cold as ice cream but still as sweet, dry your eyes sunday girl

My current response to “how are you” is that my one personality is being overheated and that’s how I’m doing, thanks very much (and honestly, how am I? What kind of a question is that in this economy?) As such, the only thing to do is make ice cream, put it in the freezer, and then eat it, in lieu of being able to stash myself in said freezer. Oh sure, one shouldn’t complain, this is Wellington, city of a thousand winters, but as a pale vampire nursing a thriving vitamin D deficiency living in a bedroom with a microclimate that’s increasingly not unlike a dense rainforest, it’s all a bit much! (An alternate response to “how are you” is to coolly inform them that you’re coming out of your cage and you’re doing just fine.)

This is not just any old ice cream – although it never is. I suppose we could generously concede that I have one other personality trait, that I’m a bartender, and as such concocting cocktails and imagining various combinations of x and y poison regularly occupy my thoughts. In this case, I thought it would be fun to take Fernet-Branca, the “bartender’s handshake”, an ancient and storied Italian bitters that we doggedly take pride in necking shots of at every opportunity, and incorporate it into my favourite food.

I first became aware of Fernet-Branca when it was mentioned in Jilly Cooper’s rollicking and bonk-heavy novel Rivals; (side note: it’s really the only book of hers I can stomach and it’s heavily problematic but on the whole I adore Declan and Caitlin and Taggie and Rupert and Lizzie like they’re old friends and basically she was never more winning than in this particular book and I like to reread it every summer.) The character Rupert Campbell-Black has had the memoirs of his ludicrously prolific sex life published in the local paper in an attempt to Campbell-Blacken his name ahead of a bid for a television franchise (idk, it’s the plot) and his friend Basil Baddingham (really) offers him a Fernet-Branca as fortification before he reads it. If it’s the sort of thing offered on that level of apocalyptic magnitude, you can see why it’s a bolstering shot for bartenders to drink at any occasion, like a wine match but for your emotions. All of them.

When I was at Motel bar we would have shots of it at midnight, as an oh-we’re-halfway-there-living-on-a-prayer type reinforcement. Like sailors with their rations of rum, we had our Fernet, and we kind of revelled in the romanticism of it all, from hosting a tasting with the (wonderful, lovely, raucously good fun) brand supplier to making a fidget spinner in the shape of the logo (never thought I’d use the words romanticism and fidget spinner together in a sentence, but it is 2018.) On the final night of Motel’s existence – New Year’s Eve – my contribution to the cocktail list naturally had Fernet Branca in it.

Not everyone likes it, and nor should they, but I am not particularly sorry for taking joy in the shared experience of it because honestly, bartending is a hard, often thankless, mop-bucket-water covered, underpaid, underslept occupation and you’ve got to derive joy from stuff where you can! Don’t get me wrong: the flavour is challenging. Some would say appalling. As my brand t-shirt says, it contains 27 herbs and all of them legal, and it’s literally medicinal (or so we insist), so if you get “mouthwash but harsher” or “jaeger but without the sugar” vibes then that’s, like, more or less accurate. But I figured that against a backdrop of soft, mellowly rich cream and sugar its aggressiveness would be mollified into gentle tones of mint, and I was delighted to be proven right. In all honesty sometimes I swear I taste actual dirt when I drink the stuff, but any rough edges are muffled and calmed by all that dairy. Before it gets all too easy though I also folded in paper-thin, irregularly shaped shards of dark, dark chocolate (made by melting it on a sheet of baking paper and then letting it set before breaking it up.) The bitterness of the chocolate is a natural pair for the Fernet and interrupts the smoothness of the ice cream with its fragile crunch.

It’s also, as is so often my aim, really easy to make. I’ve no capacity for making a yolk-heavy anglaise in this heat, so instead I just bung together some cream and some sweetened condensed milk, which come together to make an ice cream of rapturously soft velveteen-ness. Oh and you don’t need an ice cream machine to make this, or any of my ice cream recipes.

fernet-branca stracciatella ice cream

a recipe by myself

  • two shots (60ml or quarter of a cup) Fernet-Branca
  • one tin of sweetened condensed milk 
  • 800ml cream
  • 100g dark chocolate

Firstly sort out the chocolate: rip a large sheet of baking paper and lay it on the bench, then gently melt the chocolate (I do it in short bursts in the microwave, once the squares start to look like they’re about to collapse and lose their shape you can give it a stir and it should just turn into liquid.) Spatula it out in an even, thin layer onto the sheet of baking paper and leave to harden. If your house is super warm, pop it in the fridge instead. 

Whisk the cream with moderate enthusiasm until it’s thickened and lightly aerated but not whipped, which should only take thirty seconds or so. Tip in the tin of condensed milk, scraping out every last sticky vestige from inside, and add the Fernet. Whisk again to combine.

Tip it into a container of about 1.5L capacity and put it in the freezer for a few hours. At this point, crumble up the sheet of chocolate – the easiest way to do this is to just fold up and scrunch the baking paper so it all breaks up into uneven pieces – and fold it into the slightly-solidified ice cream. Return it to the freezer and leave until it’s, well, ice cream. 

 Yes, I did take home quite a bit of merch when the bar closed.  Yes, I did take home quite a bit of merch when the bar closed.

                  I considered calling it Mint Choc Chip for Grown Ups but that felt a bit elitist, although possibly it’s even more elitist to call it Stracciatella, which refers to the thin, shard style of chocolate stirred in. Since Fernet itself is Italian I figured, might as well go full immersion. But all you need to know is that it’s just extremely delicious stuff, an icy herbal minty kick blanketed in sweet frozen cream with the welcome interruption of chocolate, what’s not to love? Don’t be tempted to add more Fernet to the ice cream itself, or the alcohol content will act as aggressive anti-freeze, I suggest instead eating it affogato style with a further shot upended over a scoop of the stuff.   

Oh and speaking of conviviality and bartending and stuff I’m now working at Laundry Bar, and having an excellent time of it, thank you. It’s so good to be bartending again! There’s a bit in the aforementioned book Rivals where Cameron Cook is all “I only feel alive when I see my name in the credits of shows I’ve produced” and while I don’t want to be that codependent on my job I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being immensely fulfilled by something that also happens to pay your rent, and in my case making cocktails is what makes me super happy, it just is what it is.

Should all this talk of ice cream get your fancy tickled, I’d also like to recommend some other supremely easy recipes of mine that I’ve blogged about:  apple cinnamon ice cream; cocoa and olive oil sorbet; or grapefruit ripple ice cream are a fine place to start.

title from: Blondie’s upbeat yet wistful (best genre) song Sunday Girl. 

music lately:

I’ve been listening to a LOT of Teenage Fanclub. Their song Norman 3 is just like, so bloody nice, don’t let the suspiciously drab title fool you. The chorus is repeated so many times that you think your brain is short-circuiting but then you just never want it to end.

I have also been fiending Less Than Jake, to pluck one from the air, History of a Boring Town is v good.

Don’t even think for a second that I’m not still on my Les Miserables buzz. Let’s hear it for Philip Quast, whose surname sounds like a Harry Potter in-universe curse word, generally accepted to be the definitive Javert, just flawlessly delivering on his big number, Stars. I adore his enunciation (“this I swehhhhh by the stars”).

next time: I made some vegan coconut pikelets the other day but it was too hot to talk about anything but ice cream so this recipe took precedence. So; next time! 

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.

lick an ice cream cone, crack a bone

Supposing yesterday began when I woke up around 8am, I then went on to spend roughly fifteen or so further hours in bed. I rose briefly around noon to make myself some roasted vegetables, which did not have the galvanising effect on me that I’d hoped they would, because I then went back to bed until just after midnight when I had a sudden fit of activity: I got up, ate the remainder of this white chocolate and burnt butter ice cream and then made myself a small loaf of cornbread. Oh sure, I’m super tired at the moment, but it was more than just tiredness, it was like, One of Those Days. Apologies for referring to depressive times with a knowing wink, what else can ya do.

(Okay I have to confess here that I accidentally typed “knowing wank” instead of knowing wink which is ridiculous because the i and the a are not even remotely close to each other on the keyboard, it just happened and I can’t stop laughing at it.)

Anyway: there is nothing profound about the fact that I ate this ice cream after a day spent in bed willing myself to do anything, even to just binge watch TV shows, but being unable to maintain any kind of momentum; it was not even a particularly abnormal day, it was a day that anyone might have every now and then. But! If nothing else, the ice cream is exceptionally delicious and as I was eating it I was like “well this is nice,” and it being a nice moment was enough, just for now.

  knowing wink  knowing wink

I’ve said it before, but ice cream is one of my very, very favourite foods and I love coming up with recipes for it. I mean, I argued successfully for an entire ice cream chapter in my cookbook. I love the stuff, and something in that cold, cold, creamy texture is the perfect vehicle for flavours to shine.

It sounds almost like I’m parodying myself to load an already loaded ice cream with literal butter but my reasons are sound, I promise. Butter, when browned over a high heat, becomes intensely rich and nutty and caramelly. When you put this with white chocolate – gently buttery, soft and vanilla-y – the effect is absolutely glorious.  It’s like butterscotch, like white chocolate refracted through a prism, like freezing cold fudge, like plunging your hands into a pile of expensive folded robes made of the softest fabric at some kind of fancy department store. The pile of robes topples over. You slink away, unseen. You got away with it but you feel bad about the probably underpaid store attendant who has to tidy it up. You think about it still, eight years later. I don’t know where I’m going with this. The ice cream is delicious.

I’d like to emphasise that it is very, very simple to make, which is how I like my ice cream to be. You don’t need an ice cream maker! That’s what Big Ice Cream Maker wants you to think! I mean if you have one, that’s lovely, I just try to make a point of making recipes that require minimal equipment so that the maximum amount of people might consider trying them out. This ice cream requires three steps – browning the butter, melting the cream and chocolate together, and letting the cornflour thicken the cream mixture somewhat. Then you bung it in the freezer, don’t even worry about stirring it at this point, just wait for it to freeze and it’s all yours.

white chocolate and burnt butter ice cream

a recipe by myself

  • 100g butter
  • three cups (750ml) cream
  • one tablespoon cornflour
  • 200g genuinely nice white chocolate, eg Whittakers
  • 3/4 cup sugar

First, your butter: melt it in a saucepan large enough to hold all the rest of the ingredients, since you might as well use as few pans as possible. Once it’s melted, keep it on the heat so it starts to bubble up and brown – once it’s at the point of having thick golden fluffy foam on top and being a rich golden brown underneath, remove it from the heat and transfer it to a small bowl to cool slightly. 

Rinse out the pan and then over a low heat, melt the chocolate into the cream, stirring occasionally. Mix the cornflour with a couple of tablespoons of water – I just do this in the measuring cup I used for the cream – and tip it into the chocolate/cream mixture. Continue stirring over a low heat until it thickens a bit – you’ll feel it changing as you stir, going from being very thin liquid to a more saucy, thickshake type vibe. Remove it from the heat.

Stir in the sugar, and finally, spoon or pour in the butter, or more specifically, the dark golden brown middle layer of the butter – it will have separated into sediment on the bottom, super rich dark brown butter in the middle, and a golden salty layer on top. The middle stuff is what we want, but if other bits get in the mix it’s not the end of the world. 

Freeze till solid – around 4-6 hours – and then it’s all yours for the eating. 

The cornflour, without any effort on your behalf, thickens up the cream and turns it into a pseudo custard, and the texture when frozen is incredible – so, so smooth and satiny. But the burnt butter with the melted white chocolate! Seriously, I don’t know whether I’m more excited about the flavour or the texture in this one. Just trust me on it and try it for yourself. For what it’s worth, it tastes good no matter what kind of day you’re having.

Also! If you like the idea of ice cream then I have a ludicrous quantity of recipes for you, but you could consider: apple cinnamon ice cream; chocolate peanut butter ice cream; and grapefruit curd ripple ice cream.

Also I’m still laughing about “knowing wank”.

title from: The Dead Weather, Blue Blood Blues. This song is so crunchy, I love it.

music lately:

Brandy, Tamia, Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, Missing You. This was playing at the coffee shop I was at this morning and I got a sudden flashback to being ten years old and (rightly) getting suuuper emotional over this song.

Billie Myers, Tell Me. This song flew massively under the radar in 1999 or whenever it came out, but it’s so good and the chorus is so big, I love it.

next time: well that cornbread was amazing. I am very sure I’m going to make it again at some point. 

frozen inside without your touch

It’s so interesting to me how the body doesn’t remember pain. As any scientist will tell you, it’s super necessary for us to forget what hurting feels like, to ensure the human race can continue…to get tattoos. And also give birth. On a smaller scale, hunger works like that. When you are hungry, it’s all like “I could definitely eat an entire cheesecake and probably a large bowl of chowder; I also think that seventeen is a good quantity of whole grilled eggplants for one human to consume. God I want some Nando’s.”

And then when you’re feeling nauseous and the thought of food leaves you blank and numb, suddenly it’s like…why do humans eat? What possible joy is there to be derived from food? Do the words “food blog” seem really weird to you? So it’s like…you write about food? That seems confusing? And so it goes, round in circles. Don’t even get me started on that “wait why do humans drink?” feeling that I get when hungover. Aren’t humans funny!

 scoop! there it is (so not sorry for this pun, but I would unrelatedly like to follow this up with a sincere apology for it  scoop! there it is (so not sorry for this pun, but I would unrelatedly like to follow this up with a sincere apology for it

Anyway the point of all this high level impressive science talk is that I made this dark cocoa and olive oil sorbet simply because I was hungry for it. The ingredients seemed so rich and alive and I wanted to see how the flavours would work together. I’d been given a bottle of Seresin Estate olive oil, so aggressively green that the overture from Wicked would play in my head every time I looked at it; and had some organic cocoa that I was given by my godmother a while back, soft and dark like iron sand.  I made it and ate it, and it was incredible. I photographed it, and it looked really pretty. And now that I’ve come to write about it, I’m, well, not feeling very good. But this is my opportunity to write, and I am not going to let a mere thing like the sight of food making me recoil suspiciously get in the way of this super important blog, especially since I only just relaunched it with this shiny new pretty look. You know that “mere flesh wound” bit from Monty Python? (If you don’t, just ask literally any baby boomer and they’ll enthusiastically recreate it for you.) That’s me with this blog.

The thing is, I do remember this sorbet tasting unbelievably good: pitch-dark chocolate flavour saved from throat-burning intensity by all the sugar, with the glossy olive oil adding the slightest suggestion of black pepper and some general lusciousness. If you use a more buttery, less grassy olive oil it will absolutely be delightful, but I like how this particular one brought out the almost meaty richness of the cocoa. In case all this talk of meat and grass and pepper sounds unhelpful, like, please know that this sorbet is honestly just massively good with enormous chocolatey flavour and a pleasingly yielding texture. The icy coldness of it all just makes the taste of chocolate even more delicious.

dark cocoa and olive oil sorbet

a recipe by myself. 

  • one and a half cups of good dark cocoa
  • one cup of sugar
  • two and a half cups of boiling water
  • two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • a tiny pinch of sea salt

Either in a bowl, or in the container you plan to freeze it in – and you know I went for the latter – carefully mix the cocoa and sugar together so they form a sugary cocoa-y dust. Slowly pour in the olive oil and salt, and mix in a little. Add the water, a little at a time, stirring slowly till you have a thick, dark soupy liquid. I keep saying to do everything slowly because it’s really easy to fling clouds of cocoa everywhere or spill the lot, or at least it definitely is for me. 

Stick it in the freezer, and give it a stir every hour or so – normally I wouldn’t make you stir it this often but this is just to keep the olive oil all fully incorporated. After a few hours it should be frozen fully and ready to spoon into waiting mouths.  

Possibly more exciting than any aspect of the flavour that I can lay an alarming quantity of adjectives upon is: you can make it in the container that you’re going to freeze it in, thus avoiding the horror of washing one bowl. You’re using a lot of cocoa, but I do urge you to buy as good a quality one as you can muster – it doesn’t matter what brand, as long as the fat content is at least 20g per 100g of cocoa. At least. It’ll just be all palely not-quite-chocolatey without it. I just love ice cream so much and don’t want you to end up with frozen garbage! On the upside, water is free and sugar is really cheap and usually someone in your flat has a bag of it anyway. One other point about this sorbet: if you don’t get the chance to stir it every hour or so, the olive oil will obstinately separate from the water and freeze solid on its own: this is actually not the end of the world. It is, however, also science. Just break up the frozen oil by stirring it in – any remaining bits of it have the exact texture of nice chocolate and taste not unlike it too, so no harm done.

Leaving ice cream to the side for a minute: something in my life that I’ve been immensely proud of is being a contributor to The Toast website. (Noted readers include Hilary Clinton, I’ve just found out.) The Toast closed its doors this week, which left a particular emptiness in my heart and/or soul – it was always such a warm, safe place where I could go for an absolute escape; to find myself in the incredible specificities of the writing or to learn a ton of new stuff. It was a kind and clever and beautiful website and I’m bummed that it’s done but I’m so happy that I got to be a part of it with my Crush Cake series. I don’t know where I’m going to take the series next – maybe I’ll pitch it to someone else, maybe I’ll just let it be, but either way I feel like you should definitely read my two favourites: the profiterole mountain I made for Lucy Liu, and the giant bagel that I made for Sandy Cohen.

 don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened

I know it’s the middle of winter here in New Zealand and tucking into food that you’ve wilfully frozen seems counterproductive but let me remind you of one of life’s greatest pleasures: sitting on the floor in your underwear with the heater blasting artificial warmth your way as you merrily eat vast amounts of ice cream. The very minute I feel like not-nauseous again – and I hope I did an okay job of convincing you to make this sorbet in spite of my present lack of enthusiasm – this is what I’m going to do. I hope it’s soon.

If you liked the look of this you may also want to suss out my recipes for lemon poppyseed ice cream, quince sorbet, lychee and cucumber sorbet, and this cocoa sorbet recipe I blogged about in 2010 which inspired today’s recipe.

title from: Evanescense, Bring Me To Life. Do not come into my blog and imply that this song does not hold up. Also don’t not try to analyse whether all the double negatives I’ve used just now render my point meaningless. 

music lately:

Beyonce, Sorry. You can really just count on Beyonce, can’t you?  This is from her brilliant and important visual album Lemonade and if you haven’t watched it yet I strenuously insist that you make time for it; it’ll improve your life, no biggie.

The 1996 song Jellyhead by Crush was already fairly forgotten as far as 90s nostalgia goes but even more injurious, you could only find an amazingly cheap-sounding house remix on YouTube. Today I discovered this terrible quality version of the original song, and it’s honestly one of the best pop songs of all time and even though it sounds like it was recorded through a sock I’m so happy to hear the original again finally! (As in, for the first time since 1997-ish.) 

next time: I found this broth recipe that looks super cool, and as broth normally makes me all like “ah yes, lightly salted water” the fact that I’m interested in this recipe is surely indicative at all of its potential. 

perfect hexagon of the honeycomb and you soothe yourself with the shapes you know

how much trouble can one ice cream be?

Prologue: Laura.

Confused yet? I decided to write this blog post somewhat in the style of a Baby-Sitters Club book, for no good reason other than it occurred to me and I ran with it.

Chapter 1

WHUMP! CLATTER! 

That’s the sound of me jumping onto my bed while holding a bowl of ice cream and delicious homemade honeycomb sauce, immediately knocking over the worrying number of empty juice cans that I’m lazily keeping beside it instead of putting them in the bin. “Auughhhh!” I just manage to stop the rapidly-melting ice cream and warm sauce from spilling over onto my bed. What a day!

I guess you’re wondering by now who I am, and what I’m wearing. Well there’s me, Laura – I hope you’re taking notes, I’m going to quiz you on this later! Psych! I’m kind of the humorous one here, or so I always say. I’ve got chin-length unruly red hair and glasses, but people do still hang out with me. I’m wearing these old cerulean blue shorts that I think used to be part of some boys’ high school regulation gym uniform (I love vintage!) and a white crop top that has the word “CHALLENGE” written across the front in big black letters, because I like to wear clothing that doubles as a friendly warning for what kind of person I am. I don’t have pierced ears, but people do still hang out with me. Most importantly, I’m eating ice cream, even though it’s not even breakfast time yet. I know what you’re thinking – how do I eat all this ice cream without getting in trouble? The thing is, I’m kind of an individual when it comes to doing what I want. I’m also the only person ever that has ever been into cooking. It’s kind of my one personality trait. If anyone else likes it, I’m certainly not acknowledging it!

this ice cream is sensitive and a good listener

Chapter 2

My best friends work during the day and I work at night, but when we get together, we always have a good time! We’re the best friends you’ll ever have. Does that sound like a threat? I’m inclined to tell you the intimate details of their respective family history, but that would be really weird, so I’ll just do a brief hagiography (that means documentation of the lives of saints, it’s a word I learned recently). There’s Kim, who has lo-oo-ong dark hair and the enormous macadamia-shaped eyes of a curious woodland deer. She’s kind of the wise, yet wickedly fun one of the group. Kate has just dyed her hair blonde, which means she is now even more popular and sophisticated – she also has a crazy household with a cat AND a dog, and a real, live, husband! Confusingly, Kate is also wise yet wickedly fun. This week because of Easter and having days off I’ve been able to see them relatively heaps and it has been very good for the soul, as the saying goes. For example, on Monday night we sat on the floor of my bedroom (it’s a great meeting space, I’m so lucky to have my own one!) and ate Pop-Tarts and drank Boulevardiers. That’s a cocktail which is like a negroni but uses bourbon instead of gin, and it’s one of my favourites. We clinked our glasses together in what we call “a toast”, and in that moment we felt like real Big City women.

darn it! I said ruefully. I only described their hair, not their outfits. 

 

Chapter 3

“We’re finally getting to the plot!” I thought ruefully, tucking a lock of unruly red hair behind my tragically unpierced ears. So, I’m kind of the “food blogger” around here. I’m also kind of an ideas person. I have Big Ideas and then Occasionally Make Them Happen Around Three Weeks Later If I’m Awake Enough, I know, it’s a little exhausting trying to keep up with me! When my Ideas and food blogging combine – bam! Honeycomb Sauce. Okay, okay, I had honeycomb ice cream at a local restaurant and immediately decided that honeycomb was the new salted caramel, and wanted to make some version of it for myself to have again and again in the comfort of my own bed and/or more normal area in the house to eat. But after some time I learned a little bit about myself and a lot about the true meaning of friendship: it’s not a competition. Salted Caramel may be heavily overexposed, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious. Honeycomb is just a flavour I hadn’t thought about in forever!

I know what you’re thinking – just honey and sugar? Way too sweet. Booooring. About as fun as a pop quiz or getting Salisbury Steak for lunch, neither of which I’ve ever actually experienced.

In fact, the delicate floral sweetness of the honey and the richness of the butter come together to make something pretty magical, and very individual. It doesn’t taste overly of honey, it’s more reminiscent of (that means “reminiscent of”, it’s a word I learned recently) actual honeycomb, the kind of stuff that you find inside Crunchy Bars or other similar candies hidden around your room. This sauce isn’t perfect – I admit! – half of it remained saucy and the other half solidified as soon as it hit the cold ice cream, but this was all so fun and delicious that I decided to share it with you anyway.

honeycomb sauce: a delicious prototype 

A recipe by myself. I’m thinking of adding a tablespoon or so of cream to it next time to see if that keeps it more liquid but I do love it just like this. 

100g butter
half a cup of sugar
one tablespoon brown sugar
one heaped tablespoon honey

Heat everything together in a saucepan, stirring gently as it comes to the boil. Remove from the heat once it starts bubbling and continue stirring for a bit. Allow it to cool somewhat (it’ll be like actual lava initially) before pouring it all over your ice cream. 



Chapter 4

I decided to end the day with ice cream and honeycomb sauce – after all, I’m a grown up and kind of a bad girl who makes her own rules. The remaining sauce had turned rock solid in the fridge, so I had to carefully sit the bottle inside a cup of boiling water to soften it, but during this time, I learned five more lessons about friendship. Unfortunately I’m still wearing the same outfit that I was at the start of this story, but to pad things out a bit, I’ll tell you about what I wore yesterday: a vintage white minidress with pink and orange diamond patterns across it and a high neck with a collar. I wore it with my yellow socks with pizzas on them and chunky black ankle boots – pretty wild, huh? I’m a pretty wild dresser!

feel free to judge how well the illustration matches the description

Prologue:

Ice cream twice in 24 hours – that day was a summer I’ll never forget.

title from: One Beat by Sleater-Kinney. Howl-y goodness. Oh yeah, and while I’m all “what would Kristy Thomas, President of the Babysitters Club, have to say about Sleater-Kinney?” I’m also dropping the conceit for the remainder of the blog post, okay?  

music lately: 

I’ve finally given Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton a proper listen and I am predictably entranced and addicted. That man is a beautiful genius and I will ramble at extreme length if given the chance to talk about him. Also look, please just watch him and other members of the cast perform My Shot for the damn president at The White House and I dare you to not get shivers.

Listening to one modern musical about historic political American times got me thinking about another one: Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, which in the opposite direction of the incredible success of Hamilton, ran for a mere hundred and twenty something performances on Broadway before closing. I saw a production of it in New Orleans a few years back but haven’t listened to it since; its pop punk sound is like…perfect? I don’t know what the best entry point would be, maybe Rockstar if you want something fast or Saddest Song if you want something amazing.

Kid Cudi with MGMT, Pursuit of Happiness. Whatever track this samples is intoxicating and then the rest of the song has the temerity to be excellent as well. This song is moderately ancient but sounds so fresh.

next time: the novelty is over, kids, and I have some brussels sprouts to emphasise this (they’re fried with pistachios and truffle butter though, so) 

and ice cream castles in the air and feather canyons everywhere

rum’n’raisin your hands in the the air like you just don’t care
I’ve been really sick this whole past week, and every time I even tried to blog it was like, what if I just lie here and groan throatily instead? Yes, that’s a better use of my time. I’m still a little tickly of the throat and having to blow my nose a ton, but things are definitely improved. I pushed myself a couple of times last week – to go to work (alas, no sexy 2005 Lindsay Lohan voice for me but more of an enthusiastic honking goose noise every time I opened my mouth) and to go to the launch party of the Visa Wellington on a Plate festival. I really could’ve stayed in bed that night of course, but the promise of free wine is a rousing one and reading the new event programme is always exciting and damned if I’m going to let feeling like death stop me from doing some hard mingling and trying to feel like I’m vaguely relevant in the food-related scene, whatever that even is. Upon arriving at the launch my sheer black fringed robe immediately got tangled in a low-hanging plant in the foyer, causing an old man to say in a concerned voice, “This is the Wellington on a Plate launch“, as though I’d wandered here by mistake while looking for like, The Quarterly Symposium of Sewer Dwellers, but fortunately my name was in fact on the door and I managed to extricate myself and have a wonderful time. Love a good launch party! And now I have till August to meander through the programme and hedge my bets as to which set menu in which fancy restaurant looks the funnest. 
What with my throat feeling like an actual garbage can and all, I thought the ice cream I made a while ago would be a soothing thing to eat, but unfortunately my stupid nose, with all the functionality of a flickering lightbulb, meant that I couldn’t really taste anything. This was distressing. Since this ice cream is honestly the most delicious thing ever. Luckily, I made some well before I got sick, ate the lot in one sitting, then made some more and ate half of that before I got sick, so I have a good frame of reference from which to describe it to you. And I will describe it to you like this: omg it’s amazing. 

I don’t even like raisins at all, those gritty little scrunched up no-fun ex-grapes, but my swell girlfriend was saying how she loved rum’n’raisin ice cream when she lived in England and never saw it anywhere here in New Zealand. I like a challenge, even if I don’t like a raisin, and I adore making ice cream, and actually had never even tried this particular flavour before, so how was I to know if the look on my face I made when I thought about it even matched how it tastes in real life?

I cheated massively and substituted the more tolerable sultanas while audaciously keeping the name, but if you’re not averse to the real alliterative thing then by all means substitute raisins for my substituted sultanas. Really though, it’s the rum and the coconut sugar which make this recipe particularly magical – I used Cruzan Blackstrap rum which is full of dark, sticky caramel flavour, and anything along those lines would be perfect. I feel like I’ve gone on heaps about coconut sugar lately, but it’s so fudgily butterscotchily good and really gives the custard an intensely, gorgeously mellow flavour (yes, both intense and mellow). Making the custard is a pain – so much transferring between bowls and pans and so much stirring! – but it’s forever since I’ve done this proper method of making ice cream and the soft, dissolvingly creamy texture you get once it’s frozen is worth the effort, I think.

And yes, the sultanas themselves are wonderful – all swollen from the rum, and strangely chewy and confection-like once frozen, little bursts of alcoholic warmth amongst all the caramel iciness. 
look at this good ice cream I made

rum’n’raisin ice cream 

makes around a litre/1200ml, depending on how much custard and mixture you eat. 
a recipe by myself. I didn’t consult any other recipes so this is literally ice cream that has rum and also raisins in it (I mean, sultanas, but same diff) and I have no idea how similar it is to the established flavour itself, but since I never see it around and have never tried anything but mine I can only conclude that my version is totally superior to everything. 

3 large egg yolks
half a cup coconut sugar, or brown sugar
one cup full cream milk
500 – 600ml cream (sometimes it’s only sold in 600ml bottles and if that’s all you can find all that happens is you’ll get a bit more ice cream, wheeeee) 
half a cup of sultanas, golden if you can find them
dark rum, I used Cruzan Blackstrap

Firstly, place the sultanas in a small bowl and pour in just enough rum to pretty much submerge them. Leave them overnight ideally to absorb as much alcohol as possible, but if you’ve only got an hour then I’m sure it’ll still be okay. 

Slowly heat the milk in a saucepan, till it’s almost, almost, at a simmer – you want it to be hot but barely starting to wobble and move around with the heat, if that makes sense? While it’s heating up, mix the egg yolks together with the sugar – it might turn into quite a thick paste, don’t worry – and then once the milk is hot, remove it from the heat and briskly whisk a few spoonfuls of it into the egg yolks, slowly adding the rest of the hot milk while continuing to whisk. Now spatula all that back into the saucepan and stir this mixture over a low heat – either using a whisk or a spatula – until it thickens up a little, like the texture of a good milkshake. This will take a few minutes of stirring but keeping the heat low prevents the egg yolks from cooking instantly. Once you feel like it’s sufficiently thick – less a milky texture and more a creamy, saucy texture – remove from the heat immediately. 

Now all the hard stuff is done, and to turn this into ice cream, all you have to do is: stir the sultanas and remaining rum into the cooled custard, whip the cream until it’s thick and aerated but not fluffy and stiff, fold everything together, spatula into a freezer-safe container and freeze, without stirring, until it’s solid. That’s it.  
 that’s it

Also, the person who suggested that I try making this in the first place really loved it, which is excellent. There are so many things I’m not good at, but it’s nice to remind myself how amazingly great I am at making ice cream. I mean, I really did eat the entire first batch in one sitting, as if in some kind of delicious fugue state. And so I conclude that raisins are in fact pretty okay, but only if they’re actually sultanas. And filled with rum.

Also: ya girl has blue hair now! Although as I type I’ve randomly smudged some purple and pink into it to see what happens. What will probably happen is I’ll forget I’ve done this and take a nap after I’ve finished writing this and I’ll end up dying my face and pillow but somehow not my hair. But I want to nap so hard right now I’m not sure I even care? Either way, fun times should ensue.

Some other exciting things I’ve done lately include, appearing on Radio New Zealand to talk about preserved lemons with Jesse Mulligan – I love being on Radio NZ, they are good people – and also I wrote about a local coffee shop for US site Sprudge. Ya girl is doing stuff! Also ya girl is so ready to be completely unsick again. There’s only so many times that I can Leslie Knope myself into action, being all “okay I can’t actually stand upright okay time to go interact with the public and do the responsibilities” (by “only so many times” I mean “I will do this endlessly and as many times as I have to”, but yeah.) On the upside, being sick and having my tastebuds wavering in and out of service means I still have quite a lot of untouched rum’n’raisin ice cream left in the freezer…

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title from: Carly Rae Jepsen, Both Sides Now. The more I see “sacrilege! gasp!” comments about her cover of the Joni Mitchell song on youtube the more amazing and legit it sounds, tbh.
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music lately:

She Cries Your Name, Beth Orton. The opening strings on this are so dreamy and haunting! And then it stays that way! 

Shakey Dog, Ghostface Killah. Speaking of dreamy and haunting, I just looove the sample that serves in place of a chorus here, every time it changes up a chord into that “uhhhhhhh” bit (I’m so great at describing music lol) it’s so amazing. Also Ghostface Killah is massively engaging and I love how he always sounds a bit stressed.
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next time: even if I have this cold forever and ever I’m gonna make myself blog sooner, okay? Being asleep all day is no excuse for not writing! 

we’ll drink coffee and you can spend the night, we’ll do anything that makes you smile

I was supposed to blog about this earlier today but then I also had to make a cake and while doing so I ate so much cake batter and icing that I needed a nap, during which time if you did an x-ray scan of my skull you would see that the brain had dissolved into a nourishing yet ultimately useless sugary syrup. Which is so much the story of my life, that you could put that opening sentence on the front cover of my (inevitable, hopefully) autobiography.

On that supposed-to-be-doing-stuff vibe, I was talking to my dear friend Kate the other day about motivation and wanting to get stuff done and worrying about where I am going with my life, I seem to do little other than half-assedly start projects and then abandon them through sheer tiredness and I hate it but I also can’t seem to keep up with myself or my expectations of myself, y’know? If I could get some kind of fairy godmother situation happening right now my request to them would be for me to write another cookbook and get a TV show. I so deeply miss that wacky montage time when I was nonstop writing my first cookbook and making food and there were photoshoots and plans and ridiculous recipe testing and just so much going on. Unfortunately, in what some might look at as being a bad sign, the word document in which I put lots of plans and recipe ideas in order to pitch a new cookbook to someone…disappeared. My computer ate it. I’m gonna try to start all over again, but gosh! Psychological and literal setbacks ahoy! And yeah, I did say pitch. I am always proud of how I was approached by Penguin to write my first cookbook, but this time around I can’t sit and wait and hope for the best, I need to, oh, rediscover my inner Leslie Knope and hustle like whoa. With that in mind, if anyone knows of any highly good and cool publishers that I should be approaching, let me know. If you want to tell me that the publishing industry is going down the toilet and unless I’m writing Fifty Shades of Grey fanfic I’m screwed, I’d be less appreciative, but I guess tough love has its place sometimes. That place is not here (by here I mean anywhere near my general person.)

I love these pastel sprinkles so much 

But why have an existential meltdown when you could eat ice cream? While having an existential meltdown? (Tagline: save the meltdown for yourself, not your frozen dessert) I made this coffee ice cream, a recipe of my queen Nigella Lawson’s, three times in about ten days – which speaks to both the excellence of said recipe and also my abilities at hoovering through ice cream like a vacuum cleaner with googly eyes stuck on it to give it a human-like quality.

This stuff is wondrous. The addition of sweetened condensed milk gives it a maddeningly pleasing chewiness, as well as making it spoonable and smooth straight from the freezer without any need for churning, stirring, or waiting for it to soften. The bulging caramel taste of the condensed milk also mellows out the harsh coffee dust, giving it a crema-soft coffee flavour with tiny specks of enlivening bitterness here and there. It’s so lush and delicious and I frankly expected nothing less of Nigella but it’s still good to have such relentlessly positive ideals reinforced.

Despite the recipe being monumentally easy, when I first made it I deviated slightly and used coconut cream instead of regular cream, simply because it’s what I had in my cupboard and also I’d spent three of my last ten dollars on a can of sweetened condensed milk and felt like this frugal act counteracted some of that heathenish wretchedness. (In my, and indeed anyone’s defense, sometimes having seven dollars and ice cream is better than having ten dollars and no ice cream, in terms of living your best life.)

It was so brilliant that it’s all I’ve done ever since for fear of breaking the magic spell of deliciousness, but feel free to use actual cream if you like. The coconut flavour is completely subtle and totally overpowered by all that coffee, if that’s something that concerns you.

very easy coffee ice cream

adapted from a recipe in Nigella Lawson’s book Nigellissima. Makes around 600ml. 

one 400ml (or so) can coconut cream
one can sweetened condensed milk
about three tablespoons of instant coffee, ideally instant espresso powder

Empty the two cans into a bowl, and whisk together along with the coffee powder. If you like you can dissolve the coffee in a tablespoon or two of boiling water, otherwise your ice cream will be dotted with coffee granules – either way is fine though.

Pour into a freezer-proof receptacle – I use an old take-out plastic container with a lid – and freeze for about six hours or until solid.

Eat, rapturously.  Or morosely, I’m not here to police your facial expressions. 

Ice cream is easily one of my very favourite foods, which is possibly another factor towards my ploughing merrily through so much of this stuff recently, but don’t just take my word for it – actually, do just take my word for it, this is a food blog, damn it. This is easy and delicious and wonderful and you deserve all those words in your life materialised in food form.

What have I been up to of late when not fretting luxuriantly about how much I’m not achieving? Swanning about and swooning about, I suppose, going to parties with my thoroughly and respectively wonderful friends and girlfriend; working at work; gasping and clutching at myself with great emotion while watching Pretty Little Liars; trying to not spend money; and oh look, dying my hair pinker than it has ever been:

je vois la vie en rose 
On a final, aggressively mercenary note, if my ability to buy cream is something you care about, may I remind you that you can still purchase copies of my amazing cookbook directly through me – I have a few left but stocks are dwindling so move with haste is my advice. Also if you’re a rich weirdo who finds lighting your scented candles with hundred dollar bills gauche and passé and you’re looking for a new way to get your kicks, my paypal is always open and any and everything is so very appreciated. 
Actually, let’s end not with capitalism but with more ice cream. Which is probably still capitalism, my knowledge of the economy is hazy and based on my own hyperbolic notions at best.
affogato made with coffee ice cream, for when being merely sybaritic is not quite enough.
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title from: Little Red, by Kate Nash. It’s so strange and magical and melancholy and narrative, this song. I love it. 
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music lately: 

Marina and the Diamonds, Shampain. This song still goes off and still gets me right in the heart, it’s so rapturously dreamy and poppy, and I’m always like oh wow it’s so meaningful no matter literally what is happening in my life at the time.

Pere Ubu, Modern Dance. I haven’t heard this song in foreverrrr but it’s so great, I love how hypnotic yet dinky the melody is.

Flo Rida/T-Pain, Low. I danced ever so happily to this on Friday night and have been singing it in my head ever since (“she hit the floorSHE HIT THE FLOOR”) and I don’t even mind because T-Pain is an actual delight of a human.
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next time: your guess is as good as mine, so, uh, ooh, how mysterious. 

and the ice cream’s melted and it’s dripping down my neck

grapefruit curd ripple ice cream 

What the actual what, it’s suddenly October. Evenings are lighter, summer is closer, Halloween approaches, asparagus exists. This has been a tumultuous year and as each month reaches out its hand to the next month I always think this is the one, this is going to be my time. May is going to be chill. June will be good. July! July shall give me that nice mellow status quo. And each month, things stay ridiculous. So my new philosophy is to just go with the flow, let everything happen and wash over me, and just try to be happy. Or at least try to try. 

Something very happy-making: I was given a supermarket bag full of grapefruit from a friend’s relative’s tree recently, which is really exciting. Firstly, living in the concrete jungle that is Wellington (well, it’s quite small, more of a concrete flower patch) you forget what it’s like to just have people with trees overflowing with abundant fruit that needs getting rid of. Secondly: I adore grapefruit. They’re all bitter and intense and relatively under-appreciated and those are qualities I can respect in both my fruit and my humans. All the recipes that I found online seemed a bit bleak (lots of dry-looking vague-coloured grapefruit cakes?) but the good people of Twitter shrewdly suggested grapefruit curd and ice cream. And then I remembered my own cranberry curd ripple ice cream from a few years ago and thought this could be a cool variation. (Cool, get it?) (Sorry) (not sorry.)

Queen Leslie Knope: I am big enough to admit that I am often inspired by myself

The grapefruit curd recipe makes enough for the ice cream and then some leftover to either spoon into your mouth (as I did) or spread onto your toast (I did not make it to that stage but I’m sure it’s good.) Apart from some necessary fear and respect for the grapefruit curd mixture as you make it – it can so easily overcook and turn into scrambled eggs! – this is really, really easy. In fact the only trouble I really ran into was that I kept spilling curd over the side of the pan as I was stirring it. Constantly. Like, I really lost quite a significant quantity of the overall mixture. Being clumsy is not as charming as romantic comedies would have you think it is, I can tell you.

Grapefruit curd is this incredible meeting of silky texture, pure sweetness, and fizzingly citrussy fragrance. The bitterness of the fruit is softened first by all the butter and eggs and then further by being swirled through thick cream, but still hovers in the background like a friendly ghost. The dollops of not-entirely-mixed-in grapefruit curd that freeze amongst the cream give bursts of near-sour flavour and the whole thing is just pretty ravishing. And easy! But importantly, ravishing. I realise the recipe looks a bit lengthy but really all you have to do is stir stuff then stir stuff then stir those together, I just tend to overexplain so you feel completely at ease. (I tend to overexplain literally everything actually, and to be honest putting people at ease is not usually the outcome, but hopefully it works here.)

grapefruit curd ripple ice cream

a recipe by myself

two grapefruit
four eggs
one cup sugar
150g butter, diced very small
one and a half cups cream

Squeeze the juice from the grapefruit into a relatively large pot, and mix in the eggs, sugar, and diced butter. Now stir constantly over a low heat with a spatula – making sure to constantly drag it along the bottom of the pan so that the curd doesn’t settle on the heat and cook too quickly – until the butter has gently melted into everything. Continue stirring over a low heat till it’s thick, or turn up the heat a little as you stir which will speed things up a bit. Either way, keep stirring, keep it moving. 

Once it’s thick, remove from the heat and spatula into a container/bowl and refrigerate it till it’s cool, by which time it should have thickened up even more. 

Whip the cream until it’s thick enough to hold its own shape when you lift the whisk/beater up out of the bowl, but not so much that it’s like, entirely solid. Whisk in one cup of the cooled grapefruit curd, and then spatula this into a loaf tin. Take another half cup (or up to one cup) of the grapefruit curd and spoon it here and there over the cream in the loaf tin, dragging the handle of a spoon or something similar through it a little to ripple it. Freeze for several hours before eating. 

You want to eat this within a couple of days – it’ll still be delicious after that, but will take on a sliiiightly grainy after-texture. This is just because it’s only cream and curd and doesn’t have anything else in it that makes regular ice cream last so long, but the pride you have in making your own damn ice cream will hopefully up the deliciousness.

I’m trying to make the most of eating on the cute little balcony pictured above, because…ya girl is moving house again. The reason this time is fairly straightforward and pragmatic – neither of which are qualities I’m used to embodying, but here we are – I can’t afford to live where I am right now. My rent is too high for what I earn, and neither of those factors are going to change dramatically anytime soon, so I’m just going to find somewhere else. It’ll be stressful, but also: whatever. It’s practical. Delightfully, I’m going to be moving in to a friend’s spare room for a bit while I find my feet (and hopefully find myself) while constantly singing the theme tune to New Girl (even though I maintain I am most definitely Nick, not Jess) (if that doesn’t make sense, you should totally watch the TV show New Girl, starting halfway through season 1. It’s pretty sublime.) So at least I’m already coolly prepared for life to Stay Ridiculous during October.

Stay Cute in the face of everything

PS, I say, in the hushed manner of someone shyly sliding you a note in class, don’t forget you can now only order my cookbook directly through me. My pile of remaining cookbooks is starting to get smaller and smaller…

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title from: School’s Out by Regina Spektor (were there ever two sweeter words?) it’s rambling and conversational and sad and happy and I love her voice so much. 
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music lately: 

Chelsea Jade, Nightswimmer. Formerly dreamy dreamboat Watercolours, she’s now Chelsea Jade and this song is as much of a swoony trip as ever.

Ella Eyre, Love Me Like You. Ouch.
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Next time: Well, I still have a lot of grapefruit. 

eating soft ice cream, coney island queen

photographed this ice cream with an antique ice cream scoop but then used a regular spoon to actually scoop ice cream into my bowl because the antique one is cute but a pain to use and also I now have zero morals when it comes to photographing things as props but not actually using them.

I’m not going to sugar coat it for you, there are a lot of things in my life right now that range from “this kinda sucks” to “oh wow this majorly sucks”. But now that I’ve said that I’m going to hand you a snug coat made of pure cane sugar, because I’m keeping things on a rare need-to-know basis at the moment, and anyone who needs to know what’s happening already knows. I might as well not burden you all with it too if I don’t have to. Also: I have a recipe for apple cinnamon ice cream, so am kind of literally sugar-coating things here too.

So instead, some good things right now are:

I have amazing friends who are so very there for me // despite these last couple of weeks being very tiring, I still love my job. Although I do realise I’m not the first person in the world to ever do hospo so no it’s not actually a revelation to a lot of people that there is some arduous work involved. I didn’t realise I was so entitled! // I knitted a hot water bottle cosy for my nanna and it involved doing cabling for the first time and while it’s a tiny bit wonky it turned out rather beautiful // I drank an entire pot of tea today from a teapot shaped like an elephant // I recently discovered that my queen Lucy Liu has an instagram // I started a fun project called bathroomselfiehunter.tumblr.com // my tarot card for August is amazing and promises creative vision and being powerful and great and so I am determined to make that all come true // I saw a beautiful film called Reaching For The Moon at the film festival // I have seen a LOT of cute cats and dogs recently // I have a lot of parties to go to this month // I discovered the truly good Ask Andrew WK column for the Village Voice // I have a lot of homemade ice cream in the freezer.

Ice cream and pasta are probably my two favourite foods, but while I eat pasta all the time it has been a shamefully forever-long time since I’ve made ice cream. I’m on a massive cinnamon kick at the moment and am determined to scent my life with it (can tell you for free that putting cinnamon sticks in your oil burner does absolutely nothing apart from make your oil burner look like a very small dumpster) and like the idea of the cosy, warm flavour of said cinnamon being trapped in such a chilly context. I know it’s winter in New Zealand right now and ice cream is probably one of the last things you want to eat, but consider this: ice cream is really, really delicious. Also, apples are one of the few fruits that seem to be happily in season right now, as opposed to gasping for mere existence, and the method couldn’t be simpler – some stirring, some whisking, some waiting, and then you have ice cream.

An excellent thing about ice cream is that the frozen-ness somehow mutes any overload of sweetness, so while it may seem like there’s a lot of sugar in this, it’s all necessary and good. Something about the sticky texture of the sweetened condensed milk and the light, airy cream comes together to make something amazingly creamy and dense yet soft and spoonable. The simmered apples provide chewy bursts of sweet-sharp fragrant juiciness, and it’s altogether just pretty wonderful.

apple cinnamon ice cream

a recipe by myself

two apples, Granny Smith are good for this one
three tablespoons brown sugar
one can sweetened condensed milk
500ml cream
plenty of ground cinnamon

Finely dice the apples, but don’t worry about peeling them. Simmer them in a pan over a low heat with the brown sugar, until the sugar is bubbling and sticky and the apple pieces are very soft. 

Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little, then stir in the condensed milk. In another bowl, whisk the cream till thickened to roughly the texture of a good thickshake – you want it solid, but not actually whipped. Fold in the apple and condensed milk, then shake in plenty of cinnamon and stir again. Spatula this mixture into a freezer-proof container (I like loaf tins for this, hence…why I did that) and freeze for a bunch of hours or overnight. 

 

I just went and ate some more now from the freezer to see if anything new to say about it sprang to mind, and all I can say is wow it’s amazing, go me for making up such a great recipe. If you’ve ever felt like ice cream is something you want to tackle but it seems way too nervous-making, this simple, caramel-tinged winter wonderland of a thing is for you.

One thing I will tell you is that for reasons bewilderingly out of my control, I am in the market for a new place to live. My dealbreakers are: it has to be right in the city, an apartment, a big bedroom, lots of good light for food photography, and have an elevator. As you can imagine, finding such a place has been a total breeze. Truth is, I’ve got nothing, so if you are a Wellingtonianite and know of such a place that fits my needs, please let me know!

In the meantime, there’s not many things that ice cream can’t make slightly-to-very-much better.

PS I lost my camera’s SD card so took all this week’s photos on my phone, apologies for any drop in quality, but also I take back those apologies, because isn’t it amazing how my mere cellphone takes better photos than a lot of digital cameras did, say, four years ago? We’re living in the future!

title from: Lana Del Rey’s song Carmen. I ❤ her so much. 

music lately:

Dark Dark Dark, Hear Me. I hadn’t listened to this band in a while and now cannot stop, not sure how I forgot how dreamy and moody and perfect they are.

Drake feat Lil Wayne, Miss Me, his verse about Nicki Minaj is like…wonderful.

Speaking of: Nicki Minaj and Beyonce’s Flawless remix is So Important. Shivers every time I hear it.

next time: I don’t knowwww as I may not have a kitchen to call my own by the time I get round to the next blog post. We’ll see!  

it’s been this way, since christmas day, dazzled, doused in gin

For all that I’m really messy, inside and out, and will spend long stretches of time putting my nailpolish bottles into order by colour spectrum while ignoring, say, the dishes, every now and then I can really Get It Together and Be Organised. 
Every year, commencing 2006, I’ve held a big dinner party for flatmates and friends, which started as a way to toast ourselves and do something nice together before we all part ways for the summer. And that’s how it continued, because it’s a pretty decent concept that doesn’t require messing with. Last year Tim and I couldn’t have one because we’d just moved house and everything felt too difficult, but I feel like a good tradition should be malleable and flourish, rather than rigid and immoveable. 

And then, because why be merely fancy when you could be fancy in italics, Kate helped embiggen everything with her beauteous hand-made menus and table-setting ideas. It was dreamy, which is my favourite way for things to be or have been or have potential to be.

I was proud of myself at how it all worked out – it was a very last-minute fandango, but I managed to cook everything myself (including FOUR KILOS of pork belly, I mean really) and have it all appear ready to eat at a reasonable hour. Which may not sound like rocket science, but y’know, my oven is small while my ambitions are sky-high.

Speaking of, every year I use this as an opportunity to make a significant pudding. Like the year I made Baked Alaska. This year’s concept was not as impressive as I’d have liked, but luckily my concept of “not as impressive as I’d liked” is a bit like my concept of “corporate, office-friendly clothes” – quite, quite different to most other people’s.

So: berry ice cream pavlova layer cake! Two hastily thwacked-together discs of meringue, some insta-ice cream, and some preturnaturally glossy red pomegranate seeds, and you have yourself a rather fascinatingly-textured and terrifically-flavoured and most crucial of all, monumentally instagrammable pudding.

I know, pavlova is not necessarily that simple, but the good thing about this is that you can be a lot more confident about the making and baking, since it’s going to be buffered up with ice cream and covered in icing sugar and it doesn’t matter in the slightest if it cracks or deflates or, heck, breaks in two, because everything can be squished back together.

While my patriotism at the level of “New Zealand, it’s okay I GUESS” it is nice to graciously nod to the classic pavlova and time of year that xmas falls upon – high summer! – with this cold, fruity confection. You can use an electric beater, obviously, but all I have is a whisk and I managed just fine, and there’s nothing like standing in your underwear on a humid day furiously whisking egg whites to a stiff meringue to make you feel tantamount to Xena, Warrior Princess.

berry ice cream pavlova layer cake 

a recipe by myself. It looks complicated but that’s just because I’m the hand-holding type (hand-holding sounds much nicer than micro-management, yeah?) You could use cream or yoghurt instead of coconut milk but now it’s entirely dairy-free, which seems to suit a lot of people I know, so hurrah!

4 egg whites
200g sugar
1 teaspoon cornflour
2 teaspoons lemon juice or white vinegar

2 cups frozen berries (I used a packet of frozen mixed berries since they were cheapest, but plain frozen strawberries would be rad)
1/2 a can (although possibly more) coconut milk

Set your oven to 160 C/320 F and line a baking tray with baking paper. Using a 20cm caketin, or your own circle-drawing prowess, trace two circles on this sheet of baking paper. It doesn’t matter if they’re very close together. 

In a very clean, non-plastic bowl, whisk the egg whites briskly with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. This means that the egg whites will be foamy and thickened, but not shiny, and when you lift the whisk up some mixture rises up with it but sinks back down into the bowl – if that makes sense. 

Continue whisking, despite your sore arms, and as you do this, slowly add the sugar a tablespoon or so at a time. The mixture will thicken and get shiny and bright white, continue whisking in the sugar and as hard as you can until the mixture is stiff and when you lift up the whisk, the mixture follows but stays quite still. Spread the mixture evenly between the two circles you’ve drawn on the baking paper, piling up the meringue mix and then smoothing it out so that they’re fairly evenly flat on top. You can be pretty aggressive with the mixture by this stage, so don’t worry.

Place this in the oven and bake for around an hour, although check at 40 minutes – it should look firm and dry and a little browned. Turn the oven off and allow the pavlovas to slowly cool in there, although I admit, I got impatient and took them out after half an hour of cooling. 

To serve, place one pavlova half on a pretty plate. Blast the frozen berries and coconut milk together in a food processor till they turn into a magical purple ice cream. Spoon/spread this immediately on top of the pavlova on the plate, and top with the other pavlova. Dust with icing sugar to cover any inevitable cracks and pile on some pomegranate seeds if you’ve got ’em, although fresh strawberries, raspberries, or simply more icing sugar would also be rad.

It may just be all the Poinsettia (fizzy white wine, cranberry juice, Cointreau) that I’d allowed myself to consume by this point, but this was damn spectacular. There’s something deliciously fun about the soft, dissolvingly sugary crispness of room temperature pavlova against creamy, freezing, tart berry ice cream. The juicy crunch of pomegranate seeds on top provides further antidote to all the sweetness, while still being friendly with the berry flavours in the ice cream. And they look SO pretty. The pavlova layers are a little bit of a pain to slice through, but by the time people get to pudding they’re not going to mind a hasty scoop of this in a paper bowl.

It was a wonderful, happy, lovely night. We listened to old xmas records and ate candy canes and talked good talk and also amassed a large pile of food brought by everyone to drop off at the foodbank. Even though I was a little oddly apprehensive that I was being pushy and annoying at trying to make this happen, perhaps mostly because everyone’s so busy this time of year and frankly a lot of my reasons for doing this are highly selfish, it was just a dreamy, excellent night and I’m so glad it happened.

And then on Saturday I went on a wedding dress shopping montage! Mostly with Kate, although I was joined by Kim later, with a cameo from Sarah-Rose, and man it was a strange but amazing day. Something about trying on dresses to get married in – I mean, I could marry Tim in the next five minutes very casually and not think twice about it, yet I could hardly look at myself in the mirror while trying on these beautiful dresses and when asked what occasion I was shopping for, I was all “a wedding…mine…pretty much…”

I did dally with the idea of a black wedding dress but ultimately what I was really wanting is just EVERY glorious dress I tried on. You’d think I’d get used to vicarious thrills sometime since there are so many in my life, but nope. There’s a particular ache at trying on a perfect garment then sadly putting it back on the rack.

I just love material possessions so much, okay. 

I’ve narrowed it down to two and a half potential definites, and if you’re curious, I don’t care if Tim or indeed all of the internet sees the dress before the wedding, but I do – now – want something very pale or white. Basically, it was a weekend as swoony as swoony can be, and I’m very pleased with that, even though now that it’s Monday it all feels like a million half-remembered dreams ago…
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title via: Placebo’s moodily terrific Taste In Men.
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Music lately:

Planet Z, Idina Menzel. Admittedly my love for her and my fondness for her early music is perhaps more boundless than most, but if there’s a song more bonkersly endearing and mid-nineties than this then I’ll probably listen to that too.

Frosty the Snowman, Fiona Apple. Have I said the word dreamy too many times in this post? I care not. This is the dreamiest.
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Next time: I’m gonna make a list of every recipe I know that is good for xmas presents and so on and so forth and it will be ever so much fun!