you gorgeous stack of pancakes you, you’re going nowhere till I’m through

I’m sure I’ve said it before but do you ever like, stop and think to yourself, “it’s as if life is a series of unrelated events that are by and large out of our control?” No sooner had I landed myself a plummy new job and started to enjoy the unsought but distinct pleasure of bartending as a non-General Manager with absolutely zero wider responsibility, no sooner did all that come to fruition than I bloody went and fainted while trying to procure a ticket to a film (Call Me By Your Name, and no, I still haven’t seen it), falling straight over backwards in some kind of misguided trust fall, landing on my head and achieving what I’m quite certain is a concussion that’s really keen to overstay its welcome. As a result I’m aggressively lethargic with bursts of low-key nausea and just a general inability to do much of anything, and it’s SO annoying. Like, I didn’t put in all that effort to come out the other side of depressionfest 2016/17 just to land in the middle of this faux-depression bedridden state. Like, why don’t I just contract mono while I’m at it, who would even know the difference! Might as well develop anemia! What’s the point in anything! I would drop kick something at the wall in contempt to prove my point right now but I don’t have the energy (does anything prove a point as much as drop kicking something contemptuously though? I think not.)

I mean I’m like, totally fine, I just require a lot more resting than usual and it is a hope devoutly to be wished that I bounce back to my usual self soon. Pretty much all I’ve been doing is resting and drinking a metric butt ton of water, neither of which can be doing me any harm, all things considered. But just as Whitney Houston was saving all her love for you, I save all my energy for work, and then have been up to absolutely SQUAT of consequence in between, hence why it’s taken me a while to get my act together to write another blog post already.

Luckily I made these coconut pancakes a while back and then forgot to write about them, so the photos have been sitting patiently and serenely waiting for me to remember they exist, allowing me to produce a blog post all of a sudden with very little prior effort.

This recipe comes from my own cookbook, which was published roughly three lifetimes ago by Penguin (when I say three lifetimes ago, like, my old flatmate looked at it and asked if my sister wrote it because she didn’t think the person in the photos was me.) The excellent thing about these pancakes is that you can make them when you’ve got barely any ingredients in the house, and even if you must dash down to the corner shop to pick something up there’s nothing of great expense involved. In turn, they are also vegan, if that’s of interest to you: I chose to smother them in butter because I really like the stuff, but obviously if you’re already not into dairy then you can put what you like on them.

It takes barely a minute to whisk together the ingredients and even less time for them to fry merrily in a pan, yielding you a fat stack of thick, fluffy pancakes, the sort that might appear on the breakfast table in a Disney cartoon or a TV show where they’re inexplicably constantly eating lavish brunches that they continuously and wastefully abandon (okay I’m talking about Gossip Girl and I’m still mad about it, why are they always sitting at these groaningly laden tables if they’re just going to eat like, one strawberry and then stride off in a huff about the cotillion ball?)

coconut pancakes

a recipe from my literal cookbook

  • one can coconut milk (the standard size kind, I think they’re like…330ml? 400?)
  • 250g plain flour (roughly one and a half cups)
  • half a teaspoon baking powder
  • 50g sugar
  • quarter of a teaspoon baking soda
  • two teaspoons vanilla extract

Sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda together and stir in the sugar. Tip in the can of coconut milk and the vanilla and whisk to form a smooth, pale batter.

Heat up a large nonstick pan and cook heaped spoonfuls of the batter on it, flipping them over carefully when small holes form on the surface. Stack em up and eat them at your leisure.

I chose to make these more diminuitive, pikelet style, but big, small, Mickey Mouse ears, whatever you like works. They’re not actually particularly coconutty in flavour – it’s more a mellow sweetness, helped by the generous addition of vanilla. I don’t know how they’re so softly light and fluffy when there’s no eggs, I believe some magical alchemy occurs when baking soda interacts with pretty much anything, but they taste so good that I’m happy to not really question it too much and instead congratulate myself on my eyes-closed-head-first-can’t-lose instincts that helped me formulate this recipe in the first place. It’s also worth knowing, perhaps, that they reheat well in the microwave should you not be able to snarf them all in one sitting.

For all the dramatics (and I maintain that I’m never actually dramatic, I’m just responding at the precise level that a situation requires and that just often happens to require HIGH DRAMA) I have actually achieved 1 (one) thing recently: I started a Frasier food blog. I know, I struggle enough to keep this one updated! But! I also do what I want and I wanted to do this! It’s called La Cigar Volant and basically what I do is make a recipe inspired by every episode of Season 1 of the show, it’s very very low key because I didn’t want to make it into too much hard work but I’m also really quite pleased with it. It’s something that’s been in my head for a while now and I just watch SO much Frasier and hearing the immensely sad news that John Mahoney, who played Martin Crane on the show, had died, kinda spurred me on.  So if you’re even one finely-shaven sliver as obsessed with Frasier as I am, kindly give it a hoon.

And if you’re particularly on a pancake buzz right now, may I also draw attention to other blog posts of mine, such as Halloumi Pancakes with Fried Sage, Butter and Walnuts;  Lemonade Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce; or Cornbread Pancakes.

title from: PJ Harvey’s snarly and deliciously named song Primed and Ticking, a relative rarity from a John Peel session.  

music lately: 

Kate Nash’s new song Drink About You, like…shut up Kate Nash! I don’t need this right now!!!! (It’s perfect.)

Stabbing Westward, Save Yourself. I made a Spotify playlist called “songs to pierce ur eyebrow to” and you know this was the first thing I put on there. (There’s also like, Filter, Linkin Park, Hed PE, that song about the bodies and letting them hit the floor, you know the vibe I mean!!)

Scritti Politti, The Sweetest Girl. I love this odd, otherworldly, strange song so much.

next time: Mate! I went to the vege market today for the first time in forever and bought some perfect peaches, I’m thinking maybe peach crumble or some kind of rustic (read: messy as hell) tart. 

i’m fond of twin peaks, afternoons, inexpensive wine…

Okay, so I used to make ice cream ALL the time. In fact it was my default flavour vehicle, like, if I got the notion that X might taste good with Y, I’d put them in an ice cream together. These days, my bartendering self is far more likely to envisage how flavours would work in a cocktail, and my busy life of making cocktails (and, I concede, pestering other bartenders to make them for me) plus the fact that from October to January I was essentially going through a training montage except where I get more and more useless due to my mental health while Eye of the Tiger plays: it all adds up to not a lot of ice cream making from me. Which is a pity because damn it if ice cream isn’t one of my very favourite foods, not just to eat but to create recipes for.

“Mr Cooper, how do you take it?” “Black as midnight on a moonless night”

It was in a mood of buoyant, motivated optimism that I set out to make ice cream once more. The recipe in question was one I’d invented many years ago, back when I was writing a cookbook for Penguin (if you’re new here: I am a published cookbook author, yes) and felt like revisiting. The flavour is, specifically, coffee and cherry, but the name of it is Twin Peaks Ice Cream because I came up with it in tribute to the TV show. If you haven’t seen Twin Peaks, look it up on Wikipedia or I’ll accidentally spend seventeen paragraphs talking about it instead of ice cream, but its uneasy, dreamy weirdness was exceedingly and immediately compelling to me and I got into it in a big way. I still have a framed picture of central character Laura Palmer’s prom photo on my dressing table, just to keep me lightly spooked at all times. The flavours in question, however, reference the character Special Agent Dale Cooper’s unwavering dedication to coffee and his nakedly sincere admiration of the cherry pie he is served at the town’s diner.

Coffee and cherries might not immediately sound like they want to get into an ice cream together, but I confidently assert that they work beautifully. The coffee flavour comes by heating whole roasted coffee beans up in the cream before straining them out and turning it into a custard, and the cherries (Morello, from a jar) are added right at the end. The coffee’s bitterness is muffled by the blanketing effect of the cream, providing a rich backdrop for the tart sorbet-bursts of frozen Morello cherries, and the slight nuttiness of both – from the generally roasty flavour of the coffee and the marzipan territory that cherries naturally veer into – is extremely delightful in ya mouth. Not to mention pop culture references make everything more delicious, it’s just a fact.

“my log saw something that night”

If there is one soapbox I’m always at the ready to climb upon, it’s that you truly don’t need an ice cream machine to make ice cream. All I did was make this, bung it in a container, and put it in the freezer, and it was perfect. Like, that’s it. I used to think you had to stir the ice cream at intervals as it froze but these days I’m quite convinced that if you just freeze it and then eat it that’s all you need to do. Seriously. Anyway, now that I’m off my monumentally specific soapbox I will freely admit that this particular recipe does require some effort and confidence in your cooking skills. Making custard from scratch, with egg yolks, cream, and sugar, can be a little stressful simply because you’re trying to stir it over heat that’s high enough to slowly cook the eggs and thicken the mixture, but not so high that the egg can’t resist its natural urge to rapidly scramble. It is, however, a truly satisfying challenge and makes for a satiny, lush ice cream once frozen. If it’s all too much for you though I have a ton of ludicrously simple ice cream recipes for you and I’ll list some at the end of this post.

twin peaks ice cream

a recipe by myself

  • four egg yolks
  • 150g sugar
  • 600ml cream
  • a vague handful of coffee beans
  • a jar of pitted Morello cherries

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a mixing bowl. Depending on your yolks this might form a kind of disturbingly thick paste, this is nothing to be concerned about though – you just need them mixed together. Gently heat the 300ml of the cream with the coffee beans together in a large saucepan until the cream is juuust wobblingly about to start bubbling, then remove it from the heat. Either strain the beans out or scoop them out with a small sieve, whichever is less stressful (for me: the latter.)  Briskly whisk a half-cupful or so of the coffee-infused hot cream into the egg yolks and sugar – you want to do it fast so that the yolks don’t seize up and cook in the heat. Whisk in another half cupful, and then finally just tip the lot in and stir to combine.  

Now! Throw all of this back into the pan, and stir over a low heat till it thickens. It will already be fairly thick, because there’s not a lot of cream, but persevere patiently and continue to stir, ideally with a silicone spatula, until it thickens somewhat. This should take about five minutes. It won’t really look noticeably different to when it started but don’t you dare overheat it and let it curdle: this is the bit of custard-based ice cream that’s a bit terrifying, and I freely admit it. Generally you’re looking for something that’s got the vibe of a good quality thickshake, and remove it from the heat immediately as soon as you suspect it’s at this point.

Immediately spatula this custard into a bowl or container and refrigerate it till chilled. From here it’s all easy stuff: whisk the remaining cream until thickened but not whipped, fold it into the chilled custard, and then stir in as many drained morello cherries as you like until it feels like it’s suitably cherried. Like seriously, it’s up to you, it just depends on how many cherries you want in your damn ice cream.

Freeze it. Don’t even worry about stirring it, unless you suspect all the cherries have fallen to the bottom and you want to redistribute them a bit. Eat it when it’s frozen.  

“every day, once a day, give yourself a present”

I believe it is particularly delicious if you eat it while swaying around dreamily like Audrey Horne, but maybe that’s just me.

Unfortunately, the story does not end there with me simply making ice cream and then happily eating it. After photographing this small coffee cup full of ice cream that you see here (and, thank you to my brother and his partner for sending them to me for Christmas!) I ate it, returned the rest of the ice cream to the freezer and carried on with my day, merry with the knowledge that when I returned home there would be gloriously smooth, creamy, cherry-studded ice cream waiting for me. Alas, like Twin Peaks, there was a tragic twist: the freezer immediately decided to break down and stop doing the one thing it is tasked with doing in its simple life. The ice cream turned to room temperature soup and had to be unceremoniously discarded. Leaving me with only the memory of that one damn fine coffee cup of ice cream.

Anyway I got over it pretty quickly, with the rueful acceptance that comes from years and years of regularly accidentally ruining things, but like, what a bummer, huh. At least I got to eat a little of it: just enough to enthusiastically recommend you try making it too.

“Laura had a lot of secrets”

It was disheartening that after all that momentum the ice cream was lost, but I’m not going to let it get me down and will indeed be making more ice cream sooner rather than later. In fact the only thing really holding me back is the fact that the freezer still isn’t working. On Monday night I was fortunate enough to attend a Chartreuse/Fernet-Branca tasting and (having recovered, more or less) my brain has gone full circle to the point where I’m pondering a kind of riff on mint choc chip ice cream using Fernet as an ingredient. Watch this space. Speaking of fortunate I was also given a Fernet Coin by the brand’s representative, a rare and elusive trinket that bartenders really care about and which is met with resounding shrugs from everyone else, and now I feel deliciously legit.

Speaking of deliciously legit and apropos of nothing I’d just like to add that I went to the Pride event Out in the Park on Saturday and looking around seeing happy young teens with rainbows painted on their faces and really old women walking around holding hands and every kind of person inbetween made my heart expand to the point where I was just a human-shaped heart. Plus there were so many dogs: our most important allies.

Anyway if you aren’t entirely put off the idea of making ice cream by my tale of woe, some other ice cream recipes I’ve come up with which are wayyyy easier than this one to make include Gin and Tonic Ice Cream, White Chocolate and Burnt Butter Ice Cream, and, just in time for the season: Feijoa Ice Cream.

title from: Make Out Kids, by Motion City Soundtrack. Whiny and full of feelings, like me.

music lately:

I went to Pixies a couple of weeks ago and while they’re like, not the same line-up that they used to be, it was euphoric. With extreme predictability we collectively lost it when they played Where Is My Mind but for me an unhinged and shouty rendition of Debaser was the highlight. 

Althea and Donna, Uptown Top Ranking. There is NEVER a bad time for this song.

Also, Lana Del Rey released a new song called Love and so nothing else matters or exists.

next time: nothing that involves refrigeration, I guess.

oh baby you’re young but that’s okay, what’s give or take nine years anyway

Apparently I’ve been in such a daze from life being, y’know, life, that I completely missed my blog’s ninth birthday. I realised it while sitting on the floor drinking wine, (thanks, floor-wine) and figured I ought to at least try to play catch up and make something nice for myself in honour of the occasion, even if now it’s several days after the fact. That something nice is Halloumi and Pancetta Mac and Cheese from my cookbook. Seems appropriately garish and celebratory and self-referential, no?

I’m honestly really proud of myself for maintaining this blog for basically a third of my entire time on this earth. My attention span is so short that I often can’t make it to the end of a 90 minute movie so to get to this point in my life and still have this blog with me is very heartening. And I haven’t just maintained the blog, I’ve believed in it and loved it fiercely. Do you believe in something right now? Something that you’re working on and constantly creating and pouring yourself into? Well I can’t express how hard I believe in this blog. I know it sounds like hyperbole when I describe it as “probably the best food blog in the world”, but trust me: I literally never use hyperbole. I LOVE Believing in something you’ve made is not a feeling that comes along every day. Let alone every day for nine whole years!

 don't you just want to dive in don’t you just want to dive in

I suspect – there’s always something with me, isn’t there – that the reason I’ve been so distracted is that I’m going through this charming patch of feeling panicky all the time, real awesome stuff like immediately overheating and feeling like I’m going to throw up and my heart’s pounding really hard and I forget my own name. Is it better to feel creeping dread over absolutely nothing, or to actually see something specific that causes you to panic? Let me tell you, my brain is super woke and does not discriminate. Why not both? it says, with arms wide open. Luckily I’m immensely good at telling myself sternly that the show must go on and also have some helpful resources at my shaky fingertips. I just thought I’d tell you this because why not, it happens, it’s no big deal. It’s soooo chill how not-chill I am. Unfortunately though it does seem somewhat tied up in my feelings about this mac and cheese that I made. Fortunately, this mac and cheese tastes amazing no matter what’s going on in my life. Or indeed, yours.

 this mac and cheese also has no chill this mac and cheese also has no chill

When I wrote this recipe for my cookbook – several years ago now, gosh – I wanted to make something wilfully ridiculous. So there’s not merely an entire block of halloumi fried up and stirred through it. There’s not just pancetta, that fancy-pants cousin of bacon. There’s also 500ml of cream in the white sauce, instead of the usual milk. Well, go big or go home, you know? I can’t deny that this is all very rich and intense for the sake of it, but it’s not overpowering – just soft and comforting and punctuated with mouth-fillingly buttery bursts of halloumi and salty pancetta bits. It’s honestly very non-threatening – splendidly enormous enough for a casual dinner party but still recognisably the classic comfort food that you can eat while horizontal on the couch watching, oh, the golden era of The Simpsons or something.

It’s also really easy to make. You can just serve it straight from the pan once you’ve stirred it all together, but it looks wonderful transferred into a big serving dish and browned a little in the oven, even if it does mean more dishes.

pancetta and halloumi mac and cheese

A recipe by ME from my COOKBOOK which you can’t BUY ANYMORE but it’s still NICE that it happened

  • 300g dried macaroni
  • 150g pancetta (or streaky bacon if it’s too expensive or you can’t find it)
  • 200g halloumi
  • 20g butter
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 500ml cream
  • Fresh nutmeg

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, and cook the macaroni in it according to packet instructions.

Dice the pancetta and fry in a large pan till crisp and dark pink. Lift it out of the pan with a slotted spoon, and arrange evenly in the base of a 20 x 30 (or thereabouts) oven dish. Slice the halloumi block in half lengthwise, then into slices crosswise. Fry these in the same pan, then evenly arrange the slices on top of the pancetta.

Still in the same pan, melt the butter and stir in the mustard powder and flour. Continue to stir till thick, then slowly stir in the cream. A whisk is particularly good here. Simmer till thickened. This won’t take long. 

Drain the macaroni, tip it into the roasting dish along with the cream sauce and mix carefully. Retain a little of the macaroni cooking water to stir into the sauce if it’s tooooo thick. Grate over a little fresh nutmeg, and bake for 20 minutes till golden on top. 

As I said, you could also just tip the drained macaroni, fried halloumi, and fried pancetta directly into the pan of white sauce and serve it from that. Whatever works! 

Serves 1. Or like, slightly more people. 

You can trust me about this mac and cheese. It’s truly, truly good.

It’s weird, having got some of the things I wanted so badly – a cookbook, specifically – and having them not turn out the way they did in my dreams, has made me a little unsure of where this blog is going next. If all I do is keep on writing about recipes and my sweatiness levels I guess that’s okay. I love the idea of having some kind of funny web series that gets turned into a cool TV show eventually; or to perhaps write a more low key, storybook cookbook that I have a lot more creative control over. On the other hand I truly believe there are far too many cookbooks in the world right now and the last thing anyone needs is another one from me.

In the last nine years I’ve been a million different people; done a zig-zag career path from finishing my BA at university to working in marketing and public health; to travelling; to government administration; to diving into hospo and suddenly running a bar. My hair has changed colour a zillion times, I’ve moved house too many times, I’ve skated wildly about on the Kinsey scale; I’ve hidden immensely hard stuff and probably talked way too much about other immensely hard stuff. I got a damn cookbook deal offered to me. I still continue to love writing with all my heart and I love inventing recipes and being excited and inspired by other peoples’. I love feeding the people I love. I really love the sound of my own voice, apparently. So without any real sense of direction from here, I’m going to settle for just being proud of myself for making it this far with by my side, just us two, still together after all these years.

If you’re not already sick of my boundless ability to talk about myself like I’m a topic that affects us all; may I suggest on this anniversary that you check out some classic cuts from HungryandFrozen: a few of my favourite posts. (I basically started scrolling backwards through my blog and picking some here and there and only made it as far as 2013 so this whole exercise is flawed. The simplest solution: set aside an entire day to read my whole blog from the top. I remain unconvinced that you have anything going on that would be more fun and worthwhile than this.) Nevertheless as a starting point: My blog post about honeycomb sauce that I wrote in the style of a Babysitters Club book; the recipes I made for Nautilus Estate Wines; my post-election Mars Bar slice; my portmanteau triumph, Sore Throatmeal; and tbh the last blog post I did about mint, pea and avocado salad was pretty good.

Here’s to a billion more years of *clink!*

title from: Liz Phair’s delicious I’m-an-older-woman track Rock Me. I love the line “you don’t even know who Liz Phair is.” Such scathing. 

music lately: 

my little brother sent me this track by a band called HEX suggesting I might like it. Considering they’re called HEX and this song is called The Moon, I was like yes, I love it sight unseen. (It’s a really good song though.) 

New music from the swoony Laura Lee is always a treat. She has a bubbly clubby new track out called I Feel and I love it!

Lana Del Rey, Born To Die. If you feel like you haven’t done enough lying down on the floor and wailing lately, let this song inspire you. Ugh I love her, in all her manipulatively emotional glory. 

next time: I mean at least I have a whole year now to remember my blog’s birthday. 

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

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

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

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

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

scone pizza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

title from: Blink 182, Reckless Abandonment

music lately:

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

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

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


it’s a little secret, just the robinson’s affair

got a secret, can you keep it, swear this one you’ll save

In a completely unsurprising turn of events, I fell asleep while writing this blog post and now have a very small window of opportunity – more like a mouse-hole of opportunity, or perhaps a fissure of opportunity – to get it done before I have to take off for work. In fact I have no real proof that I’m not still asleep right now, so please keep this in mind as you read on. What I’m saying is, I coolly absolve myself of any need to make any sense as I try to finish this thing without falling asleep again.

Speaking of cool absolution, I am so chill with being inspired by my own self, which is honestly kind of practical – I mean, I should theoretically like and use the recipes I’ve created. Last Sunday I was invited to my girlfriend’s flatmate’s fundraiser potluck for local charity Kaibosh, and with cheerful self-absorption I turned to my own cookbook to browse it for suitable recipes. The recipe for Secret Centre Mini Pavlovas caught my (probably half-asleep) eye, as it is both elegant and awesome yet easy and inexpensive to make.

gonna lock it in your pocket (I’m quoting the Pretty Little Liars theme song here btw)
I was absolutely correct about these chocolate stuffed meringues being easy to make, and for the filling I used Whittaker’s caramel chocolate, partly to be obnoxiously excessive and partly because I thought it would taste wonderful. 
However! Diligently I walked from my house to the potluck venue at In Good Company, and about halfway through the journey I came to a long set of concrete stairs. A set of concrete stairs that I once fell down. Aha, I thought, my old foe, we meet again. Luckily I’m going up, not down this time, hey? HEY? And then I fell up the stairs. 
While I was totally fine, with little more than a delicately bruised knee on top of doubtless another bruise that had only just barely healed – the container of meringues that I was carrying dropped and they got all banged up inside. They were still edible but the edges were all ragged and shattery and some of the tops were a bit crushed and essentially they weren’t particularly photogenic. So, I decided to forgo my own photos altogether and just use the ones that go with this recipe in my cookbook. I can’t remember whether it was Kim or Jason who took these, so a huge thank you to them both just to be safe. 

secret centre mini-pavlovas

a recipe by myself from my cookbook HungryandFrozen: The Cookbook. I just wrote out the instructions from memory rather than copy-pasting what was in the book, even though it’s all my own words (I don’t know why I did this) but either way the recipe is a lot simpler than the length of this recipe would make it seem – I just kind of overexplain stuff a bit. 

two egg whites
a pinch of salt
100g sugar
filling of your choice – in this case I used caramel-filled chocolate but dark chocolate is a good starting point

Set your oven to 150 C and line a baking tray with baking paper. 

Whisk the egg whites (or use an electric beater if you’re more sensible than me) with the pinch of salt till they’re white and a little fluffy and when you raise the whisk the fluffy egg white raises up with it and falls down slowly (this is known as “soft peak stage” but in case you needed an expanded explanation, there it is.) At this point slowly whisk in the sugar, initially about a teaspoon at a time, until the mixture becomes thicker and shiny and gorgeous. It should get to the point where it’s really very stiff, and if you raise the whisk up out of the bowl the mixture will be thick and dollopy instead of falling in ribbons off the whisk. God I hope these descriptions make sense! 

Place heaped spoonfuls of the thick, gleaming meringue onto the baking tray, leaving a little space in between to allow for expanding. Top each spoonful with a piece of chocolate, and then spoon over a little more meringue mixture, so that the chocolate is entirely encased in white. 

Bake for thirty minutes, although check them at around 20 – 25 minutes in, just in case your oven is more grunty than mine. They should be a delicate pale brown colour on top and appear firm. Allow them to cool in the oven with the door slightly ajar, and then carefully remove them from the paper, peeling it away from their fragile bases, and then all you have to worry about is eating them.

never not dazzled by fairy lights

While my falling asleep constantly or falling up stairs or generally being involved in some kind of falling is barely news, these secret centre mini pavlovas are, at least, notably spectacular. Crisp, dissolving meringue gives way to a burst of chocolate that you wouldn’t otherwise know what there unless someone forewarned you. While it’s sweetness upon sweetness, something in the mix of textures keeps it fresh – whether the chocolate is still warm and gushes into your mouth or cooled and firmed and crunchy under the brittle meringue. The potluck dinner was so fun and fortunately no-one minded the mini-pavlovas being a little smashed up, and there was a ton of delicious food and lovely people and a very decent amount of money was raised for Kaibosh, an outcome sweeter than a meringue secretly stuffed with chocolate.

Am about to fall asleep again but before I spatula my tired self out of bed to get ready to go, I wish to impart two more pieces of crucial information to you:

Kate and Jason (the stylist and aforementioned co-photographer for my cookbook, but also like, wonderful people in their own right aside from their relation to my cookbook) GOT A BEAUTIFUL DOG and I got to hang out with him today. He’s blindingly white and fluffy like a freshly laundered towel and so friendly and silly and I’m quite in love.

 this is Ghost, also a good name for me because I am dead after looking at his face

Secondly, I had another Crush Cake story published in The Toast! The Toast is probably the very best website on the internet, if I was pushed to choose one, and little makes me prouder than being able to contribute to their spectacularly high quality accumulation of writing.

This is a crush cake dedicated to Drake. If you’re not intrigued and inspired to immediately find out exactly what this is all about, then…I mean I can’t blame you, but that’s kind of a bummer. 

bonus! dog! so! blessed!
title from: Mrs Robinson, that cheerfully weird song by Simon and Garfunkel. I love the punchy yet thoughtful guitar chords. And also the lyrics which sound like they were written by a committee passing notes to each other. 
music lately:

Ummm so the video for Beyonce and Nicki Minaj’s song Feeling Myself is still only available via subscription to Tidal but this 30 second teaser alone is giving me more life than literally anything else right now. Watch it and feel yourself become a better human. 

King Kunta, Kendrick Lamar. Yeah, still can’t stop listening to this on repeat eh.  
next time: I made ice cream so amazingly nice that I literally ate nearly a litre of it in one sitting. Maybe you’ll be able to make it soon too. 

we live in a wheel where everyone steals but when we rise it’s like strawberry fields

December is really dissolving like a sachet of colourfree raspberry flavoured Raro juice powder into a litre of water, huh? For some reason this year I’ve barely heard Christmas music or been exposed to any other trappings of the season. I’ve seen like, one Christmas tree. For all I know it could still be mid-September. I clearly need to find a pine tree to lean into and reverently sniff and then to play thirty two renditions of Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You, y’know, basically method acting that it’s this time of year until it sinks in that it really is this time of year.

Somewhere in the middle of all this seasonal denial I made breakfast for my roomie Kate, who was being a bridesmaid, as well as for the bride herself and the rest of the bridesmaids. That same weekend I was also feeding a friend’s cat while they were away. How unlike me to be so selflessly helpful! How like me to tell everyone about my good deeds and blow them way out of proportion! I made a large jar of Strawberry Jam Granola, and then chopped up some actual strawberries and a mango and sprinkled them with sugar and put them in the fridge overnight to let the flavours sort of get to know each other better, and then there were also grilled croissants with brie which Jason made and I therefore cannot take credit for (I swiped some and they were so, so delicious.)

The recipe comes from my cookbook, and you should know that I still have copies left and it makes a really, really good Christmas present. The thought of them all being finally gone fills me with a weird kind of foggy dread, because the book itself isn’t being reprinted and so these are the only remaining copies left in the world. Just one year ago I was in a glowing bubble of joy from being freshly published. I exist in the pages of those books. Once they’re gone, that’s it. It won’t be available anywhere, to anyone. Oh wow, so I’m doing a truly appalling job of encouraging you to buy my book from me, but yeah, I unyieldingly believe that my cookbook is a brilliant read that you all deserve to own. If you do want to order one of the remaining copies from me – and my stocks are dwindling rapidly, so better hustle – then completely ignore all my existential angst and confidently email me (my email address is in the sidebar of this blog).

This granola is very, very easy and fairly adaptable – I doubled it without any difficulty and always use the cheapest jam I can find when I make this. The strawberry jam gives the oats a sticky-sweet summery flavour while making them pleasingly clumpy, and the almonds and linseeds bring their own toasty crunchiness. Add other nuts or seeds if you like, but I find almonds and strawberries to be particularly friendly together.

strawberry jam granola

a recipe by myself, from my cookbook Hungry and Frozen

  • one and a half cups whole oats
  • one and a half cups rolled oats
  • three tablespoons linseeds
  • 70g almonds
  • 50g brown sugar
  • half a cup strawberry jam

Place everything except the jam in a large saucepan and stir over a low heat till lightly toasted and warmed through. Stir in the jam and continue stirring over a low heat till it’s sticky and slightly clumpy. Allow to cool then transfer to an airtight container or jar.

The gloriously lipgloss-like scent of the strawberry jam slowly seeps into the milk, making this a highly perfect breakfast (especially with fruit and a large mound of thick Greek yoghurt) but I also like to just grab a handful from the jar at any time of day to snack upon carte blanche.

The granola itself would also make a swell Christmas present – personally all I ever want is wine, food, or money, (or something so meaningful and so deeply from the heart that it makes me cry as soon as I see it, no biggie!) so giving someone a jar of breakfast cereal doesn’t seem in the slightest bit weird to me. Put it in a cute mason jar, since they’re everywhere these days, tie a cute ribbon around it, you could even write the recipe out on a cute notecard for the person. Cute!

Once more with feeling, in case you haven’t quite absorbed what I’m trying to impart because I am far, far too wordy while trying to get my point across: if you want to buy a copy of my cookbook for a Christmas present then there’s no better time than now. Considering it’s like, not yet Christmas. It’s yours for the taking while my stocks last! Give the gift of literary perfection! (Well, so far I’m the only person who has described the book like that, but I think I’m a fairly trustworthy source.)

title from: Bush, Glycerine. I remember when I first heard this on the radio when I was maybe eight or nine and did not get it at all, pronouncing it boring and gloomy and pointless. For what it’s worth, Bush, I quickly realised I loved grungey music and that your song wasn’t that pointless after all. (Gavin Rossdale: “well thank goodness for that”)

music lately:

Sky Ferreira, I Blame Myself. This song is really, really perfect. That is all.

Belle and Sebastian, The Blues Are Still Blue. I always thought the only Belle and Sebastian song I liked was Lazy Line Painter Jane (which I could listen to over and over and over again) but yay, I found another one! This one is so simple but also zigs just when you think it’s gonna zag.

Janet Jackson, I Get Lonely. Damn, though.

next time: Gonna try and be more Christmassy! And might make a list of lots of food-present ideas and recipes.


all i wanna do is cook your bread, just to make sure you’re well fed

literal banana bread 

Me oh my, guess who has been busy lately? Me of course, who else do I talk about on here. I mean, this blog post opens with two sentences both starting with the word “me”. And then a sentence beginning with “I”. Well, that’s why it’s called “a blog” and not “a Place of Altruistic Humility”, I guess. Pop psychology aside, I have been one busy kitten recently, and happily, it’s all stuff that I enjoy doing. Like freelance writing and starting a small yet successful chocolate cookie dough pretzel thing delivery business. The latter of which was a clever idea by my clever friend Kate, which I kind of dismissed at first – not because I thought it was a bad idea, but because I thought no-one would care. Turns out people care hard about my cookie dough pretzel things. I have been striding all over town, getting way more exercise than I care for, dropping off parcels of chocolatey salty-sugary glory to both suspecting and unsuspecting people. The unsuspecting ones are fun – when people order them as a surprise for a friend, and then I get to appear at their work saying “hello, you don’t know me, but I’m Laura and I started a small cookie delivery business and your friend ordered some for you.” Cookie dough is sweet, but so is being the recipient of a human being’s surprised joy, I’ve come to learn.

I’m still drifting around in a “what am I doing with my life what’s to become of me I’m still not a famous cookbook empire-wielding squillionaire with many tumblr fansites dedicated to me yet I have clearly failed wait chill out Laura it’s only Tuesday” kind of haze, but am definitely feeling more productive now that I’m making it rain cookie dough. And it also means that this week I’m paying my rent with money that exists, instead of doing it with my credit card!

Speaking of being super-unemployed, I am feeling very reproachful towards myself for not using the time I had being all jobless to make like, make falling-to-pieces-tender casseroles and brisket and hummus from scratch using soaked dried chickpeas and brioche and rich broth and so on and such. Time flies when you’re not making the most of it to make exquisite slow-cooked food, I tell you. However, I did make one thing that befits the time on my hands: literal banana bread, from my cookbook. My underground, rare collector’s item, soon-to-be-out-of-print, definitely-have-come-to-terms-with-this-lololol cookbook.

This is the photo that appears in my cookbook. Kim and Jason did all the beauteous photos for it, but neither could remember who took this one, so I’m going to praise them both just to be diplomatic. All I know for sure is that my nails were painted this way because I dressed up as a Gold Lion for a party the previous night. 

This is a really easy recipe, because you don’t have to do any kneading. Just stir and wait and bake. It’s charmingly simple. The bananas take the place of any fat and sugar that you might add normally, not because I don’t adore both those things, but because I wanted to see if bananas had it in them to be used in a yeasted bread recipe as the major source of flavour and sweetness. Also I really like the idea of using the word “literal” in a recipe title. Y’know, because banana cake baked in a loaf tin is called banana bread, but this is actual bread made with bananas, so the title is literally justified.

literal banana bread

a recipe by myself, from my soon-to-be rare cult hit collector’s item cookbook Hungry and Frozen. Makes one large loaf.

500g flour
one sachet dried instant yeast
one teaspoon salt
two ripe bananas
300ml warm water
two tablespoons raw sugar

Mix the flour, yeast and salt together in a large bowl. Mash the bananas, and mix them into the flour with the water. It’ll look a bit gross. 

Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave in a gently warmish place for two hours.

At this point it should be risen and puffy and frankly even more gross looking – a bit greyish and unpromising. Scrape it into a well greased (or baking paper lined) loaf tin, and leave to sit for twenty minutes while you heat the oven to 180 C. 

Sprinkle over the sugar, and bake for 45 minutes. Allow to sit for a minute or two before tipping it out of the tin. You might need to run a knife around the sides to loosen it. 

You end up with this piping hot loaf of gently banana-scented bread, crusty and doughy and really wonderful when thickly sliced and spread with butter and honey, or even better, butter and cream cheese and brown sugar. It’s a good one to try if you’re unsure about breadmaking, since all you need is a little time, a bowl, and a spoon. And all the ingredients I listed. And, um, an oven. And I’ll stop there, because you probably don’t need me to elaborate further (although I always am concerned that people do, and never quite know when to stop over-explaining things.) I actually don’t love bananas just on their own – something about the texture and the sickly scent and the freakish little nubbin bits at each end of the fruit put me off, but they suddenly become appealing again when they’re baked into something. The banana flavour isn’t overwhelming here – just a sweet, promising hint of it with every bite.

literally delicious
So if you’re in Wellington CBD and you want chocolate cookie dough pretzel things delivered to your door with what will most likely be a smile, giz a yell. If you’re not in Wellington CBD, here’s what you’re missing, sorry.
dark chocolate, white chocolate, bounty thing. I eat a lot of cookie dough, I am highly authorised to assure you these are majorly delicious.
just a reminder that I’m literally cute. Hey, I said this is a blog, not a Place of Altruistic Humility!

title from: the truly excellent Etta James singing I Just Wanna Make Love To You. 
music lately:

the aquadolls. I really love all their music, it’s kind of foul-mouthed surfy pop and it’s so much fun.

Dillon, Texture of My Blood. Dreamy and feelingsy.

FKA Twigs, Two Weeks. Almost too dreamy to bear, tbh.

Jesse Thomas, Say Hello. Lovely, happy, country-ish music, so naturally it makes me feel sad.
next time: not sure, yeah? something delicious written about in a charming manner, no doubt. 

so……….now you know

Hmm. Hmmmmmm.

What to do when something enormous happens, and I’m so used to living my life as publicly as I can, tweeting every vapid-but-it-feels-kinda-deep thought and blogging about every up, down, and diagonal shunt of my life. But this one needs some time, some respect, some quiet. 
But also it would be really impossible to not address it, so in compromise, I’m just gonna talk about it pretty quickly. 
Two things happened recently: One, I realised I’m gay. (…gayer than I initially thought, if you will.) 
Two, well, Tim and I are as a direct result no longer getting married. Or together. A person’s sexuality is entirely their own business, no explanations are owed to anyone, (how can you explain something that just is?) and a relationship is the business of the people in the relationship only. Seriously. But – I offer you the following bullet points.
– Tim and I were together for nearly nine years. Much as it would’ve been convenient if this had all fallen into place when I was, oh, seven years old, I would not trade Tim’s and my time together for any trinket in the world. 
– We started off as best friends, and we’re gonna end up as best friends, whether we’re ninety years old and hanging out together on a porch somewhere drinking whisky or whether we finally work out how to become vampires and live forever and avoid aging and like, just meet up occasionally until infinity. There’s obviously one hell of a journey ahead (not least, we’ve accumulated an intimidating quantity of possessions) but this will never, ever change.
– My brother summed it up the best when he txted me and said something very wonderful to the effect of “I’m sad you two had to end but I’m happy you found yourself.” Those are pretty much the emotions flying round right now, but to the power of five hundred. 
– I’m gay. The gayest. Stone cold gay. Tony award-winning actress Marcia Gay Harden. Things don’t fall into place immediately. Sometimes things are hidden so deep because you don’t want to notice them, sometimes things were there all along. It’s not black and white, it’s not a light switch, it’s…it just is. Again: no-one’s business, but I’d just like to gently point out that all of us are somewhere on a spectrum. Much as we might be taught otherwise, or indeed, have the subject studiously avoided altogether.  
Cool. Okay. Lots of change ahead. Lots of things will never change. 
I haven’t really felt like cooking for a while – truth be told, I’d felt nauseous for days, maybe weeks – but on Monday night I made Tim and I (well, we’re still living together) a roast chicken for dinner and on Tuesday morning I made us breakfast, Breakfast Apple Crumble that is. And it felt good. And then I was like “wow Laura you’re a genius with this recipe from your incredible cookbook you should really make breakfast more often”. Yep, it’s so good that it stopped me being self-deprecating for a whole minute. That’s probably the nicest thing I can say about a recipe, but to be more helpfully specific – the quickly fried, roughly chopped apples topped with toasted oats, chewy with butter and brown sugar, is an actual gift to yourself first thing in the morning. 

This recipe is indeed from my cookbook, Hungry and Frozen: the cookbook. Who among us can say that they don’t like mentioning their cookbook whenever possible? (trick question, not many of us can. Because not many of us have cookbooks. I have one though! Oh man, this got obnoxious.)

Breakfast Apple Crumble

2 apples
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons rolled oats
2 tablespoons whole oats
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Finely dice the apples. It can be roughly done, but the smaller the pieces the faster they’ll cook. Heat a tablespoon of the butter in a frying pan, and tip in the apple. Fry gently, stirring, for five minutes till it is softened slightly. Tip it all into a bowl, then melt the remaining butter and the brown sugar together in the same pan. Once sizzling, tip in the remaining ingredients and stir to toast everything slightly and coat in syrup. Once it’s looking browned and crisp, spatula it over the apples. 

I said it served one person in my book, but to be honest it was plenty for the two of us. Also I didn’t have sunflower seeds so used some almonds instead and it was still grand of course.

Apples and cinnamon together are like eating a hug. A hug. With cream poured over, so much the better. Ideally it would’ve been evaporated milk, which I used to have as a child poured over canned peaches for dessert, but I’m not turning my nose up at actual cream before 8am.

So that’s what’s been going on lately. While this is one hell of a situation, Tim and I have been very lucky that so many people surrounding us have been kind, generous, caring, thoughtful, amazing, and accepting without question. We’ve been able to hang out together, but we’ve also had people surrounding us individually with love and basically being giant ears for whatever we’ve got to say. People are wonderful, Tim is wonderful, I’m really not too bad myself, and I hope I can give that same level of support to someone else if it’s ever, ever needed.

Oh: I apologise if this is not the way you anticipated finding this news out. Tim and I know a lot of people. It’s hard to keep track of who knows things and who doesn’t, how far news has spread…I hate phone calls and scary one-on-ones anyway, and this blog is my home away from home, so this is probably the most personal and hey-you-yes-you way I could say this. So…now you know.
title from: Queenie Was a Blonde, from Andrew Lippa’s 2000 off-Broadway musical The Wild Party, which was what introduced me to my idol Idina Menzel and another idol Julia Murney, many years ago. Probably worth a listen even if you don’t like musicals, it just goes to so many places from the classic 20s wah-wah opening and is such a cool expositional song. “A fascinating couple, as they go….” (should point out here that Tim joked about how maybe the title should be “my love came crumbling down” because you know, break-up plus apple crumble and I was like HA! PUN! but also um, maybe a little on-the-nose if this is your first time hearing about this news. And I say that as someone who tends to turn to jokes when things get serious. Still: good pun, though, yeah?)

music lately:

Lana Del Rey, Once Upon a Dream. Del Rey’s cover of the song from Sleeping Beauty is just…dreamy is far too pale a word to describe how dreamy it is. Listening to it is like that feeling where you can just sense yourself falling asleep and you’re still the tiniest bit cognisant and it’s all muted and muffled and a bit sinister but lovely. Or, uh, it’s a nice song, is what I’m saying.

Guess who’s been listening to lots of Green Day? Me, obviously, this is my blog. I just love ’em. Tim and I were actually at the Milton Keynes concert that got recorded for the Bullet in a Bible album/DVD (Truly. We just happened to be in the audience that night. Who would’ve known that the blandest city in England would’ve ended up having a concert recorded live there?) so I’ll always have a thing for that. Brain Stew and Are We The Waiting/St Jimmy and p much the whole thing are really great.

Kate Nash, Mouthwash. I just get in a Kate Nash mood sometimes, like daily.
next time: yeah nah, who knows. But for your sake hopefully something more relaxed. Well, for my sake too.

we’re up all night to get lucky

It seems very unfair to have both insomnia and writer’s block, not that I like the phrase writer’s block because it seems so self-fulfilling, but these are the words that rolled around my head like a marble on a wooden floor this entire night (not like the regular marbles that we used to play with in school, or even the double-sized ones we called bonkers, but the rare prize known as the grandaddy, triple the size of a normal marble and like holding a planet in your own hand. Until you inevitably lost them all. I have no idea what the point of playing marbles was when you could spend all your time gazing deeply into them – needless to say I was much better at looking at them than playing with them competitively. Man, I guess I have a lot of feelings about marbles.) I paused only to have a brief but elaborate dream about being unable to go to sleep, which was, I don’t know, a little bit on the nose even for my brain. 
But: I have a doctor’s appointment today (which will basically be me pleading “make me slee-hee-heeeeeep”) so hopefully that will start to take care of it. It being a complete state of somnambulance, of being unable to sleep more than two or three hours a night, of being unable to keep my eyelids from flying open and staying that way. Uncool! Sleeping should be one of those things you don’t have to try too hard at, like being funny and paying attention to letters from the IRD.  

Also a bit unfair: I’m not sure that today’s recipe is as good/irrefutably perfection as it could be, but I also think I know how to make it better, so I’m sharing it with you anyway. Every time I went to sweepingly refuse to write about it, I had to admit that it did taste really, really good. I’m talking about cinnamon date rolls, by the way.

But first, I’m talking about my Auckland cookbook launch last week. Wow. 
hard twee.
MC Rose Matafeo and I. She was super amazing. Also this is her instagram. Hope that’s okay, Rose. Rose?

 I choo-choo-choose you.
It was such a fun, incredible night. My mum, dad, and little brother were able to be there, outlandishly stunning Sacha McNeil from Nightline came along; I invited Anna Coddington (who I’ve interviewed on this blog before) and she brought Anika Moa and I was like “HI ANIKA MOA THIS IS SO IMPORTANT”; I got to see so many friends and meet so many gorgeously terrific and terrifically gorgeous new people that I’ve previously only talked to online, like Amanda, Lani and Jilly, I got given a corsage (!!) and there were so many nice people and they were all so nice to me and it ruled. Seriously, do yourself a favour and have a cookbook launch party. 
Feverish and fervent thanks to Delaney Mes who helped in a million different ways to get the party happening, to Unity Books who supplied copies of my book and a friendly person to sell them on the night, to the people at the beauteous Bread and Butter Letter boutique for being charming and kind and having such a fun place for my party, and to fizzy sherbet lollies and pretzels for helping get me through the night. So many nights, in fact.
And, if you want, you can watch MC Rose’s delightful intro and my own speech, which, like all public speaking, I ADORED. If you were at the Wellington launch party, yeah, I recycled most of my jokes. I’m not good at letting go. 

So finally, these cinnamon date rolls that I’m quite, but not intensely enthused about. Here’s the deal. They are easy. Amazingly delicious. And other such adjectives. But…don’t do what I did and use regular flour. It’s tiresome, but if you specifically buy hi-grade/bread flour, these buns will have the extra gluten they deserve to become puffier and lighter and easier to knead and even more wonderful than they already are. So – if you only have regular flour, they’re pretty much great, but go on. Learn from my stumbles. Since there are so many and all.

What I’ve done here is take two rectangles of dough and roll them, sushi-ly, around chopped dates, butter, cinnamon, and a gritty sprinkling of brown sugar. They’re then scored, garlic-bread-style, and baked so they have a kind of pull-apart quality, while leaving the sticky, caramelly filling thoroughly cocooned in soft dough so it doesn’t burn. Cinnamon is such a warm, comforting scent and for what it’s worth, these will make your house smell incredible. Kneading the dough isn’t so hard, it’s just some patient, rather satisfying pushing and flattening, and the yeast comes in sachets so you don’t have to worry about getting scientific with it. Just throw it in to the flour and go. There isn’t actually that much sugar sprinkled into these, but what’s there melts into the butter and creates sticky, syrupy toffee wonderfulness. That will burn your DNA off if you eat them straight from the oven, so try to let them cool a little.

cinnamon date rolls

A recipe by myself

500g plain flour
50g sugar
1 sachet instant dried yeast
1 teaspoon salt
50g melted butter
3 tablespoons greek yoghurt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup dates
2 tablespoons brown sugar
50g butter, extra, cubed

Place the flour, sugar, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Tip in the butter, yoghurt, and milk, and mix to make a rough, sticky dough. Knead repeatedly by pushing the dough with the palm of your hand and back into a ball repeatedly, until it forms a solidly cohesive-enough lump, which springs back quickly when you prod it. Cover with gladwrap and allow to rise in a warmish (or at least, not freezing, it doesn’t actually have to be that warm) place for an hour or so, then get back in the kitchen with it. Push it down again with your fist and divide it into two even pieces. 

Roll them out into rectangles about fifteen centimetres wide and 25 centimetres long – although really, so long as they’re similarly sized rectangles it doesn’t matter about measurements. You may need to let the dough sit for ten minutes to allow it to relax a bit before rolling it further. Roughly chop the dates, and sprinkle them, along with the brown sugar, plenty of cinnamon, and the and cubed remaining butter, over the two rectangles. Roll them up from one of the long sides so you have two long tubular tubes of dough. 

Set your oven to 180 C/350 F and sit the two dough rolls in a baking dish lined with baking paper, as I’ve done in these pictures. Using a serrated knife, make some decent slashes across the top of each roll of dough, which will allow you to be able to pull the whole thing apart into segments easier once it’s coked. Allow to sit for a further fifteen minutes while the oven warms up – this stage is called proving, I guess because you have to prove your commitment to breadmaking by waiting again – and finally bake for around 40 minutes. 

Homemade bready things don’t last like ones from a packet, but you and I both know (now that I’ve told you) that pulled apart pieces of this come back to life easily in the microwave.
Oh, okay, I guess I didn’t have writer’s block after all.

One more from the launch party –
Here I am signing a book for someone. Clearly my years and years of ballet training have reaped dividends, as far as my impeccable sitting posture goes.
title via: the assuredly ubiquitous Daft Punk song with the splendidly handsome Pharrell, Get Lucky. You’ll probably like it.
Music lately: 

Bastille, Laura Palmer. I do like a good Twin Peaks reference. And a good song. This, luckily, is both.

Tim and I hosted a dear friend’s birthday party on Saturday night. We danced till three am. In the morning. I particularly enjoyed flinging myself recklessly to Marina and the Diamonds’ heart-searing song Shampain.
Next time: Sleep. If I have to stay awake and think about all the ways that I should be sleeping in order to make it happen. Also: a recipe that I believe in to some exaggerated percentage, like 799% or 100% or something.

we like lovin’ yeah, and the wine we share

A week and a bit into the cookbook author life, and I’m still very, very much at the pinch-me stage. If you’re new to this blog, hello! Get ready to co-wallow in all my feelings and cake batter.

Margaret Atwood probably has absolutely no knowledge of this. But still! But still. But still!

As Tim will tell you (or “my partner Tim” as it rather hilariously refers to him in my cookbook every single time, a bit like how the Baby-sitters Club books would tell you about all sitters’ family histories in chapter two of every last book on the offchance you were picking one up for the first time and just had to know whose stepmom was whose) and in fact as I will tell you right now, and not for the first time, I am a cool mix of wildly insecure and wildly over-secure. So I veer between reading my cookbook and saying “Tim, I’m such an amazing writer, how do you cope with it?” and being numb of brain and in a crumply heap in bed and requiring constant bolstering just to lift my head up for reasons I can’t even quite work out. Or simply feeling like this will in fact all be like the bit in the Princess Bride where – spoiler – Princess Buttercup is presented to the people but then the old woman comes out yelling “Boooooooo” and saying she’s princess of nothing. Luckily nothing specifically like that has happened. Or even vaguely similar to that. Yet?

But seriously, seeing my name there with Margaret Atwood’s on a whiteboard (“above her!” said someone. “Near her whatsoever!” I replied) filled me with so many feelings that I hardly knew what to do with myself. On the one hand: of course. On the other hand: how did I manage to fool everyone into letting that happen?

Speaking of such moments, the book launch party at Unity Books was completely wonderful, almost unbearably so – I wanted to claw back the time as it was racing past, just to make the whole thing not move so quickly. It felt almost sick, I was so happy, which is a strange way of putting it but it’s like all the emotions in me created a power surge that left me a bit light-headed. There was a great big crowd and so many lovely friends and cool people and Julie Clark of Floriditas launched it with a speech full of nice things about me. And then they announced my name and I stepped up to the mic and everyone cheered! Which is of course, fairly obvious at my own book launch, but wow, as Irene Cara sang: what a feeling. I am a cookbook author. A real one. And I can tell you one thing I’m certain and entirely secure of: I gave a terrific speech. Look, I just really love giving speeches.

A long line of people genuinely wanted their book signed, which was incomprehensibly exciting. Also, I was reminded of how changeable and hopeless my handwriting is. It’s…creative?

Being the heedless neophyte that I am, I forgot to organise any photos to be taken and didn’t get one single damn selfie the entire night. Despite my careful “I’m an auuuthorrr” outfit of dramatic black Kowtow sack dress and enormous witch hair. (Admittedly, my hair was in a very strange headspace – ha – that night, insisting on being fluffier than a Persian cat, but in the end I think it worked. Not sure why I’m compelled to point this out.) I also forgot to enlist Tim or anyone to video my speech for posterity/family/etc and feel a bit foolish about that. Now all I have are these stupid awesome memories. Unity Books did, however, take a few snaps on the night for their sweet write-up. Unity Books is one of my favourite places in Wellington, nay, the earth, and it was marvelous to be able to get all launched there.

So, the cookbook, huh? Last night I made my Chocolate Red Wine Cake from it, which – and maybe I am just saying this because it’s my own recipe from my own book, but I’m pretty sure it’s also the truth – is a simple, amazing, reliable chocolate cake that tastes brilliant. Comfortingly slabby in size, dense without being too rich, cocoa-dark without being dry, and the warm rush of red wine helps emphasise everything good about the chocolate without tasting too much of sediment or tannin.

Still getting used to the stove at our flat. But I also rather like the ominous, craggy slash that appeared in the top of this cake, most likely because the heat was up too high (it’s really hard to tell on the dials of this unfriendly oven.)

I probably said it best in the book itself, so while I usually rewrite all recipes in my own words, it would be a bit pointless to do it here, yes? So, in my own words:

red wine chocolate cake

recipe from my own cookbook, Hungry and Frozen.

Red wine and chocolate always make sense together, never more so in this sophisticated, yet very plain cake – tall, proud, gleaming with glossy ganache. The red wine is absolutely present, though not overpowering – its oaky darkness going beautifully with the bitterness of the chocolate and cocoa. You don’t have to use your best red here – the sugar and butter rounds out any rough, tannin-heavy aspects that might not be so pleasant by the glassful. Nevertheless, make sure it’s actually drinkable. It doesn’t have to be pinot noir, either – really, as long as it’s red, it should do the trick. 

200g dark chocolate
200g butter
1 cup pinot noir
70g good cocoa
250g sugar
3 eggs
250g flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

200g dark chocolate, chopped roughly
½ cup cream

Set your oven to 180 C, and line the base of a 23cm springform caketin.

Roughly chop the chocolate and butter and slowly melt them together with the red wine in a pan over a medium heat. It’ll look like an unholy mess but it will come together. Allow to cool slightly, then whisk in the rest of the ingredients.

Scrape this liquidy batter into the caketin and bake for an hour, but check after 45 minutes. Once it has cooled, pour the cream into a pan and heat till just below boiling point. Remove from the heat, and stir in the chocolate till it melts to form a thick ganache. Pour over the cake. 

Speaking of things that are better in the book, the photo of the cake in there is so much better than mine that it’s laughable. Not least because the cake in the book was photographed in natural light, whereas mine above was photographed at night in a dimly lit room because two of our bulbs have blown and both of them are annoyingly particular and require hunting round a shop inevitably called “Mr Light Bulb” while you wonder how a shop can survive solely dedicated to said light bulbs, then see the price on the ones you need to replace. Also my cookbook photographers (and friends) Kim and Jason are spectacular.

My friend Kim, who took many of the photos in the cookbook, did a gorgeous blog post of some of the photoshoot outtakes (which are themselves gorgeous, despite not making it into the book), in case you’re a little curious about this cookbook but unconvinced by this blog post alone (which would be…slightly worrying, truth be told.)

I have to admit, I’m looking forward to things returning to normal now. Lies. I want things to get less and less normal. And I was woefully insufferable the day after the launch party because I hate things being over and get bad post-thing comedown. The publicity for the cookbook has been a lot of fun (and if you feel like you’ve been left out from hearing my schtick then get in touch, I love publicity) and yesterday I got to appear on Radio New Zealand with the excellent Kathryn Ryan, which was a real trip. Of course, in a practical sense, radio does need nonstop content. But I love RNZ and it felt like I’d really hit the big time, being able to appear on there. If you want to listen to my interview, why, you can do that here!

Finally it inevitably behooves me to say the following: if you want to buy my book, and your local shop doesn’t stock it (and I would like to add: hurrah for supporting local bookshops) there are some options for you. Unity Books, the wondrous shop where I had my launch, can ship the book anywhere in New Zealand or worldwide if you ask them nicely. It’s also available at Fishpond and Mighty Ape, so: choices ahoy!

Title via: Gomez, Whipping Piccadilly. As a commenter on said…actually you should just read the whole comment, it’s a bit unintentionally hilarious. Which is better than being intentionally hilarious and failing at it. Oh, and I really like this song.

Music lately:

David Dallas, Runnin‘. oh damn this song is good. Also it was fun to then listen to New World In My View by King Britt, which it samples, and then Sister Gertrude Morgan’s I Got The New World In My View, which that samples. Amazing beats, all.

Wu-Tang Clan, I Can’t Go To Sleep. The title speaks the truth.

The time has come, the walrus said, to lie on the floor and listen to Rockin’ Back Inside My Heart by Julee Cruise over and over and over again. Twin Peaks always gets me with its dreaminess.
Next time: whatever it ends up being, one of these days I will make and photograph something during the day on the weekend so I don’t have to be so balefully apologetic about these badly-lit shots.