Homemade Mandarin Liqueur [vegan]

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Show a thousand people a Rorschach inkblot-rendered image of me and not one of them will say “that’s a patient person”. While patience is a virtue I’ve always considered myself to lack, I am good at making time disappear and jump forwards either through procrastinating or simply zoning out aimlessly – and what is zoning out if not patience’s weird goth cousin? Conversely, what is patience if not zoning out persevering?

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Whichever side of the coin you fall on, you’re gonna need at least one of these qualities to your name to endure the waiting time for this homemade liqueur to steep and come into bloom, and frankly, I suspect I have the rare edge over traditional patience here. Forgetting you have a large jar of homemade liqueur in the cupboard, only to remember it’s there waiting for you and ready to be consumed in the middle of a newly-announced nationwide lockdown? Now that’s a virtue.

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This recipe is a mid-winter take on the passionfruit liqueur I made back in April, but it’s so delicious and so versatile that it deserves a stand-alone place on the blog. The method is also slightly improved, as I found that dissolving the sugar completely before mixing it with the vodka makes for a much smoother finished product.

Our mandarin tree has been on the clock since 1984, producing season after season of hostile, tight-skinned, pip-studded little mandarins that you don’t so much peel as dig into, inevitably spraying juice hither and yon. What they lack in accessibility and friendliness they make up for in sprightly, acerbic flavour, the sort of unhesitating zing that the loose-skinned, pipless, baby’s-first-mandarins at the supermarkets could only muster a mere straining echo of. This liqueur makes use of both the fruit and the potent oils lurking in the peel, and the resulting liqueur is both delicate yet beautifully citrussy.

Triple sec (or Cointreau, or orange liqueur in general) is one of the most widely-used ingredients in cocktails after the base spirits, and while this liqueur has a more mellow and floral vibe it’s still vibrantly orange enough to slot into any classic you favour – the Margarita, the Sidecar, the Corpse Reviver No.2, the Cosmopolitan – a bottle of this in your cupboard gives you a wealth of potential (presuming you also have other bottles of cocktail-friendly liquor in your cupboard.) If cocktails are too much hard work, a splash of this in a glass of champagne (by which I mean, Lindauer) is an instant delight. Even easier than that is a nip of the liqueur, straight from the fridge, poured into a small glass for chic sipping pre- or post-dinner.

And if you want in on the fun but don’t have access to (or use for) alcohol? Try this lemon cordial recipe instead, which you can adapt to any other citrus fruit and, better yet, enjoy on the day it’s made.

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Homemade Mandarin Liqueur

Put some stuff in a jar, forget about it for a while, come back and you have delicious homemade liqueur for sipping or shaking into cocktails. Of course, you can use any other citrus fruit here – tangerines would be excellent. Recipe by myself.

  • 750ml bottle vodka – look for at least 40% alcohol/80 proof, nothing lower than that
  • 15 – 20 mandarins (no fewer than this, but more is fine)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon citric acid
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1: Thoroughly wash a 1-litre glass jar in hot soapy water and dry with a clean tea towel. Using a vegetable peeler, strip off as much clean, unblemished mandarin peel as you can and use a paring knife to slice off any pith (the white stuff) from the underside of the peel. Now, the mandarins on our tree were quite firm-skinned – not the kind that you can easily peel without making a mess – but if you have the kind with loose skin which falls off almost as you touch it, just remove as much pith as possible and you’re good to go.

2: Next, remove any remaining peel from your mandarins and do your best to remove as much of the white pith as possible clinging to each segment. This whole prep section is quite fiddly and messy but it’s worth the effort for the delicious results.

3: Pour the sugar into a bowl (or better yet, a measuring jug so it’s easier to pour into the jar later) followed by the mandarin segments. Stir with a wooden spoon, crushing the mandarin pieces to release their juice, and keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved into the mandarin juice and is no longer gritty when you do a little taste test. Add the citric acid to the bowl and stir again.

4: Carefully tip all this into the clean jar (perhaps using a spoon to ferry the solid mandarin pieces into the jar first before pouring the liquid in) along with the slices of mandarin peel, and then pour in the entire bottle of vodka. Screw on the lid and store the jar in a cupboard – ideally, one out of sight where you won’t be constantly reminded of its progress – and leave it for a month, occasionally giving the jar a careful swirl (I say ‘careful’ because I’m still haunted by the memory of dropping a jar of quince-infused brandy onto the ground back in 2010). If your vodka is particularly high-proof you can probably get away with considerably less waiting time than a month; obviously, the only way to know this for sure is by doing regular taste tests.

5: Once the month is up, strain the contents of the jar through a sieve into a measuring jug, pressing down on any pieces of fruit with the back of a spoon to extract their last gasps of flavour. Then stir in the vanilla and funnel the liquid into clean bottles. It should keep just fine in the cupboard but will taste particularly excellent if stored in the fridge or freezer.

Makes – depending on your mandarin quantity and quality – just over a litre.

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music lately:

Fast As You Can by Fiona Apple. The way she just – does – that!!

Say Hey by Branford Marsalis Quartet and Terrence Blanchard, from the Mo’ Better Blues soundtrack. The kind of jazz that makes you feel like the main character.

Could I Leave You from the Sondheim musical Follies, performed here by Dee Hoty for My Favourite Broadway: The Leading Ladies in 1998, a highly comforting yet exhilarating concert that I revisit frequently. This is such a good song in anyone’s hands, but Hoty has precisely the steel and elegance and control that makes it really shine.

Supervixens, by A.R Kane, the thing about this song is that I just never stop listening to 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 Lemon Poppyseed Loaf Cake

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Just a simple one, this time. A simple, one-bowl vegan lemon loaf cake that deftly manages to be nothing special and utterly magnificent at the same time, the line that loaf cakes specifically are so good at balancing upon. We’re back in lockdown again, although for me it feels different to the first one in 2020 because we now have the benefit of hindsight. I was genuinely delighted when this lockdown was announced and welcome any extensions to its stay – a response less rigid than this would’ve been considerably more hellish and anxious to endure in both the short and long term.

I wasn’t even going to blog about this loaf cake – as you can probably tell by the very hasty and inelegant photos and lack of accompanying TikTok – it was a variation on an older lemon cake recipe, with some poppy seeds thrown in because I just think they’re neat. It tasted so good though, and was easy to make, and that’s reason enough to share it. And we’re in lockdown, what else am I going to do?

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This cake has a light, springy crumb and enjoys a triple dose of fresh lemon flavour – and there are few things so cleanly optimistic as the scent and flavour of lemon – in the batter, of course, in the icing, and in what I call The Brine, where you pour a mixture of lemon juice and salt over the cake while it’s still hot from the oven. I know that squeezing juice over an oven-hot cake is hardly a new proposition but in these trying times, you have to romanticise what you can – calling it a brine makes me feel like I’ve really Done Something. If you find that insufferable (a reasonable stance!) then absolutely feel free to ignore the name but please don’t ignore the step itself, which adds to the dense citrus presence and provides alluring contrast to the sugar in the icing.

It’s not that my thoughts turn to baking more while we’re in lockdown, since I’m always thinking about baking anyway – but if you’re in the market for something relaxed and delicious, indeed, if you’re simply in the market to think about baking more at all, this loaf cake could be the one.

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Vegan Lemon Poppyseed Loaf Cake

A simple, classic loaf cake mixed quickly in one bowl and positively levitating with lemon flavour. You can use oranges or limes or a mix instead, and of course, leave out the poppy seeds if you don’t have them. The icing is optional but also absolutely not optional – those are your options. Recipe by myself.

  • 1 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup rice bran oil (or similar flavourless oil)
  • Juice and zest of 2-3 lemons – enough to give you 1/3 cup juice
  • 1 cup/250ml full-fat coconut cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds

For the brine:

  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the icing:

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tablespoon coconut cream
  • zest and juice of one lemon – enough to give you around 3 tablespoons of juice
  • 1 and 1/2 cups icing sugar (though be prepared to add more)

1: Set your oven to 180C/350F and line a loaf tin with baking paper.

2: Stir the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl – I sieve in the baking soda and baking powder to prevent any lumps – then make a well in the centre and pour in the oil, lemon juice and zest, coconut cream, vanilla and poppy seeds. Fold everything together to form a thick pale batter, spatula it into the loaf tin, and bake for about 40 minutes – depending on your oven – or until the top is firm and springy without any liquidy wobble beneath. Also – shake the can of coconut cream first before opening it, as they tend to separate into thicker cream and watery liquid and you want a good mix of both.

3: For the brine, zest the lemon and set that aside for later use (either throw it into the icing or sprinkle it on top of the finished loaf cake) and then mix the juice of the lemon and the salt together in a small ramekin or measuring cup until the salt has more or less dissolved. Spoon this mixture evenly over the cake while it’s still hot from the oven, and then let the cake cool completely before icing.

4: For the icing, mix everything together in a bowl to form a thick frosting – you may need to add more icing sugar – and refrigerate until required. Spread the icing thickly over the cooled loaf cake and sprinkle over any remaining lemon zest (or just zest another lemon – or you could sprinkle over some more poppy seeds.)

Note: I’ve never made this with anything other than full-fat coconut cream. Logic would suggest you could replace this with any milk – but since I haven’t tried it, I can’t guarantee the cake will then turn out how it should. On the other hand, I used a little coconut cream in the icing since I had it leftover from the open can used for the cake batter; you can definitely just use soy milk etc here instead.

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music lately:

That Life by Unknown Mortal Orchestra. New music by UMO is always good news. When the music video employs dancing muppets, so much the better. I love the way their music goes down but up at the same time, you know?

Kiss Off by Violent Femmes, a shaggy, Modern Lovers-esque exercise in sincerity, the sort of song where every part that comes along makes you say “oh wait THIS is my favourite part”.

No Good Deed sung by Shoshana Bean, from the musical Wicked – in all my years of being a fan of this show I was never particularly occupied with Ms Bean – which is nothing whatsoever to do with her talent! – there are so many portrayals of this role and I only have so many hours in the day. But this rendition of Elphaba’s last big song of the second act – a grainy video from 2005 of a performance on the Martha Stewart show of all things – stopped me in my tracks. The power and control in her voice – the way she can make her voice leap a tall building and then bring it back into the palm of her hand – while still managing to do capital-A Acting – is astonishing. I’ve heard this song a zillion times, this felt like hearing it for the first time again.

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!

Rhubarb, Raspberry, and Cardamom Jam [vegan]

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I never feel more normal than when I’m quietly, as if by automatism, trying out a recipe that appeared in my head. “Normal” has twofold meaning here, in that I feel most calmly myself when I’m dithering away in the kitchen, and also I imagine this must be what it feels like for other people when they achieve everyday tasks the moment they arise. Tasks like using the phone to make an innocuous appointment, or tidying a living space, or, more broadly, maintaining one liveable salary instead of corralling a skittish herd of seventeen different tiny one-off payments every month.

Not that any such notions troubled me when I blissfully – with head empty, no thoughts, only preserves – made this Rhubarb, Raspberry, and Cardamom Jam on Saturday morning five minutes after the idea appeared to me. It was only once the jar lids popped under the pressure of the heat rising from the boiled fruit that things got existential, and it hasn’t quite left me, but at least I have delicious jam to eat.

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If you don’t regard yourself as the jam-making type, this could be the recipe for you. It’s small-batch, meaning you don’t have the stress of committing to vats and vats of jam; (although this was purely informed by the amount of rhubarb in the garden and raspberries in the freezer; had I more fruit, I would’ve made more jam.) It’s soft-set – almost like a compote, as much ready to be spooned over ice cream or yoghurt as it is gunning for your next piece of toast – so you don’t have to concern yourself with whether it’s gelling adequately. And it’s a startling and glamorous shade of hot pink which surely is a point in its favour – when it comes down to it, I myself am barely the jam-making type but I remain easily swayed by aesthetics, if anything I’m constantly on the eager look-out for an aesthetic to be swayed by.

This is probably important too: the jam is sweet, but balanced stridently by the sour wince of rhubarb. The raspberries also pack significant tang for their buck, and there’s a further squeeze of lemon juice, partly for added pectin, partly to make the sugar really earn its place. Cardamom has a lemony, gingery, musky flavour and even in its small quantity, it makes these qualities felt and lends an air of elegance to the otherwise fairly brassy jam. I mean brassy as in vibe, not flavour, in case you were suddenly worried about encountering ‘notes of door handle’ or something. This recipe makes enough for two medium jars with a little leftover to be spread immediately on toast – what is that, if not an achievement of the highest order?

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Rhubarb, Raspberry, and Cardamom Jam

This soft-set small-batch jam is easy to make, delicious, and a charming shade of bright pink. Makes around 400-500ml – I filled two medium-sized jars and ate the rest spread on toast. Recipe by myself.

  • 400g rhubarb (trimmed weight) cleaned and trimmed
  • 125g raspberries (roughly one cup – I used frozen)
  • 1 lemon
  • 200g sugar
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1: Cut the rhubarb into 1-inch pieces and place them in a bowl with the raspberries. Use a vegetable peeler to remove as many viable strips of peel as you can from the lemon, and add this to the bowl, then cut the lemon in half and squeeze its juice into the bowl.

2: Tip the sugar into the bowl and stir it into the fruit. Press against the two cardamom pods with the flat side of a knife or the base of a jar until they’ve just split, and add them to the bowl too. Cover the bowl and leave it to sit on the bench for about an hour, by which point some of the sugar should have dissolved and drawn out the juice from the fruit.

3: While this is happening, why take the opportunity to sterilise your jars? Place the lids in a small bowl and cover them with boiling water, and place your clean jars into a cold oven, turn it to 100C/200F, and heat them for about fifteen minutes. The jars need to be hot when the jam goes in, so leave this step till towards the end of the steeping time.

4: Scrape every last bit of fruit and sugar and newly-formed syrup from the bowl into a saucepan.  Bring to the boil, stirring regularly, and then lower the heat slightly and let it simmer briskly – still stirring frequently, as keeping it moving will stop it sticking to the pan and burning – for another seven to ten minutes until the fruit has completely collapsed and the mixture has thickened and reduced. Remove the cardamom pods and lemon peel with a pair of tongs, or live dangerously and leave them in (I forgot about them until they were already in the jar but it’s all in how you frame it.)

5: Either using a jam funnel or a spoon and a careful hand, transfer the jam into the hot, sterilised jars (I don’t know if you need me to tell you this, but if you place the hot jars on a wooden board they’re much less likely to break than if you place them on a cold bench) and place the lids on right away, fishing them out of their bowl of water with a pair of tongs and protecting your hands with an oven mitt or tea towel (again, I don’t know if you need me to tell you this, but I know the one time I relax and let the information remain implicit, someone will get hurt and I will feel responsible!)

Keep the jam in the fridge once opened.

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music lately:

Map Ref. 41°N 93°W by Wire. If a title is going to be that annoying to type out it better be a good song; fortunately this very much is.

So Little Time by Micki Grant, from the 1972 musical revue Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope – the first Broadway show directed by a Black woman (Vinnette Caroll) and to have its music and lyrics written by a Black woman (Grant.) This song has such a warm, poignant vibe – like it could be the theme tune to a TV show that you’d watch when you were sick and didn’t go into school and got to doze on the couch all day.

Ruby by Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabaté from their 2010 album Ali and Toumani, but I’ve linked the whole thing so you can just swim right into its beauty – if you want music that’ll make you feel safe, yet important, yet inspired, yet also like you’re drifting gently to sleep under a weighted blanket, then, by all means, click through.

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 Lemon Ice Cream [no-churn]

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It helps, when feeling on the back foot, to place what you’re doing within a wider context, to ground it, to lend precedence and credence. If you’re plagued with Main Character Syndrome like me you’ll already use this trick on a daily basis but for the rest of you it’s a great way to go from “another ice cream recipe? Really?” to “What do these artists have in common: Andy Warhol. Keith Haring. Yayoi Kusama. Gertrude Stein – that’s right, they incorporated repetition into their work and now they’re super iconic.” And then you point to yourself while saying “iconic”, thus indelibly cementing the association of you and that word. And then someone hands you a million-dollar record deal and it’s a hop skip and a jump to the top of the charts!

So yes, this lemon ice cream enters the room piggy-backing on my Twin Peaks Ice Cream method – which itself was a spin on the Feijoa Ice Cream method which was a vegan version of my original Feijoa Ice Cream! Because it’s such an easy and excellent way of making ice cream you can expect to see it pop up again sporadically in the future in further untold flavours, and should I ever want to repeat any of my existing ice cream flavour ideas I’ll probably be retroactively applying this method to them. (Although aquafaba will always have a place in my heart and my freezer.)

This iteration makes the most of the lemons which have happily burst into season just in time to give us some mid-winter sunshine. The scent of fresh lemon is enormously uplifting – although I take umbrage with the proliferation of TikTok videos claiming that eating lemon peel causes near-instant euphoria – and its sheer pure sourness matches well with a backdrop of lush coconut, giving a cloudless, sun-warmed beach towel vibe to even the frostiest of days. This is one of those recipes where you definitely still taste the coconut in the finished product but when the pairing is this perfect it’s a bonus, not a drawback. Unlike the Twin Peaks and Feijoa Ice Creams, I gave this mixture a brief go-over with electric beaters to aerate it before freezing. Where those ice creams were quite dense, this one is lighter and creamier – as befits its more delicate flavouring.

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You’d think ice cream would be the last thing anyone would want to make in the middle of winter but my favourite food knows no seasons, and the method is so relaxed and undemanding that I look forward to making this almost as much as eating it. And while there are few rewards for a life shackled by capitalism, a small good thing you can do as an adult to exert control and thumb your nose at practicality is to sit by a heater in your underwear and eat ice cream. I thoroughly recommend it. If you’re in the northern hemisphere and enjoying actual summer, I have to warn you that the seasonal inverse of this activity (eating a hot casserole in a swimming pool) just isn’t the same – but your time will come soon enough.

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Lemon Ice Cream

No-churn, three ingredients – vegan ice cream doesn’t get simpler than this. Recipe by myself.

  • 1 x 400ml tin full-fat coconut cream
  • 1 x 320g tin sweetened condensed coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice + the grated lemon zest
  • optional: a pinch of citric acid for extra zing

1: Place the coconut cream, sweetened condensed milk, and lemon juice and zest into a mixing bowl and beat on high for about three minutes using electric handheld beaters. If you don’t have electric beaters, just use a whisk and some upper body strength. You’re looking for an aerated texture – it won’t thicken or whip up but incorporating some air in it at this point will give a creamier texture later.

2: Stir in the citric acid if you’re using it and pour the mixture into a freezer-safe container. Place the lid on top and refrigerate the ice cream mixture for two hours before freezing for about six hours or overnight. It should be pretty scoopable straight from the freezer but may require a ten minute sit on the bench to soften first.

Makes around 1 litre.

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music lately:

Modern Dance by Pere Ubu. Jaunty and frug-y yet abrasive and awkward and coincidentally an excellent use of repetition? I love it!

You’re Dead by Nora Tanega. Cheerfully ominous, blithely jumping around time signatures, and exuding so much cool it could freeze a thousand tubs of ice cream.

There Will Be A Miracle by Mary Testa from Michael John LaChiusa’s 2005 off-Broadway musical See What I Wanna See, a mellow, tranquil oasis of calm in a fairly dark musical. The lyrics to this song are still dark but the melody is so gentle and Mary Testa repeating “there will be a miracle” is so soothing that you can zone out and vibe to it and feel pretty good about the world for a minute or two.

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 rhubarb panna cotta

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

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

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

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

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

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Vegan Rhubarb Panna Cotta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes:

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

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music lately:

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

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

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

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

Twin Peaks Ice Cream [vegan, no-churn]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Twin Peaks Ice Cream

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

Recipe by myself. Makes around 1 litre.

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

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

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

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

Notes:

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

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music lately:

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

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

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

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

Homemade Passionfruit Liqueur [vegan]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Homemade Passionfruit Liqueur

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

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

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

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

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

Makes about 1 litre.

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

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music lately:

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

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

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

PS: I’ve already talked about it but once more with feeling, if you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

Feijoa Ice Cream [Vegan, No-Churn]

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

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

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

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

But finally, I tried it – and –

It worked!

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

@hungryandfrozen

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

♬ Love Is In The Air – John Paul Young

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

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

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Feijoa Ice Cream

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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music lately:

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

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

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

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

tomatoes and fried mint (vegan)

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

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

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

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

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

@hungryandfrozen

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

♬ Cheree – Suicide

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

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Tomatoes and Fried Mint

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes:

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

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music lately:

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

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

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

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

Vegan Passionfruit Panna Cotta

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Gelatine is one of those ingredients where if I see it in a recipe – no matter how chill I am with cooking elaborate stuff – a voice in my head immediately goes “Nah, too hard.” (Which is a particular roadblock when you grew up poring over eighties cookbooks like I did, a cheerfully colloidal time where anything from salmon to tomato soup to chocolate mousse was pointless without a stiff wobble of gelatine.) Through much reading of Nigella Lawson’s reassuring cookbooks I more or less got to grips with leaf gelatine, but still regarded it with some wary caution and didn’t necessarily go out of my way to make recipes using it.

And as for agar agar, gelatine’s friendly vegetarian counterpart, well. What if it doesn’t set? What if it sets too much? What if this reflects upon my entire worth as a person and a food writer in that order? Etc? 

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But! Should you be burdened with similar trepidations as me, let this passionfruit panna cotta recipe put your fears at ease with its easiness. This recipe is just so easy and there’s nothing at all to the agar agar aspect of it – simply stir it in and let the mixture cook a little. I appreciate that it’s a relatively specialist ingredient, but I got a good-sized sachet of the Telephone Brand agar agar from an Asian supermarket for no more than a couple of dollars. And even though panna cotta has a slightly intimidating high-end-dessert vibe, these ones stay in their dinky little glasses, so you don’t have to stress about successfully un-moulding them onto a serving dish. This also means less washing up – will the blessings never cease!

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You could make this with something other than passionfruit, but its sherbety, twinkling sour-sweetness is my ideal pairing for the amicable backdrop of coconut cream. All that tartness captured and suspended in a light yet rich cream is astonishingly delicious – like a cloud made of citric acid – the perfect marriage of texture and flavour – and you’ll find yourself wishing you’d poured the entirety of the mixture into an imperial pint glass all for yourself instead of doling it out between several winsome and dainty goblets for your family to enjoy. (To that end, if you are wondering how I got these nice photos of our dessert it’s because I divided the mixture between six receptacles for the four of us and saved two to photograph the next day, thus depriving my family of a quarter of a fluid ounce each of panna cotta the night before, all for the sake of the blog. What a world we live in.)

I realise last week’s recipe for Vegan Jelly Tip ice cream also used agar agar and I didn’t make a gigantic fuss about it then, for which there are a few reasons: 1) I was planning to blog about this first but the ice cream was just too exciting, 2) I can only say so many things in one blog post, and 3) if I’m gonna coerce you into buying agar agar I at least want to give you plenty of things to do with it. The ice cream is a bit full-on, I grant you, but there’s truly nothing more delicious or simple than this passionfruit panna cotta recipe. Make this, and you’ll suddenly be looking at your tomato soup like damn, maybe those eighties chefs were onto something. 

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Vegan Passionfruit Panna Cotta

This easy vegan panna cotta is creamy, tangy, light and delicious and – I just need to reiterate again – so easy. The recipe is adapted slightly from this one at anisasabet.com.au.

  • 10 passionfruit + 2 to serve, extra
  • 1 x 400ml can full-fat coconut cream
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon powdered agar agar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1: Halve the ten passionfruit and scoop the pulp into a small saucepan. Add the coconut cream and sugar and stir for a minute over a low heat.

2: Mix the agar agar powder with a little water in a small cup, which will make it easier to incorporate into the hot liquid. Add it to the saucepan and stir it briskly to prevent lumps from forming. You’ll be straining it though so don’t stress too much. Continue stirring this mixture over a low heat for another ten minutes without letting it bubble – this will allow it to both thicken slightly and to extract the flavour from the passionfruit.

3: Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and then strain the mixture through a sieve into a measuring jug – extra dishes, I’m afraid, but it’s easier to pour it into the serving dishes this way. Push down on the passionfruit pulp as you’re sieving it, to get the maximum flavour, and save the pulp for smoothies if you like (or at least, this was my plan, but I ended up just eating it all straight out of the sieve.)

4: Pour the coconut cream mixture into your waiting glasses or cups or dishes, and then chill them in the fridge for four to six hours, or overnight if you want to make this in advance.

5: Serve by cutting the remaining passionfruit and spooning the pulp over the panna cottas.

Makes 4 – 6 depending on the size of your receptacles.

Note: You can use a couple more or fewer passionfruit at the start and to serve depending on how many you have.

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music lately:

Cold Rock a Party by MC Lyte feat Missy Elliot. Ok sure, my enjoyment of this song is more vicarious in these unprecedented times but this song is so good and MC Lyte and Missy are so great that even those hypothetical thrills are pretty genuinely thrilling. I’m obsessed with the airy bounce of the Diana Ross sample; sampling is truly an art form.

Lowdown-down by Lea Delaria. She has several albums where she sings standards in a jazzy fashion, a genre I find incredibly soothing. This song, a pragmatically sorrowful number from LaChiusa’s 2000 Broadway show The Wild Party (based on the Joseph Moncure March poem, The Wild Party, which coincidentally inspired a completely separate off-Broadway musical that very same year) isn’t exactly a standard, but it should be.

Sunset Boulevard by Pocket Knife Morales. Obviously, the title caught my eye but it’s an enchanting song, with the sort of wistful vibe which makes you want to put on a large cardigan and wrap it close as you walk down the stone footpath to post a letter with hope in your heart, pausing to salute the horse in the paddock next door, the autumn breeze threatening to lift your cowboy hat, and so on and so forth.

Next time: I really feel like making brownies, but there’s also this incredible bread recipe from Nigella’s new book.

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