roasted chickpea butter

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It’s always been like this, but now I’m vegan it’s more sharpened with the contrast turned up; a certain curtain-twitching nosiness regarding le dernier cri, the recipes which are trending across other people’s blogs, and how to make them my business.

The most recent for whom my curtains twitch is something called chickpea butter, which sounds like it’s going to be hummus but is actually more of a peanut butter dupe. I’ve been metaphorically burned by chickpeas before, although my suspicion really lies within, and not directed towards those blameless legumes – I’ll promise myself the moon and still be extremely surprised when a mere can of boiled beans doesn’t have what it takes to deliver this.

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Admittedly, when I first tasted this stuff – roasted chickpeas pulverised in a blender with salt and oil – I thought I’d made another classic chickpea failure. But then I just, like…could not stop eating it. It’s really good. It definitely tastes of roasted chickpeas, which are delicious, so that’s cool. It’s also astonishingly buttery, with this nutty, toasty backdrop of flavour, richer than peanut butter but less likely to superglue to the roof of your mouth. I love it, and as long as you are clear-eyed about what you’re getting into, I think you will too.

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I’m kind of fighting off a cold at the moment, which feels unfair when I lead such a healthy existence – I mean, I make smoothies with parsley in them! It does at least feel as though I’m as healthy as I could possibly be in these trying circumstances and it’s passing me by fairly quickly; nevertheless I acknowledge that I’m a trifle lacklustre today. If you haven’t already looked at it I recommend reading my previous blog post about Penne Alla Vodka where I was positively effervescent with lustre.

Roasted Chickpea Butter

A recipe I adapted from this one at The Kitchn.

  • 1 x 400g tin chickpeas
  • 1/3 cup rice bran oil or similar plain, but good oil
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon water

1: Drain (but don’t rinse) the chickpeas, and spread them out on a baking tray. Bake at 180C/250F for about 20 minutes, shuffling them around halfway through.

2: Allow the chickpeas to cool to something around room temperature, then tip them into a high-speed blender. Blitz several times until they’re broken down into dust.

3: Add the oil, salt, and water, and blend until it forms a thick paste.

4: Taste for salt and then spatula into a clean jar. Keep refrigerated. Makes around 170g.

music lately:

Marry Me A Little by Rosalie Craig from the 2018 West End revival of Company, one of my very, very favourite musicals, and surely one of the most-revived. But every time they revive it, I just want to listen to the original again. This is the first to gender flip the main role to a woman, which I have my feelings about, but I do like this rendition of the Act 1 closer, a fluttering, soaring song that’s heartfelt and cynical at the same time, its title a shorthand for the main character’s whole deal, and beautifully rendered in Craig’s voice.

We’re Still Friends, Donny Hathaway, gentle but heartbreaking. His voice could not have been smoother had it been put through a vegan’s high-speed blender.

Octopus, Syd Barret. This tune from the erstwhile Pink Floyd co-founder has that classic, roll-up-roll-up Sergeant Pepper Englishness to it, so English you half expect Dame Maggie Smith to appear from behind an ornamental shrub delivering a bon mot, but nonetheless there’s a slight frantic note to it, like a ferris wheel going too fast.

Next time: I still haven’t tried making my own seitan!

PS: If you enjoy my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon.

vegan scrambled eggs

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I’ve been editing the manuscript of my first novel – I wrote a novel! – rather brutally, and it’s honestly making it so hard to read anything outside of that context without applying the same scrutiny – is that passive voice I see? Wow. Did we need that “did” or “that?” Are you sure about that decision, Joan Didion? (I’m currently reading a Joan Didion novel.) I always call myself the least-edited writer in New Zealand but suddenly I have a taste of what it feels like to carefully peel layers off your words with a sharp knife. That’s why I’m being particularly rambling and self-indulgent in this very paragraph, because I can do that here, and the whoosh of unnecessary words falling from my brain is a relief after such austerity measures.

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With said bumbling words I’m here to talk about this recipe for vegan scrambled eggs using moong dal and kala namak, two specific ingredients without which you should merely read this but not proceed, because they’re both pretty crucial. Moong dal is split yellow mung beans, and when soaked, pureed and cooked they have a gentle fluffy texture and mellow flavour. Kala namak, black salt, is most often described as having an eggy flavour and it does, but not in a stressful way – it’s a distinct and compelling yolky richness. I followed a recipe pretty closely from the Minimalist Baker, making only the most, well, minimal of adaptions, since I’ve never used either key ingredient before. Moong dal is a classic ingredient of – very broadly speaking – Indian cooking, in recipes such as Moong Dal Chilla – but I believe its use as a scrambled egg dupe in vegan cooking can be attributed to the product Just Egg, which co-opted this ingredient to sell plastic bottles of it to Americans at a vastly marked up price.

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This recipe is absolutely delicious, but I would describe the texture as being more that of soft polenta than scrambled eggs. I adore polenta so this is no hardship but it’s good to know going in. The black salt really is the hero of the piece, giving a superb depth of flavour – it’s sulphuric, yet chill. I’ve made this twice now, the first time I missed the baking powder accidentally and it’s definitely better with – more confidently fluffy – but still delightful without.

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Also more of a pinky-mauve colour.

Scrambled eggs isn’t something I miss terribly since turning vegan, but I do love the novelty of dressing one foodstuff up as another existing foodstuff. This recipe is wonderful – filling, plentiful, brunchily luxurious – even the uncooked batter tastes good, as I found when I checked to see if it needed more black salt. Like, I’ve had worse smoothies. Which really speaks more to the smoothies I make than anything else.

If my earlier mention of writing a novel has you afroth at the mouth, the best way to forage insights is by supporting me directly on Patreon – for a few singular dollars you can enjoy untold (well, twice monthly) exclusive communiqué sweetmeats from me. If the pickled spring onions beside the scramble have your tastebuds narrowing their eyes thoughtfully, you can make them following my recipe on Tenderly. But I shall be patiently sitting with my fingers crossed that both, in fact, have caught your attention.

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Vegan Scrambled Eggs

Adapted pretty directly from The Minimalist Baker.

  • 3/4 cup moong dal (these may also be called mung dal or split mung beans and they’re yellow. Important to get the right ones!)
  • 1 1/2 cups rice milk
  • 1 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
  • a pinch turmeric
  • a pinch nutmeg
  • kala namak, also called black salt, to taste

1: Soak the moong dal in water at least six hours or overnight.

2: Drain the dal and process it in a high-speed blender with the rest of the ingredients till it’s a smooth batter. Taste to see if it needs more salt.

3: Heat a little oil in a saucepan and pour in enough batter to coat the surface. Once bubbles appear on the surface, you can use a spatula to shift and turn the batter. I found this cooks quickly, and the less you move it, the better. It’s hard to not stir it around though! Remove from the pan once it’s no longer liquid, and serve however you please.

According to the recipe I followed this makes six servings although it depends on how hungry you are – I’d call it enough for four people. The recipe also recommends using a nonstick pan to cook it in, the pan I had was very much not non-stick and it worked, but the sticking prevented it from staying in one piece like the original recipe. Still tasted great, so don’t worry too much.

Note: I got the moong dal – labelled as such – from Grabgrocery in Sandringham, and the Kala Namak – labelled Black Salt – from Manga The Foodstore in Newtown. If you use rice flour as per the original recipe instead of regular flour this will be gluten-free. 
music lately:

Independent Love Song by Scarlet. That 90s world-weary self-awareness! That Paula Cole-style howling! The violins! That wind tunnel chorus! My hair is blowing back behind dramatically just listening to it.

Goodbye Until Tomorrow/I Could Never Rescue You from the 2002 off-Broadway musical The Last 5 Years. In the manner of a protective parent who tells their children that The Sound of Music ends after the wedding, I like to pretend that this song ends just before the dash in the title – only heartbreakingly happy, no heartbreak. It’s just so much, the way Sherie Rene Scott sings “I open myself one stitch at a time,” Norbert Leo Butz and his retroflex approximant! That Morse Code opening piano riff which causes me to hyperventilate every time! Like tithing, but more worthwhile, ten percent of my brain is dedicated to thinking about this song at any given time.

Sprung, from Australian legend Ces Hotbake’s EP Mush From The Wimp, it’s tremulous and uplifting and beautiful!

Next time: Kala namak on everything!

i’m taking the knife to the books that i own and i’m chopping and chopping and boiling soup from stone

mushroom and lentil soup with sage leaves fried in butter. Thank goodness for garnish huh, imagine how gross this would look without those sage leaves. 
So, I got a job! I am employed, so hard! I’m working at a massively swanky cinema in town at their massively swanky bar, shaky-handedly pretending I know how to make lattes, being sassy with customers, and recommending wines with minor self-confidence. It’s rad. It’s also pretty tiring, which doesn’t necessarily explain why I woke up this morning an hour and a half before my alarm was due to go off, craving some kind of intense, hearty soup. 
But yeah, I got a job! I know it’s a tough market out there but I was getting a bit downtrodden there for a while at my perpetual cycle of applying for jobs and getting rejected. Makes you feel like you’re at your first school disco getting turned down by all the popular kids when you ask them to dance. Actually I take it back, that scenario is way worse than unemployment. 

While I was lying in bed, and in the time when I wasn’t thinking about how I’d regret this careless awakeness later on when my next shift starts at work, I was thinking about soup. Which is unusual for me, soup doesn’t hold a ton of interest and I don’t eat it very often – I tend to like things that are crunchy, crispy, fried, just generally textural, and so a bowl of liquid has to work hard to appeal to me. Lentils are unlikely to be anyone’s definition of “devastatingly sexy as far as food goes” let alone delightful texture-wise, but this recipe just appeared in my head, fully formed, as they often do, and I decided to trust myself and go with it. By the time I went out and got the mushrooms and then came home I wasn’t actually hungry any more, but did have some, and can most definitely confirm that it is worth your reading this blog post further (well, it’s always worth reading my blog posts, but y’know.)

mushroom and lentil soup with sage leaves fried in butter

a recipe by myself. You could fry the sage leaves in olive oil to make this vegan/dairy free if you wish. 

3/4 cup brown lentils
ten button mushrooms
one carrot
one large clove of garlic
olive oil
one teaspoon or so of vegetable stock powder
25g butter
four or five fresh sage leaves

If you can, pour boiling water over the lentils at least an hour before you start making the soup – it’ll help them cook way faster. 

Slice the mushrooms and dice the carrot and garlic. Gently fry them in plenty of olive oil in a medium-sized pot. You want the mushrooms to brown and sizzle slightly, and the carrot to soften. Tip in the lentils and the stock powder and pour over four cups of water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the lentils are completely tender. Add more water if it has absorbed/evaporated too much. Remove from the heat and carefully spoon/tip half the soup into a food processor, and blend till it’s fairly smooth. Tip it back into the rest of the soup.

Heat the butter in a small pan and throw in the sage leaves, allowing it all to sizzle and bubble until the leaves are crisp. Divide the soup between two bowls (well, that’s how much it makes, I had some from the bowl you see pictured here and then the rest will be for another time) (if you care about such semantics) and scatter over the sage leaves. Spoon over a little of the butter if you like, and I do, and then serve. 

I always do this when I talk about lentil recipes – go on and on about how unlikeable they are before trying to convince you that this one recipe I’ve made is actually good. Sorry, lentils. Sorry you’re so unlikeable! Ha. But when I’m not being all Mean Girls up on it, this soup is delicious – simple, robust, the rough earthy flavours of the mushrooms and lentils shot through with nuttish browned butter and aromatic sage. Blending half the mixture gives it some body and textural contrast but you could just leave it as is, or pour cream in, or whatever, really. It’s simple, it’s very cheap, it’s fast, and it tastes rather excellent. The crisp sage leaves cater to my love of crisp things, and as always with soup, I am reminded as I eat it that eating something hot and non-threateningly liquefied in the middle of winter is actually wonderful.

Even more important than my getting a job, my friends got a cat from the SPCA! Her name is Minerva and she is beautiful and I’m smitten with her, both vicariously and in person.

I love her so much that we started to morph into one half-human half-cat creature, it was quite awkward to explain it to my friends who own her. 

So yeah, things will be interesting from now on – well, they always are, sometimes too interesting – as I hold down my job and this blog and my side hustle cookies. Proud of myself though.
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title from: Regina Spektor’s song The Flowers. Her voice is magic.
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music lately: 

One Direction, I Would. These loveable scruffs and their music just makes me so happy! And this is probably my favourite one of theirs. It’s just, so…right.

Icona Pop/Charli XCX, I Love It. This song always makes me feel reckless and free, and never more so when it came on the other night when I was out dancing, just when I needed to hear it most. Seriously just turn off the lights and jump and thrash around to this and everything will be good.

Saycon Sengbloh, Young Gifted and Black. Those harmonies, oof.
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next time: ummmm…I know not. But it will be good. 

and after that, we can ketchup like tomato

Nothing makes me feel like I’m smugly going to avoid scurvy (she says, having only eaten pizza, Nerds, and beer all day) than eating a vegetable one time. Despite my wayward ways, I do actually love vegetables not simply because they keep me more or less alive, but because they’re delicious and abundant and almost all of them taste incredible when they have heat applied to them followed by lots of olive oil. 
I’m one week in back at work, and without casting aspersions on my work ethic (why cast aspersions when you can be frank: my work ethic is usually in the category of “reluctant yet non-existent, at best”) it should be obvious enough that I’d much rather be on holiday. Who among us can say, etc etc. However, as with the chocolate brownies last week, I’m doing my best to improve upon last year’s trend of bleak lunches, month in and out. From days of pot noodles, to seemingly endless bowls of plain couscous with butter and salt, to microwaved cheese sandwich (we’re not allowed a toaster in the work kitchen. Oh, I know) I’ve decided I deserve better. By “better” I guess I mean “not having scurvy” but it’s all part of life’s rich tapestry, or something. 

Simple though the concept is, I’m not always good at remembering to make a large enough dinner to allow for lunch leftovers the following day. That’s where this Ottolenghi recipe for Mejadra, from his book Jerusalem, is useful – it uses such unstressfully-priced ingredients as lentils, rice, and onions, it’s all cooked in one pan, and it makes a metric butt-ton. I hear you, that those ingredients aren’t the first to spring to mind as examples of “whoa, alluring”, but there’s something in the crunchy-crisp fried onions, and the spices which find their way into the earthy lentils and rice, that is really rather wonderful.  

I’m just going to link to Ottolenghi’s recipe for Mejadra rather than write it out in full, because…oh, I’m very lazy. That’s it, really. I told you my work ethic was found wanting.

I shall, however, heroically type out another Ottolenghi recipe that I made to go with the Mejadra – this is properly simple, both of ingredients list and execution, and while it doesn’t sound like much it’s super excellent. Fried slices of tomato, bursting at the seams with sweet ripeness, a little garlic and chili for, well, the flavour of garlic and chili, and plenty of soft, buttery olive oil…when we have tomatoes at such peak being-in-season-ness, there’s not a lot that needs to be done to them. When they’re at their most prolific, I kinda like to eat them like apples. For now, this fast recipe can help bolster up anything from toast, to scrambled eggs, to…to rice and lentils and onions.

fried tomatoes with garlic

from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Jerusalem.

three garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 a small hot chilli, finely sliced (I just used some sriracha as I was lacking a small hot chilli, or indeed a chilli of any size)
two tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
three large, ripe, firm tomatoes
two tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Mix the garlic, chilli, and parsley together in a small bowl, and set aside. Top and tail the tomatoes and slice thickly vertically – about 1.5cm thick, but like, whatever. Heat the olive oil in a pan and then fry the tomato slices, turning over after a minute or two. I used an enamel roasting dish that can be used on a stove top, but I suppose it’s better the more surface area you have. It’s just that my saucepan was being used for the Mejadra, and…enamel is cute. Add the garlic mixture, fry a little longer, and then serve. 

It’s the sort of thing that you could – and in fact probably already have – come up with yourself quite easily, but nevertheless, sometimes it’s pleasingly comforting to be told what to do when cooking.  

And straightforward as it is, this recipe is pretty spectacular. All sweet and spicy and rich, yet very simple and plain and unfancy.

And very fitting on a table full of potluck brunch. I’m trying something called luxterity (luxe + austerity) this year, where there’s more care with spending (necessarily so) but in as elegant/dramatic/sybaritic a manner as we can manage (also necessarily so, because I like those things.) Having friends over for brunch saves a lot of money, is super fun, and there’s nothing like an air of “pants are barely required because I’m in my own damn house” to add a frisson to your morning repast.

That’s about it, really. This week has been very long yet very fast. Full of hangings-out (out-hangings?) and knitting (a hat) and reading (The Character of Rain/Amelie Nothomb; Are You My Mother?/Alison Bechdel) and watching (Pretty Little Liars and Practical Magic and all the new Beyonce videos again and again) and eating (endless Mejadra – that recipe really makes a lot; plus as many seasonal berries as I can find) and small but joyful things like that.

Also, I got a new beanie that I adore.

This isn’t going to make my knitted hat any less fun of a project, for one thing, I intend to put a pom pom on top of that one. Wellington’s weather has been monumentally horrible lately, so weird as it sounds to be thinking about warm hats in the middle of summer, that’s what we’re dealing with. I couldn’t care less. As long as tomatoes continue being cheap for a while longer…so if nothing else, I can pre-load on vitamins to cover me during my next inevitable stretch of candy and sodium chloride.
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title from:  Mariah Carey, More Than Just Friends. Even when it’s not the mid-nineties any more, Mariah still rules my heart and ears. 
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music lately

City Oh Sigh, Still Let Me In. Dreamy, too dreamy.

Joan Jett, Roadrunner. The original by the Modern Lovers is one of my very, very favourite songs. But hurrah for good covers, like this boisterous one by the babein’ Jett.
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next time: I may have a hat that says “witch” but I don’t know everything. You’ll find out when I do.

reminds us of our birthdays which we always forget

As I was eating my dinner and watching Game of Thrones this evening, I thought: I really shouldn’t be doing this. Either eat, or watch Game of Thrones, but don’t do them simultaneously because the onslaught of viscera (which is also the name of my next band) is decidedly not food-friendly. This has nothing to do with anything, I just wanted to make the point.

It’s my birthday in tomorrow! But you get the presents! In the form of a recipe for braised lentils.

Lousy candy heart logic, I don’t need you! (Candy Heart Logic being my next band’s name after Onslaught of Viscera break up)

Anyway, yes, it’s Laura’s Birthday Eve, and as such, one’s thoughts turn to reflection. Ha. I live every day like it’s the contemplative lead-up to further aging (I also dance like everyone’s watching) and reflect upon everything I’ve ever done so much that, like a long-running TV show, the whole process should be able to go into syndication so I don’t have to come up with new stuff any more. Instead, just looping around without any effort from me, while I take time out to snooze. I got to have a late, long lunch with the fantastically high-achieving and welcoming Marianne Elliot from La Boca Loca on Saturday, and we talked about everything – the names people will call women but not men to bring them down; standing by things you’ve said; tacos; and this sense of constantly running towards the next thing having barely achieved the last thing. The latter was oddly heartening, in that basic way that recognition of something can be. I have recently been getting back into that troubled but utterly addictive musical Chess, and there’s this line that I never even noticed before that Josh Groban doesn’t so much sing as massage into the air with his throat: “Now I’m where I want to be and who I want to be and doing what I always said I would and yet I feel I haven’t won at all – running for my life and never looking back in case there’s someone right behind to shoot me down and say you always knew I’d fall“. Heavy! And yet I was like whoa, Josh Groban, way to pluck words from my brain with your rich vanilla scented-candle of a voice and articulate them perfectly via a convoluted musical that can’t even commit to its own plot.

And yet, and yet. I received some final pdfs for my cookbook that I’m driving you all away from with my angst and lentils; and oh wow. As you know a lot of time has been put into proofing the proofs (if you didn’t know, the proofs are like, here’s what your book will look like but on hundreds of pieces of paper which you will immediately drop, and as they hit the floor they will both papercut the tender vamp of your bare foot and shuffle themselves out of order with the impeccable swiftness of a Vegas croupier.) (Tender Vamp is what I call my solo project after Candy Heart Logic breaks up: also here endeth the joke before it gets the chance to become played out and tired. But know, just know, that I’m thinking it still.)

Oh, so uh, they were really beautiful and I felt every late night and early morning and email back and forth between the publishers and the whipsmart feedback of my friends and team, photographers Kim and Jason and stylist Kate, and every thought Tim had pretty much ever had since he’s good with wisdom-requiring stuff like this…was not only worth it, but completely evident in the soon-to-be real pages of this book. Which is out in September so sure, put a circle round that month on your calendar but also don’t go rushing into bookshops just yet – she says optimistically – because September is still some significant distance away. As I was reading through it I thought to myself: this book is amazing and you’re such a good writer and you deserve this. A surprisingly nice thing to think about one’s self. And also…a nice thing to think about a consumer item that you have to eventually put your name to in the public arena and sell copies of.

The word braised: I first heard it when I spent a couple of years at boarding school. It essentially means roasted but in significant liquid, but when the kitchen said “braised steak” was for dinner, they essentially meant wet beef, boiled cheerlessly in a weakly tomato-based sauce. And so…it’s not a cooking method I go out of my way to use. I’m not sure what I’m even thinking, trying to braise lentils, second only to tofu as far as maligned leguminous foodstuffs go. But word associations can change, and plus, something about the wilful ugliness of it all makes it almost head back round again to appealing? Well, whatever it sounds like to you – and I mean, it does help if you don’t entirely hate lentils in the first place – this is really very delicious. Simple and easy and surprisingly full of rich, bold flavour from the lemon, mustard and herbs, as well as a lot of oil and salt.

A lot of this can be changed for what you have to hand, although while I want to offer options it would be unhelpful not to have some kind of base recipe that I stand by. If you don’t have hazelnuts, almonds would be perfect, something like carrots would be fine instead of parsnips, use more rosemary instead of thyme, and so on and so on. But hazelnuts and thyme – my favourite herb – are rich and resinous, parsnips have a natural caramelised sweetness, and in a dish like this, cardamom is one of those stealth spices that lets you know flavour is present without revealing how or from where. But you could just leave it out.

Braised Lentils and Vegetables with Hazelnuts, Lemon and Thyme

Serves two, with some leftovers. A recipe by myself.

1/2 cup dried brown lentils
2 parsnips
2 courgettes
1 capsicum
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice of one large lemon, or two of those stupid tiny near-juiceless ones that tend to dominate the supermarket
1 tablespoon dijon mustard (or wholegrain. I could eat either with a spoon.)
Pinch of ground cardamom, or seeds from two cardamom pods
1 teaspoon dried rosemary (or “rubbed rosemary” as my packet calls it. Which made me laugh. That said, if you don’t have it, dried oregano, sage or marjoram is also fine.)
Good pinch salt
1/3 cup whole hazelnuts
A couple of stems of fresh thyme, or a couple of teaspoons of dried thyme leaves

Place the lentils in a bowl and cover with freshly boiled water. Leave to sit for an hour – although the longer the better, really. An hour is fine though, and certainly makes the whole thing more feasible straight after work or at the end of a long day.

Drain the lentils, and tip them into the base of a medium sized oven dish. Trim anything inedible from the vegetables and slice them into fairly uniform strips/sticks, then lay them on top of the lentils in the oven dish. Set your oven to 180 C/350 F.

Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, cardamom, rosemary, and a generous pinch of salt. Pour this over the vegetables and lentils, then pour over a cup (250ml) of hot water. Place in the oven and cook for an hour. At this stage, taste the lentils – they should be firm, but cooked through. If not, return to the oven for a little longer. Then, turn the oven up to 200 C, scatter the hazelnuts and thyme leaves over the top, and return to the oven for a further ten minutes. Serve, turn the oven off and leave the door open to try and heat your house up.

The firm lentils and softly bulging vegetables slowly taking in all that lemony, oily dressing; the hazelnuts giving luxe and depth and crunch; my beatific smile at all of this being filled with more vitamins than my body can physically process. It’s a quiet, calming dinner after a Saturday night spent drinking cider while ten-pin bowling; grapefruit daquiris while celebrating the third birthday of coolhaunt Monterey, and beer while loitering at a fancy pub as Devon Anna Smith played records I liked (it maybe looks worse on paper, I was fine.)

Some facts about my birthday:

There are ELEVEN notable ice hockey players born on April 17, according to Wikipedia. 
I’m the oldest child. I was born at 8.50pm-ish. I frowned a lot and immediately got colic and did not stop screaming for six months. Luckily I made up for it by being a very overachieving preschooler.
While I can’t afford all the trinkets I want I did buy this cool cat (bottom centre), a print from local artist Pinky Fang. It seems to go well with the sinister cat we bought in New Orleans, and my Devon Anna Smith print. Three cats seems like a good number to have around. 
Tomorrow is the final reading of the Marriage Act Bill which will decide whether marriage equality is happening in New Zealand or not. Every day it seems more and more unfair that I’m allowed to marry someone just because of the ridiculous coincidence that they happen to be a man. I wrote a long thoughtsy thinkpiece paragraph after this and then deleted it because it’s much simpler to just say: this bill means a lot to me not quite just because I’m a more-or-less decent person who wants equal rights for all, or because Tim and I are engaged but have decided not to marry unless it goes ahead, but also because I’m also pansexual, as in…not straight. The Q in LGBTQ. Yes. I won’t say much more about this, apart from that I realised it an awfully long time ago, but only articulated it relatively recently. Articulating all this was like putting on glasses and seeing things just as they are but a little clearer (I use this analogy a lot, sure, but looking at things is just so great since I got my glasses). Doing so is of course a totally private, personal choice for everyone, and this is just my way. While I worried that I’d left it too long -whatever that means – or that I’d somehow express all this horribly wrong, or that braised lentils wasn’t how I wanted to remember it happening in years to come, or that maybe I should say it next time, or next-next time, I also thought I’d just…say it. It’s still a scary thing to do. But every day brings us closer to a time when it will be less and less scary to say it. Armed with the knowledge that you’re all cool and I’ve never once heard anything said against it that made the slightest bit of sense, I figure you all know pretty much everything about me anyway, and this is just another thing to matter-of-factly know. 

I’m turning 27. This is an age where people will still say “so old” but also “so young” at you, depending on the person. I’m not sure when that will stop.

Victoria Beckham is born on April 17. When I was in my deadly-fervent Spice Girls phase, sharing a birthday with one was seen as some kind of ancient sacrosanct blessing. (Seen by me, and me alone.)

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Title via: Side By Side By Side, from the Sondheim musical Company. The AMAZING Sondheim musical. Please keep having birthdays, Sondheim. 
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Music lately: 

Blurred Lines, Robin Thicke with Pharrell and TI. I am addicted to this song like wo. And also reminded of the massive crush I used to have on Pharrell.

Birthday, Sugarcubes. Ones thoughts also turn to songs with the word birthday in the title. Bjork’s soaring, growling belting here is outrageously amazing. Extra fun in Icelandic!
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Next time: Hoping to have another I Should Tell You interview up on Friday. Who’s it going to be? Why, who do you think I am, some kind of organised person? 

guest post the first: pocket witch

Well hello there. It’s Laura here, Tim and I are still in America (reluctantly packing to leave intoxicating NYC, but excited to head to Nashville. My plan-so-cunning while I’m away, is to enlist a couple of dashing guest bloggers to keep hungryandfrozen.com afloat till my return with their own excellence. The first is my dear, dear friend Kate of pocket-witch.com. She is bodacious and clever and inspirational, like all my dear friends, and it’s an honour to have her here. And, as she alludes to, there is some kiiinda ridiculous news ahoy. Consider yourself told! I’ll now hand it over to Kate. Or at least, point you towards her writing which I copy-pasted below. Hooray for modern technology. And lentils!
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Hello! I’m Kate, and I can be found at my new blog, Pocket Witch. How nice to be asked to write a guest post for Hungry and Frozen! Laura is one of my very favourite people. We became friends IRL nearly two years ago when I blogged about wanting to join a book group, and she generously offered hers. As soon as we met I acquired the meanest friend-crush on her and Tim, and since then I’ve managed to worm my way into their lives as much as possible. To my wonderment, this culminated in being included in the cookbook crew, which was the most delightful time of satisfying work and uproarious play. So sad it’s finished! But onto the next adventure. I’m loving following along with Laura and Tim’s travels, and they are making me yearn for New York. Plus… how about that news! I literally cried in the street. Cannot wait to bombard them with inappropriately long hugs upon their return.
Laura has blogged quite a few recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty, but I couldn’t help but pick another. You must believe me when I say, this is the BEST cookbook. I’ve made nearly twenty things from it by now, which is an unparalleled number. I don’t even own it yet! Yeah, I wouldn’t advise lending me this cookbook if you want it back in a timely fashion. Aside from the outrageous number of ingredients in some recipes, Plenty is a perfect book, with all of the vegetables, flavours and herbs, and has taught amateur-me some wonderful new ways with food.
I suppose I do wish I’d picked a slightly sexier recipe. Lentils! What was I thinking? The other guest blogger is Coco Solid, and I’m posting a tarted-up dahl. Sigh. But you can’t be fancy all the time (though I do try), sometimes you’re just in the mood for something kinda wholesome.
Strangely, this is one of his more simple and relaxed recipes, but still the most complicated and involved lentil/dahl-type dish I’ve made. But don’t let that put you off, it’s also likely the nicest dish of this type that I’ve made, really warming and the perfect amount of spice. The yogurt is an excellent topping, despite my detesting cucumber in most settings (I have a weird thing about watery, fresh-tasting foods, don’t get me started on watermelon). The inclusion of the cucumber and olive oil made the yogurt super fresh and silky, perfect to cut through the filling lentils. I also found the stirred-in butter a delicious necessity, though it’s effect was most known in my first, fresh bowl. Some coconut milk would be lovely if you were looking to make it vegan.

Spiced Lentils with Cucumber Yogurt

from Plenty or The Guardian
  • 200g split red lentils
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander
  • 1 small onion, peeled
  • 40g ginger, peeled
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 mild green chilli
  • 1½ tsp black mustard seeds
  • 4 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1½ tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 300g ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • ½ tsp fenugreek (optional)
  • 1 pinch asafoetida (optional)
  • Salt
  • 150g Greek yogurt
  • 75g finely diced cucumber
  • 1½ tbsp olive oil
  • 70g unsalted butter
  • 1½ tbsp lime juice

Wash the lentils in plenty of water, drain and soak in 350ml of fresh water for 30 minutes. Cut the coriander bunch somewhere around its centre to get a leafy top half and a stem/root bottom half. Roughly chop the leaves. Put the stem half in the bowl of a food processor, add the onion, ginger, garlic and chilli – all roughly broken – and pulse a few times to chop up without turning into a paste.
Put the mustard seeds in a heavy-based pot and place over medium heat. When they begin to pop, add the onion mix and sunflower oil, stir and cook on low heat for 10 minutes. Add the spices and curry leaves, and continue cooking and stirring for five minutes longer. Now add the lentils and their soaking water, the tomatoes, sugar, fenugreek, asafoetida and a pinch of salt. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the lentils are fully cooked.
Before serving, whisk together the yogurt, cucumber, oil and some salt. Stir into the lentils the butter, lime juice and chopped coriander leaves, taste and season generously with salt. Divide into bowls, spoon yogurt on top and garnish with coriander.
I didn’t use curry leaves (couldn’t find them nearby) or asafoetida (I don’t even know what that is). I did use fenugreek but you could skip it if trying to cut down on ingredients. I doubled the recipe, as it seemed like a lot of effort to go through to feed only 2-4 people, and this it made mountains. It fed two people for lunch most of the week, by the third day I was getting a bit tired of the idea of lentils, but as soon as I actually sat down and began to eat them the tiredness would disappear. Because they are quite fantastic.
Thanks for having me, Laura! Enjoy the rest of your amazing trip, you crazy kids.

who’d come through with lentils and to get the fundamentals

There are so many things that are not delightful about life in New Zealand in 2012 but I’ll tell you one thing – and it doesn’t just apply to me here in my homeland – the internet is really on form. I remember when I first heard about the internet – I guess in the mid-nineties – marveling at how much information was on it. I remember specifically saying to someone (possibly one of the cats) “so you could find a website about anything, if you want a website about bottle caps then you could probably find it”. (Little did I know I predicted the zoomed-in nature of tumblr, where there probably is at least one dedicated to bottle caps.) Little did I know just how much ridiculously specific information this thing they call the internet could hold.

Where I’m going with this is, after a particularly wearying day of clumsy mishaps, I got into my usual grumble-rut of lamenting that women in comedy movies (TV sometimes too) often seem to be portrayed in a way that clumsiness is their only personality trait. You know. She fell over in a public place. And that’s how you know she’s nice and relatable and you want her to continue on this inevitably heteronormative path towards boy-meets-girlness, maybe falling over just once more in public just to remind you how ‘zany’ she is. Oh, I could ineffectually whinge further, but I suddenly thought, you know I just bet there’s something on the internet that demonstrates what I’m talking about. And I was right. We’re at the stage where information saturation means if you want a supercut of badly written female characters in rom-coms falling over, you can find it with the half-heartedest of Googlings. Sure there are the endless trolls, but still. For that I say 2012, you’re okay. 
(If you’re wondering what it was that I did that got me thinking in such a vague manner about romcoms and clumsiness, it was the following:
Pulled on stockings in a hurry and in doing so dug a massive, red scratch with my thumbnail along…the side of my right buttock. Mmmhmm.
Took a drink of water, dribbled it all over myself, I can’t even think why.
Brought it all home with my masterstroke of weirdness: I walked into my bedroom swiftly and nearly got whiplash from being yanked backwards again because the doorhandle had got stuck in a buttonhole on my coat.)

Luckily, for those of us inclined towards ungainliness, the pear-shaped butternut squash is a squillion times easier than the pumpkin to slice into. Its tender flesh accepts the knife blade swiftly, as opposed to pumpkins which scare the heck out of me – every time I approach them with a knife it seems the stupid tough pumpkin shoots off in the opposite direction. Good to know for anything you require pumpkin for – butternut squash rules. Especially in this extremely simple soup I thought up. If you’re not blessed with a food processor there’s nothing to stop you taking the pesto ingredients and just adding them to the soup at the end – and there’s also nothing to stop you not calling this un-Italian paste ‘pesto’, I just can’t think of a better name for it.

Butternut, Lentil and Coconut Soup with Peanut, Rocket and Lime Pesto

A recipe by myself.

1 medium butternut squash, roughly diced and skin removed. (About two heaped cups)
1/2 cup red lentils
3 cups water
1/2 cup coconut milk or coconut cream

1/2 cup peanuts
2 handfuls rocket leaves
Juice of a lime
3 tablespoons sesame oil
Pinch salt

Place the diced butternut, red lentils and water in a saucepan, bring to the boil and then simmer slowly with the lid on for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a little more water if you feel it needs it. At this point use your spoon/spatula/etc to mash up the bits of butternut as you wish – this is a fairly chunky soup, although there’s nothing stopping you from blending it all up, I suppose. Sprinkle in a little salt and stir in the coconut milk. Ladle into bowls and serve with as much of the pesto as you please and a swirl of coconut milk if you like.

Meanwhile, toast the peanuts lightly in a hot pan (I actually did this first, and then used that same pan to make the soup in. Minimising dishes for all!) and then throw them into a food processor with the rocket leaves and lime juice. Blend up, scraping down the sides as you need to, then add the salt and oil and blend again. 

This makes about enough for two people with some leftovers.

You’d think the soup would be a little boring but the mild, creamy sweetness of the butternut and coconut and the earthiness of the lentils bring their own excitement. The lentils melt into the butternut and the small amount of coconut makes it surprisingly rich. But even so, there’s the pesto – lentils and peanuts aren’t a million miles removed flavourwise, with peppery rocket and sour lime to stop it being too oily, but then plenty of sesame oil…in case it’s not oily enough.
I don’t always get all that enthusiastic about soup, but this is worthy of my time, a nice mix of familiarly comforting and compellingly stimulating. Perfect for those nights when you can see your breath puffing cloudily in front of you. While you’re sitting on the couch. 
Tim and I had a ludicrously busy weekend but for now that’s a story for another time, till then I still have news: I made a podcast! Called The HungryandFrozen #soimportant Podcast. I know, how can I possibly find ever yet more ways to foist my feelings about food upon the world? Don’t feel forced to listen to it, I’m just doing it for the sheer fun of it – and it is fun – but should you be interested in what I have to say on top of everything else I have to say, you can listen to the first episode here! Oh, the internet. Couldn’t have breezily undertaken this this back when I was a nipper! I think the closest I got was pretending to be all five of the Spice Girls and an interviewer and recording it on a cassette but I only got about thirty seconds in before realising all those different accents plus witty dialogue was a lot for an eleven-or-so year old to enact. 
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Title via: I was hoping to get Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner’s sprightly version of Little Me from the Broadway musical of the same name, but do you think I could find it on youtube? I could nay. And just when I was talking about how great the internet is. Luckily there’s Faith Prince singing it on the New Broadway Cast Recording.
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Music lately:

I was saddened to hear of the death of Donna Summer. You know I love to obsess over a song and I Feel Love was one that stood up to two or three or seven repeat listens in a row. A huge talent lost.

Louie the ZU with Leroy Clampitt, I Want You To Know: dreamy goodness. I love it.
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Next time: Apologies for being this cryptic on a Monday, but knowing what I know, hopefully I’ll have some interesting news for you.