well I see you there with the rose in your teeth

I have some fascinating developing news for you: firstly, did you know you can get sparkling rosé by the can at the supermarket for like $4? Secondly, I’m leaving my job and devoting my life to my writing! Seriously! $4!

Vegan Rose Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream

But first. You don’t come to Wellington, the city I’ve lived in for 13 years now, for the weather, you just don’t. You come here for, I don’t know, the coffee and “vibrant Cuba Street” and to behold the moustache-to-face ratio with appalled disdain and reluctant respect in equal measure. But in summer 2019, with the chickens of global warming coming home to roost, Wellington is hot as BALLS. And so I felt it would be timely to make some ice cream, not only because it’s my favourite food but also to try and bring down my general temperature and perhaps yours by proxy. The heat has homogenised us and it’s all anyone can talk about now.

Rosé raspberry ripple ice cream sounds, I grant you, like it belongs on those Facebook videos with a wine glass that can hold an entire bottle of wine yet not an ounce of personality, but! The rosé has merit here outside of its pastel-coloured populism. This ice cream is distinctly lush, heavily swirled with blisteringly pink, sherbety, sour-sweet raspberry rosé sorbet. The rosé gives it a kind of biscuity, dry finish while dovetailing beautifully in both blushy colour and blushy flavour, and the oat milk is the perfect inobtrusive yet creamy backdrop for everything.

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The recipe is moderately fiddly, but not in a taxing way, and the only really annoying thing about it is that there is an undeniable quantity of dishes (I don’t know why or what moralistic properties I’ve assigned to individual kitchenware items subconsciously but for example, a bowl? I can calmly wash that. The blade of a food processor? I must lie down with a cold compress over my eyes now.) I like to be relaxed about people swapping ingredients to account for availability and affordability, but I do think oat milk is the best option here, it has a real fulsome mildness similar to actual milk in flavour. Probably soymilk would be the next best thing. If you don’t have custard powder then cornflour is a near-perfect dupe, and I would definitely consider using frozen strawberries instead of raspberries. The use of chickpea brine will either be old news to you or absolutely horrifying but here’s the thing: it acts exactly like egg whites, I don’t know why, it just does, so when you whisk it up it goes thick and creamy and holds its shape and is just an absolute blessing for vegan cooking. And having the actual chickpeas to use is no great burden – blend them into hummus, roast them with some spices, or just coat them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and stir through some rocket.

(And I’ll be honest with you, I’m not saying the rosé was entirely an aesthetic conceit, but if you left it out for whatever reason – financial, non-alcohol-consumption – the ice cream will still be both absolutely fine and delicious. But at $4 a can, can you afford to not buy it?)

Vegan Rose Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream

This really just tastes like summer, the fruity sourness tap-dancing up the side of your face and your skull hurting from the cold, the fragrant, juicy, lipstick-smeared-on-the-side-of-a-glass pink blast of the berries and the creamy, softening properties of the vanilla.

Rosé Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream

a recipe by myself

  • 2 cups (500ml) oat milk
  • 3 heaped tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons custard powder
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) aquafaba (liquid from a can of chickpeas in brine)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 vanilla bean (or one teaspoon vanilla paste/two teaspoons vanilla extract)
  • a heaped 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) sparkling rosé (or unsparkling will do)

Heat one cup (250ml) of the oat milk gently with the coconut oil and custard powder, plus about half the sugar. Don’t let it get to the point of boiling, but just to where the coconut oil has melted and the sugar has dissolved and the custard powder has thickened it somewhat. Run a sharp knife down the centre of the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the oat milk mixture, whisk in the second cup of oat milk, and then set it aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, start whisking the aquafaba briskly so it becomes thick and airy. Slowly add the remainder of the 3/4 cup of sugar, a little at a time, as you continue whisking. Once the sugar is all whisked in and the aquafaba is thick and meringue-like, add the sea salt and then gently fold it into the oat milk mixture. Spatula all this into a container of just over a litre capacity and freeze for about four hours.

At this point, take the ice cream out of the freezer, scrape it all into a blender or food processor, and process till creamy and smooth. Before you do this there’s a good chance that it will have separated somewhat in the freezer and appear all ice-crystal-y, but a quick go in a blender will make it come together again easily so fear not. Spatula it back into the container and return it to the freezer while you get on with the ripple.

Give the blender or food processor a half-hearted rinse, then process the raspberries, icing sugar and lemon juice to form a thick, bright pink frozen paste. You may need to add a couple of teaspoons of water if the raspberries are very frozen solid. Carefully stir in the rosé. Take the vanilla base back out of the freezer and dollop the raspberry mixture into it large spoonful by large spoonful. Give it the most cursory stir to move the separate parts around a little – you don’t need to mix it in too much and it will naturally form layers and ripples as you scoop it out. Return to the freezer for about six hours or overnight, then it’s all yours.

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Now that we’ve all got our vicarious chills, let’s talk about me. So: every now and then I like to get all irrevocable just to see what happens. This particular shake-up takes the form of two things happening in the near future: I’m leaving my apartment and moving in with my dear friends Kate and Jason for a while and leaving my job as a bartender, with the distinct aim of (a) avoiding burnout and (b) focussing on my writing and (c) yes, working out how I’m going to support myself as a writer but also (d) not burning out!

Though it may sound like a madcap lark, an imprudent caper, I am in fact acting upon what I talked about at the start of the year – I really really wanted to throw myself into my writing this time around the sun and I had this convergence of a ton of writing ideas crystallising at once, my lease coming to an end, and just desperately needing a break from hospitality, intoxicating though it is. I mean I’m genuinely fairly spooked at the contemplation of not being a bartender, it’s been my life round the clock and a large chunk of my personality for the last five years! This is not a decision I came to lightly or suddenly but man, there’s something incredible in a sandblastingly intense kind of way way about actually making a decision with clarity instead of letting life wash over you, isn’t there?

And I know, I can’t just not work, like, mate, I don’t think I’m above capitalism, if anything, I am capitalism. By which I mean, with my life upheaval in mind I’ve updated my Patreon to tell you about the exciting writing projects I’m going to be working on soon and how you could directly be supporting them. So if the notion of contributing to the existence of, for example, a novel that is (very reductively, but for the sake of brevity!) Dazed and Confused meets Kitchen Confidential or a cookbook about what to cook when you’re too depressed to cook sounds like something you’d like to claim early adoption of, then consider becoming a Patron of mine!

(Benefits to being a patron include exclusive monthly content made just for you, like, this month I reviewed every book I read and film I watched in January. Sample text: “Rachel Weisz could kick me in the head and I would thank her for it.”)

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You in turn can comfortably expect not only more blog posts from me but also more energy expressed therein, as opposed to me complaining about how tired and lacking-in-time I constantly am. On top of which I will be using my newfound spare time to get back into freelancing and pitching ideas at people so if anyone has any leads, please! Get in touch. Sometimes you have to lose money to make money, as the saying goes!

title from: Famous Blue Raincoat, Leonard Cohen. “It’s four in the morning, the end of December“, is such a captured mood, isn’t it? This song is so utterly miserable and downbeat but just when it seems too much to bear, it gently but firmly unfolds into this incredibly optimistic major key for what I guess you could call the chorus but then! Just as quickly! Retreats in fear and the second verse is somehow even more unhappy. Cohen, you maven of misery, moving tears from duct to cheek like an efficient shepherdess.

music lately:

1080p, by Sammus, a rapper, producer and PhD student from Ithaca, this is beautiful, I love the cadence of her voice, how it has a slight break to it, and there’s so many sharp lines (“we never talk yet we still share a f**ing Netflix”…”glad I took my ass to some therapy/Now I’m seeing the world in 1080p“)

I Woke Up In A F**ked Up America, Lonnie Holley. This is about as intense as you’d expect from the title, I love the record-skip repetition and layered horns and the vibrato of his voice and yeah, the intensity. Holley has had quite a life, I recommend looking him up on Wikipedia.

On My Own, Frances Ruffelle, from the Original Cast Recording of Les Miserables. There’s such a Bernadette Peters-esque porcelain-and-steel quality to her voice and I love the angle of her vowels and the way she leans into her consonants – see also the way she says “HMmbut he never saw me there” in One Day More – but also consider listening to Kaho Shimada, singing the same song from the 1988 Complete Symphonic Recording of Les Miserables, I will never stop telling anyone who will listen about how Kaho Shimada didn’t speak any English and learned her lines phonetically for this recording and her voice SOARS on the big bit near the end (you know the bit, “all my life, I’ve only been pretending” it’s the bit you came for.) I think there’s some kind of echo effect that’s been layered on it as well which makes it sound particularly as though it’s being carried on eagles wings and I don’t know what it is about high summer but it seems to compel me to devote my life to playing the same seven to nineteen Les Miserables clips on YouTube.

Next time: Something extremely from my storecupboard as I’m trying to avoid spending as much as possible between now and my last shift.

which definitely is as exciting as pudding

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Christmas is approaching with all of the endlessly slow then suddenly in-your-face manner of, oh, to pluck an allegory from the air, the Golden Bangkok pre-amble to One Night In Bangkok from the musical Chess, you know the one, you’re like “oh nice, an overture to open the second act, that’s reasonable” and then after a while you’re like “they’re really just … going to repeat that third movement again” and after a while it’s like “look, when will we ever get to hear Murray Head attempting to rap somewhat incongruously in the middle of this sung-through musical?!” and then suddenly there’s a flurry of violins and there he is rhyming “oyster” with “cloister” and then it’s over! With all this in mind, I made up a pudding recipe for Christmas Day.

But first: I have not been feeling entirely like myself lately, I would say in fact pretty definitively that it has been, in fact, what would appear to the casual observer to be something approaching a depressive episode; the casual observer might follow up by saying “but Laura? Why? Everything appeared to being going fairly wonderfully, perhaps more wonderful than you’d ever dared to be possible and full of more possibilities than you could ever dare wonder, how on earth could you be feeling so down?” And I would reply “well that’s more of a fervent observation than a casual observation but I relish the attention nonetheless.” I would then say, “I’ll tell you why it is so, that I’m feeling kind of blank and absent and not inclined to do much other than lie in bed and watch Frasier. I’ll tell you exactly why.”

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The reason is: you just cannot predict when it’s going to happen, no matter how much trust and faith you put into your current situation, no matter how tightly you hold onto that handful of sand, no matter how long the overture to One Night In Bangkok goes on for, sometimes it just surprises you by not being that thing anymore with all the speed and subtlety of a brick thrown into a bowl of jelly. Now, what I am not saying is that you should go through life with your trust dried out and hardened like an old piece of bread just in case you start to feel down. Please, continue to enjoy a moment without suspicion. I’m just saying, sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down. It is what it is. And while it is what it is, I found myself also feeling like, completely furious about it. I went from never better to better never and I didn’t want to cook or write and that was so infuriating to have these two things that are so crucial to my existence not available to me.

But anyway – because (a) it’s Christmas and I would like to bring this jingle-bell curve upwards and (b) because there is more to the story than me being intermittently subdued or incandescent with rage: I came up with a recipe! Which I believe is absolutely a sign of getting better. And now I’m writing about it! Cooking and writing! And indeed, before you get too worried (another thing I’m mad about: now I have to worry people? That’s so far down the list on my preferred forms of attention!) I genuinely am on the up and up and have been doing lots of good good things to augment my festiveness: my best friends Kim and Kate came over and we drank bubbles to toast 2/3 of us finishing work for the year; I’ve been watching Christmas episodes of my favourite television shows; I’ve been listening to the Christmas albums of various Broadway stars; I’ve done my Christmas shopping; I went to my work Christmas party and danced in the sun for roughly yet literally four hours straight and it felt really, really, really good.

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AND there’s this Christmas Sticky Toffee Pudding! Which I made up out of nowhere! And it’s unbelievably delicious! It’s also a pretty straightforward concept: just regular sticky toffee pudding but with some Christmas elements added to make it aggressively seasonal, yet I cannot express how much of a crowd-pleaser it is. By way of illustration: on the day that I made it last week, a friend had come to visit on her way to therapy and we sat there just looking at it and I was like “tbh I’m too depressed to eat, do you want some?” and she was like “honestly I’m too anxious to eat, no thanks.” And so we carried on looking at it. But then, bolstered, united, and probably with a sense of friendly obligation on the part of precisely one of us, we decided to share a slice and agreed that it did indeed taste fantastic! That’s how good it is. So caramelly and butterscotchy and (*checks thesaurus*) caramelly! So dense and rich! So (*checks Nigella*) redolent of Christmas! (Nigella uses that word a lot, that’s the joke.)

Christmas Sticky Toffee Pudding

A recipe by myself

  • 1 cup dates, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup prunes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup/250ml boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (or neutral vegetable oil)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon allspice (optional tbh)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or similar)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 and 1/3 cups plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa

Toffee Sauce

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 3 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk (look for one with 80% or higher coconut extract)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons custard powder (or cornflour) mixed with two tablespoons cold water

Set your oven to 180C/350F and lightly grease an oven dish, you know, one of those standard sized ones that you might bake a pudding or brownies in?

Place the dates, cranberries, prunes, baking soda and water in a large mixing bowl and allow to sit for five minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients, with the flour and cocoa last (and consider sifting them, I reckon) and spatula the lot into the baking dish. Bake for 30-45 minutes – it will depend on your oven – until the centre springs back when you press lightly on it and a knife or skewer inserted comes out clean. Cover the edges with tinfoil if they seem to be browning too much while the centre is still uncooked. Again, depends on your oven.

While the pudding is in the oven, get started on the sauce. Tip the coconut milk, brown sugar, golden syrup, salt, and cinnamon stick into a saucepan and bring to a good solid simmer. Allow to bubble away very gently over a low heat for half an hour, swirling occasionally and scraping down the sides with a spatula if need be. Once the time is up, remove the pan from the heat and discard the cinnamon stick. Stir in the custard/water mixture. When the pudding comes out of the oven, stab it several times with a skewer or knife – whatever you’ve been using to check its done-ness – and pour over roughly a third or so of the sauce. Transfer the rest of the sauce to a jug for people to pour over as they please.

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Obviously cranberries are super Christmassy, I also feel the warmth of cinnamon drifting through the toffee sauce and the intensity of all the spices in the pudding itself offer that let-it-snow cosiness which I somehow feel impelled to conjure up despite the sweatingly intense heat of a New Zealand mid-summer Yule. Now, the prunes, they’re honestly just there because I happened to have some; you could leave them out and up the cranberries, or you could include some raisins or sultanas for a more fruitcake buzz. You could consider a splash of brandy or rum in the sauce, or the cake, or your mouth, to add to the general festivity, and you could also consider not worrying at all about the fact that this recipe happens to be vegan: it tastes fulsome and rewarding and abundant and like pudding should.

This morning I, the prodigal son, the fatted calf, am flying up to stay with my family and spend Christmas with them for the first time in a few years, and I am honestly extremely excited to cook this for everyone, and! To relive the traditions of a Christmas at home: seeing the tree decorations from my childhood, listening to the old Disney and Tin Lids and Bing Crosby albums, being studiously, ruthlessly ignored by the cats. As for you, I hope you also have a wonderful time however you observe the holiday: casually or fervently.

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title from: Sam, a mellow ballad as lethargically slow-moving as toffee sauce from my absolute favourites, Meat Puppets.

music lately:

I started watching this musical TV show called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and while I tend to be cautious in terms of receptiveness to parody musical numbers the absolute homework that went into this show is genuinely extraordinary, it’s like, scholarly when it comes to musical references. The title refrain from West Covina, the song the lead character Rebecca sings about deciding on a whim to move cities in the hopes of running into a guy she used to date is really very beautiful. (I also recommend the impeccable Marilyn-ness on The Math of Love Triangles. and I think I also learned some maths from it?)

Mudhoney, Into the Drink. Good energy.

Velvet Underground, Heroin. As utterly bewitching as it is useful as a unit of time to sternly instruct yourself to clean your room for the duration thereof.

Next time: I’m going to try to blog again before the end of the year and also just generally continue hurtling ever upwards on a one-horse open trebuchet!

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

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

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

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

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Category 1: Things in Jars

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

Subsection A: Saucy Stuff

Subsection B: Stuff stuff

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Category 2: Baked Goods

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

 

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Category 3: No-bake Novelty!

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

And one more for luck:

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Almond Butter Toffee

a recipe by myself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

music lately:

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

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

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

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

you can start by having a chat and then a glass of brandy then I will start playing mind games

I’ll often insist that I don’t like change and that what I do like is, in fact, a good status quo to settle into, but I think what I really mean by that is that it’s a bit sad when nice people go far away. I’m honestly always trying to change things, most of the time incredibly rapidly without considering any consequences. Or at least, I will have thoroughly overthought the consequences, and then I’ll just be like “uhhhh what if I leap head-first into this and whatever happens after, that’s ten-minutes-from-now-Laura’s problem.” This could be anything from spontaneously bleaching my hair to the entire state of my life at any given time. It’s certainly not the most advisable way to live out your days, but it does kinda get stuff happening.

Anyway I got to thinking about this (with some self-awareness but no real emotional growth or change) following two events: I recently bleached my hair in almost panicky haste, and also some super nice people who I work with went far away to travel the world for a bit. I have no idea what to do with a status quo except frantically push in the opposite direction of it, but when people are about to leave, I know exactly what to do: make delicious sweet things for them. That’s how I ended up making this gorgeously dense fudge, bejewelled with brandy-soaked sultanas. I had, in a nice piece of symbiosis, nicked the sultanas themselves from work prior to this, where they had been lending their flavour to brandy for a cocktail we were doing over Easter. One of the people who was leaving – Brooke, a gem of a lady – suggested that I turn them into fudge at some point, and so it seemed like a nice way to sweeten up the last shift we all worked together.

I don’t expect you to have sultanas sitting around in brandy for the opportunistic thieving, but they can be very easily recreated by quickly making your own (leaving you, joyfully, with leftover infused alcohol.) You don’t even have to use brandy, rum is an obvious contender here, or you could use some other dried-grape-friendly liqueur, or – honestly – leave the fruit aspect out altogether and simply make yourself a slab of creamy, gloriously plain fudge.

This fudge has the silkiest bite to it, like your teeth are sliding through cool water. It dissolves on the tongue with rolling caramel flavours punctured by bursts of eyewateringly boozy sultanas. The sweetness of all the sugar and the heat of the alcohol plus the generally deliciousness of the butter come together to make something astonishingly balanced considering it’s, y’know, a rectangle of sugar. And while it’s not as comfortingly crumbly as super-traditional fudge but the incredible satin texture more than makes up for this.

brandy butter sultana fudge

adapted from this recipe. It’s really easy to make, I just do a lot of explaining in the method below, in case you’re freaking out at how long it looks.

one cup of sultanas
brandy – something not horrifically cheap but don’t use anything expensive either
100g butter
one can of sweetened condensed milk (the kind that’s roughly 395g in size)
two firmly packed cups of brown sugar

Put the sultanas in a bowl and pour in juuuust enough brandy that they all get a go at being in it. You don’t have to swamp them, but it’s all up to you – after all, you can use the soaking brandy however you please later, so if you want more of it then cover them in more. If you’re like “noooo my precious brandy” then use a smaller amount. Leave it to sit, covered, at least overnight, but to be honest you could probably get away with like, an hour, if you’re incredibly impatient. There’s probably some way you could speed up the process by gently microwaving it all, but I don’t have one and have completely forgotten what to do with one so couldn’t really advise there.

Put the butter, condensed milk, and brown sugar in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring pretty much constantly, and let it all bubble away like there’s no tomorrow until it reaches the soft-ball stage. What is this? Get a bowl of cold water. If you drop a small spoonful of the fudge into the cold water and it forms a soft ball of like, fudgey stuff, then it’s ready. If it simply dissolves into the water or collapses into nothing, it needs to keep boiling.

Once it’s ready, remove from the heat – I like to stick it in a sink that I’ve partially filled with cold water – and stir aggressively for honestly ages until it thickens and you can see it starting to crystalise and set around the edges. Halfway through, stir in the drained sultanas. Reserve the brandy for your own good times. Usually fudge will lose its gloss and become rather crumbly as you stir but this one was a little different – it just thickened up considerably. When you feel chill about it, spatula the lot into a baking paper-lined brownie tin (or similar regularly sized baking dish) and refrigerate till super firm. Cut into slices of whatever size you like, and eat.

The fudge went down very well with the crew when I brought it in and achieved lavish praise (oh my god, do I only do this for attention and lavish praise, not just to be nice? Does it even matter if we all still get fudge as a result?) Literally all I’ve been doing otherwise is trying to stay awake long enough to write this post, and listening to Judy Garland (I was going to say “through tear-filled ears” but not only is that anatomically inaccurate it’s also troubling to consider, but what I’m trying to say is that she makes me majorly emotional.) However! One exciting thing has occurred lately: I had another crush cake published on The Toast. This one is for glorious Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda, currently crushing it in the gasp-makingly successful musical Hamilton. Go me! (Really, go me. Back to bed. Go back to bed, me.)

small cake, big crush
title from: Roll Deep, The Avenue – only one of the best songs to come out of the year 2005 ever.

music lately:

My Shot, from the musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Leslie Odom Jr and Anthony Ramos performing live at the White House – I honestly get aggressive shivers the minute this starts and can’t stop watching this.

Judy Garland, The Man That Got Away. Is there a duststorm happening inches from my face in this room? Oh wait no I’m sobbing uncontrollably at this.

Soulja Boy Tell’em, Crank That (Soulja Boy) I dunno, I just really felt like listening to this.

next time: I reallllllly feel like making bread, so maybe that will have happened by the time I next am here?

 

i’m free but i’m focused, i’m green but i’m wise

Ever since I was able to form cognitive thoughts I’ve been seriously into horoscopes and similar things. I can’t decide whether to joke that this means I’ve been into them since last week or, to paraphrase the T-Rex song over the opening credits of Billy Elliot, to imply that I was analysing my star sign in the womb, but either way, yeah. It’s a thing. It’s my birthday on Sunday which means that my usual self-absorption and introspection is now off the scale. I can’t stop thinking about myself! With all this in mind, my tarot card for this month was all, “don’t focus on what you don’t have and don’t push people away if you’re feeling down and don’t be stupid you stupid idiot” and my horoscopes are all telling me about how Mars is going into retrograde on my birthday, which like, why doesn’t the shunned fairy aunt in Sleeping Beauty just turn up and predict that I’m going to prick my finger on a spinning wheel and fall into a coma or something, and all in all I’m finding it a bit hard to just relax and be myself at the moment. It’s not because of what the tarot card and horoscopes said, but it’s more like I’m hyper aware of trying to not do stuff wrong because of their advice and I end up like a small bird flying into windows as a result. Classic Aries? Classic me, really.

(Seriously though, if you ever read descriptions of the various star signs it’ll be all, “Virgo – steadfast and thoughtful” and “Sagittarius people are ever so open-minded and motivated” and “Cancers are loyal and intensely nurturing” and then “Aries are big idiot babies who hit their head a lot and will not stop shouting to get your attention.” I mean, I don’t deny it…)

I’m short but I’m healthy, yeah

However! I’m not all uselessness. A particular horoscope that I joyfully subscribe to is the wonderful Meredith Graves’ Stargrazing column for Lucky Peach magazine. It’s food-related horoscopes and they’re very fun and interesting to read (truly – check yours out) and this month I was advised to get into soup, basically because I needed to be really kind and gentle to myself – funny that – and since I wasn’t in the mood for actual soup I decided instead to go find the most aggressively, ludicrously healthy ingredients I could lay my hands up on and make a thing out of that in the name of self-care. Those ingredients were matcha powder and chia seeds.

And that’s how I ended up with this matcha coconut raspberry chia pudding. Matcha powder is ground up green tea leaves and apparently one teaspoon of it has the power of 20 glasses of green tea, although it all depends on which Pinterest pin you’re reading. I nevertheless feel very calm and trusting of it. Chia seeds are little microbeads of intense goodness, with a billion omega’s and proteins and vitamins and antioxidants. Put them together and nothing will ever go wrong in your life, ever.

I’m lost but I’m hopeful, baby

Chia pudding is essentially a delivery mechanism for chia seeds to get into your stomach, but it is delicious. And easy. The seeds absorb liquid with the-thirst-is-real enthusiasm and end up like a cross between jelly and sago (which might sound horrifying, but go with it, please.) Pink and green are a rather ultimate colour combination in my opinion so scattering freeze-dried raspberries across the top helped both visually and flavour-wise, but honestly use whatever fruit you like – passionfruit would be cool here, as would defrosted frozen berries, canned pears, or juicy slices of ripe mango. Whatever fruit you put up on there will complement the delicate green flavour of the matcha-tinged coconut and look lovely.

And yeah, the flavour is what I would describe as very green. It’s green tea! What did you expect? There’s nothing wrong with this, but I add a little honey to gently sweeten it and mellow out any intense fresh-cut grass vibes. My tastebuds appreciated this – yours might too.

Wait, one more thing – okay so matcha powder and chia seeds are both expensive ingredients, but once you’ve got them you only need to use a teaspoon or two at a time and thus they last near-on forever. This is me here, I wouldn’t just casually tell you to buy something pricey! (Without getting defensive about it first.)

matcha, coconut and raspberry chia pudding

a recipe by myself although let us be real, I am 100% not the the inventor of this or anything. This is just what I made for myself.

one teaspoon matcha powder
around 125ml/half a cup of coconut milk or your choice of milkstuff
one teaspoon of honey or similar – I feel like agave syrup would be perfect here
one tablespoon of chia seeds
a handful of shaved coconut or coconut threads
a couple of tablespoons of freeze-dried raspberries

Using the teaspoon you measured them with, mix the matcha powder, coconut milk and honey together in a glass or whatever receptacle you’re making this in – I recommend a glass because that way you can see the pretty layers of colour, but that’s just me. Also when I say teaspoon and tablespoon I don’t, for once, mean the kind that you measure baking ingredients with. This stuff isn’t an exact science, so just use the kind of spoon you find in the cutlery draw and don’t worry about whether they’re heaped spoonfuls or whatever. Likewise just add more coconut milk if your glass doesn’t look full enough.

Stir in the chia seeds, making sure there aren’t any lumps, and then refrigerate the glass for about an hour, although you can leave it longer, and then when you’re ready to eat it, pile it up with coconut shavings and freeze-dried raspberries and wade in with a spoon.

and what it all comes down to is that I haven’t got it all figured out just yet

It’s so healthful that it seems like you’re gonna actually levitate after eating it. I’ve made it almost every day since, and while I can’t entirely tell if I feel more brilliant or not, it’s got to be doing something, right? It’s as easy to consume as it is to make- the swollen chia seeds give it this soft, barely-set texture and the zing of raspberries and quiet sweetness of the coconut milk work beautifully with the verdant-as matcha powder. It’s also remarkably filling, so makes an ideal breakfast or mid-snack snack.

And what with turning thirty and all, despite having done a deal with the devil so I stay looking young it certainly doesn’t hurt to think of one’s health more, right? (how I know I’m getting proper old: I used to be really indignant about being ID’d and now I’m like, “awwww yeah”) And it seems this is how I prefer to do health: by slothing about all day and then engaging in hardcore consumption of actual green tea leaves ground into dust like I’m the bones-eating giant in Jack and the Beanstalk. Like health shift-work. A lack of moderation followed by a hardcore lack of moderation!

everything’s gonna be fine fine fine

But back to my birthday: if you’re wondering to yourself, “what can I do to make more delightful the birthday of my favourite food blogger- nay, my favourite writer altogether” – well! My paypal is always open (it’s my email address – laura@hungryandfrozen.com) and any donations big, enormous or small would be majorly gratefully received by ya perpetually bank-account-challenged gal. For free you could spend the day in quiet, solemn reflection on how great I am on twitter, or…you could carry on with your day because I hear a horrifying rumour that I’m not the only person on earth to have a birthday and everything doesn’t stop on Sunday just because I do. It’s chill, I’ll be over here serenely glowing with omegas and the power of a thousand glasses of green tea and being myself and seeing what comes of it.

title from: Alanis Morrisette and her laconically powerful and kinda deeply meaningful song One Hand In My Pocket, from the iconic Jagged Little Pill album. I saw her in concert in 1996! What! Ladies be aging!

music lately:

Boy Problems by Carly Rae Jepsen. Her E-mo-tion album is SO important and this video is so important and her haircut in it is frankly very important and it’s all just very, very good.

The Kills, Sour Cherry. I’ve been watching a lot of Gossip Girl, and this song is on the soundtrack. I love how both this show and this band’s main aesthetic is “bratty”. I’m feeling very influenced by it, nearly ten years after the show actually screened.

next time: I made a massive three layer creme egg cake for a friend’s gf’s 21st birthday and was thinking about blogging about it just because, otherwise I made this mayo from scratch with matcha in it and it was amazing, so on the very other end of the scale, there’s also that.

 

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

A Season For Peaches, a novel by Henri Michel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

honey thyme roasted peaches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

music lately:

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

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

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

 

i don’t think you’re ready for this jelly

Much as I have respect for juice that is usually followed by the word “cleanse” and involves several pulverised green vegetables bringing joy to your liver, my preferred kind of juice is the sort that comes in rainbow colours, is preferably imported from somewhere exotic like America, and is found in the fridge in the dark back corner of the dairy down the road. Golden Pash is my absolute favourite, a passionfruit-tinged fizzy beverage in a purple can with hangover-healing properties in every carbonated bubble. I believe it’s manufactured in New Zealand but there’s something about its rather desperate insistence that it contains a whole 5% fruit juice that is kind of charming. Like, mate, my shampoo probably has five percent fruit juice in it. My shoes are probably five percent fruit juice (I’m a bartender, so this is actually possible, as opposed to hyperbole for hyperbole’s sake alone.) I’m ride-or-die for Golden Pash…but I am also easily swayed by pretty packaging and the promise of exciting flavours.

example: the results of a very casual trip to the dairy 

Anyway, after a recipe misfire where I thought I was making gummy-type candy out of Peach Snapple but instead ended up simply making delicious jelly, I thought: jelly! Fun! And so set about to make jelly on purpose out of the next juicy beverage which took my fancy. And that happened to be Arizona Iced Tea, pomegranate flavour.

one of two ingredients

Some might ask, why make your own jelly? But like, why do anything, really? In its favour, this is cute and really easy and perfect if you need to take a dessert to some kind of potluck situation or provide something for your friends – either go childs-birthday-party-esque and make a big bowl of it to be scooped up and served with ice cream, or pour it into dinky glasses and ramekins for individual servings. Oh, and it’s completely delicious – the surprisingly delicate flavour of the pomegranate, all fresh and gently astringent, tastes wonderful when suspended in gelatine. It’s refreshing, it’s barely sweet but just sweet enough, it’s gloriously wobbly when you smack it with the back of your spoon for no good reason other than to bring about your own good cheer; and if you hold it up to the light it glows gloriously red and pink like some kind of magical crystal, the sort of thing that Captain Planet would have as a household knick-knack, like a sunset’s reflection caught in water.

And there’s only two ingredients! One is simple: some kind of juice; you obviously do not need to use Arizona iced tea or even pomegranate flavoured iced tea or EVEN iced tea, I mean if you want to be truly unkind to yourself you could literally use plain water, this would not be a good time at all, but the gelatine won’t know the difference. However as I’ve outlined above, pomegranate flavour makes for a delightful jelly. The other ingredient is gelatine: mysterious, unfortunately-non-vegetarian, gelatine.

I used leaf gelatine which is pretty easy to get hold of in supermarkets and very easy to use – just let the sheets of gelatine soak in water, give them a squeeze, and then stir them into hot liquid and that’s literally it. However, if all you can find is powdered gelatine, I mean, that will be a perfectly fine substitute, and google should be able to help you with converting quantities.

pomegranate iced tea jelly

a recipe by myself

one 500ml bottle of arizona pomegranate flavour iced green tea; or whatever you like
4 sheets of gold-level leaf gelatine (I use Equagold) 

Soak the gelatine sheets in a bowl of cold water till they soften, then pick them up and give them a squeeze – this bit is delightful, not gonna lie – and tip out the water. Put the softened gelatine leaves back in the bowl and pour over about a third of a cup of recently boiled water from the kettle – just enough to cover the gelatine leaves – and stir till they’ve dissolved, which should only take a few seconds. You don’t need the entire bottle of tea, so you might as well have a sip or two first before pouring it slowly into the gelatine/hot water, stirring as you go. From here, simply pour it into cute serving bowls or one larger dish and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours to set. 

pomegranate jelly or a still from the sinister film Picnic at Hanging Rock?

Bonus: apparently gelatine helps put a shine on your coat and make your nails strong, so I look forward to being intimidatingly sleek and glossy any day now.

Speaking of monitoring one’s glossiness levels: somehow it’s March already, which means I’m turning thirty actual years old next month: I fluctuate between being terrified at this and all like “what if I am suddenly no longer interesting to anyone and everything I do is the actions of an elderly crone who no-one wants to care for” and being all like “Beyonce arguably did the most important and amazing work of her life post-thirty and she is only becoming more powerful with the passing of each day also you are not the first person to turn thirty so this is really kind of patronising and it’s probably the patriarchy’s fault that you have a weird sense of fear about leaving your twenties and how that relates to your value as a woman, nay, as a person, and to the merit of your work.” If there’s anyone out there who turned thirty and didn’t immediately turn into a small pile of ash, feeble and unwanted, then holla at ya girl!
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title via: Bootylicious by Destiny’s Child (speaking of Beyonce). I don’t think you’re ready for how obvious this song choice is for this recipe. 
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music lately: 

The Pharcyde, Drop. Made even better by its hypnotic backwards-forwards music video.

EMF, Unbelievable. I don’t really go in for youtube comments (full stop) where people are all nostalgic for the 90s when they were never even there, but there are a few songs where I’m like damn it why wasn’t I out clubbing in England somewhere in 1993. This is one such song.
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Next time: I haven’t had time to cook anything in a while so mate, I don’t even know.