sometimes I think you’re just too good for me, every day is Christmas, every night is New Year’s Eve

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With last week’s post being absolutely enormous I thought I’d make this one fairly low-key, calm, brief. But then I watched classic Christmas film Die Hard for the first time ever and it’s really hard to not feel seasonally hyped up after that, right? So instead I decided to do the absolute opposite and give you something high-key, vast, yet still fairly calming in its own way: my annual round-up of recipes from this blog that I think would be worth considering if you’re wanting to do the home-made edible Christmas present thing. Whether or not Christmas is something you acknowledge, be it for religious reasons, self-preservation reasons, or something else entirely, there’s no denying that it’s going to literally happen this very month and besides, you could use this list at any time of year that you have a person for whom a gift is required. I for one think there’s nothing more delightful than the tangible and consumable result of a person’s concentrated time and effort as a gift, not to mention the joy of stomping on the delicate, exposed foot of capitalism by DIY-ing it yourself. (That said – and look, no one is out here defending capitalism, don’t worry – I’d also like to throw my voice to the chorus urging you to consider shopping local/small/ethical/indigenous/gay/generally independent this season.)

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THE HUNGRY AND FROZEN MODERATELY INDISPUTABLE LIST OF EDIBLE GIFT RECIPE IDEAS FOR LIFE, NOT JUST FOR CHRISTMAS

Caveat 1: Because this goes so far back through the archives, the majority of which I spent neck-deep in butter, well, there’s going to be some butter. I’ve marked accordingly whether a recipe is vegan, also gluten free if applicable – I see you!
Caveat 2: Because this goes so far back through the archives the continuity/life details on display in any given post might be kind of jarring and this is what happens when you write about many details of your life for eleven years! But if we can handle our TV characters like, changing haircuts and so on throughout the course of a series, so can we handle such things here.
Caveat 3: (And just know that I couldn’t help but hear “O CAVEAT THREE-EE-EE” in a superloud, third-time-round, “O come let us adore him” vibe in my head) I moved my blog over to WordPress halfway through this year and all the formatting completely fritzed out, so just know, every single individual blog post that I’ve linked to here that does have, y’know, line breaks, has had its individual html edited by me, and I haven’t quite managed to catch them all yet. This caveat is more of a weird flex, but.

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Category 1: Things in Jars

Too easy! Jars make everything look pulled together and clever, whether it’s the unsinkable salted caramel sauce or some pickled-into-submission vegetable. To ease any anxieties – which you admittedly might not have even considered having, but that’s why I’m here –  on the part of both giver and receiver, I advise including a gift tag with some recommendations of how to use the stuff within the jar ( and “consume in one go in bed” is entirely viable here.)

Subsection A: Saucy Stuff

Subsection B: Stuff stuff

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Category 2: Baked Goods

As easy or as hard as you like, whether it’s some cookies in a takeout container with a ribbon around it (and honestly: those takeout containers – you know the ones – are always useful to have around so it’s not a cop-out) or whether you go full out, make someone an enormous Christmas Cake and find a tastefully yet jaw-droppingly stunning plate to serve it on and make that part of the gift too. To maximise on tis-the-season seasonality I recommend embarking on all baking projects late at night with some kind of liqueur by your side, it just feels right.

 

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Category 3: No-bake Novelty!

This is (a) lots of taxing recreations of candy you can get for like forty cents at the corner dairy, (b) lots of stuffing existing products into other existing products and (c) nevertheless the most fun category.

And one more for luck:

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Almond Butter Toffee

a recipe by myself

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) water
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3 heaped tablespoons crunchy almond butter
  • 250g dark chocolate
  • sea salt

Line a baking tray or tin with a large piece of baking paper.

Place the sugar, water, and cream of tartar in a saucepan and slowly bring to the boil over a medium heat, without stirring at all. Let it continue to bubble away for five to ten minutes, until it just starts to turn golden – even though it’s boring for a while, don’t walk away or lose focus or it WILL burn, it just will – and as a pale gold cast creeps across the bubbling sugar, at this point immediately remove it from the heat. I hate to be harsh but if the sugar has turned a dark golden brown this means it’s caramelised too far and will taste harshly bitter and burnt; better to start over with more sugar and water than to try to forge ahead, I promise (I speak from much experience.)  Stir in the almond butter, and, working quickly and carefully, tip the lot onto the sheet of baking paper, coaxing it around with a spatula if need be to make it an even shape/thickness. Sprinkle over a good pinch of sea salt. Allow to set and get completely cool, then break it into pieces. 

Melt the chocolate however you prefer – short bursts in the microwave does it for me – and dip each piece of toffee in the chocolate before returning to the baking paper lined tray to set again. Sprinkle over more sea salt if you wish. Store refrigerated in an airtight container.

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This stuff tastes not entirely unlike those magical Daim bars (or Dime bars as they’re known in the UK) with a buttery, snappish crunch that is somehow sweet enough to taunt the teeth with impending fissures and yet mellow and balanced enough for you to eat an alarming quantity without giving it a second thought. As is or chocolate-dipped: novelty perfection. (And especially delicious if kept in the freezer, for some reason.)

I guess humans make traditions to give us something to cling on to in a harsh world, something that marks the passage of time other than the time itself, and making this list has become something of a tradition for me so it’s nice to visit it again, even as my eyeballs throb from all that painstaking hyperlinking. Even if you don’t make a single thing on the list – and you’re under absolutey no obligation to – the fact that you’re reading this far means you’re part of my tradition too. Sentimental, yes! But as I said: I watched Die Hard for the first time, so, you understand.

title from: Sade, The Sweetest Taboo. The sultriness! Ma’am!

music lately:

The Pure and the Damned, Oneohtrix Point Never ft Iggy Pop: “Someday I swear we’re gonna go to a place where we can do everything we want to, and we can pet the crocodiles.”

Turkey Lurkey Time, from the 1969 Tony Awards performance from the musical Promises, Promises. Another tradition! Every year on December 1st and not a moment sooner I rewatch this and every year I am breathtaken anew! Michael Bennett’s audacious choreography that cares not for your chiropractic bill! Donna McKechnie (in the red dress), triple threat, rubber-legged, spinal chord cracking like a whip! The lyrics which are SO STUPID! The final minute which every time makes tears spring to my eyes at the sheer magnitude of it!

Whack World, the album by rapper Tierra Whack. Every one of her songs is precisely one minute long (which is just perfect for me) with its own precise personality. I particularly love Black Nails and F**k Off.

Next time: less REALLY will be more, I promise. 

the corn was golden, we lay in it for days

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(It’s not pretty, I grant you, but I was like “maybe a lil bow will distract”)

I had a dream about this corn and chilli relish and then upon reflection realised that it already existed more or less in a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s Christmas cookbook, aptly named Nigella Christmas. All I’ve done to her recipe is halve the quantities, add some red chilli, use date syrup instead of honey (I am kind of on the fence on honey consumption vis a vis veganism but for simplicity decided to not use it here) and used ground cumin instead of celery salt because I didn’t have the latter and felt like the former, while different in flavour, brought some of the same energy.

This doesn’t come out like the chow chow you might see in the supermarket, it’s not thick and gluey but more like … bits of vegetable submerged in vinegar, neither of which sound massively appealing but my god! This stuff is addictive, I haven’t actually even used it in anything yet but I’ve already finished off an entire jar just by standing at the open fridge, eating it by the spoonful. Fortunately it makes two jars full.

As I said, you could ostensibly just go to the supermarket and buy a jar of this or something similar but there’s something in the act of making a recipe that then goes into a jar, preserving and putting away, which pleases. This is based on – as I’ve said before – both the sheer resourcefulness of it and the fact that you’re investing in your own future existence and, hopefully, happiness.

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(And then I was like okay that’s not working what about a bigger bow)

The finished result isn’t particularly attractive but it tastes incredible – the sweet crunch of corn and capsicum against the bursts of burn from the chilli and the sinus-scritching mustard, the sour-sweet sugary vinegar balanced by all the salt I poured in (this can handle a LOT of salt.) It’s also so easy to make, and indeed, you could totally make a ton more if you go with Nigella’s original proportions.

As for what to do with it other than eat it by the spoonful; I think it would be ideal piled into a baked potato, layered on top of a burger, or stirred into a pile of peppery crunchy rocket and iceberg leaves.

Corn and Chilli Relish

Adapted from a recipe by Nigella Lawson from her book Nigella Christmas

  • 500g frozen corn kernels, defrosted
  • 1 red capsicum, seeded and finely diced
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 1 large red chilli, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup/250ml apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup date syrup, agave syrup, rice malt syrup or honey
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 3 teaspoons sea salt (or more to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 teaspoons English mustard (or more to taste)

Have two 300ml glass jars at the ready, and sterilise them if you like, can be bothered.

Mix all the vegetables together in a good-sized bowl. Wash your hands thoroughly and be careful to not touch your eyes after handling the chilli or it’ll sting like hell.

Bring the vinegar, syrup, sugar, cumin, salt, and mustard to the boil in a saucepan and allow to bubble away for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. It might bubble up and look like it’s about to overflow, in which case remove it from the heat and give it a good stir or – my usual trick – drop an ice cube into it.

At this point, pour the syrup over the corn mixture and give it a stir. Carefully divide between the two jars – the easiest way is to spoon the corn out of the syrup into the jars followed by the remaining syrup, which should be completely submerging all the vegetables. Screw the lids on and refrigerate. This tastes better the longer you leave it and will last for around a month in the fridge after opening.

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(And then I was like okay what about a new location)

I’m not sure if this is a confession that’s going to elicit gasps of muffled horror or conspiratorial acknowledgement that I’m not alone in this (as long as it’s not greeted with indifference tbh) but any time a recipe is all “sterilise your jars thoroughly” I’m like “you will be FORTUNATE if I give it a rinse of the most CURSORY nature in soapy LUKEWARM water”, and you have my full permission to do the same. If the jar smells too strongly of what it previously contained (tomato in particular seems to linger) a quick slosh of water and vinegar or lemon juice seems to do the trick.

I was able to go to a bunch of LitCrawl (a local literary festival) events this weekend and left feeling replete with inspiration and goodwill towards all those who shift words from their brain onto some more tangible surface. And I met so many nice people! Some were even like “oh you’re Hungry and Frozen” and I was like yes! These words are sweeter than any writing I’ve heard this entire festival! But, to that end, after seeing him perform his poetry on Friday night I read the entirety of Kaveh Akbar’s book Calling a Wolf A Wolf; it’s very beautiful and he has this incredible way of saying things with a sense of authority where they almost sound idiomatic but you’ve also never heard those words in that order before. Even his titles are blissful – My Kingdom for a Murmur of Fanfare. I recommend it sincerely. Positively frothing with inspiration and spurred on with the lazy insolence of tramadol and having watched a movie (Outlaw King) that I genuinely the entire time thought was the pilot episode of a Game of Thrones style prestige TV show because prestige TV has melted my brain; I myself put pen to paper to write a poem: for rough context, imagine a Game of Thrones style prestige TV situation but…with…pigs. All present found it highly amusing, I assume without verification.

A pig shall rise

There is no older story than this
A cloven hoof pierces the thick mud
A squeal like a crack racing up a mirror
The air smells, sinister and ominous
And like ham
A tail curls, small but purposeful
Narrow eyes and soft ears, gently crushed by a heavy crown
Smear your face in bacon fat and walk forwards into hell
It is better to live free and die at the hoof
Than to never know freedom at all
A pig shall rise

Thanks LitCrawl! (what’s that faint noise in the distance? Is it LitCrawl frantically gesturing that they don’t want to be considered even tangentially responsible for the birth of, or by any means associated with, this new work?)

title from: C’mon Billy by PJ Harvey. So snarly!

music lately:

Tadpoles, Poemme The sound of a petal floating in water, more or less, and so chill you could just scream.

IRM, Charlotte Gainsbourg. The sound of a lightbulb flickering and sputtering, more or less.

I Hate Danger, Bikini Kill. For someone who won’t stop talking I have a very short attention span most of the time and I do enjoy a song that panders to this.

Wedding, Smog. “I’m gonna be so drunk at your wedding.” Hypnotic.

Next time: I’ve been thinking up a bunch of recipes that could potentially sit proudly on the table at Christmas dinner and plan to run them all by you first.

If you wish to receive this blog post newsletter style on Sunday-ish evening-ish every week do consider signing up here. 

turn the music up way too loud, charge the pizza to the house

I have kind of a weird relationship with time, in that I’m never particularly relaxed and I always feel like whatever time I have is running out on me and that’s all I can focus on. I think a lot of this has to do with my writing and trying to make enough space to do that and freaking out when I fall asleep instead, but I was like this before I was writing and even if I abandoned this blog today I’d probably still end up feeling the same way. Does anyone else get that? Like if you wake up at 9am you’re all like “well it’s 9am, the day is practically over and I have achieved nothing” (don’t even get me started on the horror of waking up at 11am.) I mean, I remember thinking this as a child. There wasn’t even any internet then, what was I worried about not being on top of? Anyway, on Monday – one of my days off – I slept till 3pm because I physically could not stop going to sleep, and uh, this was kind of horrifying to me. It’s like…it’s not just writing I have to do. I can’t remember when I last did laundry! My room has not been tidied in forever which is in itself a source of stress! Six weeks ago I was supposed to start doing twenty minutes of yoga per day! I need to cook myself something so I actually have something to blog about even though I’m too tired to write! And it’s 3pm which means it’s basically tomorrow! Compounding to all this horror is the fact that it’s suddenly the following Monday and I’m in the exact same position.

Last Monday, upon waking, I somehow managed to briefly get my act together in a “I suspect there are worse problems out there than this you dingus” kind of way to make myself this scone pizza as a calming snack. One week later I’m finally spatula-ing together the time to write about it. This recipe is so easy and has a pleasing mix of so many comforting foods – not just the obvious two, scone and pizza, it also gives off cheese toastie and pie vibes. It is all good things. It is scone pizza.

I adapted it from a recipe in my OWN COOKBOOK (yes, I know, and no, you can’t buy a copy because every last one was sold and Penguin never republished it which means it’s a cult underground collectors item, not a failure) because why not be inspired by yourself? The recipe in my cookbook involves a simmered zucchini and tomato sauce to go on top, from a book of recipe clippings belonging to my paternal grandmother. But this time around I had a couple of tomatoes in the fridge and half a block of cheese and immediately knew I wanted both in my mouth together at an elevated temperature. Melted cheese is 100% my idea of a good time.

What you end up with is a thick, slightly crunchy and soft base, with the scorched sweetness of the magma-hot tomatoes and a hefty layer of melted cheese made moderately more elegant in a cacio-e-pepe kind of way by a grind of fresh pepper. I have until extremely recently hated black pepper, as it tasted like mouth-burning dust and nothing more, but I’ve come to appreciate its subtle sweetness and what it adds to a dish. Either that or my tastebuds are dying as I’m aging and this is my attempt at trying to feel something real. Little from column A, little from column B?

scone pizza

adapted from a recipe from my cookbook, Hungry and Frozen: The Cookbook.

200g plain flour (this is roughly two hastily-scooped cups full, if you don’t have scales) (which I don’t currently)
one teaspoon baking powder

25g melted butter
125g (half a cup) thick, plain yoghurt
pinch of salt
two tomatoes
as much grated cheese as you like
cracked pepper

Set your oven to 200C/400F and place a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray.

Briefly mix the flour, baking powder, butter, yoghurt and salt together in a bowl. Add a little bit more yoghurt if it’s way too floury. Squish it together gently with your hands to form a soft ball. Tip it onto the baking tray and softly roll it out to form a rough circle of a couple of centimetres. Brush it with a little extra melted butter if you like – I didn’t do this myself but it has just occurred to me now that it would be a good idea, probably.

Thickly slice the tomatoes and arrange them on top of the scone base. Grate over as much cheese as you like, and then some. Bake for around 20 minutes, till the cheese is bubbling and the tomatoes are a bit scorched and softened. Grind over some pepper.

Allow it to cool for a minute and then slice into four and hoon the lot.

Note: I, for some reason, had like two tablespoons of yoghurt left in the bottom of a container so just made up the remaining amount with milk and this worked perfectly. Consider yourself permitted to do something similar if you find yourself in this position.

As with all food, it tastes excellent in bed. It’s one thing to hang out in bed heaps and consume your main meal of the day in there, but sleep? In your bed? How troublingly self-indulgent.

By the way, I am trying to work on this strange thing I have with time, because it benefits absolutely no-one if I’m stressing constantly about it. I just don’t know how to. So far my only technique is being frustrated at myself for being stressed, followed by frustration at myself for my frustration at myself. Also trying to actually let myself sleep if I need it without being too angry about it.

Without being too on the nose, I have, uh, bought myself some thyme. This was inspired by my Stargrazing horoscope for May in Lucky Peach magazine:

This season, for you, is about translating jittery emotions into healthy, productive action. Yer an original, Aries, so I’m into forking over an idea you can truly make your own: This is a completely excellent time to plant yourself a little herb garden with whatever you like in it (…) That dualism—embarking on a project that’s all yours and has tangible, visible rewards (LI’L PLANTS!), while also slow ride, taking it easy—is perfect for you, jitterbug. Pick up a few cheapo herb plants of your choosing. Care for them diligently, as a way of transmuting the care you’re unsure of giving yourself right now. See this attention and love as the same thing.”

I mean, does that resonate or what. Thyme is one of my very favourite herbs and is also very pretty, with its gently tangled mass of tiny leaves, and I am so going to nurture this lil plant, and I guess myself as well. My first order of business: acknowledging that I’m actually asleep right now as I type this, and to let myself have a nap.

title from: Blink 182, Reckless Abandonment

music lately:

I Will Never Leave You, from the very short-lived 1996 musical Side Show. This showcases the spectacular voices of Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner, and is one of those songs that’s all like, ugh we have to get this stupid first verse out of the way so we can get to the AMAZING BELTING IN THE CODA and the payoff is thoroughly worth it.

Digital Versicolour, Glass Candy. This song is on the playlist at work and every time it comes on I’m like “woooooo!” I know, what fascinating provenance. It’s just very mellow and hypnotic and good.

Sean Paul, Like Glue. I heard this song on loop five times in a row the other day and it was honestly the ideal way to consume this song. It’s the sound of a warm evening in summer, without any of the hassle of having to be overheated.
 
next time: my friend Rose gave me some old Seventeen magazines that used to belong to her mum and the recipes in them are so great and I seriously want to try one.

 

everyone is waiting, waiting on you and you’ve got thyme

A Season For Peaches, a novel by Henri Michel

In case you are all, “damn that Laura is the epitome of perfection I really love what she does I just wish she’d sometimes display some kind of minor flaw to humanise her more” – and I have zero reason to believe this isn’t what people are thinking all the time – then have I got a relatable and relatively dull anecdote for you about how I made a terrible dinner.

On Monday I was exceptionally tired and not really thinking and as a result, I made the most aggressively bland, horrible pasta of my life, and the more I tried to fix it the worse it got. I started off wanting to make some kind of dairy-free cauliflower sauce, where you puree an entire head of cooked cauliflower and it turns out all creamy and delicious. Why? Honestly, I don’t know, but I’ve been reading too much pinterest but also if I can effortlessly conjure up a dope vegan pasta bake then that’s a pleasing outcome. However it turned into the equivalent of mashed potato and refused to puree and also tasted of absolutely nothing so in a panicked state I … upended an entire bottle of cream into it. It still wouldn’t liquefy, so with mounting panic I mixed this mashed potato-esque stuff into cooked rigatoni along with some eggplant I’d roasted, so it was like…this weird billowy mass studded with the occasional piece of eggplant. How did I think this was going to turn into an awesome pasta bake? I topped it with parsley. That made it even less good. I shoved it in the oven to grill, which, as there was nothing in it to melt, just made it more warm and didn’t change it miraculously on the cellular level that I’d been hoping for.

It might sound “insufferable” or like “not a real problem” or “good god shut up Laura” but like I said, I was super tired and making dinner is a thing I’m always good at when all else crumbles around me and honestly, just the waste of money and ingredients was incredibly disheartening. However, I did manage to avoid panic-eating the lot, and dealt with it by going for a nap and searching youtube for ASMR videos specifically featuring someone telling you repeatedly in a very gentle voice that you’re actually a good cook. (A later cursory prod of the abandoned pasta bake revealed that it had not improved with time but I made myself eat some anyway, because I was both hungry and miserably stubborn about the aforementioned waste of money and ingredients.)

This is all completely unimportant and not terribly interesting, it’s just every time I do something stupid I feel pathologically compelled to tell the entire internet about it. An incident of totally sucking shared is an incident of totally sucking halved, I say.

Having since made a few things that mercifully turned out deliciously, I am safely back in the mindset that I love cooking and it loves me. For example, these honey and thyme roasted peaches. I went to brunch at Flight Coffee Hangar with one of my dearest friends Charlotte for her birthday and had brioche covered in vanilla mascarpone and said peaches. (It’s one of those places where the menu is so good that it’s actually inconvenient, because I can never choose what to get.) I was so taken with my brunch that I bought peaches on the way home and immediately tried to recreate what they’d done.

I don’t know how similar my method is to what the cafe does, but it worked incredibly well for me. Before you even get to taste them, the slowly roasting peaches fill your house with their heady perfume, so rich and intoxicating that you want to float through the air with hearts for eyes like some kind of amorous cartoon animal from a bygone era.

There’s something oddly lovely and lazily sensual about drizzling sticky, slow-moving honey over soft freshly cut peaches before scattering them with fragrant herbs, like you have no cares in the world apart from getting weirdly skittish over ripe stone fruit.

Cooked, they have this floral depth of sweetness from the slick of honey and the caramelising heat of the oven, and the smoky herbal thyme cuts through this and makes it more than just merely sugary. With very little effort suddenly you have yourself this gorgeous quantity of fruit that you can tuck around scoops of ice cream, stir through muesli, arrange on top of a cake, or indeed, add to toasted brioche with mascarpone as they did at the cafe.

honey thyme roasted peaches

a recipe by myself, but inspired directly by my brunch at Flight Coffee Hangar

four large ripe peaches
two teaspoons runny honey
one teaspoon olive oil – I guess you could leave it out but I feel it adds some fruity richness and will put a shine on your coat
several sprigs of fresh thyme

Set your oven to 180 C/350 F. Roughly slice the peaches into quarters or thirds or whatever and lay them on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Drizzle over the honey and the olive oil, then scatter over most of the thyme leaves, and just throw the remaining sprigs on top.

Roast for twenty minutes, then turn the oven off and leave the peaches in there while it cools, for about an hour. Use how you please, and throw any remainders into a jar and keep in the fridge.

That afternoon, 100% not sick of peaches yet, I ate them with Nigella’s miso ice cream that I’d made a variation on (by adding shredded coconut and white chocolate) and it was an incredible combination, the kind of thing that makes you feel so incredibly grown up that you end up going full circle and feeling childish again because you feel so grown up; then this morning I added them to some intensely healthy chia seed muesli to which they brought depth and sweetness. I still have half a jar left, I may just eat them straight from it with a fork but I like the idea of deploying them savoury-ly, perhaps in some tagine-type dish or to accompany crispy, slow-cooked pork belly. What I’m saying is, you will not regret making these. If you avoid honey for whatever reason, I do believe maple syrup would be an excellent substitution; if you don’t like thyme then that’s a little harder as it’s not as though you could successfully use, like, parsley instead – I’d just leave it out altogether. I adore thyme though and am pretty much forever trying to work it into everything I cook.

Because my friend Charlotte and I are practically twins (that is, we’re very similar personality-wise and we were born only a handful of days apart, one can only dream of having a face as beautiful as hers) her birthday happening means that mine is getting super close. I’m feeling more chill about it than I was a few blog posts ago, I mean…it’s going to happen. It just is. Also I remembered that you get presents and lots of attention, both things that I adore, and I’m frankly curious to see what thirty-year-old me is like. It will possibly involve singing Grown Woman by Beyonce with increasing desperation, but who knows!

title from: You’ve Got Time, the stunning Orange is the New Black theme song by Regina Spektor. We have this cocktail at work that has thyme in it and whenever someone orders it I always get this song in my head, I figured I might as well pass on this gift and curse to you too.

music lately:

Sevendust featuring Skin, Licking Cream. Some nu-metal is oddly timeless, okay? This song is so exhilarating and big and soaring and happy? And honestly it’s impossible to tell who is hotter out of Skin or the Sevendust lead singer LaJon Witherspoon (when Skin sings “crawling down your spine” I’m pretty sure she wins but it’s not actually a competition and I’m just incredibly glad they collaborated on this amazing song.)

Chelsea Jade, Low Brow. This stellar human who I am proud to call a pal has released this gloriously dreamy new tune with a video that’s both beautiful and beautifully silly. “Just hold me closer than you know how to” – ugh it’s so good.

next time: I may well have to make some kind of elaborate pasta bake again to exorcise the demons of the last failed one. Will make sure I’ve slept enough this time.

 

perfect hexagon of the honeycomb and you soothe yourself with the shapes you know

how much trouble can one ice cream be?

Prologue: Laura.

Confused yet? I decided to write this blog post somewhat in the style of a Baby-Sitters Club book, for no good reason other than it occurred to me and I ran with it.

Chapter 1

WHUMP! CLATTER! 

That’s the sound of me jumping onto my bed while holding a bowl of ice cream and delicious homemade honeycomb sauce, immediately knocking over the worrying number of empty juice cans that I’m lazily keeping beside it instead of putting them in the bin. “Auughhhh!” I just manage to stop the rapidly-melting ice cream and warm sauce from spilling over onto my bed. What a day!

I guess you’re wondering by now who I am, and what I’m wearing. Well there’s me, Laura – I hope you’re taking notes, I’m going to quiz you on this later! Psych! I’m kind of the humorous one here, or so I always say. I’ve got chin-length unruly red hair and glasses, but people do still hang out with me. I’m wearing these old cerulean blue shorts that I think used to be part of some boys’ high school regulation gym uniform (I love vintage!) and a white crop top that has the word “CHALLENGE” written across the front in big black letters, because I like to wear clothing that doubles as a friendly warning for what kind of person I am. I don’t have pierced ears, but people do still hang out with me. Most importantly, I’m eating ice cream, even though it’s not even breakfast time yet. I know what you’re thinking – how do I eat all this ice cream without getting in trouble? The thing is, I’m kind of an individual when it comes to doing what I want. I’m also the only person ever that has ever been into cooking. It’s kind of my one personality trait. If anyone else likes it, I’m certainly not acknowledging it!

this ice cream is sensitive and a good listener

Chapter 2

My best friends work during the day and I work at night, but when we get together, we always have a good time! We’re the best friends you’ll ever have. Does that sound like a threat? I’m inclined to tell you the intimate details of their respective family history, but that would be really weird, so I’ll just do a brief hagiography (that means documentation of the lives of saints, it’s a word I learned recently). There’s Kim, who has lo-oo-ong dark hair and the enormous macadamia-shaped eyes of a curious woodland deer. She’s kind of the wise, yet wickedly fun one of the group. Kate has just dyed her hair blonde, which means she is now even more popular and sophisticated – she also has a crazy household with a cat AND a dog, and a real, live, husband! Confusingly, Kate is also wise yet wickedly fun. This week because of Easter and having days off I’ve been able to see them relatively heaps and it has been very good for the soul, as the saying goes. For example, on Monday night we sat on the floor of my bedroom (it’s a great meeting space, I’m so lucky to have my own one!) and ate Pop-Tarts and drank Boulevardiers. That’s a cocktail which is like a negroni but uses bourbon instead of gin, and it’s one of my favourites. We clinked our glasses together in what we call “a toast”, and in that moment we felt like real Big City women.

darn it! I said ruefully. I only described their hair, not their outfits. 

 

Chapter 3

“We’re finally getting to the plot!” I thought ruefully, tucking a lock of unruly red hair behind my tragically unpierced ears. So, I’m kind of the “food blogger” around here. I’m also kind of an ideas person. I have Big Ideas and then Occasionally Make Them Happen Around Three Weeks Later If I’m Awake Enough, I know, it’s a little exhausting trying to keep up with me! When my Ideas and food blogging combine – bam! Honeycomb Sauce. Okay, okay, I had honeycomb ice cream at a local restaurant and immediately decided that honeycomb was the new salted caramel, and wanted to make some version of it for myself to have again and again in the comfort of my own bed and/or more normal area in the house to eat. But after some time I learned a little bit about myself and a lot about the true meaning of friendship: it’s not a competition. Salted Caramel may be heavily overexposed, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious. Honeycomb is just a flavour I hadn’t thought about in forever!

I know what you’re thinking – just honey and sugar? Way too sweet. Booooring. About as fun as a pop quiz or getting Salisbury Steak for lunch, neither of which I’ve ever actually experienced.

In fact, the delicate floral sweetness of the honey and the richness of the butter come together to make something pretty magical, and very individual. It doesn’t taste overly of honey, it’s more reminiscent of (that means “reminiscent of”, it’s a word I learned recently) actual honeycomb, the kind of stuff that you find inside Crunchy Bars or other similar candies hidden around your room. This sauce isn’t perfect – I admit! – half of it remained saucy and the other half solidified as soon as it hit the cold ice cream, but this was all so fun and delicious that I decided to share it with you anyway.

honeycomb sauce: a delicious prototype 

A recipe by myself. I’m thinking of adding a tablespoon or so of cream to it next time to see if that keeps it more liquid but I do love it just like this. 

100g butter
half a cup of sugar
one tablespoon brown sugar
one heaped tablespoon honey

Heat everything together in a saucepan, stirring gently as it comes to the boil. Remove from the heat once it starts bubbling and continue stirring for a bit. Allow it to cool somewhat (it’ll be like actual lava initially) before pouring it all over your ice cream. 



Chapter 4

I decided to end the day with ice cream and honeycomb sauce – after all, I’m a grown up and kind of a bad girl who makes her own rules. The remaining sauce had turned rock solid in the fridge, so I had to carefully sit the bottle inside a cup of boiling water to soften it, but during this time, I learned five more lessons about friendship. Unfortunately I’m still wearing the same outfit that I was at the start of this story, but to pad things out a bit, I’ll tell you about what I wore yesterday: a vintage white minidress with pink and orange diamond patterns across it and a high neck with a collar. I wore it with my yellow socks with pizzas on them and chunky black ankle boots – pretty wild, huh? I’m a pretty wild dresser!

feel free to judge how well the illustration matches the description

Prologue:

Ice cream twice in 24 hours – that day was a summer I’ll never forget.

title from: One Beat by Sleater-Kinney. Howl-y goodness. Oh yeah, and while I’m all “what would Kristy Thomas, President of the Babysitters Club, have to say about Sleater-Kinney?” I’m also dropping the conceit for the remainder of the blog post, okay?  

music lately: 

I’ve finally given Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton a proper listen and I am predictably entranced and addicted. That man is a beautiful genius and I will ramble at extreme length if given the chance to talk about him. Also look, please just watch him and other members of the cast perform My Shot for the damn president at The White House and I dare you to not get shivers.

Listening to one modern musical about historic political American times got me thinking about another one: Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, which in the opposite direction of the incredible success of Hamilton, ran for a mere hundred and twenty something performances on Broadway before closing. I saw a production of it in New Orleans a few years back but haven’t listened to it since; its pop punk sound is like…perfect? I don’t know what the best entry point would be, maybe Rockstar if you want something fast or Saddest Song if you want something amazing.

Kid Cudi with MGMT, Pursuit of Happiness. Whatever track this samples is intoxicating and then the rest of the song has the temerity to be excellent as well. This song is moderately ancient but sounds so fresh.

next time: the novelty is over, kids, and I have some brussels sprouts to emphasise this (they’re fried with pistachios and truffle butter though, so) 

is she trouble like i’m trouble make it a double

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been tired to the very insides of my insides. Like, my blood is tired, my veins are tired, my ribs are definitely phoning it in. My brain? Not dissimilar to a small, three day old bowl of cold rice noodles. In this middle of all this lethargy though, something really exciting happened: I managed to meet THREE of my idols, all within one week.

I also made this really good pasta today for my lunch. Actual IRL pasta is easily one of my favourite foods, but did you know, you can make extremely damn good fake pasta out of zucchini, which takes about three seconds and which also goes along with my general aim of eating a ton of vegetables in my daily life.

Back to the idols though: I met the incredible writer and The Toast co-founder Mallory Ortberg, whose Childrens Stories Made Horrific series is spine-clenchingly chilling and whose Western Art History series is joyfully hilarious and thoughtful and whose hair is shiny and beautiful and fulsome. I was super delighted to see her at two separate Writers Week events where she was interviewed, but I actually ended up running into her on the waterfront a couple of days before. I’d just had oysters and wine and blurted out about having consumed both, which felt weird, and then I also told her that I wrote Crush Cakes for The Toast and she hugged me, which was awesome. When I met her again after her talk on Friday, I was able to apologise for the, let’s face it, inevitable awkwardness (“there’s something so personal about oysters”) and get a photo and thank her for being excellent and it was all just very, very cool.

me n mallory!!

Come Saturday morning, I was due to march in Wellington Pride with the group I volunteer for, Ballet is for Everyone. I was running late, I was looking for people in tutus carrying a banner, but like, this is Pride. Everyone is in tutus and carrying banners. Just when I was all “I might just run home because I feel social anxiety and I’ll never find my group and I’m not done complaining about how tired I am” I clapped eyes on, OF ALL PEOPLE, Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen. These names may not mean an awful lot to you, but they were the co-writers and two of the four co-stars of one of my very, very, very favourite Broadway musicals, [title of show]. As in, New York City, which is about as far away from New Zealand as you can get before you start coming back around again. It was almost an outrage, like, how dare you be here in Wellington, New Zealand, in front of me, when your musical means so much to me and the lyrics of which have comforted me in times both dark and less dark, and you’ve been on The Literal Broadway and New Zealand is so isolated and I nearly didn’t get out of bed and you’re right in front of me and this is so strange.

part of it all

But they were also really nice and it was somehow low-key and charming yet ridiculous and surreal, which is exactly how it should be when you meet your idols, right?

Back to the zucchini pappardelle though: so as well as raw zucchini there’s also oily, salty slices of crisply fried zucchini. Because the pasta ribbons are so wafer thin and fresh and clean they can really handle a lot of oil and salt being loaded up on them, and it all balances out beautifully. The raw pappardelle is coolly refreshing and a tiny bit creamy yet peppery, and the fried rounds are all luscious and soft and golden and crisp. Parmesan and a blanket of parsley add to the salty-peppery vibe, keeping it all very simple yet really, really gorgeous.

double zucchini pappardelle with parsley and parmesan

a recipe by myself. It looks long and complicated but it’s not, promise. I just like to over-explain.

two large zucchinis
extra virgin olive oil
salt
a handful of parsley, finely chopped
some parmesan

Heat a decent quantity of olive oil in a large, wide pan, like a couple of millimetres deep. 
Finely slice one of the zucchini into rounds, and once the oil is good and hot, place the slices of zucchini in the pan in a single layer. You won’t be able to fit the whole lot in at once, but this only requires a little patience and is totally worth it. Let the slices of zucchini fry in the sizzling oil till they’re browned and a little curling at the edges, turning them over carefully partway through with a spoon or something. Remove the slices to a bowl and sprinkle with salt, and continue frying the rest of the zucchini slices.

Meanwhile, use a sturdy vegetable peeler to make the pappardelle out of the remaining zucchini. It’s very simple – just rub the peeler back and forth along the length of the zucchini and it will rapidly turn into ribbons. Arrange them on a plate and then turn the zucchini over and repeat on the other side. Then just do your best with what’s left – this is going to give you some shorter or skinnier ribbons of zucchini but like, it’s all going in your mouth anyway.

Then, just arrange the fried zucchini on top of the raw zucchini, sprinkle with the parsley, and shave over as much parmesan as you like. Finally, spoon over some of the remaining oil from the saucepan and grind over some salt and pepper.

This serves one, generously.

look at all that vegetable
look at it
 
I honestly can’t emphasise how fast I ate this. It’s delicious.
 
Having almost caught up on my sleep I’ve finally found an agreeable middle ground somewhere between the ferocious healthiness of an uncooked vegetable and the deadening effect of overtiredness, and as Easter is coming up I will have a few precious days off to practice some aggressive serenity. But even when you’re the tiredest ever, sometimes it’s worth getting yourself out of bed because you never know who you might run into. Oh sure, it’ll probably be an ex that you run into while you’re wearing an outfit you hate and you’re stuck in a coughing fit, but it might be a Broadway star or an incredibly inspiring writer.
 
PS: you should definitely check out Ballet is for Everyone, the people behind it and their kaupapa is wonderful and I’m really proud to be volunteering with them. Also, teaching ballet to children is kinda delightful. They are such tiny dinguses.
 
PS PS: ya girl got sponsors: if you’re in Wellington this Sunday I thoroughly recommend you get jammy and pickle-y with the Nairn Street Preservation Society.
 
PS PS PS: actually nah, that’s all.
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title from: Green Day’s jaunty song She’s A Rebel, from the so-dated-it’s-timeless and always wonderful American Idiot album.  
_______________________________________________________
music lately: 
Icehouse, Electric Blue. This is the kind of 80s song that gets diluted over time through constant easy listening station rotation but you know when you hear a song really loud when you’re in the middle of a coffee shop and it’s almost like you’ve heard it for the first time and you feel like you’re in a movie? I don’t know, this had a cool chorus is all.
Rihanna, Love On The Brain. I frankly refuse to get over this song.
_______________________________________________________

next time: all this talk of “pasta” has me craving actual pasta. Lol. 

for the want of the price of tea and a slice

Things I’ve said at work lately:

– here, have this salted chocolate cashew butter slice that I made. It’s dairy free and gluten free!

– uhh I have to go to the bathroom because my satin jumpsuit is actually on backwards and I’ve only just noticed

– hey, I know we’re kind of busy but I have a rather singular situation, the centre bit of my bra is hanging on by a fragile, tautly pulled thread and if I shake one more cocktail it will very likely break and bust open, and since I’m wearing a cropped top there is very little room for error here. Is it okay if I run home and change my bra? I can be back really soon- oh, you were just coming to tell me I could sign out? So there was actually no need for me to tell you any of this?

As well as wearing clothing quite uselessly, I also like to occasionally bring in treats to work to boost both morale and blood sugar. In this case I’d been toying with an idea, batting it about like a cat with a small felt mouse on a string, about some kind of nut butter slice covered in chocolate. What I made was fine, with a soft, fudgy texture in the base followed by the snappish crunch of cold dark chocolate, but it wasn’t quite there. As soon as I sprinkled some salt on top the flavours sprang to life and it all made sense and tasted properly delicious as opposed to giving the illusion of tasting delicious. So don’t leave that bit out, even if it seems either excessively sodium-ish or small enough to forget about.

This is so easy to make – truly, the hardest bit is getting the various nut butters and coconut oil out of their jars without flinging them everywhere. Indeed: if you end up getting slightly more than half a cup of each ingredient it’s completely fine. I know I probably did.

salted chocolate cashew butter slice

a recipe by myself

half a cup cashew butter
half a cup peanut butter
half a cup coconut oil, melted
half a cup LSA mix, or ground almonds
quarter of a cup icing sugar
one tablespoon honey or maple syrup
150g dark chocolate
sea salt

Mix the nut butters and oil together till smooth, then tip in the sugar, honey, and LSA and stir again. Pour it into a brownie tin lined with baking paper, and freeze till firm. Gently melt the dark chocolate and remaining coconut oil together, and pour over the base. Freeze again. Once you’re pretty confident that it’s completely solid, sprinkle with plenty of sea salt and slice up however you like.

(Regarding that bra situation: I juuuust made it home before I heard this muffled popping noise indicating the valiant thread had finally snapped. I was sad to see it go, I called it my “power bra” because I got it in New York and it basically positioned you in such a way so you could break a glass ceiling with your own buoyant cleavage. I was like…I’ve defeated my power bra. Am I too powerful? Do I have to eat the bra now, like that scene with the Khaleesi in Game of Thrones?)

As well as giving you an energy boost and being full of shiny-making ingredients, this has a gorgeously buttery, mellow flavour with a pleasingly dense bite to it. Texture is everything here but you can totally play with flavour too – you’re welcome to use entirely cashew butter in the mix, but I decided to cut it with the much cheaper peanut butter so as to not make this ridiculously extravagant. You could, however, use almond butter or all peanut butter or add cinnamon to the base or whatever you like, really. If avoiding dairy isn’t a daily task for you, then you could definitely use white or milk chocolate on this instead – and I do adore both – but the bitter plainness of the dark chocolate against the creamy, nutty base is genuinely pleasing.

We ended up being extremely busy on the night that I brought in my container of this in to work, so I left it in the freezer and when I opened up the bar the next day it was entirely gone: I am taking this as positive feedback. I myself couldn’t stop eating the stuff that I’d left in the freezer at my apartment, so for what it’s worth my own personal feedback is highly positive.

All I’ve really been doing is working lately and I’m so tired that all I can talk about is how tired I am like it’s my one personality trait (as opposed to in high summer, when my one personality trait is that I’m sweatily overheated.) But I managed to make this delicious stuff, and I somehow overthrew my own Power Bra, so I guess I’m doing alright.

title from: Us and Them by Pink Floyd – I used to be incredibly obsessed with them, then dropped off a bit, and now am back to gently sincere fondness.

music lately:

Billy Bragg and Wilco, Walt Whitman’s Niece. I used to listen to this song all the time, it has this rollicking, shambling quality that I love and the call-and-answer bit is charming.

Roots Manuva, Witness the Fitness. This song is on the work playlist and no matter how exhausted I am it brings me back up every single time. It is a TUNE.

next time: I’ve been mucking around with this roasted broccoli turmeric coconut thing recipe which may appear here.