year – I won’t lie, between the ingredients, time, electricity, storage and wrapping, homemade edible gifts aren’t necessarily that cheap, and there’s no moral superiority in making your own jam. It is undeniably delightful to receive something homemade – but if this is too strenuous, stick with the food concept and do your Christmas shopping at the supermarket. Chocolates, candy, olive oil, fancy salt, spices, peanut butter, curry pastes, hot sauce, olives, a complicated shape of pasta – even just food you know someone eats a lot of. They love beans? Get them beans! I guarantee they’ll be pleased. Basically, we cannot escape capitalism but giving an edible gift of any kind has so many upsides: it’s delicious, it has immediate application, it will eventually cease taking up space in the receiver’s house, it makes you look like a really great person.

I realise to heaps of people Christmas is – quite reasonably – just another day of the week! But generally, there will be some point in your life where giving a gift is required, and almost all the recipes listed below work beautifully year-round (though I personally can’t eat candy canes out of season.)

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Anyway, let’s get to the list. I’ve grouped the recipes into three categories, and have also included some of the recipes I wrote for Tenderly over the years.

Two caveats: some of these recipes are from absolute years ago, as will happen when you have a fourteen-year-old food blog, but while details and contexts and locations and motivations have changed, the deliciousness remains constant. Also, I feel like it’s worth pointing out that anything involving an ingredient that either could melt or has been melted, should be stored in the fridge rather than under the tree.

Also – all these recipes are vegan.

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The Annual HungryandFrozen Edible Gift Recipe Round-Up 

Category One: Things In Jars

No matter how uncertain the world we live in, you can still count on Things In Jars. From relish to pickles to the unsinkable salted caramel sauce, it’s always well-received, looks like you’ve gone to arduous levels of effort, and makes an ideal gift for everyone from your most marginally tolerable of coworkers to the most highly specific love of your life. For added personal flair – although this could just be my neurological predisposition for over-explaining – I suggest including a gift tag with recommendations on ways to use the contents of the jar.

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Savoury:

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Sweet

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Category Two: Baked Goods

They’re baked! They’re good! While biscuits and cookies are more commonly gifted, don’t rule out a loaf, perhaps wrapped in baking paper and then brown paper – the banana bread and ginger molasses loaf below keep well (especially the latter) and would make a charmingly convivial offering. At this busy time of year, having something to slice and eat with a cup of tea or a snifter of whatever weird liqueur you can find in the back of the cupboard is nothing if not a stroke of good fortune. I’ve made the first three (four, technically, since the Christmas Stars and Hundreds and Thousands Biscuits are basically the same) cookie recipes in this list a LOT this year and recommend them the most enthusiastically out of the biscuits on offer.

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Category Three: Novelty, No-Bake Sweets, and General Sugary Chaos

The best category, let’s be frank. Whether it’s dissolving candy canes in bottom-shelf vodka or adding pink food colouring to white chocolate for the aesthetic, sugar is the true reason for the season. And since dentists wildly overcharge us for their service, you might as well make them really earn it. Note: unless you can find overproof vodka, the passionfruit and mandarin liqueurs won’t be ready in time for Christmas; either give the intended receiver an IOU, or save it for their birthday – or next Christmas.

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music lately:

Turkey Lurkey Time from the 1969 Tony Awards performance of the musical Promises, Promises. If you’ve been here a while you’ll know that I have a small tradition where I wait till December and then watch this extremely grainy video of a very goofy song being performed and CRY. (Here I need to really emphasise that this is absolutely not a song you’re supposed to cry at.) It’s Donna McKechnie’s rubber spine, it’s the diagonal thing they do at the end, it’s the anticipation, it’s Christmas, it’s everything.

Fun Lovin’ Criminals, by The Fun Lovin’ Criminals. Why am I consistently drawn to rap rock? Because it’s fun and great, that’s why!! (When does rap rock become nu metal? Not here, but I’m very happy on either side of course.)

The Only Heartbreaker, by Mitski. Anxious and beautiful and synthy! I don’t know what it is about synths, specifically, that makes me all “this song sounds like it has already existed. How can this be a new song” and here I am again saying that this song sounds like you already know it. I don’t mean that it sounds derivative of anything – I mean that it sounds like it was your favourite song from a long time ago and you’ve only just heard it again for the first time in forever. I guess the obvious answer is that synths sound like they’re from the eighties and it tricks my brain into thinking I’ve already heard it but I think it’s something more in the neon yearning quality of synths themselves? Anyway, I love it!

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

Vegan Christmas Star Cookies

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My friend Harriet recently tweeted suggesting that Christmas be moved to every four years, like the Olympics, and as is usually the case with her opinions, I simply have to agree. I say this as someone who loves so much about Christmas – little brings me more joy than the scent of pine, a smooth jazz interpretation of a classic carol, experiencing some customary hustle and bustle, watching holiday episodes of TV shows, cracking open the seasonal text Nigella Christmas, and vibing near some baubles. Even so! It does seem to come around a little more often than usual these days, right? And all the things I like about it most are anticipative in nature – love Christmas Eve, routinely struggle to keep my head above water on Christmas Day itself – and what’s more anticipational than shifting the goalpost further away? And while we’re changing the fabric of western society, why not move Southern Hemisphere Christmas to July, in the middle of winter, where it belongs? Christmas in summer feels so gauche, trying to think about roast potatoes and fruitcake while also not being sure where the humidity starts and your violent sweating ends is no way to live!

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Unfathomably, no one’s put me in charge of anything yet, so till then we have to work with what we’ve got, and what we’ve got is Christmas rapidly approaching like a fleet of sturdy, purposeful reindeer. And so with it goes the food. Real hungryandfrozen-heads will note that this recipe is literally the same as the biscuits I blogged about a few weeks ago, just a different shape and colour with some spices added, to which I say: that’s right! Recycling is chic! And surely you’re used to me doing it by now! For what it’s worth, my improved method of icing the cookies by dunking them directly into the bowl of frosting will save you absolute minutes, and they really do taste different with all the warm and friendly spices added – cinnamon, the spice of the season, plus ginger and a little clove, a batch of these in the oven will have your house smelling like a scented candle which smells like a batch of cookies baking, and I’m convinced it’s neurologically impossible to be around this much cinnamon and not feel the slightest bit merry and bright, even if you’re not sure why.

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Something about the particular combination of blue, white, and gold is monumentally pleasing to me – the colours feel very old-fashioned, like a dress that Lena Horne or Lana Turner might have worn, or like a mid-century tree ornament. Of course, you don’t have to make these star-shaped, nor do they need to be blue, nor do you need to track down specialty sprinkles. Any colour icing, any shape, any decoration, they’ll still taste excellent. This recipe is pretty easy – one bowl, quickly mixed, the dough behaves beautifully under the rolling pin and the finished biscuits are quite durable. If you’re looking for something to either laden your table with or to wrap up and give as a present, these cookies are an easy choice.

And you don’t even have to make these for any kind of Christmas-related reason! This is a cookie for all seasons. The sweetness of cinnamon, the calm-yet-almost-reckless nature of the blue food colouring – not to mention, the pure deliciousness – is welcome any time of year.

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Vegan Christmas Star Cookies

A seasonal variation on my hundreds and thousands biscuits, these cinnamon-spiced one-bowl vegan cookies are SO easy, and – if you choose to keep my blue icing with its night-sky scattering of white and gold – really quite beautiful. Most importantly, whichever shape or decoration you choose, these cookies are delicious. And for a more visual guide to the recipe below, see my tiktok. Recipe by myself. 

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2-3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup rice bran oil, or other neutral vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup treacle, golden syrup, or molasses
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup soy milk, oat milk, or similar

Icing:

  • 2 and 3/4 cups icing sugar
  • A few drops blue food colouring
  • White and gold sprinkles – about 80g

1: In a large bowl, mix the three cups of flour, the teaspoon of baking powder and baking soda, the pinch of salt and the quarter cup of sugar. It’s important to mix the dry ingredients together first to prevent any baking soda lumps – I also tend to sieve in the baking powder and baking soda to help with this.

2: Add in the two teaspoons of cinnamon, or three if you like, the teaspoon of ginger and the 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves. While these cookies can withstand a lot of cinnamon, I wouldn’t increase the ground cloves any more than this, unless you’re very certain of your preferences. Stir to combine, then make a well/excavate a little hole in the flour mixture with your spoon, and pour in the half cup oil, then the half cup of treacle – doing it in this order means the syrup will slide right out of the measuring cup – and the smaller quantity of milk. Stir everything together till it forms a rough, crumbly dough. If it’s too crumbly, add a little more milk. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for twenty minutes.

3: Meanwhile, set your oven to 190C/375F, and line a cookie sheet/flat baking tray with a large piece of baking paper. I find the dough to be pretty well-behaved and easy to roll out on a flat surface lined with baking paper, but depending on your capacity for doing dishes/the humidity levels etc you may wish to roll out the dough between two sheets of baking paper. Either way, only roll out a smallish portion of the dough at a time so the rest can stay chilled in the fridge.

4: Cut star shapes (or, obviously, whichever shape you’d like using whatever cookie cutters you have) and transfer the stars to your baking paper-lined tray, continuing until your tray is pretty full. These cookies don’t really spread, so you can have them fairly close together on the tray. Bake the cookies for eight minutes (on the dot!) and shift them to a cooling tray while you continue rolling out, cutting, and baking the remaining cookie dough.

5: Once the cookies have cooled, place the 2 and 3/4 cups icing sugar in a mixing bowl, along with about 2 tablespoons of water and either a couple of drops or dots of your food colouring. Whether you’re using liquid colouring or gel colouring, I find a toothpick inserted into the bottle then stabbed into the icing sugar to be the safest way of colouring the icing. You can always add more colour, but it’s very hard to take it back! Keep adding water, a small spoonful at a time, and stirring until you have a thick but pliant frosting. You can, if you like, just spread the icing straight onto the cookies, but I currently like to dip the cookies into the icing, then use a flat-sided knife to scrape off any excess – doing it this way is much quicker and less messy. Keep the layer of icing fairly thin, so it sets easily without dripping off, and place each iced cookie back onto the paper-lined baking tray (you may need to line another one to fit all the iced cookies on.)

6: Once you’ve iced five cookies, use a teaspoon to drop a little of the sprinkles over one side of the cookies, as you can see in the pictures. Continue, every five cookies – for me this was the ideal interval, because the icing wasn’t so wet that the sprinkles fell off, but it hadn’t firmed up too much yet either. Once the icing is completely firm and dry – I sat my cookies in front of a fan because it’s so humid here – store them in the fridge in an airtight container.

Makes about 34-ish cookies? Maybe more? If I may be frank with you I completely forgot to count them after they were baked, besides which the quantity of cookies all depends on the size and shape of your own cookie cutter anyway, but nonetheless, I apologise for not being able to offer specifics.

Note: I ordered my sprinkles online from a place called Sweet Pea Parties, they stock a charming range of decorating tools and ingredients and I happily recommend them.

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music lately:

Do You Love Me Now by The Breeders. I’ve listened to this song so many times that it feels like a meditation, it seems so much longer than its mere three minutes and yet there is never enough of it.

Return by Emma Ruth Rundle. It’s new, and it’s otherworldly beautiful, and that’s it really.

Fast Car by Tracy Chapman. I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t like this song when I first heard it on the radio in early 1990-something but sometimes songs just find you when they’re supposed to and now I am penitently and enthusiastically making up for lost time! (I hear what you’re saying – wasn’t I like, seven in the early 90s? Yes, and that’s no excuse for bad taste in music!)

Losing My Mind, from the musical Follies, specifically Liza Minnelli’s all-neon 1989 version. I’m still getting to grips with the death of Sondheim and staying immersed in his music and you wouldn’t necessarily think that one of his most delicate and poignant songs would work when smashed together with every last available synth, a four four beat, and the Pet Shop Boys’ production, but really, is there any place more poignant than the dancefloor? Somehow this – and a lot of it is to do with Liza’s gutsy voice and fully committed performance – is every bit as fragile as any acoustic version.

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

Three-ingredient Vegan Chocolate Caramel Hearts

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You and I both know that the “three-ingredient” bit of this title is doing a LOT of heavy lifting and lede-burying, but if I’m going to get you to cook a can of condensed milk for hours on end with a potential boiling explosion of caramel hanging over you like the Sword of Damocles, I’ll try to at least make life easier for you elsewhere. Are these chocolates fast? Absolutely not. Are they easy? Not exactly. Are they messy? To an unhinged degree! But do they require only three ingredients? Yes, I can legally confirm that. Is it possible that the most strenuous part is reading my overly-talky, explanation-heavy recipe, and these actually aren’t that bad, especially if you’re not trying to make the chocolates, photograph the chocolates, and film the process for a TikTok video that no one will watch at the same time? Yes, that is also something to consider!

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Three things will make this all a lot easier for you: firstly, just make the chocolates and don’t try to involve a camera while you’re doing so. Secondly, do not use a brown silicone chocolate mould as I did, thus making it impossible to see whether the chocolate had sufficiently coated its surface. And thirdly, make peace with the fact that you’ll have to set aside some time to cook the can of condensed coconut milk in a slow cooker (much easier) or a pan of water (risky, but also the way it’s been done for generations by people of stouter courage than I).

@hungryandfrozen

vegan chocolate caramel hearts ♥️ recipe at hungryandfrozen.com ♥️ #chocolate #vegan #christmas #nz #caramel #homemadegifts #fyp #whittakerschocolate

♬ Sweet Love – Anita Baker

Now that I feel content that I’ve thoroughly briefed you with all the information, let me reassure you that I wouldn’t make you do all this for nothing. These chocolates are REALLY delicious, with burnished caramel barely contained by a delicate, bittersweet chocolate shell, and each bite releasing a wave of toffee into your mouth. Condensed coconut milk is a miracle of modern invention for the sweet-toothed vegan about town and it’s really opened up a world of possibilities for me, cooking-wise. Heating it over a long period of time in its little can concentrates the sugars even further, giving you a rich, dark-golden caramel which ably emulates the fillings of the sort of chocolates which always disappeared first in the sampler tray.

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We all know Christmas is less than a month away, and while it’s hard to plan for, between our still being in lockdown (day one hundred and…something?) and persistent anti-vax nonsense and general confusion, there’s no denying that these chocolates would make an excellent gift, and I’m definitely not going to coyly act like I wrote about these for any real purpose other than to put that thought into your head. (I mean, I always want caramel-filled chocolates, but lies do not become us.) Make sure you give them to someone you genuinely love, given the effort involved – but if plans remain uncertain, you could also simply, and serenely, and justifiably, make a tray full of these handsome, gleaming little hearts all for yourself. Should you wish to really push the boat out you could tint the caramel with instant coffee powder, or peppermint essence, or orange extract, but as they are – just chocolate, caramel, and salt – well, there is no finer combination.

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Three-ingredient Vegan Chocolate Caramel Hearts

These vegan filled chocolates are fairly messy to make and involve some significant legwork between acquiring a silicon mould and caramelising the condensed milk but the finished chocolates are delicious, gorgeous, and make a wonderful gift. And there really are only three ingredients. Despite all the instructions here there’s nothing unexpected: just melt, fill, and chill. And whether you’re keeping these for yourself or wrapping them up, store them in the fridge at all times. Recipe by myself.

  • 1 x 320g tin sweetened condensed coconut milk, caramelised (see notes)
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • a pinch of salt
  • equipment: 1 x 15-heart silicone chocolate mould, clean and completely dry

1: First, sort out your caramelised condensed coconut milk (see the notes below). It’s best to do this the day before you plan on making the chocolates, to allow time for the cooking and the cooling and so on.

2: Melt your chocolate – I do a sort of half-assed attempt at tempering by melting 3/4 of the chocolate in a metal bowl resting on a pan of simmering water – without the water actually touching the bowl – stirring fairly vigorously, and once it’s hot, removing it from the heat, stirring in the remaining 1/4 of the chocolate, and returning it to the heat for a few moments once it’s combined and fully melted. Does this make any noticeable difference instead of just melting the chocolate all at once? I don’t honestly know, but I’ve committed to this bit and can’t back out now.

3: Use a teaspoon to ferry chocolate generously into each heart indentation of your silicon mould, and use a toothpick or a small, clean paintbrush to make sure all the sides are coated in chocolate. Now, upend your silicon mould over your bowl of chocolate and shake it gently to allow any excess chocolate to drip out. It’s very hard to do this without being messy and I am sorry! Place the silicone mould on a small tray and put it in the freezer for about five minutes to let the chocolate set.

4: Meanwhile, tip out roughly half the tin of caramelised condensed coconut milk into a small bowl and stir in the salt (see notes). Now, the easiest way to fill the chocolates is by fashioning a piping bag out of a sandwich bag, sitting it in a cup and carefully pouring the condensed milk into it. Remove the silicone mould from the freezer and then – and only then! – snip the very end of one of the corners of the sandwich bag. Carefully fill each chocolate about 3/4 with the caramel, carefully lifting the sandwich bag up and perhaps using your finger to stop the caramel dripping as you move between chocolates (again, messy, but if you come up with a better method please let me know). Return the mould to the freezer for another ten minutes – the caramel won’t freeze, but it will firm up slightly. Keep the remaining chocolate in its bowl sitting on the pan of water, turned off, and it should stay malleable.

5: Remove the silicone mould from the freezer once more, and spoon the remaining chocolate generously over each heart, thus sealing the caramel inside. Use a flat-bladed knife or bench scraper or something similar to scrape off most of the excess chocolate, and return the mould to the freezer one last time. Ten minutes later, eject the chocolates from their moulds – they should pop out easily and cleanly from the silicon – and store them in an airtight container in the fridge until required.

Makes 15 caramel-filled chocolates. If you want to make more – and there’s certainly enough caramel leftover for at least two more batches – I recommend only melting as much chocolate as you need each time.

Notes:

  • If you have a crock pot/slow cooker, caramelising the condensed milk is a snap – simply remove the paper label, place the tin on its side in your slow cooker, cover it with freshly boiled water – and really cover it, make sure there’s plenty of water submerging it – place the lid on top, and cook it on high for four to six hours, then let it cool completely, removing the can only once the water is cool to the touch. I recommend doing a couple of cans at a time since caramelised condensed milk is useful to have on hand and it feels less squandering of time and resources to turn on the slow cooker for more than one tin.
  • If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can simmer the can for three hours – label removed, on its side, fully and generously submerged in water – in a pan on the stove, with the heat on low and keeping a careful eye on the water level. Top up the water level frequently, and rotate the can occasionally to stop it scorching. Not to sound dramatic but if the water level drops enough so that the can is no longer submerged, the pressure could explode the can, sending boiling caramel everywhere. Please don’t let this happen!!
  • If you really don’t want to/have the energy for caramelising your condensed milk in its can – entirely reasonable!! – you can simply empty the contents of the tin into a small saucepan and stir it over a low heat till it darkens and thickens slightly, then allow it to cool.
  • If you don’t want to unnecessarily get a bowl dirty just to stir the salt into the caramel, you can either sprinkle the salt directly into the opened can of caramel or attempt to mix it in once the caramel is in the piping bag, and to be honest if I wasn’t filming it for TikTok, this is probably what I would’ve done, too.
  • Finally, the brand I used, and the one that your supermarket probably also stocks, is called Nature’s Charm, it tends to be hidden away in the dank corner where the vegan food is hidden instead of being next to the condensed dairy milk, or at least it is in my local supermarket. 

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music lately:

Stephen Sondheim died yesterday, aged 91, and I am grieving. You know that scene in Derry Girls when the 97-year-old nun dies and Granda Joe is solemnly like, “struck down in her prime.” That’s how I feel! His impact on me – let alone his impact on musical theatre – let alone on the world – can’t be overstated, it just can’t. We spent yesterday honouring his memory by listening to wall-to-wall recordings, and his is the only music I want to share with you today, so. This is just four songs that I love, it’s not meant to be a definitive cross-section of his work.

Move On by Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin, from 1984’s Sunday In The Park With George. If you only listen to one song, let this be it. “The choice may have been mistaken/the choosing was not” – the harmonies one minute and thirty-five seconds in – I’m crying already.

Ladies Who Lunch by Elaine Stritch, from 1970’s Company, my favourite Sondheim musical – I had to lie down for an hour the first time I watched this video, where she’s singing directly and menacingly into the camera. One of the many things I love about Sondheim is that he wrote songs and roles for women who were old, who had lived, who had been around, songs that make no sense unless performed by a person of significant experience. This is inarguably one such song.

Could I Leave You? from 1971’s Follies, as performed by Dee Hoty in the 1998 My Favourite Broadway concert. Sondheim’s songs were so funny! His little internal rhymes, and the arch, conversational tone they suggested, and the way he kept you guessing – and the way that a song would become bleaker the funnier it got – no one did it like him. This isn’t necessarily his most humorous song, but it’s one of my favourites, and I love Hoty’s rendition.

No One Is Alone, from 1987’s Into The Woods, as performed by Norm Lewis – one of Sondheim’s most reassuring and comforting songs, yet it doesn’t patronise you for a second. Norm Lewis with his rich voice is just who you want to hear this from but there’s not a version of it I don’t love, and each is a classic in its own right.

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

Roasted Garlic Lentil Soup [vegan]

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Despite my love of attention I fantasise about being an eminently successful author and quietly detaching myself from all online life, content to mysteriously and elusively enjoy and redistribute my wealth, resurfacing once every seven years or so for a rare, anecdote-jewelled interview or avant-garde photoshoot. Constantly battling to carve out some kind of online platform – a mere presence, even – means you have to forgo any hopes of appearing mysterious and elusive, because that one stupid thought you didn’t tweet could’ve been the tweet that would go viral which would make publishers think you’re a viable option because that’s how we sell books now, and so on.

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Nevertheless, I did get to enjoy a little mysteriousness all of my own recently: we’ve been experiencing an infuriating combination of frantic humidity, antipodean Santa Ana Winds, and the promise of more humidity to come, and yet I found myself craving – and not just craving, but planning for – of all things – lentil vege soup. In lieu of any actual mysteriousness…that’s a mystery!

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I also had it in my head that a roasted whole bulb of garlic, pureed, added to the soup, would be wonderful. Wanting lentil soup in humid November is mysterious (perhaps the brothy quality of the air gave me the idea) but wanting roast garlic really isn’t – it’s all starting to add up.

There are simpler recipes than this – and you could certainly just fry some chopped aromatics, hiff some lentils and water and seasoning into a pan and still have a very fine meal, but with a little more effort and equipment (and staggering through my over-written recipe) you get this lentil soup: velvety, buttery, flooded with pure garlic and studded with rich, sweet fennel seeds. This soup is cosy, but it’s elegant with it. Roasting the entire bulb of garlic first does mean you can’t make this at the last minute, but the time spent is not wasted – the garlic, in its little foil-pouch sauna, becomes soft, caramelised, and mellow, its flavour unfurling like a flower leaning towards the sun, indeed, if you’re roasting one you might as well do a few at a time since the resulting garlic is so versatile and welcome.

@hungryandfrozen

lentil soup with a whole bulb of garlic in it 🧄 recipe at hungryandfrozen.com 🤠 #goodsoup #veganrecipes #lentilsoup #garlic #roastedgarlic #nz #fyp

♬ Autobahn (Single Edit) – Kraftwerk

My culinary whims are always fairly erratic and I’m happy to indulgently indulge them, but we’re currently 92 excruciating days into lockdown so maybe it’s no surprise that I’m reaching for the kind of pureed food that doesn’t push back. I’m just grateful that I’ve managed to come up with something new in the midst of this creativity-sapping isolation misery-fog – not that I regret a single moment of my chilli-oil hat trick of recipes, in fact…now that I think about it…this soup would be even more delicious with the chilli oil pumpkin seeds strewn on top. It also occurred to me that I could call this “Lentil Soup with Forty Cloves Of Garlic” a la the classic French recipe (and a la my own artichoke and potato recipe) but with only a mere singular bulb of garlic involved it’s not quite worthy of the title; since I love to fiddle with my own recipes this could well be the next variation for those who instinctively double the quantity of garlic in every recipe they meet. 

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Roasted Garlic Lentil Soup

I’ve done it again – and by “again” I mean I’ve taken a fairly straightforward recipe and somehow written it in the most convoluted and multi-paragraphed way possible. Admittedly, there is a bit of work involved here (and two different kinds of blender, I’m genuinely sorry) but the soup you get is worth it, I promise: creamy, rich, full of garlic, and vegan of course. Recipe by myself.

  • 1 whole, large, bulb of garlic
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for frying
  • 1 onion
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 teaspoon dried celery
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves, plus more to serve
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 3 cups/750ml water, extra
  • 1 mushroom stock cube (or your preferred flavour)
  • 1 tablespoon vegan oyster sauce, or soy sauce (or Maggi seasoning, or similar)
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • a couple tablespoons of cashew butter, coconut yoghurt, tahini, hummus, whatever you’ve got, to serve (optional)

1: Set your oven to 200C/400F. Place a bulb of garlic in a square of tinfoil (or use baking paper tied with kitchen string) drizzle over just a little olive oil, and pinch the edges of the tinfoil together so the garlic is sealed in, but fairly loosely wrapped. Put it in the oven for about 40 minutes, until a skewer carefully stabbed into it reveals soft and yielding garlic cloves. Either use it right away once it’s cool enough to handle, or store it in a sealed container in the fridge for 3-5 days till you’re ready.

2: Slice the tufty base off the bulb of roasted garlic – being careful not to lose any actual, precious garlic in the process – and then throw the garlic bulb itself, whole and unpeeled, into a high-speed blender with 1/3 cup water and a couple tablespoons of olive oil, blitzing it into a beige liquid. Because there’s only a small quantity of liquid here, you may need to stop and shake the blender every now and then. Spatula this garlic mixture into a sieve over a bowl, stirring and scraping to extract every last bit of garlic puree into the bowl below. Discard the remaining husky bits of garlic peel, although you could save them for making stock with (I admit, I just ate them on the spot.)

3: Peel and roughly chop the onion and throw it into the unwashed blender – if you’re going to have extra dishes I try to make it work your while – along with the carrot, also roughly chopped (no need to peel, but up to you). Blitz them into a babyfood-looking mush and spatula them into a saucepan, along with a couple tablespoons of olive oil.

4: Stir the onion-carrot mixture over a low heat, adding the dried celery, pepper, and thyme leaves. Wash your lentils – I tip them into a bowl, cover in cold water, sluice it round with my fingertips and carefully drain it – and add them to the pan, along with three cups/750ml water. Let it come to a boil, stirring often, then place a lid on the saucepan, lower the heat right down, and let it simmer – stirring occasionally – till the lentils have completely softened and collapsed into the liquid. Depending on your lentils, this could happen quite instantly, or it could take up to 20 minutes.

5: Remove the lid and add the stock cube – stirring to break it down – and oyster sauce. Tip in about 90% of your garlic puree, reserving the rest for serving (unless you want to dispense with the drizzle-of-something, in which case add all the garlic here.) Taste to see if the seasoning needs correcting, then remove the pan from the heat and use a stick blender (sorry, a second appliance) to puree it, or you can carefully transfer it to your blender and use that, being very careful of the air pressure that builds up when blending hot liquids.

6: Heat the fennel seeds and about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a small frying pan until the oil is just starting to wobble, then remove from the heat. Stir the remaining garlic puree into a couple of tablespoons of coconut yoghurt, or cashew butter loosened with a little water, or tahini treated the same way, or even hummus diluted slightly with water, whatever you’ve got.

7: Divide the soup between 2-3 bowls and spoon over some of the fennel seeds and their oil, and the garlic drizzle if you’re using it. Sprinkle with extra thyme leaves, and serve.

Makes 2-3 generous servings. If you’ve got four people to feed, add an extra 1/2 cup lentils and 1 and 1/2 cups water, any more people than that and you might as well double the whole recipe.

Notes:

  • If you have a stick of celery to hand, leave out the dried stuff and throw the roughly chopped fresh celery in the blender with the onion and carrot. This would actually be my preferred choice, to be honest, but we didn’t have any fresh celery.
  • If fennel seeds aren’t your thing – though I urge you to use them, when fried in oil they are intensely good – then warm through a stalk or two’s worth of fresh rosemary needles in olive oil and spoon that over the soup instead. Better yet: porque no los dos?
  • If – quite reasonably – you balk at the idea of turning on your oven just for a bulb of garlic, throw it in while you’re using the oven for something else (ideally savoury, unless you don’t mind whatever’s being cooked alongside it being garlic-scented).
  • Should you have a bottle of dry sherry or Marsala around you should definitely add a splash of it to the soup towards the end, this is what I will be doing in the future (but it tasted great without, so don’t worry if this isn’t going to happen for you.)
  • Making this without a blender or stick blender of some kind is not ideal, but not impossible – extract your garlic by cutting the top off the roasted bulb and squeezing out as much roasted garlic as is humanly possible, and mash it with a fork to form a paste. Finely chop your onion and carrot instead of blending them, and while the soup tastes better when blended up, it’s not an insurmountable hardship to eat it as it comes.

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music lately:

Autobahn by Kraftwork. I cannot even fathom how it must’ve felt to reckon with this level of Teutonic ebullience and charm when Autobahn was released in 1974, disarming, I’m sure! Immensely cheering stuff.

Allandale by Laura Lee Lovely – good news at last! It’s dreamy and glorious and makes me want to dance under neon lights right NOW!!

Germ-Free Adolescents, by X-Ray Spex. This has, to my enormous offence, been removed from Spotify. There’s no better way to spend an afternoon than by sitting staring into space listening to this on loop and now it’s one step more difficult for me to do so and I am taking umbrage!

Red Light by Linda Clifford, from the 1980 film Fame. An absolutely unreal song that manages to stand out and grab you by the ankles even in the middle of a soundtrack jostling with the best songs you’ve ever heard in your life.

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

Vegan Hundreds and Thousands Biscuits [or, vegan cut-out cookies]

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“The enemy is the inner me“, said Nick Miller, eyes widened in recognition, in s2e7 of the TV show New Girl. “To thine own self be true”, wrote Shakespeare in Hamlet. Somewhere between these two cultural landmarks, I stand, acknowledging but not self-deprecating about the fact that despite my modestly well-travelled palate and my published cookbook and my food writing indiction and that time I was invited to two degustations in one week, the food expression I spiritually connect with, yearn for, and constantly seek to recreate most…is pink icing with hundreds and thousands sprinkles.

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I mean, I never claimed to be sophisticated – nor could I, you can practically hear the audience laughing uproariously at this notion – but it’s hard to explain my love of this combination. Experienced in the wild, the icing is at best artificially flavoured with fake raspberry but is usually just a vague, generic sugar paste, and speaking of vague, the sprinkles offer absolutely nothing taste-wise and barely anything texture-wise once they’ve softened into the frosting bed clinging them to the baked good beneath. But together? Somehow – transcendent! Immediate happiness! Is it mere nostalgia? My rambunctious undisciplined inner child? A shallow and superficial prioritisation of aesthetics?

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Well, whatever it is, pink icing and sprinkles is still cute, and no amount of psychoanalysis can take that away. And while this recipe is a kind of vegan recreation of the rainbow-studded Hundreds and Thousands biscuits that I grew up dazzled by, it’s also – for those of you not so preternaturally wedded to the aesthetic as me – a useful and reliable vegan cut-out cookie recipe for any occasion or frosting direction, limited only by your collection of cookie cutters. Christmas is the obvious one – in which case I might add some cinnamon and ginger to the dough – but any day of the week could, indeed, should, be cheered by a novelty-shaped, garishly iced biscuit.

@hungryandfrozen

vegan hundreds and thousands cookies • perfect cut out cookies for Xmas etc! recipe at hungryandfrozen.com #recipetok #vegan #cookies #fyp #nz #nzfood

♬ Taking a Chance on Love – Alma Cogan

And it’s not just about looks. These biscuits are delicious – of course! – I would never lead you up an ambiguous path – with the golden syrup offering a bordering-on-gingerbread intenseness, despite not a lick of ginger being present, and a softly dense texture. Fake raspberry flavouring is, to me, the white truffle of the bottled essences, instantly sending you to a time when fifty cents could get you the world at the corner bakery, and contained in the thin layer of simple frosting – just icing sugar and water, set to a firm, smooth surface – it provides a kind of off-kilter yet entirely welcome contrast to the more traditional-tasting biscuit beneath. The cookie dough itself is well-behaved – a little stirring brings it together, and it rolls and re-rolls obligingly, so long as you keep it chilled.

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We’re 74 days into lockdown now (and yes, I’m going to bring it up every time because there’s nothing else to bring up!) and, I don’t want to overstate their abilities or anything, but looking at these biscuits, like a pixelated rainbow scattered across a pink skyline, makes me feel at least momentarily peaceful – to say nothing of the pure joy I feel upon eating them.

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Vegan Hundreds and Thousands Biscuits [or, vegan cut-out cookies]

A versatile, easy, and delicious vegan cut-out cookie – make it pink with rainbow sprinkles or use whichever cutters and colours you like. The simple sugar-and-water icing sets firm like royal icing without any of the hassle. As always, the recipe is very simple, I just don’t know how to write short succinct instructions. Recipe by myself.

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup neutral oil, eg rice bran
  • 1/2 cup golden syrup (see notes)
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup soy milk, oat milk, or similar

1: Place the flour in a mixing bowl and sieve in the baking powder and baking soda. Add the sugar and salt, then stir to combine.

2: Make a well in the centre and pour in the oil, followed by the golden syrup (going in this order means the syrup should slide cleanly out of the oiled cup measure) and the milk, adding the smaller quantity at first in case you don’t need it all. Stir, and then push together with your hands, to form a ball of dough that is cohesive without being sticky. If it’s too dry and clumpy, add some more milk, if it’s too sticky, add a little more flour. Cover the bowl and place it in the fridge for ten minutes, and turn the oven to 190C/375F.

3: Roll out your dough on a sheet of baking paper – you can use another sheet of baking paper between the dough and the rolling pin if you like but this dough is very well-behaved and shouldn’t stick to the roller. To help with this, it’s best to roll out the dough in small portions, so the remaining dough can stay chilled in the fridge. Cut out shapes using your chosen cookie cutter, and use a spatula or lifter-prodder type kitchen implement to transfer them to a baking paper-lined cookie tray/baking sheet.

4: Re-roll and cut until you have enough biscuits to fill the tray, return any unused dough to the fridge and bake the cookies for precisely eight minutes, positioned in the middle of the oven, if you want them soft-ish and chewy, and precisely ten minutes – no more! – if you want them crisp and snappish. As someone who frequently loses track of time and forgets what they’re doing in the middle of doing it, you understand that I don’t give you these instructions lightly.

5: Remove the cookies to a cooling tray and then continue rolling, cutting, and baking the remaining dough until it’s all finished. Allow the cookies to cool completely before icing.

Icing

  • 2 and 3/4 cups icing sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon raspberry flavour/essence
  • a few drops pink food colouring
  • hundreds and thousands sprinkles

6: Stir the water into the icing sugar a little at a time – bearing in mind that the raspberry essence will add extra liquid – I found two tablespoons + one teaspoon of water gave me a thick but spreadable icing. Add the raspberry flavouring, then use a toothpick to transfer dots of pink food colouring from the bottle into the bowl of icing, stirring and adding more until it’s the right pink for you. (I mean, you can just pour the food colouring into the icing but that way is fraught with danger.)

7: Spread the icing in a thin layer on each cooled biscuit with a flat-sided knife, dipping the blade in water if need be to help smooth it – and then sprinkle the biscuits with the hundreds and thousands. Allow to cool until the icing has firmed then store the biscuits in an airtight container in the fridge.

Makes – depending on the size of your cutter and how much cookie dough you eat – around 40 biscuits.

Notes:

  • If you’re in America and can’t get golden syrup then it’s my understanding that light corn syrup is the usual substitute – I wouldn’t use maple (too thin) or agave (too sweet) but if you can find golden syrup or treacle somewhere then stock up because it’s a singularly delicious and useful ingredient.
  • If you’re making these cookies for a non pink-rainbow-sprinkle context then I would still add a half-teaspoon flavoured essence in place of the raspberry – perhaps vanilla, or almond, depending on your audience and the occasion. Also bear in mind that using more flavouring or food colouring may require extra icing sugar to get the texture/thickness right.

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music lately:

Bluer Than Blue by Lil Hardin Armstrong; an accomplished composer, jazz musician, and singer, she was also the wife and collaborator of Louis Armstrong for several years. I’m so glad recordings like this one – where she sings her own composition in 1937 – exist.

The Man That Got Away by Judy Garland from her iconic Carnegie Hall concert – we listened to this album last night and it’s just – I can hardly even speak about it! The applause alone makes me cry!

Blue Banisters by Lana Del Rey – while not as instantly arresting as, say, Mariners Apartment Complex, this song lingers and haunts you in slow motion and it was stupid of me to imagine it wouldn’t affect me!

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

Sushi Rice with Chilli Oil Nuts [vegan]

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

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

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

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

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Sushi Rice with Chilli Oil Nuts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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music lately:

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

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

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

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

Washed Flour Seitan [vegan]

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It’s never my intention for long stretches of time to take up residence between blog posts but – and there’s no way to say this in an original fashion – we’re roughly nine weeks into lockdown now and I am feeling flat. And here I need to vehemently reiterate that I’m pro-lockdown and pro-vaccination (and am delighted that all of us under our roof are doubly protected) but because I contain multitudes I’m also not happy with a lot of the decisions being made, and am doing my best not to spiral, and am constantly muttering “must I become prime minister” like it’s a protective mantra; perhaps it is. This is not a great environment in which to be creative, it’s not really a great environment to do much of anything except stew persistently like a slow-cooked Welsh cawl.

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Dredging up the energy to try out this washed flour seitan recipe – something I’ve been wanting to make for ages! – was a massive effort at every step of the way, but thank goodness I did, because it’s delicious and all said effort was immediately forgotten upon consumption. Not that you need me, specifically, to tell you about it! The recipe is not only well-documented online – I gratefully followed the detailed method on The Viet Vegan – it’s also one of the oldest methods on record of making seitan, something China has had a head start on over me by several centuries. But if I can be an extra voice of enthusiasm encouraging you to try it, then that will be enough.

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This recipe is very simple, but there are two things to get used to: it uses a lot of water, and it loses a lot of volume in the process of washing away all the starch from the dough. This doesn’t mean it’s inherently wasteful per se – there are ways to use less water and to re-use it – but it’s probably best avoided during high summer when the water tanks are low. All the effort in washing and kneading – and it’s not that much effort, really, it just requires concentration – rewards you with an incredibly versatile, delicious, and fantastically-textured protein. Its nearest analogue is chicken, though with a little commitment you could take it in whatever direction you want.

It’s hard to describe the appeal of this washed flour seitan without sounding like an alien in a trench coat trying to fit in with the humans – it’s an exemplary protein! It has a multifaceted mellowness! It has the cadence of chicken without being too unsettlingly similar to that which it imitates! But truly, as your fellow literal human, let me assure you: it’s so good!

As you can see there’s no salt or anything in the recipe itself, so – much like any protein, any food in fact – you need to have some kind of seasoning in mind. To test the prowess of this stuff I took two separate paths – first, shredded seitan, straight from the fridge, marinated in lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper and olive oil and stirred together with avocado and torn flat-leaf parsley. Secondly, I thinly sliced the remaining seitan and marinated it in a bentonite-thick mixture of glutinous rice flour, cornflour, sugar, soy sauce, and water, and then fried these strips until crisp and browned. Both variations were delicious, outstandingly so, especially when considering their humble origins: just flour, and water.

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Washed Flour Seitan

Flour + water = chicken? Yes! I’ve done very little to this recipe on The Viet Vegan and I recommend you cross-reference with hers which has plenty of pictures and information. Where we differ is that I steamed my seitan rather than simmering it – it’s my preferred method for its resulting texture and speed – but other than that I have her to thank for this. This is a simple recipe but it does take some patience, and the results are worth it.

  • 400g flour
  • 250ml/1 cup water

1: Stir the water into the flour, then start kneading until it’s a cohesive ball that springs back confidently when you prod it. [This took me quite a while, somewhere between five and ten minutes of kneading – and there were points where I was like “this is probably fine” but I’m glad my conscience kicked in and I kept kneading some more.]

2: Cover the dough with water, place a plate on top (not a tea towel, as I found out, because it will immediately fall in the water) and set the dough aside for two hours – in the fridge if it’s a warm day.

3: Drain the water from the dough, fill the bowl with clean water, and knead/rinse the dough in the water, which will quickly turn an opaque white.

4: Repeat this step until you can see through the cloudy – and if you take your time kneading it, rather than changing the water the second it turns opaque, you can use a lot less. You can also save this water for your garden if you have one, or you can use it to make noodles or vegan bacon (I haven’t tried either of these recipes but next time I make this I’ll give them a go.) Drain the dough – which will have changed texture and shrunk somewhat – in a colander, letting it rest for about half an hour.

5: Stretch the dough out and knot it several times or split it in three and braid it – either way, you want to get some layers in it so that it will create that, well, chicken-y texture later on. At this stage, you’re welcome to simmer it for two hours in broth as per the original recipe, but instead I steamed it for about 25 minutes – if you don’t have a steamer, you can rest a metal colander on top of a pan of water and then cover it with the closest-fitting pot lid you have, sitting the seitan on a square of baking paper to make clean-up easier.

The seitan is now ready to eat, or you can store it in an airtight container in the fridge, where it will last for at least four days. Seitan is usually better for a rest before cooking anyway – even just a couple hours – and after all that kneading, you probably are too.

This – despite how much flour you start out with – makes one medium-sized ball of seitan, about the size of a chicken breast. Depending on how you use it this could stretch over two meals for sure. I significantly scaled down the quantities of the original recipe, just to see how it would work – to make more, simply double or triple the flour and water.

Notes: As you can see the seitan in the photos has had something done to it – the first is just shredded and marinated in lemon juice, wholegrain mustard, salt, pepper and olive oil, then served with sliced avocado and torn flat-leaf parsley. The second lot was thinly sliced and marinated in a mixture of glutinous rice flour, cornflour, soy sauce, sugar and water, then fried till crisp, in a sort of hastily thrown-together take on mochiko chicken. Both were extremely delicious!

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music lately:

Aslında, Galiba by Palmiyeler – as I mentioned in my last blog post we’ve been celebrating a different country that we’ve been to every day and when Turkey day came around I had to admit I wasn’t au fait with any of its music; I found this band by chance on Spotify and have been deeply enchanted with them ever since. It’s sunny, vaguely psychedelic beach-pop and while it all sort of blurs into one saltwater blur sonically, believe me when I say that I listened to their entire discography in one afternoon and every song is wonderful. This song is great but picked entirely at random because I just couldn’t decide between them all.

Penguins and Polar Bears by Millencolin – naturally, Sweden Day would’ve been nothing without these guys and this absolute classic!

Ladies Who Lunch from the 1995 revival of the 1970 Stephen Sondheim musical Company, performed here by Debra Monk. Of course, Elaine Stritch’s original is the alpha and omega but Debra Monk’s version does not receive nearly enough attention – yes, it’s perhaps arranged half a sluggish beat too slow, but the way she sings “aren’t they a geeeeem, I’ll drink tooOOO theeeeeeem” – I think about it so often! It is on my mind frequently!

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

Vegan Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread

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Getting used to something and being enthusiastic about it are two different things, but the absence of hatred is a start – of course, I’m talking about margarine, which I’ve resigned myself to using in various cooked and baked goods to the point where it’s done without thinking, and certainly without self-flagellation. I’ve been vegan for long enough now that I no longer appreciate the concept of consuming large quantities of dairy – that milk is none of my business! – but…it would be nice if margarine companies at least tried to emulate butter’s undeniably good flavour. Humans are capable of untold scientific endeavour, where’s that energy in margarine? I understand there are great vegan butters out there – and by “out there” I mean selected pockets of America – but here in New Zealand it’s margarine or nothing, and, well, I refuse to have nothing, so the margarine has to work for me.

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In the case of shortbread, where butter is the main event, the star, the biscuit’s reason for getting up in the morning – you’d be forgiven for assuming that a margarine-based recipe would be a failure, tinged with that tongue-lingering nastiness that only strong flavours can mask. First of all, you have to find the margarine that’s least vexatious, the most tolerable – for me, that’s Olivani (not Nuttelex, as I initially assumed when embarking on this highly-committed whim). Second of all, you have to believe me when I say – and I’m genuinely astonished by it – that this shortbread doesn’t taste like margarine. It doesn’t! It tastes softly buttery and mildly sweet and very reassuringly shortbready. It does, however, lack that final convincing push of flavour that butter enjoys; hence the helping hand offered by the regionally unorthodox yet highly recommended chocolate dip over half of each shortbread.

As well as bringing the obvious to the table – delicious chocolate flavour! – the firm shell of chocolate, especially when fridge-cold, has this fantastic contrasting bite compared to the fine-grained shortbread below, which melts in your mouth like sand disappearing into seawater. You can leave these plain if you don’t have any chocolate or you’re severely disapproving of any variation on this traditionally Scottish biscuit, but if you’re up for it this chocolate step comes highly, if not strenuously, endorsed.

@hungryandfrozen

vegan chocolate dipped shortbread 🍫 recipe @ hungryandfrozen.com 🤠 #vegan #chocolate #veganbaking #recipe #nzfood #foodblogger #fyp #plantbased

♬ Working for the Knife – Mitski

I had intended for these to be adorable chocolate-dipped stars, but I realised moments before starting the recipe that I had lost my star-shaped cutter somewhere in the fifty million times I moved house in the last five years; all I could find was a set of Christmas-themed cookie cutters which curiously did not include a star but did have a vague and formless shape that I could only assume was Santa with his sack upon his back or perhaps a slightly wonky and unsure-of-foot partridge. My aesthetic loss is absolutely your gain – this method is significantly easier and faster, scored and baked all at once in a tin then prised apart into rustic rectangular fingers.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, we’re in the frenzied grips of my mother’s lockdown project where we celebrate a different country that one of us has been to each day, in alphabetical order; I will definitely be making the Fijian Tarkari and the Česnečka from the Czech Republic again; my attempt at a vegan haggis is probably best kept a memory not to be relived. These shortbreads, however, will definitely be back.

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Vegan Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread

This vegan shortbread is simple, delicious, and made all the more palatable with a dunk in some melted chocolate. I swear to you, the recipe really is straightforward and super easy – I just couldn’t work out how to explain any elements of it in a succinct manner.
Recipe by myself.

  • 200g vegan butter/margarine (I used – and recommend – Olivani)
  • 90g icing sugar
  • 300g flour
  • 3 tablespoons custard powder
  • 150g dark chocolate

1: Beat the butter and icing sugar together in a large mixing bowl until light and creamy – which should only take a minute or two – then tip in the flour and cornflour and carefully stir it all together (I say carefully because it’s very easy to shunt large clouds of flour everywhere at this point). Push the dough together into a ball with your hands, then cover the bowl with a clean tea towel or lid and put it in the fridge for about twenty minutes.

2: While this is happening, set your oven to 160C/320F and line a 28x18cm baking dish/brownie tin with a sheet of baking paper. Remove the chilled dough from the fridge and press it out evenly into the tin – you can lay another sheet of baking paper over the top and gently press down on it to make it more even, removing it before baking of course. Jab the dough several times with a fork, which helps steam escape and makes it rise neatly; and then use a knife to score it twice horizontally and vertically several times, so you have about 24 similarly-sized rectangles. Apologies if this description doesn’t make much sense – basically you’re just scoring the dough as if you were preparing to slice it up, which makes it easier to slice once it’s actually out of the oven.

3: Bake the shortbread dough for 35 minutes – checking often – or until it’s lightly golden and the surface is firm. Remove the cooked shortbread out of the dish by lifting the edges of the sheet of baking paper. Use a knife to slice through the lines you scored earlier, then carefully ferry each individual shortbread to a cooling rack.

4: Once the shortbreads have cooled, melt the chocolate however you normally do it (I used a small glass bowl and 20-second bursts in the microwave, but if you put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and then rest that bowl on a pan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water, that works too). Carefully dip each shortbread halfway – so half of it is coated in chocolate and half of it remains bare – and sit them on a tray lined with baking paper, then refrigerate till set. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Makes around 24.

Notes:

  • If you don’t have custard powder or are simply disinclined to use it, replace it with the same amount of cornflour (or cornstarch for the Americans) and add a generous splash of vanilla extract.
  • In my experience, Olivani is the best-behaved and most mellow-flavoured margarine – better than Nuttelex for sure – but you use whatever you’re comfortable with.

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music lately:

Minority by Green Day – I don’t know what it is about them but whenever I’m like “I’m a fan of Green Day” I say it in this reverent yet apologetic voice like I’m revealing some great shuddering truth about myself (it’s very similar to the voice I use when I own up that I’m a bigtime show tunes kind of guy.) Anyway, I’ve always been very fond of this song and its jauntiness and year-2000-ness and the impenetrable Mairzy Doats quality to the lyrics. I’m especially fond of this live version at Milton Keynes in 2005, since I was in that very audience.

Working For The Knife, by Mitski – new Mitski! New Mitski music in 2021! I feel like Ebenezer Scrooge throwing open his windows on Christmas Day. This is very important! Also, I was super nervous, and put off listening to it in case it wasn’t exactly what I’d hoped, and then got anxious in case I was somehow letting Mitski down, or in case people were like “oho, a fair-weather fan, are we” but of course none of those things happened (or was going to happen) and as soon as she sang “I cry at the start of every movie/I guess ’cause I wish I was making things too” I knew she was BACK.

Hello Dad…I’m In Jail by Was (Not Was). Like the Sideshow Bob stepping on a rake scene in The Simpsons – truly the opposite of diminishing returns.

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