Vegan Lemon Bars

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One hour at a time, one day at a time: ten words so repetitively stuck in my head, I suspect they’ll soon tip from reassuring to cloyingly irritating the longer I spend with myself. Until then, it’s a serviceable mantra for these times – for this literal time in fact, this hour and this day and the next ones to follow. Since I last updated, New Zealand has gone into lockdown – we’re all under house arrest unless in essential services, so on the one hand there’s not much to do other than cook and bake, but on the other hand, ducking out to the supermarket for a specific ingredient is an activity of the past. With all this in mind I might as well to keep writing about food so long as I have the means to, but hopefully with a vibe of low-key non-urgency. Gentle food blogging. I can’t know what’s in your kitchen, and there’s no perfect catch-all recipe that will cover every variable, but on the upside if today’s recipe doesn’t work for you there’s the whole internet out there and surely someone will have used the exact same combination of ingredients you have to make something delicious.

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This being week one of lockdown we’re pretty well stocked from prior supermarket shops, nevertheless I was wary of burning through too many ingredients at once. I also didn’t want to get stuck just staring at the ingredients too nervous to touch them, you know? The specific ingredient that kicked this recipe off was an abundance of lemons fresh from the tree, needing to be used before they turned oxidised and doughy. This recipe for Vegan Lemon Bars uses plenty of lemon juice – though you could of course sub in any citrus you have to hand, or use bottled lemon juice, or you could even try it with pineapple juice or whatever you’ve got in the fridge. Usually I prefer to bake with coconut oil but went with margarine for the base since I figured that was a cheaper and more accessible ingredient, and if you did happen to have a jar of coconut oil you might not want to lose a whole half cup of it in one fell swoop. There’s plenty of lemon zest and juice in the base and I promise the finished result doesn’t actually taste of the margarine. The real magic here comes from the cornflour, turning a liquid filling into a gelatinously firm and sliceable topping, and I realise “gelatinously firm” isn’t the most enticing language, but…it’s true.

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The crisp base against the dense, bouncy topping is texturally pleasing, and the intense hit of lemon tastes and smells of pure optimism. The sight of the finished product alone is immensely cheering with its sunshine yellow colour (aided, admittedly, by a bump of turmeric.) It’s sweet but not overly so, keeps well, and when there’s not a whole lot else going on it’s nice to know this deliciousness is waiting in the fridge to accompany your next cup of tea.

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Vegan Lemon Bars

Adapted pretty liberally from this recipe at Namely Marly.

Base:

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegan butter/margarine
  • lemon zest, from the lemons used for juice
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice

Filling

  • 1/2 cup cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup rice milk (or whatever you have)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon essence or a couple drops food-grade lemon oil
  • a pinch of salt
  • a pinch of turmeric, for colour (optional)

1: Set your oven to 180C/350F and line the base of a standard brownie/baking tin with baking paper. Mix all the base ingredients except for the lemon juice together in a bowl, using the back of a spoon to press the butter into the flour. Add the lemon juice – you may not need it all – and continue to stir until the mixture forms rough crumbs that stick together when pressed.

2: Tip the base mixture into the baking dish and press down firmly with the back of a spoon to form an even layer. Jab it a few times with a fork or sharp knife (this, plus pressing down firmly, helps it to bake evenly without rising) and bake for ten minutes. Once the time is up, remove the dish from the oven and reduce the heat to 160C/320F)

3: In a small saucepan, whisk together the ingredients for the filling, making sure there are no lumps of cornflour trapped in the liquid. Cook over a low heat, stirring constantly, until it’s significantly thickened to a fairly spreadable, gluey (for want of a better word) paste. It may initially look like it’s thickening all lumpy and uneven, but if you keep stirring it will come together. Remove from the heat immediately at this point and continue stirring for a minute just to stop it catching on the base of the pan, and then spread it evenly over the cooked base in the baking dish.

4: Return it to the oven, now at its lower setting, for fifteen minutes. It may appear to be a little puffy and weird-looking, but it settles down once cooled! Allow it to cool completely and then refrigerate for about two hours before slicing.

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music lately:

Clay Pigeons, John Prine. I talked about this song in a playlist I made for Tenderly back on March 11 (literally a decade ago?) and as I said then, it’s simply one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Something about the world shrinking down to one house is making new music a little harder to take in, hence turning to the warmth of the familiar like this cover of Blaze Foley’s wonderful tune. I read yesterday morning that John Prine is now in critical condition with Covid-19, and my good thoughts, such as they are, are going out to him and his family in the hopes he pulls through.

You Don’t Have to Cry by Emma Ruth Rundle, continuing in the vein of songs I already love, songs that give without asking too much of you: this is glorious, building and swirling to magnitudes while still remaining extremely mellow.

Next time: let’s be honest, probably some kind of baking, I’ll try to make it more minimal than this week’s recipe. Also – I finally updated my Frasier food blog with an amazing curry noodle soup recipe if you want to check that out while you’re waiting. 

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. Also! I wrote a round up of television recommendations if you need them while stuck at home, which anyone can read on my Patreon for free.

it’s time to face facts and not mince a word

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When I was a kid, it felt like every day from December 1 onwards was basically Christmas Eve. As an adult working in the hospitality industry it’s like, literally every day is just another shift to clock on and I might start idly organising Christmas-related things at 11pm on the 23rd if I’m feeling sprightly. This year I’m instead occupying the odd world of freelancing, where you’re always working but it never looks like it, where no thought can go unexamined but for the question, “is this content?” Working for yourself means no Christmas parties and a very biased HR department, but on the upside, most of the toil can be done in track pants on the couch. Nevertheless even with all this sitting down I still find myself astonished at the haste with which this month has moved.

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Even with the big day itself getting precariously close it’s not too late to make one last objectively unnecessary but subjectively delicious thing, and this Rhubarb Vanilla Christmas Fruit Mince from Nigella Lawson’s wonderful book Feast easily fits the bill. Fruit mince is confusing on so many levels – why does it sound like meat, why would I actually want to eat a bunch of sultanas, how is it overly sweet yet rudely flavourless? Not this stuff though. The inclusion of rhubarb, sour-sweet and fragrant as it collapses in the heat, and lush vanilla, makes for a wonderful rush of flavour. It’s hefty and plummy and wintery yet somehow lively and vivid. The dried fruit absorbs all the intense flavour as it cooks, and it all tastes immensely luxurious. Plus it’s incredibly easy to make.

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(I freely acknowledge that I went slightly overboard with these photos, like, you can barely even see the jar in this one, but the decorations were just sitting there on the table! What was I to do! Be tasteful? At Christmas?)

Rhubarb Vanilla Christmas Fruit Mince

Adapted just slightly from Nigella Lawson’s Feast

  • 1kg rhubarb, cleaned, trimmed, and sliced into 5mm pieces
  • 300g brown sugar 
  • 2 vanilla beans*
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • 250g raisins
  • 250g sultanas
  • 250g currants
  • 2 tablespoons brandy (or similar – I used dark rum)

* I only had one vanilla bean, so added a couple of teaspoons of vanilla extract at the end. Vanilla beans are also sometimes called vanilla pods. I also just did double sultanas because I don’t really favour raisins. 

Place the rhubarb, sugar and mixed spice into a good-sized saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla beans into the pan and then slice up the beans themselves and throw them in too. Turn the heat to medium bring it to a good simmer, stirring to prevent the sugar burning. After five minutes, add the dried fruit and simmer for a further thirty minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat and stir in the alcohol. Transfer into clean jars.

Nigella reckons this makes 1.25 litres, I got a bit less but still heaps so by all means have some jars on hand.

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Obviously you need to choose your audience here but a small jar of this would make a lovely gift. It can also, of course, be made into slightly untraditional pies, or stirred into cake batter, or heated up and spooned over ice cream. Nigella recommends spreading it on toast like jam, I think it would work particularly well on a toasted bagel. I do enjoy marinading myself in Nigella’s Christmas-related material – nothing else quite makes me feel so resolutely contextualised in the season.

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Meri Kirihimete! Whether Christmas is something you delight in, politely acknowledge, or have no connection to, I certainly hope either way that the 25th is a nice day for you.

PS I absolutely recommend my last blog post where I rounded up a ton of edible gift idea recipes. The day is still young!

title from: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Love by Barbra Streisand, an unreleased song of hers that would be otherwise a standard workhorse pleasantry if not for the remarkable D5 belt at the end that she holds for ages, truly one of the queens of possessing vocal chords.

music lately:

Pop A Top by Andy Capp. This early reggae track from 1968 is joyful and mellow at the same time, just what we need at this frantic time of year.

Thursday Girl, by Mitski. This song was my number one most played track on Spotify for 2019, which could be partially to do with my making a playlist consisting only of this song on a loop and spending many hours playing it while staring mournfully into space. It’s just devastating.

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! by the sadly late but never forgotten Elaine Stritch. If everything is feeling too comfortably sugary this Christmas, there’s always Stritch to reinvigorate your senses, her singular, matter-of-fact bark is like a cold bucket of lemon juice to the face. In a good way.

Next time: I did make some amazingly good fudge that I’d like to share with you, whether this happens before the end of the year or not is in the hands of Fate (and nothing whatsoever to do with my own diligence.)

PS: What is the true meaning of Christmas if not directly supporting me through my Patreon? It’s like a cordoned-off VIP area where you can access content written just for you: recipes, updates, poems, stories, the opening sentences of the novel I wrote.

c’mon everybody and rock with me, I am the one on the Christmas tree

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I love this time of year – no, not Christmas, I mean this precise moment, where I do my annual round up of recipes from this blog that I believe would make ideal potential edible gift ideas for the season ahead or indeed any time (which also coincides with my annual struggle to convey this concept in a concise manner.) It’s not just that it gives me a break from devising content, and it’s not just that it’s an opportunity to be self-congratulatory and self-serving in equal measure – actually, that’s more or less precisely it – but I also do love being useful, and I’d like to think this list is, in fact, of use to someone out there.

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Sake Pickled Radishes

Whether or not you subscribe to Christmas at any level there will still probably be an occasion throughout the year where a gift of some kind is required from you, and personally – second to flagrant quantities of money – there’s no better gift than something you can eat. By its very nature the space it takes up in the receiver’s home will be temporary and receding, it’s thoughtful, it’s fairly low-level as far as rampant consumerism goes, and you can completely personalise it. Giving food also lowers the fear of accidentally getting a person something they already have – as far as delicious food goes, more is more.

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chocolate-dipped pumpkin spice lemon pistachio cookies

This year I’m also going to be including some of the recipes I contributed to Tenderly, since the only thing I enjoy more than calling attention to myself is doubling down on calling attention to myself. They’re all separated out into helpful categories, and you should know that some of these recipes are from years ago, but while details and contexts and locations and motivations have changed, the deliciousness remains constant.

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salted vanilla brazil nut butter, coffee cinnamon hazelnut butter, cumin and paprika spiced pumpkin seed butter

The HungryandFrozen Inviolably Unimpeachable List of Edible Gift Ideas For Life, Not Just For Christmas, But Definitely Also For Christmas

Category One: Things In Jars

Seasons change, fickle trends come and go, but still jars abide. Put some stuff in a jar and you’ve instantly got a simple, elegantly rustic benefaction which no one can deny looks as though some considerable effort was made. It’s also what we in the business (that is, show business) call a twofer, because as well as getting something delightful to eat the receiver also gets a handy jar for their own future shoving of food into.

Savoury:

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Berry Chia Seed Jam

Sweet

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Vanilla Chocolate Macarons

Category Two: Baked Goods

Baked goods! It’s right there in the name! They’re good!

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Peppermint Schnapps and Coffee-Orange Liqueur

Category Three: From the Unbaked to the Unhinged

This is everything else, the kind of thing that comes from such lines of thought as “what if I dissolved candy canes in vodka?” The results are remarkably almost potable! Some of these items have a fairly low melting point, so use your judgment when it comes to packaging and storing them.

Oh yeah, and all these recipes are vegan.

title from: Master-Dik by Sonic Youth, a sprawling and loquacious song where the less of a point it makes the better it sounds.

music lately:

Do You Love Me Now by The Breeders, I just love this song so much, there’s something about it that evokes running through an airport frantically but also trying to wade through syrup, like it’s on fast-forward and in slow motion simultaneously.

The Look, Roxette. RIP Marie Fredriksson. This is just literally one of the best songs in the world – that chord progression in the chorus that almost makes me feel carsick with its urgency, the fantastic devil-may-care bizarreness of the lyrics, the drama of the synths, the muffled 80s production making it sound like you’re running down a corridor trying desperately to find the locked, padded room that it’s being recorded in.

Paradise By The Dashboard Light, originally by Meat Loaf, as performed on Glee. I realise that is an extremely cursed sentence right there but hear me out. I genuinely hate all of Meat Loaf’s music and by all accounts the man himself is a Republican; I also realise Glee covers of songs do not necessarily represent the highest form of art. Nevertheless, this performance is incredible and it makes my heart ache to watch it, because it was really the last time things were good on Glee, on and offscreen. The cast looks like they’re having a ball, and there’s so many little moments – I love Santana resting her head in Brittany’s hand at 1:25 – but it’s Lea Michele’s entrance at 1:40 that kills me, I swear my achilles tendons nearly snapped when she growled “I gotta know right now.” I genuinely can’t stop watching this video. On that note you should definitely read this piece I wrote about Glee and Rachel Berry (Lea Michele’s Glee character) for Tenderly – it’s one of my favourite things that I’ve written this year.

Next time: Back to business as usual! Like I don’t know what it will be specifically, but it will be business as usual.

PS: if you enjoy my writing and would like to support me directly, you can do so by joining my Patreon. It’s like a cordoned-off VIP area where you can access content written just for you: recipes, updates, a short story, the opening sentences of the novel I wrote.

hot caramel sticking to our teeth, the only love I’ve ever known burning underneath

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I remember the time before salted caramel. In 2007 when I started this blog it certainly wasn’t mainstream, but as one decade bloomed into the next it really took hold of everyone – first it was thrilling, then ubiquitous, and now it’s simply the norm – expected, even. It’s genuinely unusual to see the word “caramel” now without the word “salted” preceding it and I imagine in years to come it will be one of the ways that we’ll culinarily define the 2010s. I definitely bought into its popularity, and would make sure that salted caramel-related recipes made it onto my blog semi-regularly in the hopes that it would garner some of that attention. I mean, I really, really love caramel, but I was absolutely trying to capitalise on the fact that everyone else did too. That’s showbiz, kid!

Despite salted caramel now being a settled sovereign – to quote the most recent season of The Crown – its still has the power to make me feel that early 2010’s frisson of excitement. For example, this salted pineapple caramel sauce. The recipe has, I grant you, major overlap with my last blog post where I used pineapple juice as the base of a vegan lemon curd. This time around however, there’s no scientific hypothesising that brought it about – I had pineapple on the brain and simply thought it would be super cool to put it in a caramel sauce recipe. Occam’s Delicious Razor!

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It works beautifully: pineapple has, as I’ve established, an inherent yet elusive buttery roundedness to it, which really comes into its prime when you simmer it with brown sugar. There’s cornflour to thicken it and a little coconut oil but this ends up tasting so much more than the sum of its parts. It’s rich, and juicy, and luscious – awash with tropical fruitiness yet still somehow purely, vigorously caramelly.

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Salted Pineapple Caramel Sauce

A recipe by myself

  • 1 cup/250ml pineapple juice (bottled is perfect, but make sure it’s as close to 100% actual pineapple juice as possible)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 4 teaspoons cornflour
  • 1/3 cup soy milk, or similar
  • 2 heaped tablespoons refined coconut oil
  • salt, to taste – at least three or four pinches seems to do the trick

Bring the pineapple juice and sugar to the boil in a small saucepan, and let it bubble away for two minutes – as in, wait for two entire minutes to pass on the clock – stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat.

Mix the cornflour and soy milk together, making sure no lumps of cornflour remain. Tip this into the pan along with the coconut oil and return to a low heat, stirring it briskly until the mixture thickens to a good saucy level. Remove from the heat and stir in a couple of pinches of salt – you may want to add more later, but it helps to wait till it has cooled so you can taste test.

Transfer into a clean jar. Store in the fridge. Makes around 300ml.

Pour it over ice cream, serve it with slices of pineapple for symbiotically dipping into, fold it into buttercream, use it to fill miniature tartlets or your cupped hands. It’s so delicious.

You might also consider: the Black Salted Caramel recipe I posted last year, which uses tahini and golden syrup to make a dense and intense sauce that’s very different to this one, but no less excellent.

title from: The Recognition Scene by The Mountain Goats, a melancholy song about robbing a candy shop that is probably a metaphor for something bigger. I love metaphors for something bigger!

music lately:

Turkey Lurkey Time from the musical Promises, Promises, as performed at the 1969 Tony Awards. It’s my Christmas tradition to save watching this video till December of each year and while I’ve kind of backed myself into a corner with this – it feels increasingly momentous because I’ve made it so – every year I am smacked about the head by its power. I’ve watched it five times today alone and every time it’s brought tears to my eyes. Which, if you click through, and I urge you to, might seem odd when the song is clearly deeply stupid, but the dancing – the dancing! Michael Bennett’s bonkers choreography, and Donna McKechnie in the red dress whipping her neck back and forth like new spinal cords are mass-produced and easy to install, Baayork Lee’s exuberance and high kicks, and the fact that they’re also singing the entire time, and that diagonal sequence at the end where they’re all running at each other high kicking recklessly, it gives me absolute chills. I truly implore you to watch this, it starts a little mild but at around 1:30 Donna starts really exploring the upper limits of her neck flexibility and it just spirals wildly from there.

Young Liars, TV On The Radio. That slow, persistent waltz drum beat and that fuzzy, hypnotically droning melody that rises and rises like a tide coming in! I love this.

I Can Only Give You Everything, MC5. Such a menacingly sultry guitar riff, such a salient title, such scuzzy distortion.

Next time: you know what else happens in December – it’s time for my annual round up of recipes that can potentially make edible gifts!!

PS: if you enjoy my writing and would like to support me directly, you can do so by joining my Patreon. It’s like a cordoned-off VIP area where you can access content written just for you: recipes, updates, the opening sentences of the novel I wrote.

yesterday I woke up sucking on a lemon

 

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If you thought my Old Fashioned Lemonade recipe a few weeks ago used up the bulk of the lemon supply then you are deeply mistaken; I live in the countryside now and lemons are like, how we communicate. If you shake someone’s hand and there’s not a lemon that has been furtively passed from person to person via that handshake it’s tantamount to a slap in the face. If you wake up and there’s not a bushel of lemons anonymously placed in your letterbox then you might as well move to a new province. People will give you lemons soon as look at you. People will give you lemons and then you’ll give those lemons back to the giver in the form of lemonade. I’m exaggerating for comic effect, but only slightly. Am I exaggerating about how slightly I’m exaggerating though? Slightly.

Anyway, when mum mentioned that it might be nice to have something baked for a quickly-pending afternoon tea drop-in; I was like right, that sounds like my idea of fun, but what: it has to be something reliable, delicious, and that uses existing abundant resources since there’s no shops nearby to get ingredients from. Naturally: the answer was lemons. To be specific, this lemon syrup cake, which is wonderfully delicious and impressively big, mixes together in five seconds, and can be served still-warm from the oven to your arriving guests – although given time to cool its flavour and texture is even better.

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This recipe is adapted from one I blogged about seven years ago; that recipe was adapted from one I found on a site that appears to no longer exist; so while today’s cake is basically my own I had some help getting there, I’m just not sure who from anymore. Since I first blogged about it in 2011 I’ve made numerous versions of it and have found it to be a most versatile and resilient cake – it can adapt to any tin shape or size, lasts for days and everyone always loves it. And it happens to be vegan, which like is not necessarily something I need to announce at this point aside from the fact that my Google SEO is already so woeful, so let me just be clear, person to algorithm: this is a vegan lemon syrup cake.

My aim with this iteration was to make a traditional style iced/lemon drizzle cake, but I was thwarted by the whole lack of proximity to shops thing: we only had a bare amount of icing sugar left, so I had to switch tactics and make a syrup instead. In the end I think it worked out for the best, because we could eat the cake right away and the syrup made everything stickily luscious, and once cooled the sugar granules formed a wonderful crunchy carapace on the cake’s surface.

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Vegan Lemon Syrup Cake

A recipe by myself

  • 1 x 400g can coconut cream (or coconut milk if it’s all you can find)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • the zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Syrup

  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons icing sugar
  • zest of a lemon, to garnish

Set your oven to 180C/350F, lightly grease a 22cm springform cake tin and line the base with baking paper.

Whisk together the coconut cream, sugar, lemon juice and zest, oil and vanilla till combined. Sieve in the remaining ingredients and stir briskly to form a thick batter.

Spatula the batter into the caketin and bake for around 1 hour although you might need longer – I found this took precisely one hour and 5 minutes and I covered it loosely with tinfoil from around 50 minutes in to make sure the top didn’t brown too much.

To make the syrup, bring the lemon juice and sugars to a good robust simmer in a small pan, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat.

Remove the cake from the tin and transfer to a serving plate. Stab the cake with a skewer in several places and spoon over the syrup (you may not require all of it.) Sprinkle over the second lot of lemon zest. Ideally allow the cake to cool completely before serving, but it is good warm – just be aware that if you do it might get a bit crumbly/fragile, so proceed with caution. Once it’s cooled it becomes a lot more solid.

Although there’s an entire can of coconut cream in the cake the flavour is barely discernible, it’s just a lemon hegemony from first slice to last. However, you could point up this aspect by stirring through a cup or so of shredded coconut into the batter before baking; there are also any number of other directions you could take this in: lemongrass in the syrup, blueberries in the batter, different citrus juice – although if you’re using orange juice on its own I’d add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar just to make sure the necessary acid content is present. If you have any food-grade citrus essential oils a drop of one or two of them in the syrup once it’s removed from the heat is a very good idea; you could also let the cake cool completely and pour over the lemon icing that I never managed to make. Finally, leftover slices are great heated up and served with ice cream, tasting comfortingly like a steamed pudding.

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Lemons!

Now that I have your attention; allow me to take you on a brief tour of where you can find me on the internet other than here: upon gloomily discovering that Campari isn’t vegan I wrote about some different options for fans of the classic Negroni cocktail for Tenderly; I also for Tenderly tried making the best mac and cheese that I could conceive of motivated entirely by the tweet of a celebrity. I also wrote a piece that I’m very proud of about Catherine O’Hara’s singular performance as Moira Rose on Schitt’s Creek for The Spinoff. Finally, I wrote a blog post about caramel walnut slice for my Patreon subscribers; if you wish to access it you can do so for one literal dollar, doing so will also directly support me and my writing.

title from:

Everything In Its Right Place by Radiohead, from their 2000 album Kid A which is my absolute favourite of theirs but also, I freely admit, the last new album of theirs that I’ve actually listened to. This song is amazing, somehow foreboding yet feeling like the sun rising at the same time.

music lately:

Young Ones Everywhere by Stephanie, as in, Princess Stephanie of Monaco, daughter of Grace Kelly. Turns out she was a singer for a while in the 80s and while I’m not sure if she’s the most technically gifted vocalist, her music is GREAT, like, with a dusting of highlighter this song – coldly synthy and vaguely yearning despite its fairly pointless lyrics – could literally be Carly Rae Jepsen.

Change The Beat, by Fab Five Freddy, and its famous b-side, both equally magnetic with languid French rapping over a lush, lush beat.

Give It To Me, Miya Folick. My dear friend Kate recommended this to me and it’s…perfect. Emotional in a combative way, sorrowful in a wild-eyed way.

Next time: I’m really keen on making my own seitan but can’t seem to find a definitive through line in the recipes I’ve seen online, so if anyone can recommend me one I would be most appreciative!

if you want a banana republic that much why don’t you go move to one

Before I get further into anything I extremely invite you to read Protect Ihumātao’s website to learn about the incredibly important occupation of the land happening right now; if you are feeling unfamiliar, this story by Leonie Hayden from 2017 for NZ Geographic is excellent for further background and context to this ongoing journey. There is also an ActionStation page where you can donate to the cause. Ngā mihi nui!

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Nigella Lawson often, when questioned, says that greed is her chief inspiration for recipe creation. I’m sure I must’ve been asked this at some point around the time my first cookbook came out, but these days I’m more at the daydreaming-potential-answers-to-future-interviews stage of renown, which is like, literally fine, although I wish I could apply my perpetual preparedness to be interviewed to being prepared in even one other aspect of my life. Anyway, if someone were to ask me, I completely agree with Nigella on the greed front, I just think of what I want to eat and then I make that a recipe. My secondary inspiration is probably that if someone on a TV show or movie that I’m watching mentions a food enough times I will get it in my head that I want to make it; but also significantly, I often derive inspiration from seeing people I am friendly with tweeting about food and being like “this is my BUSINESS,” such as the vegan carne adovada that I made earlier this year after seeing such a tweet.

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A few days ago my good friend Jen tweeted asking what the best vegan banana bread recipe was and I was like wow, I don’t know how to answer that, and I feel like I should, so I’m going to do something about it. (I’m only just realising now that I didn’t actually look at any of the recipes linked in other replies to her tweet, I instead just assumed I was the person to provide the definitive recipe and in turn response to her question. Upon reflection I guess I remain unchanged on that opinion?) The difference between a banana cake and banana bread is pretty much lost on me – aside from banana bread being made in a loaf tin – but if pressed for an answer – in an interview situation, perhaps – I would assert that it’s generally a little denser than the cake version and I wouldn’t expect it to be iced.

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This recipe has a fairly traditional-baked-good vibe to it, which is what I wanted – no dates masquerading as sugar content here, just actual sugar. No disrespect, but sometimes vegan baking recipes feel like they’re being blackmailed by a company that sells dates, you know what I mean? It’s light and moist but also firm with a springy crumb, and easily sliced into thick slabs – which are perfect alongside a cup of tea. You could consider folding in a couple of handfuls of walnuts or dark chocolate pieces, or the zest of a lemon, but I love it just as it is, with the sweetness of the bananas offset by the warmth of cinnamon.

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Banana Bread

A recipe by myself

  • 3 medium bananas (roughly 1 1/2 cups chopped banana)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons soy milk
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons rice bran oil or similar plain oil
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup (or maple syrup, or similar)
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt

Set your oven to 180C/350F and line a loaf tin with baking paper. By which I mean just shove a large rectangle of baking paper in there as best you can.

Place the bananas in a large mixing bowl and mash them thoroughly with a fork or wooden spoon or whatever. Mix in the sugar, milk, vinegar, vanilla, oil, and golden syrup. Sieve the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into the bowl, and then gently fold it all together. Spatula all this into the loaf tin, and bake for around 50 minutes, or until a knife or skewer inserted in comes out clean.

Note: the first time I made this I only used 1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon, the second time round I put in heaps more and I think it tasted better for it but obviously your own feelings around cinnamon are perfectly welcome to override mine if you make this yourself.

I guess only future history books will tell us if this is indeed a definitive banana bread recipe but till then I am definitively delighted with it, which is hopefully enough of a push for you to make it too. It’s very easy, just a one-bowl affair, and it keeps well. If you don’t like bananas I can’t help you there but you should know that this isn’t overwhelmingly banana-y, just comfortingly delicious.

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Speaking of comfortingly delicious, if you wish to support me and my writing directly it’s very easy and minimal-exertion-y to do so through my Patreon account, where your assiduousness will be rewarded with content written just for you.

title from: Stars and Stripes of Corruption by Dead Kennedys, this is an uncharacteristically long but nevertheless excellent song of theirs which ducks and dives through time signatures with lyrics which – sorry for being super obvious – are still timely.

music lately:

You Don’t Have to Cry by Emma Ruth Rundle, from her album On Dark Horses. I actually started listening to her music because Minka, who also inspired the vegan carne adovada, tweeted about it, and I am the highly suggestible type! I’m so happy I am though, this album is stunning, intense and metallic and hard and soft all at the same time, I love it. You Don’t Have to Cry is the final song on the album and it’s just lush, the sort of song you should hear while lying on the floor of a barn or in a car as the sun sets right in your eyes.

Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man, by Oscar-winning actress and singer Miyoshi Umeki. This is from her 1956 album Miyoshi Sings to Arthur Godfrey which features American standards and torch songs, sung in a mixture of Japanese and English in her gorgeous warm voice, including this truly beautiful interpretation of the Kern/Hammerstein classic.

Next time: I ordered myself Rachel Ama’s cookbook as a present to myself for reasons I will work out later – perhaps if asked during an interview context – and can’t wait to explore it. I imagine you’ll be seeing recipes from it on here before very long.

got some lemons, make some kickass lemonade

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In an entirely wholesome state of affairs, my mother and I made this lemonade together using lemons from both the garden and the neighbours’ garden, a recipe from an extremely ancient cookbook originally made to provide proceeds to returned servicemen from World War I, and bottles of it were given to family members and the neighbours who gave us the lemons. I’m surprised local bunny rabbits didn’t materialise to help us stir the mixture while bluebirds tied ribbons in our hair.

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The cookbook that this recipe came from is one of those stalwart and somewhat interchangeable publications that flourished in the early part of last century: they all boasted hundreds of recipes, delivered without ceremony, which makes them a real pleasure to read in this era of extreme hand-holding. Which is not to speak ill of hand-holding; I myself try to make my recipes as full of detail as possible to account for all confidence levels, and while the vagueness of the recipes in these old books is amusing in its way, one could assume that the built-in knowledge of its contemporary readers was because most of the women buying these books got locked into a lifetime of cooking from roughly twenty minutes after they got married until roughly twenty minutes before they died whether or not they had any interest in doing so.

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My great-grandmother’s food weights

On the upside you can open any page and have a hearty laugh at recipes that time has not been kind to: Brown Soup, Boiled Ox Heart, Mock Omelet (curiously, the recipe includes egg), Cowslip Wine, and a remedy for throat infection where you literally cover a piece of toast in tobacco, then tie it to your throat with a rag. Side note, I find it hilarious whenever anyone gets starry-eyed about the simple, chemical-free lifestyle of the past, all “just like grandma used to make,” when these cookbooks all but tell you to glaze your hams with lead paint and give your sickly nephew asbestos lozenges.

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This lemonade, however, is timelessly delicious and calmly simple. You just steep the juice and peel of several lemons in some boiling water with sugar and citric acid, and then chuck it into some bottles. It couldn’t be easier, not if there were small woodland deer peeling the lemons for you. You end up feeling almost deliriously positive while making it too, due to the the vigorously uplifting fragrance of lemon permeating the air. This recipe book was published not long after World War I, which is perhaps why they recommend an austere tablespoon of cordial per glass of water – I recommend a couple of tablespoons, but it’s obviously up to you. I prefer it in a glass of sparkling water but it’s very personable in regular water, and it has a clean, pure, sunshine-on-a-rainy-day lemon flavour to it that’s wonderfully appealing. I suspect it would be very good in a gin and tonic.

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Old Fashioned Lemonade

Adapted from a recipe in the Success Cookery Book, 1925

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 4-8 lemons (the book specifies four but eight is very comfortably accommodated)
  • 4 teaspoons citric acid
  • 3 and 3/4 cups boiling water

Get as much of the yellow rind off the lemons as possible, avoiding the white pith. I started off with a mini grater but a vegetable peeler is a lot quicker and as it’s getting strained out it doesn’t matter how big or small your rind is.

Place the rind, sugar, citric acid, boiling water, and as much juice as your can squeeze out of the lemons in a large non-metallic bowl. Give it a good stir to get the sugar to start dissolving, then cover – a tea towel is fine – and leave until it’s completely cool. At this point, strain through a sieve and funnel into clean bottles. To serve, use two tablespoons, or to taste, in a glass of water or sparkling water.

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The cookbook says that this keeps for months, I see no reason not to believe them. The book also calmly lists things that every family medicine cabinet should have in the manner of a comedian, perhaps Seth Morris, doing an escalation bit: “Court Plaster. Ginger essence. Gregory’s mixture. Gripe water for baby’s colic. Ipecauanha wine for croup. Linseed meal. Lunar caustic for dog bites. Mustard.” If you put a microphone and an audience in front of me and told me to humorously invent some old-timey remedies I honestly couldn’t come up with better than this genuine real list.

While it’s always a good time when I’m online, it’s been a particularly good time for me online lately. Allow me to list for you – in the manner of an old-timey cookbook telling you about what quasi-medieval healthcare methods you oughta know – my latest online achievements.

If you are also excited about my writing and want to support me so I’m able to create more and more and more, then I encourage you to sign up to my Patreon account, where for a mere singular dollar per month you can access content made directly and solely for you.

title from: Livin’ Large by L7, just pleasantly chunky late 90s not-too-deep guitar stuff.

music lately:

Girlfriend by Christine and the Queens featuring Dâm-Funk. Of all the music trying to sound like it’s from twenty-seven to thirty years ago, this is amazing – it has this airy smooth sophistication to it, especially that gorgeously chill chorus, and the keyboards genuinely could’ve come from a Janet Jackson track. Somehow the oddness of the translated-French lyrics add to its appeal.

Memory, by Laurie Beechman. It feels like the entire world was engaging in discourse after the Cats movie trailer dropped; the only Cats-related content I wish to engage with currently is this video of Beechman, who tragically died in 1998, singing the musical’s big hit on the Phil Donohue show, I cannot watch it without crying despite the song’s ubiquity, her voice had this incredible power and metallic fragility simultaneously and honestly if you care about me in the slightest you will watch this video.

Next time: asbestos for all!