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!  

plush velvet sometimes, sometimes just pretzels and beer, but i’m here

Just like the great Alanis Morrissette, my grasp of what is actual irony may well be as shady as my enjoyment of saying “isn’t it ironic” is fervent. But it does seem ironic or something how I am so tired that my brain feels like someone pressed pause on a video of a fallen ceramic vase smashing into a thousand pieces, and my brain is that vase, fragile and perpetually shattering. And according to this “today in your social media history” app I have, on this day last year I was tweeting about feeling the exact same way. That’s not the ironic bit, although it is…something. What I consider the isn’t it ironic don’t you think bit, is how I was writing about it for three long paragraphs here when suddenly, I literally couldn’t tell if I was just very tired, and therefore unable to continue reading and writing it, or so bored by my lifeless writing that I was falling asleep. And so I deleted the lot and forced myself to start again. So here we are. 
I do remember a high school English teacher telling us that irony was a lot like sarcasm, and feeling unfamiliar confusion, like I’d accidentally wandered into a maths class. Isn’t it more like…rain on your wedding day? Ironically – I think? – these days I really wouldn’t mind if it rains on my wedding day.  The point is: you are always correct in using the word ‘ironic’, but only if you say it with confident authority. And also, I am very, very tired and underslept. Partly from doing work on my cookbook proof – exciting! And partly from being not very talented at sleeping. Which is less exciting. 
Somewhere out there, Alanis Morrisette is quietly googling her own name out of idle curiousity, and sighing heavily.

Earlier this year I had the inexplicable but thank-goodness-it-was-me-not-someone-else honour of being named one of New Zealand’s People of Influence for 2013 by a major nationwide publication. Not to try and pre-empt eyerolls or anything, and I said this at the time, but I didn’t quite realise when I submitted my interview the nature of where it was going to end up. Hence why I’m talking about stuff like pretzels in it. But y’know, if I had my time over, my words would likely still be the same. Pretzels are so important. And I decided that since I’d said they were going to be a Big Deal this year, it was time to put my money where my mouth is by doing more than just putting pretzels where my mouth is.

And I made Caramel Pretzel Ice Cream. 

Possibly you were under the impression that pretzels were to be tipped into a bowl and eaten absent-mindedly till all that rock salt and mouth-drying crispness makes you gaspingly thirsty? Well, that’s still a reasonable use for them, but in a move that seems unsurprising in hindsight (I see you, chocolate dipped potato crisps) they’re propelled into a whole other stratosphere of deliciousness by the presence of sugar. And while they’re part of the cracker family more or less, something very specific about the dense crunchy texture and intense saltiness and rich, slightly malty (I think?) flavour makes pretzels my food of choice for this. Also, they have a cool shape. No mere circle they.

This is going to sound like a stupid thing to say on my own blog (well, considering some of the things I’ve said here, maybe a stupider thing), but this probably isn’t the very best pretzel ice cream out there. I could make one that’s more technical and involves a lot more steps and ingredients. It would be superior to this one – but this one you can make in about ten minutes. I tried making a more complicated one first and screwed it up every step of the way – overboiling the sugar, burning the pretzels – and once I’d calmed down from the waste of ingredients and significant dent to my self-esteem, I wanted to try again but make it as simple as possible, to put as few hurdles as possible between you and the finished product. And here it is. And it’s incredible.

Caramel Pretzel Ice Cream

A recipe by myself.

I’d like to point out while this is an original recipe it’s not an original concept: a brief perusal of Pinterest’s woeful search function will bring up a squillion recipes for this, but for what it’s worth, I didn’t look at any of them. Just went with my instincts. Which will sometimes lead me astray, but not with ice cream. I’d also like to acknowledge the mighty Christina Tosi of the Momofuku restaurant empire, whose genius pretzel-milk infusion may well have kicked off this resurgence in the first place. I can’t say for sure, but I do know researching it would make me really hungry.

1 1/2 cups pretzels 
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons sugar
500ml (2 cups) cream
4 tablespoons brown sugar

In a decent-sized pot or pan, heat up the butter and the 3 tablespoons of sugar. Don’t stir, just let it slowly dissolve and melt and bubble up. Once the mixture starts to turn an amber, whisky-ish colour, remove it from the heat and tip in the pretzels. Stir quickly to coat them, then tip them out onto a piece of baking paper on a baking tray. Scrape out as much syrup as possible onto them, then let them cool a little. 

Whisk the cream with the brown sugar till thickened significantly but not actually whipped – still liquidy but thick enough to leave a hint of a trailing line behind the whisk when you move it through the cream. 

Using a large knife, roughly chop the sugary pretzels into shards and fold it into the cream. Scrape the lot into a loaf tin or container of roughly a litre. Freeze, without stirring. 

If like me, you’re the boundlessly instagrammin’ kind, I recommend reserving a few of the choicest, shiniest caramelised pretzels for decoration as I did here. Also their extra crunch is welcome initially. After a day or so, the ice cream absorbs more of the caramel and the salt, and just gets better and better.

If you’ve never encountered this combination before I understand your suspicion. Beer accompaniments in cream? What now? But be not scared of this. Between the inseparable excellence of caramel and salt together, the roasty flavour that the pretzels bring, and their soft crunch as they slowly disintegrate into the frozen cream, it’s not so much delicious as a head rush in every spoonful.

I heedlessly sat the parfait spoon inside this shallow dish to take a photo: this is approximately three seconds after the spoon’s long handle overbalanced, flinging itself off the table onto the floor below.

On Saturday night myself and some other good friends went to see Cat Power at the Town Hall. It’s partly experience and partly my curmudgeon tendencies but I always set myself up for a fall with live music – there are just so many variables that can go wrong. Being short, I am sighingly prepared to see nothing (like – full circle! – when I barely saw Alanis Morrissette at the Supertop in 1996.) Being nervous, I anticipate seething, punchy crowds. The artist will be late. They’ll be grumpy. I’ll get tired. Someone will spill cheap beer on me. And so on. But Cat Power’s show was one of the most beautiful that I’ve ever had the luck to be at – the kind of show where you turn to the friend next to you and do that “increduluous eye contact shaking the head what is even happening” kind of face. She was powerful, generous, hilarious, charming. Oh my gosh I sound so earnest right now (powerful?) but truly – she continuously stalked the stage from left to right so that everyone got to see her, she threw flowers at the audience (including one up to the balcony, where it calmly sailed upwards into the hand of opening act Watercolours, as if by magic) and her voice, complemented by that of her backup singers, was as warm and scratchy like a soft wooly jumper as ever. I, um, may have cried a little. Very earnestly.

This is Tim’s instagram. Hold your seething, we weren’t standing there with our phones up the whole time blocking everyone’s view – she was just so close that it was impossible not to hastily snap a photo for remembrance. I’m one of you, I hate those people too! 
PS: I tried making pretzel-fried chicken too. What I ended up with wasn’t quite right, but the shadow of perfection was there. And let me exaggeratedly pretend-heroically assure you, I will make so much fried chicken till I get it right.
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Title: Sondheim’s I’m Still Here. I like Eartha Kitt’s version best. Actually I just like Eartha Kitt best.
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Music lately:

Someone recently asked if I’d heard much Nina Nastasia, and I was all, of course, I went through a stage of listening to John Peel compilations. But I was compelled to listen anew, especially when I saw she has a song called Counting Up Your Bones. It’s as good as its title promises.

Brand New Key, Melanie Safka. This song was played on Saturday night by a friend who clearly has exceptional taste in music as I’m now a bit obsessed with it. Don’t let the fact that Wikipedia describes it as a “novelty hit in 1970-71” put you off.

Ever ready to be obsessed with a song, another friend introduced me to another new tune to adore to pieces: Mountain Man, Play It Right. Why doesn’t everyone sing in three part harmony?
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Next time: Probably another I Should Tell You interview. Which means it will be Friday! Best.

love is just a dialogue, you can’t survive on ice cream

Who am I, anyway? Asks Paul in the opening number of the wondrous musical A Chorus Line. I’ve been wondering the same this week. I guess it’s not surprising that lots of people go to the gym in January – if headlines in certain women’s magazines are anything to go by, there is literally no other choice of resolution for your new year – but for me it’s not so straightforward. As I said in my last blog post, I want bufty arms this year. I want to be able to lift things without making an involuntary “nghghghhh” noise and straining my neck. A month’s free trial gym membership came to my attention. It all made sense to sign up and try some classes and so on. 
Without going too deeply into my long and complicated history of just being myself, I will say this: until very recently it was difficult for me to reconcile doing exercise with general enjoyment and feeling good. Exercise to me was either compulsory institutionalised punishment (PE class ahoy!) or self-enforced to burn maximum calories for as long as I could stand it. (I completely understand and appreciate that PE/gym class is really enjoyed by lots of people, and also that wanting to lose weight is a personal choice and exercise is a way of doing that.) To me, exercise was all tied up in unhappiness and distress. It was all very black and white. Interestingly, my years of dancing sat outside of exercise in my mind – that was to music, and telling a story, and using expression and emotion and acting. And fun. That running or cycling or punching a boxing bag or playing, I don’t know, football, could fulfill that same function for someone else – I couldn’t make that leap of understanding. 
So anyway, as a result I was nervous about going to the gym, having never been to one before – what if I’m useless? What if I get panicky? What if it’s really cliquey and my pants are wrong? And…what if I forget that I’m just here for enjoyment and to get strong? Does that make sense? But in fact, it was fun challenging myself, and I had friends there beside me, and I felt comfortable pausing when my legs simply refused to lunge once more. And this morning my muscles were constricted and sore, but in a good way – reminding me of all the effort I put in yesterday and how bufty they’re going to be soon. Nevertheless, I found myself tweeting things along the lines of “going to the gym, who am I?” as if to reassure myself…that I was still myself. But who else could I possibly be. 

If you’re seeking a small challenge yourself, maybe this ice cream could be it. A calm, easy recipe which makes just enough for one or two people, depending on whether or not you want to share. (I don’t really like to share, but Tim lives riiiiight here in the same house and it would’ve been a bit weird not to. Plus, sharing leads to compliments on your cooking abilities! Which is probably not the main reason you should be sharing things.) This is good if you’ve never made ice cream before and want to start small in case it all goes horribly wrong (it won’t, though.) Or if you have made ice cream before but have a tiny tiny freezer. Or if you only have a small amount of ingredients to hand and don’t want to go to the shop. Strange as it seems, there are a number of situations where a small quantity of ice cream can be just as advantageous as a large quantity.

Small Chocolate Ice Cream

A recipe by myself.

Makes around 300ml. Am not very sure how well it would double – maybe if you’re feeling more ice-cream-confident, search through all my recipes on this blog for one to make, hey hey?

250ml (1 cup) cream
50g dark chocolate (I use Whittaker’s. Because I love its flavour like no other.)
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg

Gently melt the chocolate and cream together in a pan on the stovetop, or gently microwave the chocolate in the microwave and then stir in the cream. Either way, go slow, because chocolate burns quickly and will go all gritty if it happens. The ice cream will still be fine, but…gritty.


Remove from the heat and stir in the cocoa and sugar. Which give it a further depth of chocolate flavour, and a little bitterness-counteracting sweetness. 

Break the egg into a bowl and mix it up with a fork, so that the yolk and white are all incorporated. Stir in a tablespoon or two of the slightly cooled chocolate mixture, mixing briskly. Doing this allows the egg to absorb some of the heat of the chocolate mixture and blend with it thoroughly – if you pour in the entire pan of chocolate, you might not be able to mix it fast enough to stop the egg being cooked by the heat of the liquid. And that would taste nasty. Anyway: pour in the rest of the mixture, mixing continuously. Then divide into two freezer-proof bowls, or one small container. Freeze till quite solid. If you freeze it overnight, it’ll need to stand on the bench for five minutes or so to soften a little. Being so small, it does freeze quite quickly though. Yay!

The path to success here is very short and simple: this chocolate ice cream just tastes like chocolate ice cream. A little cocoa-bitter, a little sweet, creamy and very cold. And, as I found out this morning, it makes a really good breakfast.


Who am I, anyway? Am I my resume? sings Paul in A Chorus Line. As well as getting used to the fact that I am now a person who goes to the gym because it makes me feel good and strong and stuff, I’m also trying to settle my brain down from racing at a hundred miles an hour. Because my brain does this cool thing where it simultaneously tells me I’m amazing at what I do but also not achieving anything much at all and no wonder. And I tell Tim this and he says “You have a cookbook coming out later this year!” and I say “yeah…but…” It’s like the opposite of resting on your laurels. Instead I run towards my laurels really hard and then leap over them and keep running for the next one so fast that the last one seems like it’s miles behind me in the dust. Resting on your laurels is a phrase that tends to be thrown around in a negative way, but to me it sounds kind of delightful – like, I achieved something good so I’m going to relax now and take a nap and maybe remind people about the thing I achieved occasionally. Does anyone else do this? Also, I guess, if anyone has any laurels they want me to not rest upon, let me know!

Boy, has this blog post ever got personal and intense. But that is often how life is. Till I figure it all out, if anyone has any tips for how to deal with tense muscles, shocked from their first go-round at the gym, I’d be super obliged.
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Title via: The Kills, always skittishly thrilling, with Cheap and Cheerful.
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Music lately: 

Ella Fitzgerald, Mack the Knife. Specifically, when she sang it in Berlin and forgot half the words, but elegantly and sorta adorably improvised over the top of the melody with her usual breezily gorgeous voice. What a champ.

Sherie Rene Scott, Goodbye Until Tomorrow, from The Last 5 Years musical. This song always makes me feel pretty emotional. I adore SRS, but absolutely cannot wait to see what Anna Kendrick does with this when the film version of this show comes out.

Faith Evans, Love Like This. Modern classic.
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Next time: I made this pasta dish that I kinda like. I will probably write about that.