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.

i am the definite feast delight

Apropos of nothing: If – although let’s go with when – I get famous, I should like to do many things. I’d like to start a trend for not having to wear a bra if you don’t want to. Not that I can necessarily “get away” without one, but sometimes on a humid day they just feel so punishing and unfair. And really, if someone pulls you aside and says “look, you’re not wearing a bra and it’s making me really uncomfortable”, I’d wager it says more about them than you, right? Second order of business: try and wangle an OPI HungryandFrozen nailpolish range. Am thinking matte rainbow-coloured dots which look like hundreds and thousands sprinkles, a rich yellow butter colour, perhaps a sophisticated, buff-tinted “Cake Batter”, and something else which still hasn’t fully formed in my brain yet. Nigella-Cardigan-Pink? The colour of those heavy velvet curtains that sweep across a stage before and after a show? Something Claudia Kishi-inspired? The third thing I’ve been thinking about is just buying a huge warehouse somewhere with a huge speaker system, so anytime you want to dance around a room like this, you can hire it for an hour from me. Apart from the high likelihood that my dancing moves and I are occupying it already, that is.

Apropos of nothing, I really enjoy saying apropos of nothing! Indubitably!

Anyway here I am. Can’t hurt to daydream about everything in such minute detail that it can never possibly happen the way I want it to and I end up disillusioned and sad when it doesn’t, right? Right!

In the meantime I am rich in friends and famous in my brain, which is a good start. You know friends are good friends when you see them practically every day but it still feels like something exciting’s going to happen every time you do. As a few of us were coincidentally all going to see the band Bon Iver on the same night I suggested that I cook us all dinner beforehand. Which was perhaps an even more exciting prospect than the concert itself at the time. I just love orchestrating situations where I get to cook for people I like. The finished menu was a logical middle point between maximising on what I had on hand already, what recipes I liked the look of, and what would actually be delicious to eat.

It somehow, despite being entirely created in the space of an hour and a half, all came together to form a spectacular vegan feast. Which I liked so much that I’m going to share with you. All three of these recipes are very loosely based on actual recipes – the first two from the Meat-free Mondays book and the third from Katrina Meynink’s gorgeous Kitchen Coquette book. It’s not that the original recipes didn’t sound perfect as they were, it was all about minimising time taken and money spent. And yes, I did just happen to have pomegranate seeds lying round. In a container in the freezer no less. But if it’s any consolation they were over a year old. So I can be smug, but not that smug.

Lentils are just alright with me, but this is lifted from its admittedly beige earnestness by the juicy pomegranate seeds and smoky, tender eggplant.

Barley, Lentil, and Eggplant with Pomegranate and Mint


1/2 cup brown lentils
1/2 cup barley
1 eggplant
1 onion
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tomato, chopped roughly
2 tablespoons chopped preserved lemon or hot lemon pickle (or just some lemon juice)
Seeds of a pomegranate and a handful of mint leaves

Optional – and I did – 1 can cannellini beans or chickpeas to beef (heh) it out. 


Soaking the barley and lentils at least a few hours before you get started will make the cooking process quicker. Boil them together in a pan with plenty of water till tender. Drain, set aside. Slice up the eggplant into chunks, fry in a little oil  – in batches is easier – till browned and softened. Tip them into the lentils and barley. Slice the onion up and in the same frying pan brown it with the garlic. Add the tomato, chilli sauce and lemon, and continue to cook for a little longer. Return the eggplant, lentil and barley to the pan, stir to warm through and season to taste. Serve scattered with pomegranate seeds and shredded mint leaves.

Feel free to just use barley OR lentils. But this is a great way to use up those stupid tail-end packets of things which inevitably sit round for guilty years in your pantry. Free your lentils, and your mind will follow. Actually the whole thing with these recipes is that since I’ve already messed around with them to suit my needs, feel free to do the same. They are very low stress. No watercress? Use rocket. No almonds? Use any other nut. No pomegranate? Sprinkle over feta or just use more mint or something!

Something about blackening the corn and partnering it with toasty-sweet almonds and peppery watercress in this salad is surprisingly spectacular.

Rice, Charred Corn, Avocado, Watercress and Almond Salad


1 cup rice – I used basmati but brown rice would be really good here.
1 cup frozen corn kernels (or you know, however YOU get hold of them)
1/2 cup rice bran oil plus extra for frying
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons chili sauce
1/2 cup whole almonds
1 tablespoon icing sugar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
A handful of watercress leaves, rinsed and chopped
1 avocado, diced


Cook the rice as you usually would, and allow to cool a little. Stir the 1/2 cup oil, the cinnamon and the chili sauce through it, plus plenty of salt. Taste to see if you think it needs any more of anything in particular. Set aside and heat up a frying pan. Mix together the almonds, sugar and cumin and then heat them in the pan till fragrant and toasted. Set aside. Rinse the pan – or don’t – and heat up a tablespoon or two of oil. Throw in the corn kernels and let them fry till some are slightly darkened and scorched in places. They might start to ‘pop’ and jump around a little so watch out. Stir occasionally. Tip them into the rice along with the watercress, almonds, and avocado and mix thoroughly. 

These are just edamame beans and regular green beans cooked in boiling water and stirred through a dressing made of 1 tablespoon shiro miso paste, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 teaspoon honey and a little chopped fresh ginger and garlic. Miso’s intense, fermented flavour is strangely addictive and even more strangely versatile. Here it’s nutted up with sesame and used to coat creamy edamame and crunchy green beans.

Cheers to Kate and Jason and Ange and Ricky for indulging me. And cheers to Bon Iver for putting on a seriously good show.

I was almost as happy with my dress as I was with anything else. If only there was an Instagram filter called “Cheekbone Finder” or something. But yes, the show, wow. From listening to Bon Iver’s music, I was expecting one guy, one microphone, and maybe a mandolin and a few handkerchiefs. But there was a many-peopled band all outstanding in the field of excellence, a glittering light show, and the singer, Justin, seemed so happy to be here! Which is always an endearing trait in someone you’ve paid a lot of money to see. This might sound weird, but I think my favourite bit was an unsettlingly brilliant saxophone solo, which brought to mind the eeriness of the dinosaur sequence in Fantasia.

And…apropos of something, recently Tim and I were in line for another gig, in front of three guys. From their clothes and piercings and so on, they looked like interesting-enough, open-minded people. And then they started talking. And Tim and I wanted to vomit. I wanted to say something – especially since several of my friends have felt able to speak up to people to tell them what they think recently – but it was late, and there were three of them and two of us, all those kinds of reasons. Tim and I just had to stand there in line and listen. And while I wasn’t up to doing anything that night, I’m able to pass on to you my convictions instead. Please. If you ever hear people saying things so casually like “they aren’t saying yes but they weren’t saying no” and “if they’re that drunk they’re asking for it” or worse – please understand how terrible this is. How it builds. Keeps a particular victim-blaming attitude accepted. I’m not saying this very well but I feel really strongly about it so I’m going to let some other people say it better than I can. If you like pithy analogies, this one might help open your eyes a little. This might make you think about the conflicting messages women are constantly given, and this is the flipside which is told all too little. And this is Derailment Bingo. Many thanks to the Wellington Young Feminists Collective site for resources. If I was more confident in the results I could’ve talked to those people, if I was Veronica Mars I could’ve somehow sassed the bouncer into not letting them in, but all I can do is pass on some excellent links to people who, I would guess, might know all this already. I know it’s not usually the direction I go in on here, but this blog is where I write about what’s important to me…
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Title via: Sugarhill Gang, Rappers Delight. The song is 14 minutes long so I don’t really feel the need to add anything further to the conversation.
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Music lately:

Eileen Jewell, Shaking All Over. Her voice is deliciously mellow and relaxed and after hearing Wanda Jackson’s version so many times, I like the calmer but still dirty arrangement of this classic.

Christine Ebersole’s voice goes from crystal-clear to shrieky in a matter of seconds while she’s acting her face off in Grey Gardens the musical. Will You is one of the more crystalline moments in the show, and while the song was only written a few years ago it sounds like a lost track from the forties. Beautiful.

This is probably a decent Bon Iver song to listen to if you’ve never heard them before. It was way souped up live!
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Next time: It’s nearly midnight and I feel like chocolate. And I don’t see any reason why that want would be inconsistent when I’m next in the kitchen cooking something…

i’ve bean waiting so long, to be where i’m going

Have I got a relatively exciting bean salad for you. Bean salad in and of itself isn’t all that thrilling, but compared to other bean salads this one is pretty special. Aaand I think I’ve used up my quota of saying “bean salad” just there. It was never something I sought out as a kid, although it’s not like my tastebuds were all that sophisticated – mind you neither is bean salad. I do remember eying it up at the deli counter of the supermarket. It looked dubious, a pile of small brown and green pebbles bathed generously in a tub of watery vinegar. This recipe is neither dubious nor watery. It’s verging on sexy. Again…relatively.

I found it while searching for something else entirely on Cuisine’s website and was tangentially inspired, thinking it would be an awesome summer dinner – filling, fast, cheap, oven barely required. As I’ve veered well away from the original, you too can muck round with the following recipe. If you want to use cannellini beans or whatever, no worries. If you want to use more than three kinds, be my guest. If you want to use lemon juice instead of cider vinegar because that’s what you’ve got, then you’re more than welcome to. I included the avocado oil and nigella seeds because I got them for Christmas (thanks, Mum and Dad!) but also because I wanted their respective mellow richness and subtle oniony kick. However you use what you like. As long as there’s some form of bean involved, otherwise…you’re not even really making this recipe at all.
Bean Salad with Poppyseed Dressing

Inspired by this recipe by Fiona Smith from Cuisine magazine.

1 can borlotti beans
1 can chickpeas (I found some super intriguing red chickpeas on special, but regular is obviously fine.)
Roughly 1 cup frozen edamame/soybeans (I say frozen because I presume that’s how you got ’em) You could use frozen peas or broad beans instead.
Handful of almonds
Mint, to serve

Cook your soybeans in boiling water – I tend to throw the beans and the water in the pan at the same time so they all heat up together, as I imagine it’ll shave a couple of minutes off the cooking time. Drain and refresh under cold water. In a hot pan – you can use the same one once the beans are drained – briefly toast the almonds, and then slice up roughly.

Dressing:

3 tablespoons decent-tasting oil. I used avocado, but olive or peanut oil would be great.
2 tablespoons cider vinegar (or lemon or lime juice)
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons poppyseeds
1 fat clove garlic, finely chopped
A pinch of nigella seeds OR cumin seeds (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, the vinegar, and the honey. Tip in the poppyseeds, the garlic, the nigella seeds if using and a pinch of seasalt (or a small pinch of regular salt) plus some pepper if you like. Whisk again. Drain the two cans of beans from their creepy can-liquid, and tip into the bowl of dressing along with the cooked soybeans. Using a spatula or large spoon, carefully fold the lot together so that everything becomes properly covered with the dressing, but none of the canned beans get too crushed.

Transfer into the bowl you’re going to serve it from, and top with the almonds and the mint. Or just add both to the bowl you’ve mixed it in if you want to save on dishes.

This salad is brilliant – light, filling, flavoursome, and kinda pretty as far as bean salads go. There’s something texturally satisfying about the combination of soft canned beans and the bite-ier, nutty green soybeans. The dressing also pleases, with its balance of sweet, sharp, salty, rich, and crunchy, and soaks flavoursomely into the otherwise mild beans. The almonds and mint are really just there to make it seem more exciting (something about a plate of beans doesn’t seem like anyone’s first choice) but contribute in a way that you’d want them there every time.
This made enough for dinner alongside some brown rice and sliced, fried zucchini, with the leftover rice stirred into the beans to take for dinner at the Botanic Gardens. It was night one of the ASB Gardens Magic and we saw the wonderful Nudge (standing in for the Thomas Oliver Band). It started to rain about ten minutes into their show but we stuck around and had a fantastic night, first watching people dance round in the rain and then joining in ourselves.
Speaking of rain, but in more horrifying quantities, the dreadful flooding in Australia has been on my mind a lot. The number of deaths seems to rise like the water itself, and it must be awful to have everything you know just…underwater. For what it’s worth, my heart goes out to everyone affected by it (including all the animals), and I hope this land of extreme weather settles down soon.
Having finished my first week back at work (hitting the ground at a brisk canter, this is a busy time for us) I can only conclude that my heart and brain are both at the beach. Feels like a squillion years ago that the most taxing decision I had was which book to read (answer: Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend, Witi Ihimaera’s Tangi, a tribute to Jennifer Paterson, and half of Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock.)
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Title via: Gotta say, when I started typing this up I thought “ha! There must be sooooo many songs that use the word ‘been’ which I can twist for my purposes.” But with my aforementioned brain at the beach, Sunshine of Your Love by Cream was all I could think of. It’s a mighty fine song, but I know there’s something better out there. Hopefully for all of us my brain returns to its rightful location soonish.
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Music lately:
The aforementioned Nudge. They crop up here and there in Wellington and are fantastic live, all three members being fearsomely talented and easily watchable.
Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand, Happy Days Are Here Again/Get Happy. Too beautiful.
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Next time: I managed to procure from Giapo, via Twitter, a recipe for Cocoa Sorbet. Yay for Twitter, and yay for you if it turns out decent because I’ll be blogging about it.