Tomato, Bread, and Olive Hash

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Each bracketed stretch of 365 days is unusual and burdensome in their own uniquely spiced way, but 2022 really does have more infinitely nihilistic, all-bets-are-off flavour than most. What is it this time, you ask? Well, I finally got Covid, and for nine days was pinned to my bed with all the force of a brick hurled into a paddling pool. On the upside I retained my sense of smell and taste, on the downside — brain fog. I feel so stupid, and not in the usual administrative ways that I’m used to. Unfortunately I’ve tied my entire personality and sense of self and worth into various acts of writing and it’s no fun having that gigantic part of my life become an arduous struggle, and I apologise if this is evident in today’s blog post. On the whole I’m grateful I got Covid when I did (post-vaccinations), am very grateful that I was taken care of, and I know my experience is comparatively tame, but still: 0/5 stars, would not recommend.

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So it’ll be no surprise that I’m coming back with a purposefully simple recipe, this Tomato, Bread, and Olive Hash — I mean, just the word hash lets you know that there’s little visual or structural expectations at play here — three main ingredients, a little frying, that’s all there is to it. This recipe is more or less the same as Nigella Lawson’s in her book At My Table, but I’ve added olives coated in flour for a little extra encrispening (although you could skip this step if you’re impatient) and while I wouldn’t expect to pay forty dollars for a plate of this at a restaurant, its pastoral unfiddliness is reassuring, and a comfort both to regard and to eat.

Simple it may be, but not bland: the tomatoes, just bursting and collapsing in the heat, soak into the oil-crisped cubes of bread, the almost meaty (almost, let’s not get carried away here) olives unite the tomatoes and bread with their briny salinity. I left out Nigella’s specified shallot and let the chives do the talking, allium-wise, and added the rosemary simply because I had some from Mum’s garden, but its earthy richness is always welcome. Something in the textural state of flux makes every mouthful of hash a thrill (specifically, will this piece of bread be crunchy or soggy?) and making, eating, and now writing about it makes me feel closer to being myself again.

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In happier news, hungryandfrozen.com is fifteen years old today! Having squandered all my brainpower on the preceding paragraphs I’ve got nothing clever to say about this momentous occasion, and wish I had the energy or resources to do something celebratory, but when it comes down to it I’m glad I started my blog and I’m glad it’s still here and to everyone who has ever taken time out of their day to read it: thank you.

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Tomato, Bread, and Olive Hash

Simple, comforting, easy, beautiful. Feel free to glance at the quantities specified and then just use as much of any ingredient as you want; if you add more tomatoes it will be more tomato-y, and so on: you really can’t go wrong. Adapted from a recipe in At My Table by Nigella Lawson.

  • 1/3 a crusty baguette, or one to two good-sized ciabatta or sourdough buns, depending on appetite
  • 70g pitted green olives
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chives, snipped
  • the leaves from one stem of rosemary
  • salt and pepper, to taste

1: Slice the bread into rough cubes and chunks (about an inch an a half in length, but it doesn’t matter) and set aside. Briefly chop the olives so that some are left whole and others are in bits, and toss with the two tablespoons of flour in a small bowl. Finally, dice your tomato into pieces about the same size as the bread cubes.

2: Heat the olive oil in a wide frying pan and once it’s good and warm, tip in the bread cubes and let them sizzle away until golden and crisp and crouton-y. This requires patience but vigilance, as the cubes will first appear to be doing nothing and then they’ll rapidly toast up all at once, so be ready with the tongs to remove them to a bowl (or to your eventual serving plate, if you want to save on dishes). There should be a little oil left in the pan, but if not, pour in another tablespoon or so and fry the olives until all dusty traces of flour on their surface has cooked and they’re a little browned and crisped in places. Leaving the olives in the pan, tip in your chopped tomatoes, and stir for another minute or two, until the pieces of tomato start to collapse.

3: Return the toasted bread cubes to the pan, give it a stir just to amalgamate and to allow the bread to start absorbing the tomatoes, and then remove from the heat.

4: Pile everything onto a serving plate, and scatter over your chives (you can finely chop them on a board but I prefer to hold a handful over the plate and snip them with scissors) and the rosemary leaves. See if it wants any seasoning — probably more likely pepper than salt, since the olives are already salty — and eat.

Serves 1.

Notes:

  • I got some green olives that had been marinated in garlic which, as you can imagine, was a fine addition to the dish. If you can only get olives with the stone in them, remember that they’ll add extra weight, so you might want to use 90g instead of 70g (but also, those quantities are really just a guideline, add as many olives as you want.)
  • I know you’re not supposed to fry with extra virgin olive oil but everything is so expensive these days and it’s easier just to have one kind of olive oil on the go. If you have regular olive oil then use that for sure, but the olive flavour is important, so I wouldn’t recommend replacing it here with any other kind of oil like sunflower or rice bran.
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music lately:

Beautiful Briny Sea by Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson, from Bedknobs and Broomsticks. And we’re back to bad news: After Stephen Sondheim, Angela Lansbury’s was the inevitable death I’ve most been dreading. She was a continual and immensely comforting presence in my life and someone with even a quarter of her astonishingly diverse career could consider themselves a high achiever. Any number of her songs matter to me but I was raised on Bedknobs and Broomsticks, taped off the TV onto a VHS and watched and rewound till I could practically act it out for you off-book. I’m still not sure if there’s a higher form of wit than cartoon and live action characters interacting, and I love that Lansbury was allowed to become a major musical star with such an off-kilter voice. I’m sorry she’s gone — I’m glad our lifetimes overlapped for a while.

Out on the Floor, by Dobie Gray. This song radiates happiness, no, elation, and with every “hey-hey-hey” it feels like sunbeams are shooting out of your outstretched palms.

Hail Holy Queen from Sister Act; while in bed with Covid I wasn’t up to watching anything challenging but even so I’d forgotten what a balm this film is, with every minute of its runtime swaddling you, telling you it’s all going to be okay. Whoopi Goldberg is so charismatic yet grounded, and Dame Maggie Smith could do generic disapproval in her sleep but you truly feel the searing rays of her vexation, and this song — with its fake out initial verse leading up to the beat drop, Sister Mary Roberts’ riffing, and the punchy Latin bridge, makes me wildly emotional. I sang this once with my primary school choir, and it’s every bit as exhilarating to perform as it is to watch, let me tell you.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now — your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

pasta with lemon, garlic and thyme mushrooms

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The first recipe you make from a new cookbook comes heavy with a certain ceremonial reverence; something about it suggests divining your own fortune, the shape of things to come, starting as you mean to go on, et cetera, or at least, that’s the needlessly strenuous way I approach things. This pasta with lemon, garlic and thyme mushrooms was the first recipe I made from Nigella Express back in January 2008 and I don’t know (or at least, can’t remember) what portent it held but I loved it then and I’ve been enthusiastic about it ever since, and what better fortune can you hope for than having a good pasta recipe in your life? Despite all this zeal I’ve never properly blogged about this pasta, outside of mentioning it briefly back in ’08, so here we finally are, slightly adapted for my current-day dairy-avoiding vibes.

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The success of this recipe hinges on how you feel about raw mushrooms (assuming that’s a stance you can immediately call to mind a lengthy opinion on) but these aren’t merely raw, in case you’re already backing away slowly. You thinly slice the mushrooms, then steep them in olive oil, lemon, garlic, thyme and plenty of salt. While the pasta cooks, the mushrooms absorb every good thing from those ingredients, their texture relaxing from squeaky to silky and ready to go — as per the ‘express’ of the cookbook title — before you can say al dente, the culinary equivalent of one of those astonishing Broadway quick-changes where a character is whisked out of one costume and into another in a matter of moments, appearing cool and unruffled to perform their next song.

@hungryandfrozen

pasta with lemon, garlic and thyme mushrooms from Nigella Express • recipe at hungryandfrozen dot com #pasta #mushrooms #food #vegan #nigella #foodblogger

♬ Our Day Will Come – Remastered – Nancy Wilson

In fact the mushrooms taste so amazing that when I make this for myself I barely scale them down to dress 100g of pasta, and nor should you. Button mushrooms aren’t the coolest of the funghi brotherhood but this lemon-and-oil process turns them elegant, chic, something you’ll long for again and again, in fact. Just don’t forget the parsley, as I did, if you’re serving this to people — not to be overly wedded to aesthetics but when it comes down to it, wet raw button mushrooms are kind of ugly, and benefit from a distracting flounce of green. I did my best for these photos with the toasted almonds and as many thyme leaves as I could rip from each stem, but fortunately — and importantly — it’s delicious either way, and once you taste the marinated mushrooms all thoughts of how it all looks will disappear from your head.

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Pasta with Lemon, Thyme and Garlic Mushrooms

One of my favourite Nigella recipes, it’s simple and stunning and you may just want a bowl of the mushrooms on their own, they’re that good. My only change is replacing the parmesan with toasted nuts, but you do what you like. Recipe from Nigella Lawson’s book Nigella Express.

  • 250g button mushrooms (or chestnut mushrooms, if you can find them)
  • 80ml (1/3 cup) extra virgin olive oil
  • juice and zest of one lemon
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, or one teaspoon table salt (plus more for the pasta water)
  • leaves from four sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 500g spaghetti, linguine, or other long pasta
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped
  • pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons slivered almonds

1: Wipe the mushrooms if they need it, thinly slice them, and place them in a bowl with the 80ml olive oil, the zest and juice of the lemon, the salt, and the thyme leaves. Crush or very finely chop the garlic clove and add it to the mushrooms.

2: Bring a large pan of water to the boil, salt abundantly, and cook the pasta in it till tender, which should take ten to twelve minutes. While the pasta is cooking, toast the almonds in a dry pan till just golden and fragrant, then set aside.

3: Drain the pasta, stir into the mushrooms (or stir the mushrooms into it, whichever is more practical) along with the parsley and almonds. If serving this in a way where visuals are a priority, save some almonds and parsley for scattering over each plate of pasta.

Serves four, though in making this for myself I only scale down the pasta, leave the marinade quantities as is, and maybe knock 100g off the mushrooms. It works. Also, I’ve included the parsley in the ingredients even though I forgot to buy it for myself.

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music lately:

Something’s Coming by Oscar Peterson, from his 1962 jazz reworking of the West Side Story score, somehow bringing languidness and fleet-footed urgency to an already urgent song. I’m also partial to Cal Tjader’s 1960 jazz stylings on West Side Story, that feline, rabble-rousing refrain in the Prologue/Jet Song lends itself wonderfully to noodly jazz interpretation.

Stairway to Paradise by Liza Minnelli. I’m not good at choosing favourites, but this is one of the Gershwin songs I love the most — it really makes you feel like you can achieve anything, or even just one thing — and Liza is on my mind (I mean, she’s a regular on my mind anyway, but) because I saw a screening of Cabaret on Friday night, speaking of favourites, and the big screen made every frame of it new and more stunning than ever.

Sabotage by the Beastie Boys. That build up to a scream at the start? Perfection. Never bettered. Never could be.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

vegan chelsea buns

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Each day is an internal battle between myself and whatever little metrics and rubrics I’ve set out for myself to plod through, and still I usually end up more disorganised than if I’d just thrown myself headfirst at the day to navigate by vibes alone. Once you identify the rules of a situation, however, you can work out what’s stupid about them, and then, maybe, you might start getting somewhere. For example: I wasn’t going to blog about these very delicious vegan Chelsea buns, despite them being about as pretty and sweet and delightful as Dolly Parton in Steel Magnolias (guess what I just watched) because the ingredients were a little too specific, and one of my personal rules is to keep the ingredients on this blog within a reasonable realm of what a person could — reasonably — get hold of.

But then, I considered, with a slap of palm to forehead, reasonable is a moving target, and many of the ingredients I currently reach for without thinking might have seemed out of reach only a few years ago. And the Chelsea buns are really delicious! Who am I to say what you can achieve? Why should I mentally undercut your abilities before we’ve even started?

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That being said, it would be kind of unreasonable to say that these Chelsea buns can only be made with a ready-prepared batch of Nigella Lawson’s roasted quince fruit mincemeat, appositely named Quincemeat, as I made them. That is quite the roadblock. In the interests of keeping things as accessible as possible, I have offered both the truncated Quincemeat recipe, options for making this with simple dried fruit, and if that’s all too much, you can just sprinkle the dough with cinnamon and sugar a la the Lazy Cat Kitchen cinnamon buns, whose recipe I used as the starting point for mine, and if you want to do even less than that, just go to a bakery and buy your own buns. They’re professionals for a reason, this is no failing on your part.

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But if the idea of padding about in the kitchen purposefully appeals, kneading dough into life, and waiting as the sun rolls across the sky and the dough expands and swells and eventually, in the oven, fills your house with the kind of scent you yearn for in bottled form, if all that appeals, then this recipe is for you. Maybe not as popular or cool as their cinnamon bun cousins, Chelsea buns — rolled and stuffed instead with dried fruit — have a lot going for them, especially with — sorry! — the quincemeat as their filling. Its heady, fragrant sweetness is utterly sumptuous, with magnificent contrast between the soft graininess of the quinces and the dried fruit bulging with (in my case) overproof rum. There’s an old-fashioned charm to these buns, and making them gives you the feeling of being a small anthropomorphic animal — a hedgehog perhaps — in a Beatrix Potter story, using a leaf as an umbrella and a spool of thread as a chair, safe and warm, et cetera.

@hungryandfrozen

vegan Chelsea buns, full recipe at hungryandfrozen dot com 🍞🥐 #baking #cookingtiktok #breadtok #foodblogger #nz #vegan #fyp

♬ Forever – Pete Drake

As you can see in my tiktok above, the rolling and slicing is a little dexterous — but not overwhelming, and the results are stunning; feathery soft yeasted dough, glossy sticky fruit, you will not so much eat these as devour them.

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(While I’m holding myself accountable, I know I said, literally in my most recent blog post, that I couldn’t face eating a handful of raisins, and yet here I am, espousing buns wrapped around vast quantities of that fruit? I still stand by my statements: they’re a woeful snack on their own, but both delicious and necessary in these buns.)

Finally — and particularly for those of you reading this outside of the quince’s brief and thrilling season — I cannot wait for pink rhubarb to appear so I can make a batch of these with Nigella’s Rhubarb Vanilla Fruit Mince, and I invite you to consider the same.

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Vegan Chelsea Buns

Sticky-sweet, tender, and heavy with fruit, these scrolls are almost as easy to make as they are to eat. I’ve included a brief rundown of Nigella Lawson’s quincemeat recipe at the end if you want to go the same route as me; otherwise I’ve given options in recipe for making them simply with dried fruit. I used the Lazy Cat Kitchen cinnamon bun recipe as my starting point for the dough, it’s reliable and comes together in minutes.

Dough

  • 1 and 1/4 cups oat milk (or similar), lukewarm
  • 250g high-grade/bread flour
  • 250g plain/all-purpose flour
  • 9 grams instant dried yeast
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pouring/table salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus a little extra for the rise

Filling

  • 250g-300g ready made fruit mincemeat, or see in recipe for other options
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup, for brushing

1: First, get your milk lukewarm — I zap it for fifteen-second intervals in the microwave till it’s warm, but doesn’t have the slightest sting of heat to it. Place the 250g each of high grade and plain flour into a large mixing bowl, along with the 9 grams of dried yeast, the two tablespoons of brown sugar, and the teaspoon of salt. Stir in the lukewarm milk, followed by the tablespoon of olive oil.

2: Start kneading this shaggy dough — you’re welcome to tip it out onto your work surface, but to save on mess I just do it inside the bowl, either way, push the dough away from you with the heel of your palm or your knuckles, fold it back towards you, and repeat for a few more minutes until it’s gone from shaggy and floury to springy and smooth. If you’ve been kneading for a while and it’s still really sticky, dust over just a little flour and knead that in — this almost always work for me. Once the dough is a smooth ball, drizzle over a small amount of olive oil, then cover your bowl with a tea towel and leave the dough to rise for one hour.

3: Once your hour is up, punch down your dough — which is just how it sounds, you plunge your fist, happily, into the swollen dough, releasing the air from it. Tip the dough out onto a baking tray lined with baking paper, and press or roll it into a large rectangle, folding over any wobbly bits to make the sides fairly straight. You’re looking for a size of about 40x20cm, but as long as two sides are shorter and two sides are longer you don’t need to worry about getting out your ruler.

4: If you’re using ready-made fruit mince, spoon it evenly over the surface of the dough rectangle, in a fairly thin layer — too much and it will all fall out — and press it very gently into the dough. Otherwise, brush the surface of the dough with olive oil — about two tablespoons — and sprinkle evenly with brown sugar (about four tablespoons), then scatter over about 75g currants and 150g sultanas. I’d also sprinkle over plenty of cinnamon. If you want to make your own quincemeat, see the notes at the end of the recipe.

5: Starting with the long side closest to you, carefully and slowly roll the rectangle of dough into a long tube. Slice the tube at roughly 3cm intervals — again, just follow your heart here, this is home cooking, not a production line — and arrange the slices near each other on the same baking tray. If any of the “tails” of the scrolls look like they’re about to get away on you, pinch them gently into the rest of the dough, and if any fruit has fallen out in the cutting and lifting process, just prod it back into the nearest coil of dough. Cover these buns with the same teatowel from before, and let them rise for one more hour.

6: About forty minutes into this hour’s rising, set your oven to 180C/350F. Once the hour’s up, remove the towel, to behold your now-puffy and expanded Chelsea buns, and bake them for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Don’t worry if some of the fruit catches a little, it still tastes delicious. Finally, brush them with a little golden syrup while they’re still warm.

Makes 10 to 12 Chelsea buns, depending on how you slice them (both times I’ve made these they all ended up different sizes, which I liked: something for every mood.) Eat them fresh, or store them in an airtight container once they’ve cooled. They’ll be good for a day or so, after that, they’ll want a little warming up in the microwave first.

Notes:

Some recipes call for an icing drizzle, you’re welcome to mix icing sugar and water together and do so, but — and it’s not often I say this — I don’t think they need it.

Here is a fairly brisk rundown of the quincemeat recipe if you want to make it for yourself; you can usually find quinces in baskets at op shops very cheaply this time of year, from someone or other’s tree. The quincemeat is from Nigella Lawson’s book How To Be A Domestic Goddess, along with many other beautiful recipes.

Roast 1kg quinces, peeled and (carefully) cut into rough chunks and tossed with a tablespoon of coconut oil, at 150C/300F for forty minutes. Once cooled, roughly chop the quince and mix together with 250g each sultanas, raisins, chopped dried apricots, brown sugar, shredded vegetable suet (I used the Atora brand, it’s in a brightly coloured box and should be available in most supermarkets); one teaspoon each of cinnamon, ground cardamom, and ground cloves, a good pinch of nutmeg, 100g crystallised peel, and 100ml quince brandy, regular brandy, or — as I used — dark rum. Store in an airtight container or in clean jars in the fridge; this makes, give or take, around 2kg. Also: I didn’t have any mixed peel, so I just used the finely chopped peel of a couple of oranges, and added a bit more sugar.

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music lately:

Obsession by Animotion, fittingly, I am VERY obsessed with this song. Wait till 28 seconds in, then it will all make sense (I also recommend watching the video, which gives the impression of an automated bot having been fed 1000 hours of 80s music videos and spitting out results based on the learned algorithm.)

Tell Me (I’ll Be Around) by Shades, for all that winter is my favourite season this song always made me long for an endless summer where I could drive around in a convertible and Be Summery (in this fantasy, not only do I enjoy hot weather, I can also drive.) Anyway, this song is lush and should’ve been a bigger hit!

I Dreamt I Dwelt In Marble Halls by Michael William Balfe, sung by Sumi Jo. She was recommended to me when I asked for opera suggestions, and — oh my! Every time I hear this song I’m always taken aback by its fake-out chorus, climbing higher and higher before finally resolving, Sumi Jo’s watered silk voice is a stunning vessel for it.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Nigella’s Chocolate Pistachio Fudge [vegan]

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Between the unrepentant 100% humidity and anticipating Christmas and finally emerging from lockdown (only to find that having people expect things from me again can be as overwhelming as the numbing nothingness of the last three months), I have been witless, utterly witless. I had great intentions to achieve things this week but kept blowing all my energy and acuity on relatively innocuous activities—the Succession finale, sending one single email—and with them, my battery life would plummet like a six-month-old smartphone. I suspect I’m not the only one in this hole-punctured boat, so this is not going to be a long blog post, nor is it an emotionally taxing recipe.

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And fortunately I have the reason for the season—Nigella Lawson—to be the one set of footprints in the sand carrying me through with her boundless enthusiasm, knowledge, and reassurance. This recipe for Chocolate Pistachio Fudge couldn’t be easier—melt and stir, that’s literally it—and the results are so luscious, so elegant, so immediately celebratory and generous, you can practically tell just by looking at it who must’ve come up with the recipe.

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Somehow the simple combination of dark chocolate and condensed milk produces a flavour of immense, complex richness, almost as if there is a liqueur involved, or at least a significantly longer list of ingredients. I haven’t done anything particularly clever here in making Nigella’s recipe vegan; the sweetened condensed oat milk is very easy to find nowadays (and condensed coconut milk, even more prevalent) and the refined coconut oil is an easy replacement for butter. The pistachios sprinkled across the top (modestly, since it’s near-on double figures for a very small package of them at the supermarket) provide mellow, buttery crunch and visual opulence, their bright green almost neon against the moody chocolate backdrop.

@hungryandfrozen

vegan chocolate pistachio fudge 🍫 inspired by Nigella 🍫 recipe at hungryandfrozen.com #vegan #chocolate #christmas #homemadegift #recipes #foodblog

♬ Sugar Rum Cherry – Duke Ellington

It goes without saying that this fudge makes an excellent gift. Just make sure you keep it in the freezer (or at the very least, the fridge) both before and after it’s received. And of course, if you’re in the mood to make edible gifts for people this year, there’s my recipe list/round up at your service, and I’d also like to draw your attention to my 24 Hour Party Seitan if you’re after a main course idea for the day itself. I hope everyone out there has a Christmas that’s as peaceful and mellow as is feasibly possible, whether it’s a great big deal or just another day of the week, and I’ll see you all in 2022—a year whose repetition of numbers makes it feel impossibly futuristic, but apparently it’s coming, and it’s real! (Also It’s Coming, It’s Real by Swans was my most-listened to song on Spotify this year. You know what they say, the medium is the message!)

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Nigella’s (vegan) Chocolate Pistachio Fudge

This is almost shockingly simple, for how delicious and elegant the results are. It’s not the traditional kind of fudge—more of a general rich confection—but who cares, it tastes amazing and looks gorgeous. I’ve simply swapped the condensed milk for condensed oat milk and it works perfectly, you could also use condensed coconut milk, both are usually next to each other on the shelf and both are made by the good people at Nature’s Charm. I’ve also reduced the pistachios to a mere sprinkling on the surface, because they’re so expensive at the moment. If this isn’t something that bothers you, by all means add more. Recipe adapted by me, from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Express.

  • 375g dark chocolate (50% is good here), roughly chopped
  • 1 x 320g can of sweetened condensed oat milk or sweetened condensed coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons refined coconut oil
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons pistachios, roughly chopped

1: Place the chocolate, condensed milk, (making sure to spatula out every last precious, sticky drop) coconut oil, and salt into a heavy saucepan. Stir constantly over a very low heat until the chocolate melts, turning everything into a glossy, thick brown liquid. This only took a couple minutes at most for me.

2: Line a 23cm square tin with baking paper (or, as Nigella suggests, use a throwaway foil tray) and spatula the chocolate mixture into it, spreading it gently towards each corner in an even layer. Sprinkle over the pistachios and refrigerate till firm. That’s all there is to it!

Makes 64 squares if you slice it eight times vertically and horizontally, which seems like a magically enormous quantity to achieve from such a small amount of ingredients, and definitely justifies the cook trying a few pieces.

Store the fudge in an airtight container in the freezer (I re-use the baking paper between the layers of slices) where its texture and flavour only improves. This does soften quite quickly, or at least in this vicious heat it will, so if you’re going to give this as a gift, still keep it cold.

Notes: 

  • If you need this fudge to be gluten-free, use the condensed coconut milk instead of the oat milk
  • Refined coconut oil, specifically, doesn’t taste at all like coconut and won’t impart any such flavour to your fudge. If you get regular/unrefined coconut oil it will probably give a distinct flavour to your fudge, but will behave the same otherwise 
  • Because our tins of condensed oat/coconut milk are smaller than the dairy condensed milk tins, I increased the quantity of chocolate a little to compensate 

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music lately:

Have Fun Go Mad by Blair—just when I think I’ve excavated every possible memory, something will appear that I haven’t considered since the turn of the century and I’ll suddenly be flung back in time. The title of this song and artist may not ring any bells but click through and if you’re of a certain age you, too, can experience this backwards-flinging towards the mid 90s. This song is so uncool that it comes full circle and is in fact the coolest thing I’ve ever heard, and I’m glad to have heard it again after so long.

O Holy Night by Mahalia Jackson. It simply isn’t Christmas without Mahalia, her voice rises up to heights we can only see by telescope without even breaking a sweat.

Cherry Cherry by Neil Diamond, look, he’s not a man to whom I’ve ever given the time of day (to the point where I had to search for this song by typing “what is that one Neil Diamond song that I like, you know, that one that slaps”) but this song! It unequivocally slaps! He really pulled a rabbit out of a hat here! I’m not ashamed to say it!

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Vegan Chocolate Guinness Cake

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As a rule, an abiding principle, a personal boundary: I hate anything that suggests even the merest hint of “team-building exercise”, three words that make my shoulders immediately stoop earthwards in resigned anticipation of all the time I’ll never get back from my one wild and free life. That being said I also like to please and being in this endless (necessary! but endless) lockdown does strange things to all of us, in my case it’s that I’ve ended up kind of throwing myself wholeheartedly into Mum’s lockdown project of honouring a new theme each day. Which brings us to this Vegan Chocolate Guinness Cake.

You see, first we did a letter of the alphabet each day (for example on W day we listened to the Who and classical waltzes and I made a Woon Heng recipe for dinner) and when lockdown exceeded 26 days we hastily assembled the next ongoing theme: a new country each day, that at least one person in the family had been to, in – and bear with me here – alphabetical order, with music from that country and at least one regional dish or attempt thereof for dinner. We’re up to the letter I, which brings us to Ireland, which I visited in 2005, and The Cranberries/The Undertones/Thin Lizzy/My Bloody Valentine/Enya as the day’s soundtrack. I found a couple of cans of Guinness in my cupboard leftover from making last year’s Christmas Cake and before I knew it I was spontaneously and enthusiastically throwing together a vegan version of Nigella Lawson’s classic Chocolate Guinness Cake, like someone who enjoys activities and showing initiative. I don’t, but I do like hyperfocussing on a project and I love the opportunity for arbitrary culinarily decisions and in all honesty it has been a lot of fun – not a bit like team-building exercises, in fact.

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As I said, this recipe is inspired by Nigella Lawson’s cake from her book Feast, which I used to make all the time – because it was so incredibly delicious! – and while this version lacks that throat-coating full-cream dairy factor from the cream cheese icing, it’s a pretty fantastic tribute and I’m very pleased with myself. In case you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing this combination of chocolate and Guinness before, the bitter aggression of the Guinness provides an intense and dark backdrop to the cocoa and yet all its rough edges are entirely bevelled back and tempered by the cake batter and the sweetness in the icing. Curiously, despite the sugar in the cake exceeding that in the topping, the latter is much sweeter than the former, such is the black-hole abilities of Guinness to absorb everything that comes into its path. I’m not someone who can sit down and drink a Guinness with any conviction – it’s too blood-nosedly ferrous for me – but mixed with chocolate it’s quite spectacular, entirely palatable, and makes perfect sense – after all, dark coffee and chocolate are a go-to pairing, this just takes it one step further in the direction of bitterness.

Real hungryandfrozen-heads will notice that this recipe method doesn’t differ too much from my Incredibly Delicious Mocha Cake; that cake has never failed me and so I figured it would be a decent blueprint for this Guinness cake – and once more it came through. As well as being utterly delicious, dense yet light-crumbed, rich and celebratory yet unpretentious and comforting, this cake is a mere one-bowl situation and it leaves you plenty of Guinness leftover to drink from its tall can – if you have the palate for it – otherwise, I guess you’ll just have to make another cake.

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Vegan Chocolate Guinness Cake

A dense yet light-textured chocolate cake full of rich bitter Guinness – my vegan take on Nigella Lawson’s classic recipe. This is a one-bowl affair with a creamy, tangy frosting, and is just incredibly delicious. Recipe by myself.

  • 2 and 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 cup good dark cocoa (see notes)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain oil, eg rice bran
  • 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon malt vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup (or light corn syrup or treacle if you’re in the US)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 cup/250ml Guinness

1: Set your oven to 180C/350F and grease and line a 21cm springform or loose-based cake tin. Place the flour in a large mixing bowl, then sieve in the baking soda and cocoa and stir to combine. Make a well in the centre and add everything except the Guinness, and stir briefly – it will look thick and dry and unlikely at this point but we’ve still got the Guinness to go, so don’t you worry.

2: Pour in the Guinness and slowly stir everything together to form a thick cake batter, making sure there’s no lumps of flour caught in it. Spatula this mixture into your prepared cake tin and bake for forty minutes, covering with tin foil in the last ten minutes if need be. Allow to cool completely on a cake rack.

For the Icing:

This uses the sourness of citric acid and the fulsome saltiness of miso paste to emulate the vibe of the cream cheese icing that customarily goes with this cake; that being said if you can get hold of vegan cream cheese (or you’re happy to eat dairy) then feel free to use that instead in place of the coconut oil and coconut milk, leaving out the citric and miso and adjusting the lemon juice quantities as needed. I’ve included coconut milk here for its creaminess and because I figure you’ll have some leftover from the can you opened for the cake; you barely taste any coconut in the finished frosting. Finally, if you don’t have a food processor you can use a bowl and a wooden spoon to make this but it’ll take considerably more effort to get it thick and smooth. But, this is how people make icing for centuries so it’s not impossible.

  • 1 and 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • 3 tablespoons soft refined coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon citric acid
  • 1/2 teaspoon miso paste
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1-3 tablespoons full-fat coconut milk

1: Tip the icing sugar into the food processor and pulse a few times to get rid of any lumps. Add the coconut oil, citric acid, and miso paste, and process to combine. Add a teaspoon of lemon juice and the coconut milk, one tablespoon at a time, and process until you have a very thick, very smooth, bright white frosting. If it needs more liquid add it a little at a time. Set the icing aside in a cool place until needed. (I put it in the fridge, which made it entirely too solid, but sitting the bowl in a second bowl of hot water and stirring it helped.)

2: Spatula the icing onto the top of the cooled cake and spread it evenly over the top, leaving the sides bare. Store in an airtight container.

Notes:

  • When buying cocoa, look for a brand that has a minimum of 20g fat per 100g – I try not to be fussy with you about ingredients but anything less than 20g is not worth your while and will taste weak and is false economy.
  • I accidentally overcooked my cake – it was fine, but the edges were a little crisp, so I just prodded it with a skewer and brushed it with a quick syrup of a few spoons of brown sugar dissolved in an equal quantity of hot water before applying the icing with a pastry brush, and I pass this along in case you find yourself in the same predicament.
  • You could probably use soy milk or something similar instead of coconut milk in the cake and still have it turn out fine; but Nigella’s original recipe uses sour cream and I wanted something particularly creamy and fat to offset the bitter Guinness, so I do think it’s necessary – the finished cake doesn’t taste anything like coconut, I promise.
  • If you don’t have miso paste or just don’t have any confidence in my decision making – and it’s true, we do ask a lot of miso paste these days, perhaps too much even – then leave it out and add a pinch of salt.

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music lately:

I Wanna Be A Cowboy, Baby! by CMAT – who, coincidentally, is from Dublin. My friend Jordan recommended her music to me and in turn, I enthusiastically recommend her to you (I also recommend to you to recommend songs to me in general, as long as you’re prepared for my candid evaluation.)

For Good from the musical Wicked as performed by original cast members Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel at the Tony Awards this week. Now – this is not something I say lightly – I don’t necessarily love this song in and of itself, it’s not the most exciting or lyrically dexterous, to me, but I will always drop everything to watch a live performance of it because what it does give you is four and a half minutes of Acting and Emotion and Unbearable Momentousness. To see Chenoweth and Menzel reunited here – a very rare occurrence in the eighteen years since Wicked launched on Broadway – at the first Tony Awards since 2019, to see them hold hands and perform this song with all the sincerity of their long-ago characters but also as themselves, to hear those gentle but defined harmonies where she goes low and she goes high – well, you already know I cried.

You Mean The World To Me by Toni Braxton, simply a perfect song – obviously you could take Babyface’s back catalogue to a desert island and never run out of hits but he and Braxton together are a match made in heaven – that “oh baby baby, baby baby, babyyyy” bit at the end of the chorus has to be up there with the various pinnacles of human creative achievement.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

The Best White Bread [vegan]

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There’s this twitter account dedicated solely to posting, every Friday, a brief clip of actor Daniel Craig announcing musician The Weeknd on Saturday Night Live, and though I don’t follow this account, every seven days enough of the people I do follow force it onto my timeline through their retweeting, and because time has become gelatinous and meaningless I seem to encounter this tweet at ever-shortening concentric cycles, though I understand a week is still seven days despite my perception of it being something much smaller. Anyway, the specific way the actor Daniel Craig says “Ladies and gentlemen: The Weeknd”, with this air of resigned gratefulness – with unabashed yet just faintly bemused gravitas – so moved by that which he is announcing – with his arms stretched wide and his head shaking in appreciative disbelief – his arms which say everything his mouth cannot – well, that’s the only way I can talk about this recipe. It’s the best bread I’ve ever made, it’s the best bread you’ll ever make, there’s nothing more that can be said, not by me, not by Daniel Craig, not even by Daniel Craig’s arms.

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It would, however, be failing the very concept of a food blog to imply nothing can actually be said about a recipe. And I’d be failing myself because I never miss an opportunity to over-explain. So here we go. This recipe comes from Nigella Lawson’s most recent book, Cook, Eat, Repeat, a soothingly expansive volume with essays that fluctuate into recipes and vice versa, and it’s the recipe I’ve made most from it thus far – in fact, it’s probably the recipe I’ve made most this year full stop. I’ve enacted some small changes to make Nigella’s recipe vegan – replacing the spoiled milk or sour cream with soy milk curdled by apple cider vinegar, the acid of which I believe has a spectacular effect on the airy crumb of the resulting loaf; I also use refined coconut oil instead of butter, since it bears a buttery flavour and has a similar melting temperature. Other than that, the recipe remains hers, via the chef Dan Lepard, although I only just realised – after having made this recipe countless times this year – that Nigella offers her own vegan option (using almond-soy yoghurt and vegetable shortening) in the book? I’m baffled at how I missed that extremely relevant detail, but that’s ADHD for ya I guess. What sets this bread apart from other methods is the on-off process of kneading for ten seconds and letting it rise for ten minutes – somehow these incredibly brief bursts of agitation make the dough flourish and swell like an inflated bouncy castle.

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I’ve made numerous loaves of bread in my time – recipes of mine, of Nigella’s, recipes ancient and modern, but nothing has ever knocked me clean off my feet quite like this one. It’s so light and soft, and crisp-of-crust, and perfect, the sort of bread the Famous Five would take to an island to eat while fighting crime (it’s a while since I’ve read any Enid Blyton and I may be conflating some storylines here), the sort of bread Da Vinci himself would’ve come up with had he devoted himself to baking instead of art and invention, it’s like finally realising a sublime dream you didn’t quite know you’d been chasing your entire life, and you know what else?

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It slices up a treat. The importance of this aspect cannot be overstated! The knife melts into the crust and peels away clean slice after clean slice without the slightest squashing – you can rest your hand squatly on top of the loaf to steady yourself as you cut with confidence that you’re not going to immediately flatten it like an old air mattress. Even I – someone who can normally only carve diagonally, producing great wide-hipped triangles of bread – can cut thin elegant sandwich-ready slices from this, mere minutes after it leaves the oven.

 

@hungryandfrozen

the BEST loaf of bread you’ll ever make 😍😩 🍞 recipe at hungryandfrozen.com 🤠 #nigella #nigellalawson #recipe #foodblogger #fyp #bread #vegan

♬ Happy When It Rains – The Jesus And Mary Chain

 

Set aside a day and make this recipe. Soon enough you’ll be wandering around, arms outstretched, saying “Ladies and gentlemen: this bread!” in a resonant and impassioned voice to anyone who will listen.

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The Best White Bread

Lightly adapted – by which I mean this is now vegan bread – from Nigella Lawson’s Old-Fashioned Sandwich Loaf in Cook, Eat, Repeat. This is simply the best loaf of white bread you’ll ever make, and worth every minute of the rise time. 

  • 500g strong white bread flour (also called “high grade”)
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons instant dried yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt or 1 teaspoon regular table salt
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) soy milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 150ml cold water
  • 100ml water from a just-boiled kettle
  • 3 heaped tablespoons soft/room temperature refined coconut oil

1: Place the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in your biggest mixing bowl – this dough needs plenty of space to rise.

2: Pour the soy milk and apple cider vinegar into a measuring jug and leave it for a minute to curdle. Then add the cold water, followed by the hot water from the just-boiled kettle (might as well make yourself a cup of tea while you’re there) and stir the coconut oil into the jug. It doesn’t matter if the heat from the liquid doesn’t totally melt the oil. (If you can’t work out how to measure the 100ml and 150ml water – which falls outside of regular cup measurements – you can weigh the water on the scales you used for the flour, as 1g = 1ml.)

3: Pour the wet ingredients into the mixing bowl and stir briefly to combine. Form into a rough ball and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or, more sustainably – as per Nigella’s suggestion – a shower cap. I hope you don’t need me to tell you that it should be new and unused. Leave the dough for ten minutes.

4: Remove the plastic covering and knead the dough for ten seconds. You can do this on the kitchen counter, I prefer to do it inside the bowl to save on cleaning. Either way, it helps to put a little oil on your kneading hand to stop the dough from sticking to you as you push the dough away and pull it back to you. Cover the bowl again with the plastic wrap, and leave for ten minutes. Repeat this ten-seconds-on-ten-minutes-off step twice more.

5: After the third ten-second knead, form the dough into a ball, cover the bowl again with the plastic wrap, and leave for an hour to rise. Don’t worry about having it somewhere warm unless your house is especially freezing and draughty (which in New Zealand is, alas, highly likely.)

6: Lay a sheet of baking paper on the bench and tip the risen, puffy ball of dough onto it. Oil your hands again, press the dough into a rectangle shape about an inch thick (I have never once measured this step so don’t worry too much) then roll the dough up into a scroll, carefully shift it into the centre of the piece of baking paper, then lift the dough up by picking up the paper on either side of the dough scroll, and lower it all into a loaf tin, which should leave you with a loaf tin, lined with baking paper, and filled with dough. I hope these instructions make sense – the Tiktok video above gives a visual of what I mean – also Nigella’s recipe tells you to line the loaf tin with paper first and then pick up the dough directly with your hands, and you can, of course, follow this reasonable request instead of mine. Leave the tin-bound dough for one final rise of about an hour to 90 minutes, until it’s billowing over the top – I usually drape the same plastic wrap from the bowl loosely over it just to protect it from local marauding insects, depending on your location this may not be an issue.

7: Once the dough looks like it’s nearly done rising, turn your oven to 200C/400F. Dust the top of the loaf with a little flour, and bake for 45 minutes. I’ve never had to bake it for any more or any less, but I would suggest placing it fairly low in the oven because it does continue to rise and can scorch a little on top if it’s too close to the heat. Store wrapped in a clean tea towel.

Note: As I mentioned before, I somehow? Didn’t realise Nigella offers her own vegan alternative in the lead-up to this recipe, despite having made this so many times I just…completely missed it. She suggests using almond-soy yoghurt and vegetable shortening and I have no doubt this would yield excellent results. 

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music lately:

Loveless by My Bloody Valentine – one of my utmost favourite albums – is finally back on Spotify after a long and parched time away. You really need to listen to it all at once, preferably lying down.

Bless Your Beautiful Hide by Howard Keel from Seven Brides For Seven Brothers. Keel really found his niche playing brawny scoundrels who were startlingly sexist even for the time period, who were constantly striding about in tight trousers insisting someone marry him (he sang a near-identical song, vibes-wise, in Kiss Me Kate) all of which should not give me cheer whenever he appears onscreen and yet! That tall man has undeniable charisma rolling off him in waves and the kind of river-deep baritone we regrettably don’t value anymore and no matter what hackneyed nonsense he’s singing, his sheer talent makes it incredibly riveting.

Shy Guy by Diana King. It’s so timeless and electrifying, and that bridge! A truly top-tier bridge (closely followed by the one in Lisa Stansfield’s All Around The World). Wherever you hear this song will instantly become a dance floor.

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. Recipes (including this one, back in January!) reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

Roasted Plum Harissa [Vegan]

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We’re still squarely in Plumtown. Last time it was the Five-Spice Plum Ice Cream, this time it’s Roasted Plum Harissa, an idea inspired by Nigella Lawson’s apricot harissa from her latest book, Cook, Eat, Repeat, which I joyfully received for Christmas. This book is exactly what I needed – not a cookbook as you’d expect it, but just an unhurried and welcome tidal wave of Nigella meditating with gentle persistence on food and its place in our lives. It’s honestly near-hypnotic.

Cook, Eat, Repeat, is the first post-COVID cookbook I’ve read – more specifically, it’s clear that the pandemic affected the course of the book, as Nigella talks about changing a chapter on dinner parties and offers several means of reducing recipes down to a single serve. It’s not as simple as merely, breezily, omitting content however. When she says, in the Christmas chapter – a time of year she has made very much her province in all its elaborateness – that as long as she had her children around the table that year she could “eat gruel and be happy” – when she says “we shall not be eating in isolation forever,” – well! Let’s just say the cookbook got stained with tears before it did with cooking ingredients. (I mean, it took me precisely one recipe to stain the book with ingredients, and as you can probably guess the contents of this harissa are also living on, pagebound.) I sometimes feel weird and ungracious barrelling on with blogging as though everyone reading this is in the same, relatively calm position I’m in – I also can’t rule out New Zealand unexpectedly entering another lockdown at any minute. Nigella, as per usual, is excellent at articulating not just the food, but every emotion and motivation and expectation and context around the food – and there is just so much to articulate!

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Anyway, the harissa. Nigella acknowledges that apricots aren’t traditionally used in this Tunisian chilli paste, and as for plums, well, they’re really not supposed to be there. But I couldn’t stop thinking about them together with the chillies and spices – possibly from the power of suggestion as opposed to culinary genius as we just had so many plums around – but either way, this harissa is lush, and for that, at least, I comfortably give myself credit. That plummy taste – you know, garnets soaked in pinot noir, something like that – plus their sourness, softened by the heat of the grill, is tremendous with the blistered chillis and all those whole spices – licorice-y caraway, smoky paprika, earthy cumin, and ginger-lemony cardamom and coriander. The combination of heat and spice, plus the sweetness, saltiness, and the richness of the olive oil, is incredibly compelling – you’ll taste it to see if it’s balanced and find your spoon returning again and again to the bowl without even realising it.

This harissa is immensely versatile – first of all, you can just use it wherever you might otherwise have applied some kind of chilli. It’s wonderful alongside tomato – the acid of the plums and the depth of the spices making the blandest, cheapest canned tomatoes come alive – and I’ve used it already in a tomato-based pasta sauce and a sort of patatas bravas-type dish with great results. It also works to punch up more mellow foods – for example, it would be delicious alongside or inside hummus, and in Cook, Eat, Repeat, Nigella uses her apricot harissa in a roasted cauliflower recipe – I’m sure I’ll be following her lead before long. For all of harissa’s versatility, we’re likely to move through most of it just from me swiping spoonfuls from the jar every time I pass through the kitchen, in fact, I’ve half a mind to spread it on my toast.

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Roasted Plum Harissa

Spicy, sour-sweet, extremely compelling. Recipe based closely on the Apricot Harissa from Nigella Lawson’s wonderful book, Cook, Eat, Repeat.

  • 6 ripe, firm plums
  • 3 large red chillis
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • seeds from 4 cardamom pods
  • one teaspoon ground turmeric (or 15g fresh, peeled and roughly chopped)
  • 25g fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt flakes, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon coconut sugar (or regular sugar)
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, extra
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1: Turn your oven to the grill (broil) function at 220C/425F. Slice the plums in half, discarding the stones, and place the fruit cut side up along with the chillis in a small shallow roasting dish. Pour over the two tablespoons of olive oil, turning the plums and chilli over and back again with your hands to make sure they’re all oil-slicked. Grill for about ten minutes, or until the chillis are wrinkled and darkened in places. The plums should still be holding their shape but look a little collapsed.

2: Remove everything from the oven. Place the chillis in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap or something airtight and more environmentally friendly should you have it, and set aside for a few minutes. This will make it very easy to peel the skin from the chillis – which is the next step – although it doesn’t matter if some skin remains. Discard the green stems from the chilli, and if you want a more mellow harissa you can pull/prise open the chillis and remove the seeds at this point, too. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards and avoid touching your eye area, as any chilli remaining on your fingertips will hurt like hell.

3: Place the deseeded, skinned chilli back in the small bowl along with the plums and any oil from the roasting dish (a spatula is useful here.) Place the caraway, coriander, cumin and cardamom seeds in a small pan and toast them over a low heat for just a minute or two, shaking the pan and stirring them to ensure they don’t burn. Their fragrance should, as Nigella says, waft up to you as they cook – this will let you know it’s time to remove them from the heat. Tip these spices into the bowl of chillis and plums.

4: Add the remaining ingredients to this bowl, and using a stick blender, blitz it to a bright-red, smooth-ish paste. Taste to see if it needs more salt, or maybe a dash more vinegar or sugar – you may also want to add more olive oil. You’ll know when you have the harissa you want.

5: Transfer this mixture to a clean jar, and store in the fridge. It may solidify or separate slightly after a while in the fridge, but a brisk stir will set it right again. I don’t know how long it keeps, to be honest, but I imagine pretty indefinitely.

Makes 250ml/1 cup.

Notes:

  • You can of course use Nigella’s originally stipulated dried apricots (six thereof) instead of plums. She also used 20g large dried chillis, reconstituted in boiling water, and the only reason I didn’t use them was because I absolutely couldn’t find any at my local supermarket. The sugar is also my addition, to balance the sourness of the plums – dried apricots wouldn’t need such sweetening.
  • If you use five or seven plums and four chillis or whatever I doubt it’ll hurt the recipe – you’ll just end up with slightly more or slightly less harissa.
  • If you don’t have sea salt, I would just add whatever salt you have a little at a time until the salinity suits your taste buds.
  • If you don’t have a stick blender, then a regular smallish food processor should do the trick, but maybe bash the spices in a pestle and mortar first or put them through a spice grinder (although if you have such fancy equipment as this you probably have a stick blender.) You could also surely make this whole thing in the pestle and mortar if you’re so inclined.
  • You might notice that the plums are actually grilled, not roasted, but I thought the word roasted sounded better, and then also it cuts out the potential cross-translation into the American word “broil”, which I just think sounds kind of terrible, comparatively. So, roasted it is.

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music lately:

Joy by Apollo 100. You may sneer, but five seconds of listening to this sheer exuberance will have you dancing an eightsome reel before your mind has even had time to process what your body is doing. The hymn Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, upon which this is based, is one I sang with negligible success in my school choir – and which I erroneously believed, until this year, was also sung by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa at the wedding of Princess Diana. The choir teacher told us this, possibly to motivate us to be less visibly tormented by that laborious time signature. The whole time, Dame Kiri actually sang Let The Bright Seraphim. This is exactly like the time I realised, after telling so many people that Rita Moreno was the first person to get an EGOT, that Rita Moreno was not the first person to get an EGOT.

A Depression Glass, by Spahn Ranch. Holds onto some of their earlier “chainsaw being thrown at your head” vibe while sounding extremely 1997 – in fact it sounds like it could have been in the party scene in the film Nowhere by Gregg Araki, which is one of the higher honours I could bestow a song.

Ridin’ For A Fall from the 1943 film Thank Your Lucky Stars, performed by Dennis Morgan and Joan Leslie (although, actually dubbed by voice-for-hire Sally Sweetland.) That “gal with the big blue eyes” line is astonishingly catchy, and although it’s not her singing voice, Ms Leslie’s charisma and good humour is so evident in every frame, I just love it. If I’m honest, I think they could’ve chosen a more relaxed vocal for this number – Ms Sweetland’s soprano is beautiful, but it sounds a little overcooked in this cutesy song. Someone with a more conversational tone, like say, Annette Warren (who provided the singing voices for Ava Gardner and Lucille Ball among others) might’ve been better. Even so, Joan Leslie sells it 100%.

Next time: I’m making cupcakes for my dad and brother’s birthday, I’m assuming they’re going to be delicious and so will share the recipe here.

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. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

The Annual HungryandFrozen Edible Gift Recipe Round-Up

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Once more Christmas lurches purposefully towards us, engorged with expectation, and emotion, and the hopes and fears of all the years, and capitalism. Which means one thing, round these parts: it’s time again for my annual list of edible gift idea recipes, gathered from my prior blog posts over the past thirteen years. It’s a self-serving action, yes, but also hopefully helpful in some way – and all I ever really want is to be useful, but to also draw attention to myself in the process.

Time is forever a strange and fluctuating thing – and never in such a collectively experienced manner as this year with COVID-19. We all felt how it was March for six months, now next March is inexplicably three months away – and I know for many, this Christmas is not going to take its usual form. If you’re confined to a relatively small circle of people, there are still neighbours, the postal service, any number of people nearby who might be cheered by a small jar or box of something in their letterbox, or on their doorstep. Even just you, alone, are reason enough to bake a cake. I also realise to heaps of people Christmas is quite reasonably another day of the week! But generally there will be some point in your life where giving a gift is required, and almost all the recipes listed below work beautifully year-round (though I personally can’t eat candy canes out of season.)

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As for the financial pressure of this time of year – I won’t lie, between the ingredients, time, electricity, storage and wrapping, homemade edible gifts aren’t necessarily that cheap, and there’s no moral superiority in making your own jam. It is undeniably delightful to receive something homemade – but if this is too strenuous, stick with the food concept and do your Christmas shopping at the supermarket. Chocolates, candy, olive oil, fancy salt, peanut butter, curry pastes, hot sauce, olives, a complicated shape of pasta – even just food you know someone eats a lot of. They love noodles? Get them noodles! I guarantee they’ll be pleased. Basically, we cannot escape capitalism but giving an edible gift of any kind has so many upsides: it’s delicious, it has immediate application, it will eventually cease taking up space in the receiver’s house, it makes you look like a really great person.

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To the list! I’ve grouped the recipes into three categories, and have also included some of the recipes I wrote for Tenderly over the last year.

Two caveats: some of these recipes are from years ago, but while details and contexts and locations and motivations have changed, the deliciousness remains constant. Also I feel like it’s worth pointing out that anything involving an ingredient which either could melt or has been melted, should be stored in the fridge rather than under the tree.

Also – all these recipes are vegan.

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Category One: Things In Jars

No matter how uncertain the world we live in, you can still count on Things In Jars. From relish to pickles to the unsinkable salted caramel sauce, it’s always well-received, it always looks like you’ve gone to arduous levels of effort, and it’s an ideal gift for everyone from your most marginally tolerable of coworkers to the most highly specific love of your life. For added personal flair – although this could just be my neurological predisposition for over-explaining – I suggest including a gift tag with recommendations on ways to use the contents of the jar.

Savoury:

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Sweet

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Category Two: Baked Goods

They’re baked! They’re good! While biscuits and cookies are more commonly gifted, don’t rule out a loaf, perhaps wrapped in baking paper and then brown paper – the banana bread and ginger molasses loaf below keep well (especially the latter) and would make a charmingly convivial offering. At this busy time of year, having something to slice and eat with a cup of tea or a snifter of whatever weird liqueur you can find in the back of the cupboard is nothing if not a stroke of good fortune.

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Category Three: Novelty, No-Bake Sweets, and General Sugary Chaos

The best category, let’s be frank. Whether it’s dissolving candy canes in bottom-shelf vodka or adding pink food colouring to white chocolate for the aesthetic, sugar is the true reason for the season. And since dentists wildly overcharge us for their service, you might as well make them really earn it.

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music lately:

Supervixens by AR-Kane, I love this song so much, the way the woozy vocals slide over the melody, the way the melody slides over the beat, in fact this whole album (“i”) is exhilaratingly glorious.

Brooklyn Blues, by Clifford Gibson. Okay so I love early blues, but if I’m honest, I only initially got into Gibson because I found him on Wikipedia under the list of people who have the same birthday as me (April 17.) Fortunately this rather vain curiosity was highly rewarding because he was a wonderful musician (of course!)

Irma La Douce, by Shirley MacLaine from her fantastic Live at the Palace album. This is the English version of the title number of the French stage show on which the film of the same name was based, in which Shirley MacLaine played the title character – Irma La Douce – very straightforward. It’s one of my very favourite films and I love her performance of this song, from its wistful, introspective beginning to its unhinged, full-throated conclusion.

Also – I was genuinely heartbroken to learn of the passing of Broadway legend, icon, star, Ann Reinking. I could say SO MUCH about her, and Fosse’s choreography, and Gwen Verdon, and the way they all worked together – but instead I’ll just link to this clip of her dancing in a dream sequence in All That Jazz – a film I could watch every day and never tire of. It’s a deceptively simple number, but her precision and ownership of the movements is astonishing. Everything she does – even just lowering her eyelids in a blink at 46 seconds in – is a dance movement, on a level the rest of us can only dream of.

PS: if you enjoy my writing and would like to support me directly, you can do so by joining my Patreon. It’s like a cordoned-off VIP area, where you can access content written just for you: recipes, updates, poems, short stories, all for just $2 a month.

Nigella’s Norwegian Mountain Loaf (no-knead, vegan)

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Over the past few months of undulating lockdown levels I’ve been turning to this bread recipe at least once a week, baking loaf after loaf of seeded, grainy future toast. This recipe is as reliable as it is easy, and I’ve loved it since I first got Nigella Lawson’s wonderful book How To Be A Domestic Goddess back in 2006 – and yet somehow I never once blogged about it in all the ensuing years. Which is kind of odd, given how consumed I am with turning everything I consume into words for you to consume. What a treat from the universe for the tired-brained writer – here’s one I actually did prepare earlier.

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I really can’t express how minimal the effort is here – some half-hearted commitment to the ingredients list, a little apathetic stirring, the most unceremonious hiffing of the dough into a loaf tin, and then the oven does the rest of the work for you.

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This bread is fine on its own – if a little strenuously chewy – but really comes alive once toasted, and that is my strongest recommendation for it. In turn, the more seeds you add to it, the more wonderfully nutty and crunchy it will be when put through the toaster. The combination of flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds means you can practically feel your hair getting shinier with every mouthful – however walnuts, sesame seeds, chia and hemp seeds would be great too. I favour this toast spread with refined coconut oil and Marmite, a combination which, chaotic though it may sound, tastes deliciously, butterishly logical to me.

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If you fancy further bread recipes, I recommend my (also no-knead) Social Distancing Bread or, if you really need a diversion, my Marmite Babka.

Also! If you are eligible to vote in New Zealand and haven’t yet enrolled please consider doing so as soon as possible! The process is honestly? Not very straightforward. The options of who to vote for? Often disappointing and underwhelming! But I assume if you’re reading this you’re probably a cool decent non-rightwing person and so, we need you do vote for whoever disappoints you the least so that the most disappointing and harmful people don’t get all the power. It may not feel like it, but your vote does count for something! Unfortunately that something might be “the lesser of several evils” – but it’s still something. I would really love to be more positive about this! And also to write about it with fewer double negatives! Unfortunately I am bitterly pragmatic and obtusely wordy. In short: enrol online here.

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Nigella Lawson’s Norwegian Mountain Loaf

No rise, no knead, grainy seedy bread. Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess – I’ve listed the ingredients I’ve used but have included Nigella’s exact ingredients below the recipe for you to compare/consider using instead. With this in mind you could definitely experiment with different seeds, grains and dusts, but this combination works very well for me.

  • 350g strong bread flour (usually labelled “high grade”)
  • 50g wholemeal flour
  • 50g rolled oats (not instant)
  • 10g instant/active dried yeast
  • 1 heaped tablespoon sugar, any kind
  • 1 cup/250ml soy milk, diluted slightly with water
  • 1 cup/250ml cold water
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt flakes or 1 and 1/2 teaspoons regular table salt
  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
  • 3 tablespoons flaxseeds
  • 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds

1: Mix all the ingredients together to form a thick, sticky batter.

2: Tip the mixture into a loaf tin lined with baking paper. Place in a cold oven, immediately turn the temperature to 110C/230F and leave it for half an hour.

3: Once the thirty minutes is up, turn the temperature to 180C/350F and cook it for another hour. Because this is quite dense it might need a little longer – Nigella recommends sticking a skewer in it to see if it comes out clean which is a pretty good way of checking.

Note: I genuinely don’t know why I increased the yeast to ten grams from seven other than being the victim of my own rakish whimsy but! Now that I’ve started doing it I find it hard to stop, so ten grams it is. If you want to use the original seven there is no reason why that won’t work, it is after all what Nigella herself uses.

Nigella’s exact ingredients, for your comparison/consideration:

  • 250ml water
  • 250ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 350g wholemeal bread flour
  • 50g rye flour
  • 7g easy-blend yeast or 15g fresh yeast
  • 50g porridge oats (not instant)
  • 25g wheatgerm
  • 3 tablespoons each flaxseeds and sunflower seeds
  • 1 tablespoon salt

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music lately:

Losing True by The Roches. If you ever wished the band Yes sounded more like the Cocteau Twins, or vice versa, this song might just be for you.

Route by MC Mabon – I want to say it’s kind of early Beck-esque downbeat…hip hop? It’s definitely extremely Welsh, and definitely extremely bewitching, I genuinely can’t stop listening to it.

First Love/Late Spring by Mitski. I’ve said it before but whenever I don’t know what to listen to and can’t commit to sitting through a whole song, she is always what my brain really wanted the whole time. If you’ve never heard her before I urge you with everything I’ve got to also listen to her song Your Best American Girl – what I wouldn’t give, to go back to the feeling of hearing one minute and twenty two seconds into that song for the first time!

Next time: I’m trying a new ice cream recipe! But also made another pasta recipe.

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. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

a low-key handful of recipes: mushroom stroganoff, gumbo-esque stew, mince on toast, chocolate pear pudding

We’re about three weeks into lockdown here in NZ but for me it’s been a full month since I’ve left the house – even to go outside at all. I had romantic notions of reading and knitting in the yard but every time you open a window wasps and mice and flies pour in and though it gives the vibe of living in a Southern Gothic novel it’s also massively off-putting. I generally regard the outdoors with suspicion anyway so I guess this is simply the universe reinforcing my assessment of it.

If you’re reading this I certainly hope things are as close to your current working definition of “okay” as possible. I personally cannot complain too much (and yet!) but I do find myself increasingly quick to irritation as a result of all this repetition. People trying to be funny online annoy me, people trying to be heartfelt annoy me, if you say something inane, that’s annoying, if you say something deep, that’s super annoying, if you mention hanging out with your partner, it’s plumbing the very teeth-eroding depths of intolerable. Oh, don’t worry, I find literally everything I say and do annoying too – and then comes the guilt at being so grumpy at everyone, guilt for not being a fountain of perky positivity – even though I’ve always been irritated by fountains of perky positivity whether or not there was a pandemic closing in on us. Then, just as it feels like my skin is going to fall off from sheer, resentful aggravation – I stand up and do some form of cardio exercise. And afterwards, even if I only exerted myself for ten minutes, and if I’m honest it’s seldom more than ten minutes – afterwards I’ll feel benign, positively magnanimous. Everyone is excused, everyone is clearly doing their best in these trying circumstances!

And then I get annoyed at the exercise, for being so maddeningly effective. Why can’t I get my endorphins from sitting down?

As you can see this blog post is a little different from usual; despite having all the time in the world I have a lot less focus – and I didn’t have an abundance to begin with – and while I’ve been cooking food I haven’t exactly been making specific recipes. I was about to give up on the notion of writing this altogether to sit and stew in my own pinging, directionless ire, when I realised I could still talk about what I’d cooked, and perhaps, collectively, it might be of some use. Each recipe is, as you can see, open to tinkering with – indeed, each one of them was the result of me meandering about, hoping what I was cooking would meet the image in my mind. The stroganoff is rich and creamy and lush (and don’t skip the cayenne, it might be that there is very little going on in my life but for days after I couldn’t stop thinking about how perfectly a pinprick of pepper brought the whole stroganoff to life.) The gumbo-esque stew was inspired by a Bryant Terry recipe, in that I looked at it and then ignored pretty much everything he suggested, but I would absolutely not have had this incredible dinner without him as a starting point. Mince on toast is pretty self-explanatory but I am keen to champion Chinese Five-Spice to anyone who will listen; and the pudding is even more self-explanatory: pudding is nice.

You may notice I haven’t mentioned garlic at all in any of the savoury recipes: it’s not that none was used – quite the opposite – but I also assume you each have highly specific opinions on what constitutes a suitable quantity and so I’m going to trust you to follow your instincts there. And once again – I really do hope you’re all okay, whatever okay is!

Mushroom Stroganoff

Slice enough button mushrooms for however many people you’re serving. If you don’t know how many mushrooms to serve people, just slice up every mushroom you have – they shrink in the pan and if you have leftovers, so be it. Fry a chopped onion in plenty of olive oil till softened, then add the mushrooms and continue stirring till they’ve collapsed and browned. Add a 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, one heaped teaspoon paprika, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and a spoonful of whatever mustard you have, along with two tablespoons of flour. Add a splash of whatever wine you’re drinking, if you have it – red or white, doesn’t matter. After stirring this around for a minute or two, slowly pour in coconut milk (or almond milk/soy milk/whatever) continuing to stir as you pour, and then let it simmer away, stirring, until as thickened yet saucy as you want it to be. Feel free to add more coconut milk and make it really saucy, and if you only have a little milk to hand you can top it up with water. I am going to assume at some point you’ve added salt and pepper. Taste to see if it needs more of anything, then serve over rice or mashed potatoes with chopped parsley. Of course you can use portobello mushrooms or fancy mushrooms or a mix but, button mushrooms will do the trick just fine.

Gumbo-esque Stew

I say Gumbo-esque because this lacks the requisite filé powder (though if you have it, go ahead) and other signposts of a classic gumbo. It tastes magnificent though, and it’s even better the next day. Roughly chop a generous handful of greens per person: spinach, kale, silverbeet, cabbage, whatever you have. It’ll shrink down in the pan, so don’t hold back. Finely chop a large onion, one or two sticks of celery, and a green capsicum (bell pepper for the Americans.) Heat four tablespoons olive oil and half a cup of flour together in a large pan, stirring over a medium heat for at least ten minutes, or until the flour is a rich golden brown colour. Then add the onion/celery/capsicum mixture and cook until the vegetables are a little softened. Add two teaspoons paprika, a good pinch of cayenne, a teaspoon of sugar (or maple syrup or molasses or whatever) and then slowly stir in about four cups of strongly seasoned stock/broth (I like vegan beef stock here for the flavour), followed by a drained can of black beans (or whatever beans you like, and you can add more beans to feed more people) as well as any extra chopped vegetables you want – carrots, kumara, etc. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly, then add the greens. Simmer for about 20-40 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more of anything (including stock) until it’s the taste and texture you want. If you have some good vegan sausages, chop them up and add them to the simmering pot too. And if you have a bay leaf, now would be the time to throw that in. Once it’s done simmering, stir in plenty of fresh thyme leaves and a splash of any vinegar you have before serving over rice or simply as is.

Mince on Toast

I mean like: cook mince and put it on toast, but also: fry an onion and a few chopped button mushrooms, add your vegan mince, stir to let it cook through, then tip in a quarter to half a jar of tomato relish and a good teaspoon of Marmite, add a splash of water/red wine and let simmer. A pinch of Chinese Five-Spice always makes everything delicious. If you don’t have vegan mince to hand, a mixture of fried mushrooms, chopped walnuts and chopped sun-dried tomatoes is really good.

Chocolate Pear Pudding

This is based on a recipe of Nigella Lawson’s, which I made vegan and more chocolatey. If you have fresh actual pears – which we did, and which was what prompted the making of this – then slice them up and arrange them in the baking dish and pop them in the oven as it heats up while you make the batter. Otherwise, as is more likely the case, simply drain two tins of pears and arrange over the base of a baking dish. Melt 1/3 cup coconut oil (though you could use margarine) and stir in 1 cup sugar, 1 and 1/2 cups flour, 4 tablespoons cocoa, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds mixed with 4 tablespoons of water (mix the flaxseed and water first and leave it to sit while you mix everything else.) Finally, stir in around 3/4 cup soy milk or whatever milk you have, until the texture is thick yet softly spreadable. Chop up about 50g-75g dark chocolate and sprinkle it over the pears, then spoon the batter over the top, smoothing it evenly with a knife or the back of a spoon. It will only just cover the pears, so try not to eat too much while you’re making it. Bake for about thirty minutes at 180C/350F. Serve as is, or with cold coconut milk or ice cream.

music lately:

Lungs, by Townes Van Zandt, from his Live at the Old Quarter album. That final line, “we’ll tell the world we tried,” I just!

Yon Ferrets Return, Neko Case. Possibly the most fiercely joyful song ever written about the ferret, and #14 in another playlist I made for Tenderly, this time about the less-celebrated members of the animal kingdom.

I’m Going Home, from the 36th Annual Sacred Harp Convention. Turns out you can get your endorphins sitting down: listening to this – and I recommend headphones – is even more rewarding than cardio. I mean, everything’s more rewarding than cardio to me, but this really does approach similar levels of busting through the hardened plaque built up around one’s brain.

Next time: photos, I promise! It’s my birthday tomorrow (the 17th) so I’m aiming to cook something cool for dinner and will report back here. I mean, there’s not much else I can do for a birthday in lockdown, but fortunately cooking dinner is pretty much all I ever want to do anyway.

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. Also! I wrote a round up of television recommendations if you need them while stuck at home, which anyone can read on my Patreon for free.