Nigella’s Chocolate Pistachio Fudge [vegan]

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

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

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

@hungryandfrozen

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

♬ Sugar Rum Cherry – Duke Ellington

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

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Nigella’s (vegan) Chocolate Pistachio Fudge

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes: 

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

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music lately:

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

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

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

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

Three-ingredient Vegan Chocolate Caramel Hearts

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

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

@hungryandfrozen

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

♬ Sweet Love – Anita Baker

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

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

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Three-ingredient Vegan Chocolate Caramel Hearts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes:

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

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music lately:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roasted Garlic Lentil Soup [vegan]

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

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

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

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

@hungryandfrozen

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

♬ Autobahn (Single Edit) – Kraftwerk

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

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Roasted Garlic Lentil Soup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes:

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

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music lately:

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

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

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

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

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

Sushi Rice with Chilli Oil Nuts [vegan]

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

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

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

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

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Sushi Rice with Chilli Oil Nuts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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music lately:

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

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

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

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

Vegan Hokey Pokey Ice Cream

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Hokey Pokey is what you might call an iconic ice cream flavour here in Aotearoa, and its beauty lies in its simplicity and that texture – crunch against cold creaminess – and I’ve done my best to honour it and the collective sentimental memories of our tastebuds here in my homemade version. I won’t pretend that you can’t taste the coconut cream, but that’s the vegan life for you – and it’s hardly a bad thing! Coconut is delicious! If anything, its mellow beachiness only serves to enhance the hauntingly sweet depths of the caramelised sugar.

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This should all be easy enough to write about – childhood reminiscing, recreating familiar foods in vegan form, yada yada yada, but I had to make the honeycomb thrice – threefold! – before I got it right and now I find myself losing valuable writing hours burrowing into lyrics websites looking for a stanza from a Limp Bizkit song that I can use as an allegory – is it that I really like Limp Bizkit (yes) or is it that I read the new Sally Rooney novel and I’m subconsciously bucking its high-minded walls of academic epistolography (possibly? how self-aware) or is it just some garden-variety ADHD hyperfocus on the wrong thing (let’s face it, probably) or is it that I’m five weeks into waiting out a lockdown, a lockdown that’s obviously the correct thing to do for the greater good and no real hardship to myself, but as such my imagination is growing wearier and wearier from over-use yet under-use simultaneously – yes, possibly that, too – but in fact, I think it’s really just that I’m still recovering from making three batches of honeycomb.

@hungryandfrozen

Vegan Hokey Pokey Ice Cream 🥲 I burnt so much honeycomb don’t let this flop besties #icecream #hokeypokey #vegan #nzfood #lockdownkitchen #nzlockdown

♬ Don’t Let Go (Love) – En Vogue

Every time I burnt that sugar it felt like part of my soul cauterised and fell off with it; but don’t let my rivers of hissing sugar and propensity for dramatics put you off: I suffered so that you don’t have to, and with a little patience this is genuinely quite straightforward, and you earn your heavenly reward in the form of a creamy tub of velvety-smooth ice cream with melting yet crunchy honeycomb and toffee dappled throughout. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend making this if you’re hungover or feeling fragile, or if you have small children rushing about, or indeed, if you are a small child yourself. This requires concentration (which is why it’s barely surprising I burnt the first two batches of sugar) and confidence, because you’re taking your boiling hot melted sugar and quickly, decisively, parting it two ways – into a sheet of clear, golden toffee (which will provide the requisite crunch that one seeks in all hokey pokey ice cream experiences) and into a billowing mushroom cloud of honeycomb (which slowly fades into the ice cream providing pockets of dissolving caramel.)

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Somewhere between frantically warning you of the dangers of handling hot sugar and reassuring you that there’s actually nothing to this, is my most important point: this vegan hokey pokey ice cream tastes SO GOOD, and as soon as you have that first mouthful you’ll not only be flush with nostalgia-flavoured serotonin you’ll also be absolutely reeling from the weight of your own competence – the most elusive flavour of all – and you’ll know it was all worth it (and maybe you’ll even hear Limp Bizkit singing this could be the one, I know I did.)

PS: if you really want to make life difficult for yourself, why not put on a double feature with my homemade vegan Jelly Tip ice cream recipe while you’re at it. Feel free to replace the vanilla ice cream mixture of that recipe with the coconut cream/coconut condensed milk of this recipe – for my money, it’s the superior method.

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Vegan Hokey Pokey Ice Cream

Lush, velvety vanilla ice cream with crunchy and melting honeycomb, the taste of your childhood and the promise of a brighter future, all at once. This takes some patience – specifically the double-sugar honeycomb and toffee aspect – and I recommend you read the recipe fully before embarking, although it’s a lot easier than the length of this makes it look – but obviously I wouldn’t lead you down this rocky path without good reason (that reason being: this ice cream is so delicious.) As always, my homemade ice cream recipes are and will forever be no-churn. Recipe by myself.

  • 1 x 320g tin sweetened condensed coconut milk
  • 2 x 400g tins full-fat coconut cream, refrigerated overnight
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 generous tablespoon golden syrup
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • a pinch of salt, or to taste

1: First, the ice cream mixture. If you forget to put the coconut cream in the fridge the night before, at least try to get it cold for a few hours. Scoop the chilled, thick coconut cream from the top of the tins into a bowl (reserving the remaining coconut water for now) and using either electric beaters or a whisk and some energy, beat the coconut cream until thick and whipped looking. Pour in the sweetened condensed milk and beat everything again on high speed (or with your whisk) to thoroughly combine, then pour in the remaining coconut water from the tins and the vanilla and beat again. Apologies for how convoluted this sounds! You’re essentially just mixing your coconut products together and doing it this way ensures a creamy texture later on.

2: Pour this coconut mixture into a 1.5 litre capacity container, fix on the lid, and pop it in the fridge to let the flavour develop/mellow out while you make the honeycomb and toffee.

3: Now for the sugar. Before you do anything else, find two roasting trays or shallow, lipped baking trays and line them both with a large sheet of baking paper, and also measure the baking soda into a small cup or bowl so it’s ready to go when the sugar is melted. Place the sugar and golden syrup into a heavy saucepan and slowly melt it over a low heat, stirring constantly, until it’s gone from sugar to a gritty paste almost resembling peanut butter, to a melted puddle of caramel that’s starting to simmer around the edges. I feel the need to tell you that this is unbelievably hot so please pay attention and don’t – as if by automatism – lick the spoon.

4: Once it’s melted and just starting to simmer, remove the pan from the heat and quickly ladle a small quantity of the molten sugar – about 3 tablespoons to 1/4 cup but for goodness sake don’t try to measure it – onto one of the waiting paper-lined roasting trays.

5: Tip the baking soda into the remaining sugar syrup in the saucepan and stir it in briskly – the mixture will turn pale and billow spookily yet intriguingly upwards – once it starts doing this, carefully scrape as much as possible of your pale honeycomb onto the second paper-lined roasting tray. Now – pick up the first tray, confidently but respectfully, and tilt it gently from side to side to let the toffee spread out. You can try to do this with the honeycomb as well, but once that stuff is in place it doesn’t really like to move. Let both trays cool completely – this may not take very long or it might take about an hour, it all kind of depends on the weather and the vibe of the thing etc.

6: Use a wooden spoon or other implement of your choice to bash the cooled honeycomb and toffee – a very gratifying exercise after all that frantic activity earlier – breaking them up into small pieces. You can draw the four corners of the paper together and scrunch the honeycomb around to break it up further, I don’t recommend doing this with the toffee however, as it’ll stick together. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over your honeycomb and toffee crumbs (I find the saltiness works best distributed this way rather than directly in the ice cream mixture but, to be honest, it’s up to you, just put some salt somewhere at some point.) Remove your ice cream mixture from the fridge, tip in the honeycomb and toffee pieces, stir gently, and then place the container in the freezer for about six hours or overnight.

As with most homemade ice creams, this benefits from sitting around on the. bench for five to ten minutes to soften up a little before serving. Makes around 1.25 litres, give or take.

Notes:

  • The brand of sweetened condensed coconut milk you’ll probably be using – since it’s the only one I’ve ever seen on the shelf – is called Nature’s Charm, if it’s not in the regular canned milk section it’ll probably be in that weird dark corner where the supermarkets shunt all the vegan stuff.
  • The coconut cream needs to be full fat and it needs to be coconut cream and ideally there shouldn’t be water listed on the ingredients. For some reason the best, most consistent brand I’ve found for ice cream has been Pam’s.
  • If you use caster sugar the caramel stage will probably happen a lot quicker, in fact, I really should’ve used it, but since I’m already being difficult asking you to find sweetened condensed coconut milk I didn’t also want you to have to go out of your way to buy non-regular sugar.

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music lately:

Våren by Grieg, sung by Jane Powell and Jeanette MacDonald in the 1948 film Three Daring Daughters – Jane Powell always radiated sheer delightfulness and she was a comfort to me both in her films and in her general existence as one of our last remaining threads from the Golden Age of Hollywood; I would often look up her Wikipedia page just to be cheered by knowing she was still here and was terribly sad to learn of her death today. She’s mostly known for Royal Wedding and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers but this song – where she sings with the legendary 1930s soprano MacDonald – is pure magic.

Meet Me At Our Spot by The Anxiety, the collaboration between Willow Smith and Tyler Cole – the studio recording is amazing but this live version is just…magnificent, it’s so simple and relaxed and yet it hit me like an untethered fridge flying off the back of a truck going 100 miles per hour. Willow’s voice and energy and that chorus is simply everything!

America by Simon and Garfunkel – sometimes their mannered and careful enunciation sets my teeth on edge but this song specifically makes me feel positively unhinged levels of emotion – the eerie humming at the start merging with the tail end of the previous song immediately puts me in a trance, and when they get to the “hitch-hike from Saginaw” part I lose it every time (I actually looked Saginaw up on Wikipedia out of curiosity and started crying while reading facts about its municipalities and average precipitation, that’s how powerful this song is) and if I haven’t started crying by then I absolutely will be on the ground howling and beating the earth with my ineffectual fists by the time they make it to the New Jersey Turnpike.

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

Vegan Salted Caramel Ice Cream

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Why waste your breath chasing originality when you could instead obsess over one thing contingent only upon your getting sick of it, which does not seem likely anytime soon? I’m talking of course about salted caramel (but also I could be talking about, say, The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, a book that I loved as a kid and would re-read and re-read and every time I tried to get into literally any other book by CS Lewis it felt joyless and like hard work which, in the fullness of time, perhaps it really was, but anyway!)

Despite being, as a concept, utterly normal and unsurprising, salted caramel still manages to make eyes light up and taste buds limber up and for that – and its sheer deliciousness of course – I respect it. It’s truly the Saturday of foods, it’s switching the channel to find The Castle is on TV for the hundredth time and stopping to watch it for the hundredth time, it’s the culinary equivalent of the Grease megamix or Come On Eileen at the wedding dance floor, the food about which no one will ever say “oh god, not this again,” and even if they do try to front like they’re above it, a mere taste of whatever salted caramel confection is on offer will suddenly and stickily erase all attempts at snootiness.

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This salted caramel ice cream recipe is simple, has few ingredients, and does not require an ice cream machine – my personal vendetta against Big Ice Cream Machine guarantees you’ll never need one while I’m around – but, much like this blog post, there is a lengthy preamble to get through before you actually reach the gratifying part. By which I mean, you have to caramelise a can of condensed coconut milk by boiling it for several hours under a thick layer of water – while we fortunately live in a bountiful age where vegan condensed milk is a thing, we haven’t quite reached the convenience of ready-caramelised stuff yet (on the upside, it gives you something to complain about.) The process itself isn’t difficult or anything, but if you don’t have a crockpot you’ll need to situate yourself in or near the kitchen to make sure nothing burns or explodes, hence why I suggest making a double batch to give you maximum caramel output for your efforts.

@hungryandfrozen

vegan salted caramel ice cream🍦recipe at hungryandfrozen.com🍦SO GOOD🍦 #saltedcaramel #recipevideo #veganicecream #nochurn #icecream #pinkaesthetic

♬ Glory Box – Portishead

Once that step is complete it’s just a little mixing and freezing and you’ve got the creamiest, lushest ice cream rippled with waves of golden, burnished caramel. It tastes amazing, and the texture is glorious – chilling the coconut cream first and whipping it gives an airy denseness that I’ve been missing from my homemade ice creams; possibly the modest slosh of rum that I added helped the texture too, but you can leave the alcohol out and replace it with vanilla extract.

So no, this isn’t the first salted caramel recipe (or even the first vegan salted caramel ice cream recipe), nor will it be the last – and as long as salted caramel continues to taste this incredible, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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Vegan Salted Caramel Ice Cream

Vegan, four ingredients, no-churn – of course! I’ll never ask you to use an ice-cream maker – and I know I say this every time, but this really is my best ice cream recipe yet. It’s creamy and soft and rich and rippled with caramel – truly the stuff of dreams. The caramel step is 1000% worth the wait, and I swear the process is a lot simpler than my wordy method makes it appear. Recipe by myself.

  • 1 x 320g tin sweetened condensed coconut milk
  • 1 x 400ml tin full-fat coconut cream
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • salt, to taste

1: First, caramelise your condensed milk. A crockpot is ideal (and frankly, in my opinion, the best use for them) since all you have to do is cover the tin (with the label removed) in boiling water, cook on high for about four hours, then allow to cool completely, still in the crockpot. Otherwise, you can use the stovetop, bearing in mind that you’ll need to pay a lot more attention to it – place the tin, label removed, into a saucepan, cover completely with water, and boil for three hours, watching constantly to make sure nothing bad happens and that the water level doesn’t drop – my understanding is that if it evaporates enough so that the tin is no longer submerged, you could have a messy and dangerous explosion on your hands, so please consider yourself warned. While the condensed coconut milk is cooking, take this opportunity to place the can of coconut cream into the fridge to chill and firm up. Everything beyond this step is easy, I promise.

2: Once the can of caramelised condensed milk has cooled completely in whichever vessel of water it’s been bathing in, remove the tin and spoon about 3/4 of the now richly dark caramel into a mixing bowl. Take the coconut cream from the fridge and spoon the thickened coconut cream from the top into the mixing bowl. Using electric beaters (or a whisk and some exertion) beat the caramel and coconut cream together until thick and mousse-like, then tip in any remaining coconut water from the can of chilled coconut cream along with the rum if you’re using it and beat again to combine. Finally, beat in a good pinch of salt – bearing in mind that it’s always easier to add rather than subtract – and taste judiciously till you’re satisfied with the levels of salinity. (Also, you could consider stirring some salt into the condensed coconut milk before adding it to the coconut cream – or sprinkling more salt over the ice cream before freezing – or both! Your tastebuds will know what they want.)

3: Spatula this incredibly delicious mixture into a freezer-proof container and drizzle over the remaining 1/4 can of caramelised condensed coconut milk, using a skewer or something similar to ripple it throughout the cream. Cover the container and refrigerate for two hours – which I swear improves both the flavour and texture – and then, finally, freeze for around six hours or until solid. No need to tamper with it in any way during this time, although it’ll be easier to scoop if it sits on the bench for five or so minutes before serving.

Makes around 750ml. Since this is a fairly small quantity – about four servings – and since the caramel takes significant time to do its thing – I highly recommend making double quantities.

Notes:

  • There’s only one brand of condensed coconut milk on the shelves in New Zealand as far as I know, so that’s the one you’ll be getting. If you’re not vegan I guess there’s nothing stopping you from buying ready caramelised condensed non-vegan milk, but you know that already!
  • I said full-fat coconut cream and I meant it, if you choose low-fat or coconut milk then be it on your own head. I almost always get Pam’s, it’s inexpensive and does not appear to be watered down too much like some brands.
  • Instead of rum you can use bourbon, or brandy, or leave it out and add a teaspoon of vanilla instead.

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music lately:

Can I Help Me? (キャン・アイ・ヘルプ・ミー) by Plastics. Their 1980 debut album Welcome Plastics album is so good – I love the Apache-esque guitar lick and insouciant vibe of song in particular.

Rockin’ Back Inside My Heart by Julee Cruise. I’m re-watching Twin Peaks with my brother (who’s watching it for the first time) and, well, there’s never a wrong time to be reminded of this song, which is simply one of the best songs in the world!

Lot’s Wife from the Broadway musical Caroline, or Change performed by the supremely talented Sharon D. Clarke at the 2019 Olivier Awards; there’s this part in the middle where she just holds this huge note for what feels like hours, an absolute standing ovation of a performance.

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

Homemade Mandarin Liqueur [vegan]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Homemade Mandarin Liqueur

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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music lately:

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

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

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

Supervixens, by A.R Kane, the thing about this song is that I just never stop listening to it!

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

Vegan Gochujang Bokkeum

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I’ve been vegan for about three years now, and comfortably so, but I’m only human and despite my claims, it is not just white chocolate that makes me occasionally question my every last firmly-held conviction. It’s Folu’s Unsnackable newsletter, it’s the memory of a filet o’fish – not that I think it would be hard to make a vegan dupe but a recipe for those pillow-tender steamed buns as yet eludes me – and it’s all the Korean food creators that I follow on TikTok. This recipe for gochujang bokkeum – a fried gochujang sauce with onions and beef – by Johnny Kyung-Hwo Sheldrick algorithmed its way onto my phone, and it looked so delicious, and I was sure I could make it vegan easily enough without squandering the vibe of the original recipe. (More so than the person who commented “is it vegan” to which Johnny gamely and politely replied, “without the beef it is”, such is the state of critical thinking these days.)

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Far be it from me to suggest that the food of a cuisine that isn’t mine needs me to meddle in it but as it stands, I don’t eat beef but I wanted to eat this. I’m delighted with my variation and I’m delighted that I found the original recipes that inspired it; I wouldn’t have come up with this without them. Rather than use a fake meat as a replacement I decided a rubbly mixture of blended up peanuts and sun-dried tomatoes would be ideal, and they were – the peanuts give texture, protein and nutty mildness; the sun-dried tomatoes add concentrated, near-meaty dark red savoury flavour and stickiness.

So far this gochujang bokkeum has been delicious on cold noodles, on hot noodles, and mixed into stir-fried vegetables with fake chicken; I know in my near future there’ll be a big spoonful of this on a bowl of rice with fried mushrooms, and I feel like it would work beautifully with a creamy texture as well – like these coconut chilli tofu noodles.

@hungryandfrozen

vegan gochujang bokkeum 🌶 SO DELICIOUS thanks @johnnykyunghwo for the inspiration🌶 #vegankorean #recipe #gochujang #veganrecipes #foodblogger #fyp

♬ Rumble – Link Wray & His Ray Men

All the peanuts and tomatoes spread that chilli heat out a little, but eating this is still a vigorous experience, and the gochujang, a Korean fermented chilli paste, is definitely pretty fiery. But it’s not only hot. It’s got these shadowy layers of flavour and depth and, as Nigella Lawson said in her book Kitchen, an “almost liquorice intensity”, a description that dances in my mind whenever I eat it. Besides, heat tolerance is a moving target and the only way to get used to it is to eat more. I don’t consider myself even close to being able to handle a lot of chilli heat and yet I keep sneaking spoonfuls of this; after a while your tastebuds do adjust – eventually you’ll be spooning it onto your breakfast cereal.

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Vegan Gochujang Bokkeum

This Korean fried chilli sauce is seriously delicious and versatile. I’ve replaced the usual meat with peanuts and sun-dried tomatoes, but the star ingredient is, of course, gochujang, a Korean fermented chilli paste. My vegan version is both inspired by and based on this recipe at Racheerachh Eats and this TikTok by Johnny Kyung-Hwo Sheldrick.

  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 and 1/2 cups raw peanuts
  • 10 sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used rice bran)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mushroom soy sauce (or regular soy sauce)
  • 1/2 cup gochujang
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1: Finely dice the onion and roughly chop the garlic. Place the peanuts and tomatoes in a food processor and blend them into a chunky paste; the peanuts should be in small pieces but not in any danger of turning into peanut butter.

2: Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy frying pan and gently fry the onions and garlic till they’re softened. Spatula in your peanut and tomato mixture and fry for another five minutes, stirring often – don’t expect it to brown or change appearance considerably – then stir in the sugar and soy sauce and keep stirring till the sugar has melted into everything.

3: Add the gochujang to the pan and continue to fry and stir for another couple of minutes, it will be a fantastic dark red shade and quite thick. Remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil and sesame seeds, and transfer to an airtight container or clean jar. Store in the fridge.

Makes around 2 cups.

  • Gochujang is more readily available in chain supermarkets these days but since most of my favourite ingredients come from Asian supermarkets anyway I tend to just get it there; either way, I’m afraid to say I go for the one labelled “mild”.

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music lately:

Mijn Droom [I Dreamed a Dream] by Pia Douwes from the 1991 original Dutch production of Les Miserables. I love finding the people in non-English speaking countries who are the go-to for theatre roles (like German powerhouse Willemijn Verkaik) and though I’ve heard of Pia Douwes I’ve never investigated her singing before, it was after watching a TikTok by BroadwayBob that I simply had to. She has this gutsy yet vulnerable voice that is made for the stage; I also highly recommend her Sally Bowles in the Dutch language Cabaret, it is, as you can imagine, quite powerful.

Legend of a Cowgirl by Imani Coppola, it’s the most 1997 sound imaginable and yet still so fresh and arresting and irrepressible and she should’ve been a megastar off the back of it.

It Hurts Me Too by Karen Dalton, one of those songs and voices that just makes you tearful the second you hear it. Good crying, not crying-crying, but after a while who can even tell!

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

Rhubarb, Raspberry, and Cardamom Jam [vegan]

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

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

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

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

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Rhubarb, Raspberry, and Cardamom Jam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep the jam in the fridge once opened.

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music lately:

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

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

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

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

Lentil, Radish, Avocado and Fried Potato Salad

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The one area in my life where I have a confident surplus of initiative is cooking – when nothing makes sense and the increasingly burdensome administrative tasks involved in being an adult are gleefully multiplying like the broomsticks in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, I can still invent a recipe or be delighted by a hypothetical combination of flavours. July has been a taxing month and these reliable instincts fell somewhat dormant, but I was jolted back to life by seeing this Lentil Salad TikTok by food writer Bettina Makalintal – suddenly I felt excited again because making this recipe was in my near future. And besides, I gain as much joy from outside inspiration as I do from coming up with my own ideas (okay, maybe it’s more of a self-satisfied forty/sixty split), and it takes initiative to recognise someone else’s initiative, right? (As you can see, I may lack initiative, but at least I’m constantly worrying about it!)

Lentils and tofu are usually first under the bus when non-vegans discuss vegan food but as I always say, this is an issue with cooking ability, not the meal itself. Unseasoned, poorly cooked food is gross whether the protein source grew in the ground or walked the earth. You have to give the lentils some flavour and texture to cling onto otherwise they’re left stranded and bland. This superb salad – it does right by the lentil.

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My recipe takes key elements of Bettina’s salad – the lentils, obviously, the peppery pink crunch of the radishes and plenty of lemon – along with my own added extras. There’s resiny thyme leaves, a diced avocado since I had one kicking about and it’s impossible to be sad when there’s an avocado involved, a generous quantity of mushroom soy sauce because it’s my current obsession, toasted pine nuts with garlic because to me pine nuts are just so classy – which I realise makes me sound more Kath Day-Knight than Old Money but I know where I’d rather be – and golden cubes of crisply-fried potato. The latter concept was inspired both by Nigella Lawson’s fried potato croutons in her Caesar Salad and a recipe by Rachel Ama for lentils with crispy new potatoes. It truly takes a village to make a salad!

This lentil salad is so delicious – leaving no adjective behind, it’s a perfect balance of oily, salty, sweet, earthy, peppery, crunchy, creamy, and tender. And it’s pretty, too, something the lentil doesn’t always get to boast – not since Elphaba and Galinda has pink looked so good with green. As is the nature of this kind of recipe you can add or subtract ingredients to your heart’s content, and despite being wedded to the classy pine nut, next time I’d definitely make this with the fried walnuts in Bettina’s recipe for a more pronounced crunch. There’s also lime juice or cherry tomatoes and basil to consider, or fried leeks, or olives, or rosemary, or pecans – the amicable lentil can handle it all. I’m slowly working on a newsletter where I plan to review various fake meats (the slow part is because CMS makes my head cave in on itself) but I enjoyed being reminded of the stalwart legume and its merits. It’s rather shamefully been years since I blogged a lentil recipe, and this salad will keep them on my mind from now on.

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Lentil, Radish, Avocado and Fried Potato Salad

A simple but lush vegan lentil salad, ideal for lunch or dinner in its entirety but also very bring-a-plate friendly. It looks like there’s a lot of steps, but you’re really just mixing a bunch of stuff together, and ingredients are pretty loose, quantity-wise – feel free to add or subtract depending on your taste and needs. Recipe by myself, inspired by this salad by Bettina Makalintal.

  • 1 and 1/2 cups dried brown lentils
  • 8 small radishes, trimmed
  • 1 spring onion
  • 2 lemons
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for frying
  • 2 tablespoons mushroom soy sauce (or Maggi, or light soy sauce)
  • a generous pinch of white pepper, or to taste
  • 1 large floury potato
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 ripe but firm avocado
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

1: Rinse the lentils in cold water, then place in a bowl and cover with cold water and leave them to sit for an hour. You don’t actually need to soak them but it reduces the cooking time and I think there are some health benefits to it in terms of mineral absorption but don’t take my word for it.

2: Drain any water from the soaked lentils and tip them into a large saucepan with enough fresh water to generously cover (about the length of your index finger when prodded into the pan.) Bring the water to the boil then lower the heat and simmer the beans until they’re tender – this shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes. Keeping the heat low prevents the lentils from breaking apart and turning mushy, I was only semi-successful in achieving this but it still tasted fine. Strain the lentils, rinsing briefly in cold water to take some of the heat off, and set aside in a mixing bowl.

3: Cut the radishes into quarters and finely slice the spring onion. Make the dressing by zesting and juicing the lemon and mixing this in a small bowl with the mushroom soy sauce, olive oil and black pepper.

4: Scrub the potato clean if need be and dice it into small cubes. Heat another tablespoon or two of olive oil in a heavy frying pan and fry the potato cubes until golden and crisp – make sure they’re in one layer and give them about five minutes on the first side without moving them before turning over and cooking for another five minutes.

5: Turn off the heat, remove the potatoes from the pan with a slotted spoon and add them to the lentils. Peel and roughly chop the garlic cloves and add them to the pan with the pine nuts, and stir them in the residual heat until the nuts are lightly golden and toasted. Even though this isn’t happening on direct heat be sure to keep a close eye on it as both pine nuts and garlic burn easily.

6: Finally, tip the radishes and spring onions into the bowl of lentils and potatoes, then scrape in all the pine nuts, garlic, and remaining olive oil from the pan. Dice your avocado and add that to the bowl along with the dressing and the thyme leaves. Gently stir everything together and taste to see if needs more salt, pepper, or lemon.

Best served either immediately or after 24 hours in the fridge, by which point the potatoes will have lost their crispness but the overall flavour will have developed fantastically. If you’re making this ahead of time, either accept your uncrisp potatoes or fry them up at the last minute and stir them in. Finally – this is best at room temperature as opposed to fridge-cold.

Serves 4 generously as a light lunch, or 6-8 as a side dish as part of a larger meal.

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music lately:

Son of Birds by Dip In The Pool. The whole Aurorae album from 1991 is a sublime dreamscape from start to finish and that’s how I’d recommend listening to it, but this track, with its watery beat and film noir horns, is a charming entry point.

Don’t Leave Me by Blackstreet. A classic! The silky harmonies! Was there ever anything as poignant as that DeBarge sample! This song makes me feel like I’m wearing a cable knit sweater and slacks and a floor-length coat and pumps with a square toe and a square heel and I’m on the brink of divorce but in an aspirational, cinematic way!

The One by Limp Bizkit. Oh, I could pretend that watching the Woodstock 99 documentary with my brother is what made me nostalgic but the briefest scan of my timeline shows I’ve been enthusiastically listening to Limp Bizkit of my own volition for a long time. And even though this song is genuinely quite glorious with a similar downwards-diagonal intensity that you’d find in Shout by Tears for Fears or In Like The Rose by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and I honestly love it so much and will play it five times in a row, we all know I’m going to play Limp Bizkit’s critically-reviled cover of Faith five times in a row after that – say what you like but I came of age with this band and none of us can deny the way Fred Durst’s voice soars in the bridge.

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