lost your love of life, too much apple pie

vegan apple tart

You might be the sort of morally upright person who enjoys a job well done, but I personally subscribe to the singular pleasure of the illusion of a job well done, where you’ve put in hardly any effort and yet the results yielded appear to be drawn from a time of great toil. This recipe is one such exemplary example of this genre, there’s just nothing to it, but fresh from the oven it precisely resembles the kind of confection that the lead in a romantic comedy, perhaps played by Kristin Wiig or Mila Kunis, would make in her job as a very part-time pastry chef who lives in an spacious, light-filled loft apartment in Manhattan.

Admittedly, I made this and then immediately ate the entire thing myself so the window of impressing other people with my no-effort-effort was quickly slammed shut but I’m going to assume that all of you are impressed while reading this at least.

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I’m in Wellington for a few more days, and have reached the point of my itinerary where I’m still staying at Kate and Jason’s house but they’ve gone away on a trip for a while, which is how I found myself looking at an apple that had hitherto belonged to them and being like, “I’d really better put this to use.” I don’t know if you get like this when you’re staying in someone’s house while they’re not there but it’s like a strange lawless urgency, like, should I drink all their shampoo and conditioner before it expires? Will they expect to have flour when they get home? Do all their cushions now belong to me?

In case your respectful awe at my apple tart making has turned to concern, like, I’ve literally only used this one apple, everyone’s belongings are intact, I’m just being farcical. (Although I do also literally think this every time I step foot into someone’s property.) (I just don’t generally act upon it.)

vegan apple tart

I already had some pastry sheets in the freezer from making some olive and almond pinwheels for book group last week and so it seemed prudent to put the remainder to use. My recipe takes direct inspiration from one of Nigella’s in her 2007 book Nigella Express, and it’s as delicious as it is un-stressful to make, as is to be expected from something of her provenance. It’s somehow sturdily old-fashioned yet daintily elegant at the same time, and there’s a pleasing delicacy to the whole proceeding, from the light, fluttery pastry to the gently sweetened, almost translucently thin apples, which retain both their shape and just the slightest, merest hint of sour bite. If you wish to emphasise this you could strew over some finely milled lemon zest, if you want to make it sweeter by all means add more sugar, but I like it just as it is.

vegan apple tart

Easy Apple Tart

Based loosely on a recipe of Nigella Lawson’s from her book Nigella Express

  • 1 sheet ready-rolled flaky puff pastry (check the ingredients to make sure it’s vegan, if you want to make sure it’s vegan)
  • 1 large red apple (or green or whatever, the one I found was red, is all)
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup (or maple syrup, or similar)
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  • 1 teaspoon cold water
  • small pinch of salt

Set your oven to 200C/400F and take your sheet of pastry out of the freezer to thaw a little if that’s where you’ve been keeping it.

Slice two cheeks off the sides of the apple and then, as thinly as you can, slice them into half moons. Continue with the rest of the apple.

Using the point of your knife, score a border one inch or so in from the edges of the sheet of pastry, by which I mean, run the knife along the pastry so there’s a partial incision but don’t cut all the way through. This will allow the border to puff up, and no, I have no idea how it works.

Arrange the slices of apple in overlapping layers in the centre square of the pastry, avoiding crossing the border that you’ve cut in. Mix the golden syrup, cornflour, water and salt in a small bowl and drizzle it over the apple slices.

Carefully slide this onto a baking tray lined with a sheet of baking paper – or better yet, move the pastry to the baking tray before you arrange the apples on it.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the apples are golden and the border of the pastry sheet is puffed and risen. Allow to sit for five or so minutes then cut into squares.

vegan apple tart

I feel duty-bound to draw your attention to the serendipitous vegan-ness of a lot of frozen puff pastry, but also wearily acknowledge that it often substitutes palm oil for butter, and like, on the one hand there’s only so many things you can be self-flagellating about at once in regards to late capitalism (believe me, I’ve tried), but on the other hand…actually I don’t think I have a counterpoint, but I do think I’ll be googling homemade vegan puff pastry recipes.

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It’s Ariel’s time to shine! (By which I mean, studiously ignore me, but it’s a gentle disregard unlike my parents’ cats who sit in the corner looking like cartoon villains plotting dragon-related revenge against any number of perceived slights, and so, it feels like love.)

My Patreon patrons will have known this for a minute now, but let me tell those of you who aren’t yet aware: an exciting opportunity has befallen me. In July, a new online vegan magazine will be launching from the US, via Medium.com, called Tenderly, and I will be a regular contributor to them! Do you know how specifically wild it is to have a paid writing opportunity at all and to have that writing be about a subject I am genuinely into? It’s wild!

So, you better believe there are going to be some changes around here! The quantity of content I’ll be writing for Tenderly means I will be gently receding my content on here, just like, super slightly, so that my brain doesn’t dissolve into a nourishing yet highly un-vegan broth. But then, once a month, I will be putting a blog post very much like this one on my Patreon for subscribers only to read. The good news is that if you want in, this will be available for just a dollar per month, and if you don’t want in, there will still be other blog posts for you here on hungryandfrozen.com, and the really good news is that if you want to spend more than that, well I can totally accommodate you there too.

You know that scene in The Simpsons when the teachers are on strike and Vice Superintendent Leopold busts into Bart’s classroom and he’s like “all right, you listen up, you little freaks! The fun stops here, you’re going to shut your stinking traps and behave, damn it! This is one substitute you’re not going to screw with!” and then Marge Simpson comes in radiating absolute niceness? That’s kind of my vibe with all this. It may sound like a wild door-kicking change but I’ll still just be right here, being nice. I’ll just also be writing more for Patreon (probably with appalling titles like “all in all you’re just another brick in the paywall,” some things never change.)

title from: Kennedy by The Wedding Present, a rollicking song with fabulous drums and vocals that suggest peevish gargling, by which I mean, I like it a lot.

music lately:

Sunshine On A Rainy Day by Naomi Campbell, who released an album in 1994, because why not, who would possibly stand in her way? It’s majorly patchy, and yet so endearing as a whole, it just sounds exactly how it should, it sounds how all albums like this wish they could. This song, a cover of Zoe’s 1990 hit, is a massive standout, with Campbell’s vocals so amazingly present and confident, and there’s something incredibly comforting about that 90s sound, combining gospel choirs and shuffling trip-hop beats and broad yet vague spirituality.

Whatever Lola Wants by Gwen Verdon from the musical Damn Yankees. The song itself is very old-fashioned – though oddly appealing – but she just completely embodies her husband and longtime collaborator Bob Fosse’s choreography in this. Even though the number is ostensibly a striptease, her character is a seductress for the devil who traded her soul for eternal youth so it’s supposed to be funny and disarming and Verdon, whose body moves like liquid, seems more like a cartoon than a real person – her movements are so precise yet so disjointed and so weird yet so purposeful – and notice how much of this is done in one take.

Next time: I’m in Wellington a bit longer but will be back at my parents’ place by the end of the week, so it’s anyone’s guess as to whether it will be town cat or country cat in the background of the photos.

forever green, I know she’s here

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Wednesday was so momentous in a way that I’m not sure I can accurately convey other than to hope that as you’re reading this you’re trying to understand what it means to me: I met Nigella Lawson. I was always into food in an opportunistic way but it was seeing her TV show in 2001 that showed me for the first time that food could be a cause of real happiness for not just the eater but also the cook. Without a doubt I would not have started food blogging if not for her, I probably would not have achieved much of anything in fact. If you’ve been reading this blog for even a minute you’ll already know this, but again, it’s just so big for me! This has got magnitude! It needs big mise-en-scène!

How it came together, and I still can scarcely believe that it did, was that Nigella has been on a tour where she will sit in front of an audience and be cushily interviewed and receive questions (not, as I kept accidentally calling it, “in concert”) and Mum and Dad (it was Dad’s idea) displayed the most absolute incredible parenting skills in getting me a ticket to her Wellington date for Christmas.

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Ever since I was a child I’ve always been comfortably and righteously convinced that whatever I’m obsessed with, there is none more so than I in possession of said obsession, and I am afraid to say that I was in this same frame of mind when I sat in the audience, selfishly feeling that my very presence there was so tightly packed with intensity that there should be a secondary audience watching me being in the audience in a Marina Ambracoviç-esque performance art piece. I’m not afraid to admit that I genuinely started crying when Nigella Lawson walked out on stage, before she’d even said a word. And once she did, she was – of course – wonderful. So generous, so clever, so good at making the least of the questions appear to inspire these witty and expansive answers, so warm and lovely and confident and just everything a person could hope for in someone so long idolised.

A couple of days ago I took a plate of food to a potluck dinner at a friend’s house and we spent much of the night staring off their thirteenth-floor balcony, beholding the Super Blood Wolf Moon scooting across the night sky. Now, I love the moon (I have no less than three tattoos of the moon on me and at one point was like “I hope the moon is impressed by this” and didn’t even stop to qualify that I was being humorous or whatever because honestly I think was being sincere) and without wanting to sound like a dick it genuinely felt quite momentous to be in its presence on this night, the moon so swollen and golden and we so relatively insignificant.

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I had this same feeling in the presence of Nigella Lawson, like I was somehow gaining power and energy from her, and while it was probably a combination of hype and restless energy and also lack of sleep – does it make sense to you though? Do you ever see someone and suddenly think “I could achieve anything I want, I need never stand for anything less than what I deserve, and what I deserve is good things, and I could kick a hole in the sky?” If not, have you ever tried standing in front of Nigella Lawson? Is it a coincidence that I saw her in the same week that I saw the Super Blood Wolf Moon? Do coincidences even exist? Will I ever sleep? (I should’ve probably mentioned this sooner but, I wrote this in middle of the night so please bear with me, or continue to at this point.)

Just in case I threaten to float away like a vainglorious novelty balloon, I share with you the following photo which cracks me up but at the time was just seconds away from ruining everything: so, when you line up to get your book signed by Nigella Lawson (as you can see below, that I did), there was a guy standing there to take your phone so he could photograph the moment. But the guy in charge of this important yet straightforward job, somehow thought that the person standing in front of me was my friend, and started to take a photo on their phone. And I was like no, wait, here is my phone, but also don’t you dare distract me from my brief moment with Nigella Lawson don’t you understand my entire life has been mere prelude to this point you actual imbecile – but I didn’t say any of this verbally, not wanting to cause a scene, instead, as you can see below, it was just kind of written on my face instead.

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A beautiful moment.

Luckily I managed to put my own phone in his hands and captured a more sanguine shot of Nigella Lawson and I talking, and for all this talk of being charged with power I was honestly so overwhelmed by being face to face with her that all I managed to do was murmur “you’ll never know how much you mean to me” which to her credit, probably from years and years and years of this sort of carry-on, she received cheerfully, before being hustled away from her glowing, tide-pulling presence.

I brought this week’s recipe with me to the aforementioned potluck dinner; the green beans are but a delicious conduit and the sauce is the real point of the exercise here: you could use said sauce on noodles (udon, I reckon), you could pour it over roast vegetables, you could employ it as a dip, you could mix it with rice, you could use it in a potato salad – but before we get too carried away with its potential, what actually is it? Well, it’s a sauce, that’s green, hence the name Green Sauce. I initially considered it to be both a coriander and peanut pesto and a green satay sauce but also surmised quickly that that would be simultaneously wildly insulting to both Italian and Malaysian cuisine. So: Green Sauce. It does hinge entirely upon your feelings towards coriander, admittedly – I love the stuff, its fragrance somehow earthy yet citrussy at the same time with so much grassy flavour from the stalks. Blitzed into a puree with nutty (of course) peanuts; plenty of rich olive oil, and the caramelly saltiness of miso, this makes for a compellingly punchy and near-instant sauce.

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Green Beans in Green Sauce

a recipe by myself

Green Sauce

  • leaves and stalks from one of those supermarket coriander plants, or from a large bunch of coriander
  • half a cup, ish, baby spinach leaves
  • 1 cup unsalted peanuts
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (though be prepared to add more)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon white miso paste
  • 1 heaped teaspoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice (or lemon if you don’t have lime)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple syrup or similar
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • Plenty of salt and pepper to taste

To serve

  • 2 cups frozen shelled edamame beans
  • 1 cup long green beans, topped and tailed and halved

Place all the sauce ingredients in a blender and blitz till it forms a thick green paste. Add a little extra olive oil or water (or both) and blend again if it needs to be more liquid. Taste and see if it needs more salt or lime juice.

Steam the edamame and green beans (I put them in a colander balanced on some chopsticks over a pan of boiling water but in fact feel free to simply simmer them in the water itself) – and don’t worry about defrosting the edamame. Once the beans are lightly tender, remove from the heat and run briefly under cold water, allowing them to drain thoroughly.

Tip the beans into a serving bowl, stir through the sauce, and that’s it really. Garnish with a few extra peanuts or reserved coriander leaves if you wish.

As discussed it has plenty of applications but the way I used it – with a double-billing of edamame and long green beans – is delicious, not only do you get the pleasing dovetailing of colour, but the bright, buttery soft crunch of the beans against the fulsomeness of the sauce is wonderful.

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So long in the making, so important.

title from: Velouria by Pixies, not my favourite of theirs but! What a lovely song.

music lately:

I Wanna Sleep In Your Arms by Modern Lovers. Title says it all, really.

The Angel of Death by Hank Williams, its calming waltz time signature belied by the lyrics’ gentle yet sinister persistence.

The Look, by Roxette, a song that is deeply silly and that I also find intoxicating. I remember first hearing it when I was really young and something in the minor key progression and harmonies in the chorus made me feel almost queasy but in a very good way? You know how music does that to you sometimes? (I can’t quite put my finger on why, other than maybe the minor key just genuinely messes with me, but like, for example, Shampain by Marina and the Diamonds has a similar buzz for me.)

Next time: two cocktails!

PS as I mentioned in my last post I have started a Patreon page where you can have the distinct honour of supporting this blog in as small or as large a capacity as you feel like and in return I will create even more content just for you and you’ll be genuinely helping me get by!

the corn was golden, we lay in it for days

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(It’s not pretty, I grant you, but I was like “maybe a lil bow will distract”)

I had a dream about this corn and chilli relish and then upon reflection realised that it already existed more or less in a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s Christmas cookbook, aptly named Nigella Christmas. All I’ve done to her recipe is halve the quantities, add some red chilli, use date syrup instead of honey (I am kind of on the fence on honey consumption vis a vis veganism but for simplicity decided to not use it here) and used ground cumin instead of celery salt because I didn’t have the latter and felt like the former, while different in flavour, brought some of the same energy.

This doesn’t come out like the chow chow you might see in the supermarket, it’s not thick and gluey but more like … bits of vegetable submerged in vinegar, neither of which sound massively appealing but my god! This stuff is addictive, I haven’t actually even used it in anything yet but I’ve already finished off an entire jar just by standing at the open fridge, eating it by the spoonful. Fortunately it makes two jars full.

As I said, you could ostensibly just go to the supermarket and buy a jar of this or something similar but there’s something in the act of making a recipe that then goes into a jar, preserving and putting away, which pleases. This is based on – as I’ve said before – both the sheer resourcefulness of it and the fact that you’re investing in your own future existence and, hopefully, happiness.

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(And then I was like okay that’s not working what about a bigger bow)

The finished result isn’t particularly attractive but it tastes incredible – the sweet crunch of corn and capsicum against the bursts of burn from the chilli and the sinus-scritching mustard, the sour-sweet sugary vinegar balanced by all the salt I poured in (this can handle a LOT of salt.) It’s also so easy to make, and indeed, you could totally make a ton more if you go with Nigella’s original proportions.

As for what to do with it other than eat it by the spoonful; I think it would be ideal piled into a baked potato, layered on top of a burger, or stirred into a pile of peppery crunchy rocket and iceberg leaves.

Corn and Chilli Relish

Adapted from a recipe by Nigella Lawson from her book Nigella Christmas

  • 500g frozen corn kernels, defrosted
  • 1 red capsicum, seeded and finely diced
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 1 large red chilli, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup/250ml apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup date syrup, agave syrup, rice malt syrup or honey
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 3 teaspoons sea salt (or more to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 teaspoons English mustard (or more to taste)

Have two 300ml glass jars at the ready, and sterilise them if you like, can be bothered.

Mix all the vegetables together in a good-sized bowl. Wash your hands thoroughly and be careful to not touch your eyes after handling the chilli or it’ll sting like hell.

Bring the vinegar, syrup, sugar, cumin, salt, and mustard to the boil in a saucepan and allow to bubble away for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. It might bubble up and look like it’s about to overflow, in which case remove it from the heat and give it a good stir or – my usual trick – drop an ice cube into it.

At this point, pour the syrup over the corn mixture and give it a stir. Carefully divide between the two jars – the easiest way is to spoon the corn out of the syrup into the jars followed by the remaining syrup, which should be completely submerging all the vegetables. Screw the lids on and refrigerate. This tastes better the longer you leave it and will last for around a month in the fridge after opening.

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(And then I was like okay what about a new location)

I’m not sure if this is a confession that’s going to elicit gasps of muffled horror or conspiratorial acknowledgement that I’m not alone in this (as long as it’s not greeted with indifference tbh) but any time a recipe is all “sterilise your jars thoroughly” I’m like “you will be FORTUNATE if I give it a rinse of the most CURSORY nature in soapy LUKEWARM water”, and you have my full permission to do the same. If the jar smells too strongly of what it previously contained (tomato in particular seems to linger) a quick slosh of water and vinegar or lemon juice seems to do the trick.

I was able to go to a bunch of LitCrawl (a local literary festival) events this weekend and left feeling replete with inspiration and goodwill towards all those who shift words from their brain onto some more tangible surface. And I met so many nice people! Some were even like “oh you’re Hungry and Frozen” and I was like yes! These words are sweeter than any writing I’ve heard this entire festival! But, to that end, after seeing him perform his poetry on Friday night I read the entirety of Kaveh Akbar’s book Calling a Wolf A Wolf; it’s very beautiful and he has this incredible way of saying things with a sense of authority where they almost sound idiomatic but you’ve also never heard those words in that order before. Even his titles are blissful – My Kingdom for a Murmur of Fanfare. I recommend it sincerely. Positively frothing with inspiration and spurred on with the lazy insolence of tramadol and having watched a movie (Outlaw King) that I genuinely the entire time thought was the pilot episode of a Game of Thrones style prestige TV show because prestige TV has melted my brain; I myself put pen to paper to write a poem: for rough context, imagine a Game of Thrones style prestige TV situation but…with…pigs. All present found it highly amusing, I assume without verification.

A pig shall rise

There is no older story than this
A cloven hoof pierces the thick mud
A squeal like a crack racing up a mirror
The air smells, sinister and ominous
And like ham
A tail curls, small but purposeful
Narrow eyes and soft ears, gently crushed by a heavy crown
Smear your face in bacon fat and march onwards into hell
It is better to live free and die at the hoof
Than to never know freedom at all
A pig shall rise

Thanks LitCrawl! (what’s that faint noise in the distance? Is it LitCrawl frantically gesturing that they don’t want to be considered even tangentially responsible for the birth of, or by any means associated with, this new work?)

title from: C’mon Billy by PJ Harvey. So snarly!

music lately:

Tadpoles, Poemme The sound of a petal floating in water, more or less, and so chill you could just scream.

IRM, Charlotte Gainsbourg. The sound of a lightbulb flickering and sputtering, more or less.

I Hate Danger, Bikini Kill. For someone who won’t stop talking I have a very short attention span most of the time and I do enjoy a song that panders to this.

Wedding, Smog. “I’m gonna be so drunk at your wedding.” Hypnotic.

Next time: I’ve been thinking up a bunch of recipes that could potentially sit proudly on the table at Christmas dinner and plan to run them all by you first.

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cold comfort for change

I used to have a much, much sweeter tooth than I do currently. My idea of a good time tastebud-wise is generally on the savoury-salty-oily-sour side of things, but the me who used to have a thousand-dollar-a-day candy necklace habit (a moderate exaggeration) and think nothing of hooning through love hearts or boxes of Nerds as a modest snack, will apparently always be there below the surface. I say that because I recently found myself having actual dreams, as in while I was asleep, of tables laden with chocolate and cookies and caramelly things and cakes. Naturally, I would then wake up feeling kind of empty, because when you eat in a dream – whatever it signifies – it’s always blurred and hard to get a grip on and leaves you wanting. Because you’re not actually eating, you’re just thinking about it with your eyes closed, duh.

I also recently found myself strongly requiring some kind of soul-soothing comfort food, and so naturally turned to Nigella Lawson. Her book Simply Nigella yielded a recipe for these cookie dough pots – literally just chocolate-studded dough that you bake in ramekins instead of in cookie form, so you get a pleasing combination of slightly crisp top and gooey middle into which to greedily plunge your spoon.

They take about three minutes to throw together and twelve-ish minutes to bake so comfort is really not that far away, however I had like two spoonfuls of the finished product and immediately needed a lie down from the spike in blood sugar. However the second: the actual act of baking something for myself was actually pretty calming in itself, which I guess is worth keeping in mind – sometimes you just need to spend some time doing something that’s for you and you alone, to remind yourself that you are okay. Part of my immediate reaction was possibly also due to the fact that like, Nigella specifies that this makes six ramekins’ worth of cookie dough and I divided the entire mixture between two larger ramekins, so proportionately and with the curve of the earth and whatnot I’d probably actually eaten more than I thought I had. I don’t know, but what I do know is that I bravely soldiered on and consumed the rest of the first, plundered cookie dough pot (pouring some milk into the crevice left by the spoon) and was highly pleased with myself, and was even more pleased with myself when I returned from work many hours later to see the second cookie dough pot waiting for me beside my bed.

cookie dough pots

From Nigella Lawson’s book Simply Nigella, but changed to use cup measures because that’s all I’ve got and much as baking is all specific and stuff, it’s definitely easier this way.

  • 110g soft butter
  • half a cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • one egg
  • one teaspoon vanilla extract
  • one cup plain flour
  • half a teaspoon baking soda
  • one teaspoon sea salt flakes, or half a teaspoon table salt
  • as many and whatever kind of chocolate chips/chunks/pieces as you fancy, really, but like roughly 75g is a good place to start  

Set your oven to 180C/350F and prepare as many ramekins as suits you, but up to six of roughly 200ml capacity. Again, I used only two, so.  

Beat the butter and sugar together, then add the egg and the vanilla and give a further vigorous stirring. Fold in the flour, salt, baking soda, and chocolate, and divide the dough between your ramekins. Bake for 12-15 minutes, at which point the dough should be firm and cookie-like on top, but gooey not much further below. That’s all you have to do.

These are really delicious, which is hardly surprising considering the ingredients, but the just-cooked and barely-barely-cooked dough in tandem feels ludicrously gratuitous and gratuitously ludicrous at the same time, which, I assure you, is a very good thing. I used good milk chocolate because I’m the kind of heathen who can’t really handle just up and eating dark dark chocolate for like, joy and pleasure, but as with pretty much all recipes that I put on here, you do as you please.

Anyway I had a monumentally enormous weekend at work and so any brain capacity that I might have even had the ghost of a chance of possessing beforehand has hitherto been drained, but if comfort food is what your soul also needs right now, may I, by way of further reading, recommend these other hug-like recipes I’ve blogged about: Instant Coconut Custard Semolina (which is also vegan!), Nigella’s Butternut Pasta Soup (also also vegan) and something I that at the time of making I called Demi-lasagne. 

title from:  Pink Floyd’s song Wish You Were Here, I’m all galaxy-brain-meme on Pink Floyd in that I used to be desperately into them at about 18 and then felt like it was uncool to be into them and now I’m all, I think it’s…okay…..to enjoy….things….that I enjoy. Anyway, it’s a good song, you know it is, and a masterpiece in making you wait and wait and wait for the chorus before only playing it ONCE, you spry mavericks.   

music lately:

Speaking of enjoying things that I enjoy, I decided to branch out from just relentlessly thrashing various cast recordings of Les Miserables and also lean into the troubled and patchy musical Chess, which is a musical, about chess, like, how did they not realize this was going to be trouble. Anyway MATE the premise aside – and since when have musicals burdened themselves with worrying about the legitimacy of premise anyway – the music absolutely BANGS. You might know, so well, the song I Know Him So Well or One Night In Bangkok, but Nobody’s Side is the lost ABBA song that gets much less attention than it deserves: try my queen Idina Menzel’s rendition of it at the 2008 concert performance that I remember discussing on message boards and LiveJournal like it was yesterday.

The glassie at work put on Bad Karma by Axel Thesleff while we were closing the other night and I was like what IS this I LOVE it, it’s all hypnotic and mellow which, despite the previous breathless paragraph about no less than two bombastic musicals from the 80s, is a vibe that I really enjoy.

 Vul’Indlela by Brenda Fassie. Just do yourself a favour and listen to this soaring and upbeat and happy pop song.

next time: something aggressively savoury, I imagine  

you wanna play, let’s run away, we won’t be back before it’s christmas day

Tis the season to flop dramatically facedown onto your pie-crumb scattered bed, yeah?

Every year around this time I do a blog post rounding up links back to my own blog posts of recipes that make ideal edible Christmas presents, or indeed edible presents to be consumed for any occasion. This year I am making a small concession towards my own medication-induced exhaustion and simply linking to last year’s blog post rather than doing a whole ‘nother one. This is also due to the fact that I re-read last year’s post and was like…wow. this is so well-written and I’m not sure I could manage to be more entertaining about the same content than I was at that precise moment? Could anyone else be this damnably self-congratulatory while admitting extreme shortcomings?

It’s true though, as I covered in my last blog post my new medication is making life a lot easier but the mental wading-through-treacle vibes are still yet to level out and as such it’s been a lot harder to sit and write without genuinely needing a lie down. I’m annoyed that I can’t quiiite rise above the fog yet, but I am amused in a small way at linking to a blog post that is itself a list of links to my own blog posts, like an artisinal mille-feuille of self-absorption (putting the “me” in mille-feuille, amiright?)

I’m not leaving you entirely in the lurch you didn’t even know that you were in, though, as I’ve got another recipe to add to the list: a wonderfully easy one, at that. For me it’s just not Christmas without consuming a vast quantity of Nigella Lawson content (I mean, it’s also not like, a Tuesday without consuming a vast quantity of Nigella Lawson content either, but your experiences may vary.)

Putting some stuff in a jar is the universe’s gift to gift-giving. It’s simple, it looks pretty, it’s practical. I’m not talking about the modern nightmarish extrapolation-via-pinterest of overnight doughnut paleo ramen in a M*son J*r. All I’m saying here is like, if you’re in the mood to cook stuff in the first place anyway, making some easy jam or a simple chutney or sauce or Pickled Thing makes a lovely heartfelt gift that’s just as applicable to give to a colleage whom you had a frosty yet professional working relationship with as it is to give to your crush, your kindly neighbour, or your grandma. You can talk it down – oh, I made five kilos of this chutney and thought you might like a jar, it’s great with turkey – or you can talk it up, like, I heard you liked cherries so I macerated them in this liqueur which evokes the perfume you were wearing on the night that we first met – and here you reeeeally wanna make sure you read the room before launching into such talk or indeed, actions – OR you can just keep it all for yourself and have twinkling jars of pastes and emulsions ready to enliven your leftovers, embiggen your sandwiches, and en-sauce your un-sauced.

 please note we did not eat the cactus  please note we did not eat the cactus

I, myself, brought the peaches to the table for a Christmas Dinner (which was actually consumed as a late lunch but for some reason no matter what time of day Christmas-related food is eaten I call it dinner) with my two very best friends and twin lights of my life, Kim and Kate. We ate roasted chicken with herbed Greek yoghurt, cornbread and cranberry stuffing, potato-wrapped roasted asparagus, Potato Dish (you know the one) and roasted beetroot and feta spiced filo tart. We watched Imagine Me And You (“you’re a wanker number niiiiiiiine!”) and drank wine and negronis and just had a really beautiful lovely day. The peaches in all honesty would not have been missed if I hadn’t brought them along, but because the day itself was so wonderful they are inextricably associated in my head now with Good Times.

nigella lawson’s spiced peaches

a recipe by myself. Lol no it’s from her book Nigella Express. It’s my wording of her recipe though? Let’s just back away from this whole hornet’s nest and proceed with the recipe. 

  • 800g canned peach halves in syrup
  • one tablespoon rice wine vinegar, or similar
  • two cinnamon sticks
  • an inch or so of fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced into coins
  • half a teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • half a teaspoon sea salt flakes
  • half a teaspoon black peppercorns
  • three whole cloves

Get a couple of jars ready to store the peaches in, and sterilise them using your chosen method (which may or may not include “giving them a quick rinse and hoping for the best”.) 

Empty the peaches and their syrup into a saucepan with the rest of the ingredients. Bring to the boil, let simmer for a few minutes, remove from the heat, and tip into the jars. Refrigerate till you need them. That’s IT. 

These peaches are excellent, truly excellent, with cold meat and/or cheese, and they look absolutely super on the table with all your other dishes. I also have a suspicion that the spiced syrup would be amazing as a shot alongside a shot of nice tequila, like a kind of peachy pickleback.

Oh yeah, and here’s the link to last year’s blog post.  It’s quite frankly a really good read even if you have no reason nor intention of making gifts for any single human being now or at any time.

title from: RENT is the musical from which this entire blog gets its name, and the whole musical is actually extreeemely christmassy (especially the original stage version, damn you Christopher Columbus, movie director, for removing the Christmas Bells number from the film adaptation.) It’s the song Out Tonight by the scrunchy-throaty voiced Daphne Rubin-Vega from said original version from whence we get our title (I adore Rosario Dawson as Mimi in the movie adaptation but the lyrics are changed to “New Year’s Day”). 

music lately: 

I’ve been aggressively feeling 80s indie lately. Whisper to a Scream by Icicle Works is so, so good, like, makes you want to run down the street in a directionless yet purposefully-coming-of-age-film type way. The massive drums and “we are, we are, we are” refrain give it a kind of early pop-punk vibe which is naturally very pleasing. Listen to it!

I have a personal tradition whereby every year I make myself wait until December 1 to rewatch the spine-chillingly ludicrous performance of Turkey Lurkey Time from the musical Promises, Promises, at the 1969 Tony Awards. It’s SO STUPID and yet a geniuine feat of physical engineering and the perfect marriage of choreographer and medium, the medium being Donna McKechnie’s illegally rubber-jointed limbs. If none of this makes any sense, watching the video is really…not going to enlighten you any further, but you either get it or you don’t.

Not Empty, Garageland. This song always gets to me just the tiniest bit!

next time: IDK but here’s the link to last year’s blog post round up again just! in case! you missed it! 

i wish i had a river, that i could skate away on, but it don’t snow here, it stays pretty green

Avocados are like a metaphor for life, right? You have all this hope and anticipation that it’s going to be perfect and it’s really expensive but you do it anyway because it’s an avocado and you’d give up everything for this avocado and you feel, gently, from the outside that it’s going to be a good one this time! You’ve been burned before but damn it, you just know this avocado is the one. And you carry it home, imagining all the good times you’re going to have together – will you spread it on toast? Eat it in its entirety with a teaspoon, sprinkled with salt? Roughly mash it into guacamole? You could do anything! The taste is almost in your mouth, your teeth can almost feel that sensation of crushing through its soft, soft flesh. And then you finally slice into it and it turns out that despite your very best efforts, it was not ready to be cut open and exposed to the world; it was underripe and cold at its core. Or it had been left for too long and could not be saved no matter how you try to disguise it – greying and sulphuric and with no way to make you happy. Even though you wanted it so, so bad and you paid so much for it. 

Or sometimes you just randomly buy an avocado because it’s on special and like, slice into it and it’s perfect and you’re like “phewf, don’t know what I would’ve done for lunch otherwise” and that’s kind of that. 

 pretty, green 

pretty, green 

I was not particularly in the mood for metaphors when I made myself lunch the other day: the avocado was green and unblemished and yielding and that was enough for me. I used it in a simple, beautiful pea, mint and avocado salad from Nigella Lawson’s seminal text How To Eat. A book I turn to again and again when I forget how to eat: it’s the most trustworthy manual I know. Her tone is gently bossy yet undone and dishevelled at the same time and it’s ever so comforting. 

Yeah, it’s Spring, so eating sprightly green stuff feels obvious, but no matter what time of year it is this salad is gorgeously delicious. Especially because all you really need to worry about is the state of your avocado – the peas can be frozen and the salad leaves are highly interchangeable for whatever’s seasonal. You can basically make the entire thing in the bowl you’re planning to serve it in, which appeals to my utter laziness, and while it’s meant to be a side salad it makes a thoroughly satisfying meal all on its own, depending on your appetite I suppose. It’s also vegan, which is nice. 

 oh wow, here's the salad from this angle 

oh wow, here’s the salad from this angle 

The flavours here are so wonderful – the green-green-greenness (yes) of the peas, the bitterness of the leaves, the sweet, ice cold mint, the buttery avocado. Then you’ve got crunch and softness and oiliness and saltiness and honestly, all I want is a whole bowlful of this and nothing else. I do think it would be a good vehicle for some roasted asparagus if you’ve got the inclination – I mean, it is Spring! – and you could always add some chopped nuts to add further crunch. But it’s truly perfect just as Nigella stipulates it. As per usual though I have given lots of alternatives and notes because I get helpfully nervous about being too specific in case people feel like they can’t make something because they don’t have the exact right thing. 

pea, mint, and avocado salad

recipe by nigella lawson from her important book How To Eat, below is the vague quantitiy I made though which doesn’t quite match her specs

  • three quarters of a cup of frozen peas, or thereabouts
  • half a bag of baby spinach
  • one perfect, beautiful avocado
  • one whitloof, radicchio, or other bitter lettuce, or just something else crunchy – heck, half a regular iceberg lettuce would be chill here
  • several tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, at least three but definitely more
  • a pinch of sugar
  • one tablespoon of white wine vinegar; you could always use apple cider vinegar though
  • a handful of mint leaves, plus more to serve
  • sea salt

Briefly cook the peas in a pan of boiling water and then strain under cold running water.  If you’ve just bought them from the supermarket and they’re not super frozen you can probably get away with just letting them defrost in a bowl, maybe filled with warm water to hasten the process. Basically: get your frozen peas to be unfrozen, please. 

Put the olive oil, vinegar and sugar in the bowl you’re planning to serve the salad in. You can always add more oil later. Rip up some mint leaves and stir them in. Tip in the drained peas and the baby spinach. Tear in the whitloof leaves, or whichever crunchy leaves you’re adding in, and then halve your avocado and scoop out rough spoonfuls, letting them fall into the same bowl. Use a large spoon to carefully mix all this together, adding a little sea salt and more oil if you like. Throw over a few more mint leaves. You’re done. 

 oh wow here's the salad from THIS angle now

oh wow here’s the salad from THIS angle now

As I said, this recipe is given by Nigella as a side dish, but I quite contentedly polished off the entire thing by myself and didn’t feel inclined to need anything else for a long time after; avocados and olive oil are good like that, making you all shiny-haired and full. 

 stock image #58639 woman laughing with salad

stock image #58639 woman laughing with salad

And it’s surprisingly practical when eaten lying down: I honestly didn’t expect that. 

title from: Joni Mitchell, River. Lol…………………….this song is so sad. 

music lately: 

The Damned, New Rose. I made a kind of surfy punky playlist for work and it turns out I am a sucker for pretty much anything with big drums, this song included. 

New Editions, Something About YouIf you haven’t heard this song from 1996 do yourself an enormous favour, it’s so great. 

next time: more acknowledgements of Spring, I guess? I haven’t actually eaten any asparagus since last year so should get on to that, what with uh, being a food blogger and all. 

this town’s a different town to what it was last night, you couldn’t have done that on a sunday

I swear I ate and cooked best in my second and third year of university, weird though that seems – I mean, my first year was definitely full of lukewarm toast and trying to stay alive in a flat made of damp breakfast cereal held together with cobwebs (if it weren’t for that vigilant spider army my flat probably would’ve fallen down. Thank you spider army, I respect and fear you still) – but by second year I’d hit my stride. Living in a marginally less cold and damp flat felt like occupying a palace and importantly, I had both the time and the means in winter to make a ton of stews and casseroles and soups and slow-cooked things. Going into the office-job life obliterated that, because there’s no time during the day and when you get home you want feeding immediately, and going into hospo means I just eat when I can, and that might be 3am. But as a student: goddamn. All that free time during the day between lectures, searching out super cheap cuts of meat or soaking dried chickpeas because it cost less than canned, baking a cake so we’d be warmed by the oven’s heat – I’m totally not nostalgic for that time, or anything, but I also don’t want another winter to pass me by without somehow making the most of food that suits the icy weather.

(I went back to my very early days of writing this blog post just to make sure I wasn’t making this all up and glorifying the past and if anything, I undersold it. I used to make pudding every night! In one of my blog posts from November 2007 I talk about how sick I am of blind-baking pastry for pies! That’s how often I was making pastry by hand for homemade pies and tarts! Last year I literally did a blog post about cinnamon sugar on toast and a McDonalds burger. It was a difficult time, sure, but still.)

bread! stuffed! with three! different types! of! cheese! 

I believe it’s without even the slightest bit of hyperbole that I say my life would be unmitigated and incomparable garbage without Kim and Kate, the two earth-angels whom I call my best friends. Remember that Because You Loved Me song by Celine Dion? “You were my strength when I was weak, you were my voice when I couldn’t speak, you were my eyes when I couldn’t see, you saw the best there was in me” etc? I never understood that song when it was first on the radio and/or everyone’s mum by law had a copy of that cassette so it was perpetually in the background. I was like…is she singing to her boyfriend? Or is she a pet rock singing to their owner? Seriously, if you imagine a small rock with googly eyes stuck on it singing this song to someone it makes so much sense than a human singing it, so utterly codependent and clingy and bodily needy it is. It’s definitely sung by a small rock.

At least that’s what I thought, until my aggressively supportive and beautiful friendship with Kim and Kate. Then, at last, did I understand the lyrics to Because You Loved Me. (“You’ve been my inspiration! Through the lies you were the truth!”) I’m like, ah, this song is chill and not at all hysterical. The lyrics are calm and normal.

So between all that and me wanting to get back into slow-ass cooking and, monumentally, Kate being very close to travelling through the UK and Europe for a month (excitingly for her, tear-stainedly fraught for the rest of us) I decided to make the three of us a lavishly rustic, simple lunch before my shift at work on Sunday. It all came together despite attempting a recipe I’ve never tried before, the upshot of which is, if I can manage to throw this together in the middle of three ten hour shifts then all you need is a passing interest in cooking and a small amount of motivation and you can definitely achieve some version of this yourself with massive ease.

Nigella Lawson’s magical cookbook Feast inspired both the recipes I made – firstly, a red and gold root vegetable stew with turmeric and saffron from which I used a Tunisian meatball dish as a starting point. Kate is vegetarian and Kim can’t do garlic or onions so my result ended up having about two ingredients in common with what was on the page, but that’s how inspiration works, yeah? The second recipe, a Georgian cheese-stuffed bread called Nana’s Hatchapuri, was more direct – I just fiddled with the quantities a little to make it more affordable. Speaking of affordable, feel free to leave the saffron out of the stew – I just have a ton of it around because I’m the kind of person who gets given food by people for my birthday etc (which I love) but in all honesty the turmeric completely does the trick as far as flavour and colour. I don’t care about the tautological goldenness though, the doubling down was a pleasingly luxuriant note in an otherwise, let’s face it, highly plain stew.

Anyway, both were SO GOOD. And somehow so do-able. The vegetable stew I made more or less effortlessly the day before and just left it on the hob, ready to reheat. The cheesebread – despite the lengthy looking recipe below – was made very quickly before Kim and Kate got to mine, and once I’d let them in – my hands covered in flour – I just shoved it in the oven while we joyfully mixed orange juice and Lindaeur that Kate had both bought and brought from the nearest dairy.

nana’s hatchapuri (georgian cheesebread) 

my gently adapted version of Nigella’s (who had already adapted it from a woman named Nana, so) from her book Feast

six cups plain flour
two cups thick, plain yoghurt
two eggs
50g very soft butter
one teaspoon baking soda
one teaspoon sea salt, or a pinch of regular table salt
one 250g tub of ricotta cheese
two large handfuls of grated mozzarella, like, the super cheap stuff 
150g feta cheese
one more egg

Set your oven to 220 C/450 F and place a baking tray in the oven to heat up. Put the flour in a large bowl, and mix in the yoghurt, eggs, and butter till a soft, sticky dough forms. I used a wooden spoon to stir in the yoghurt and eggs and then my hands to work in the butter; you end up looking like your hands belong to zombies, but it’s very effective! Otherwise just keep on stirring. Add a little extra flour if it’s toooo sticky and knead this in with the baking soda and salt, which should leave you with a springy, soft ball of dough. Cover and leave it for 20 minutes. 

Slice the dough in half and roll out both pieces into a rough oval shape around 1.5cm thick, although it’s up to you, really. Circle, square, Mickey Mouse ears, whatever works. I recommend rolling them out on two large pieces of baking paper, that way it doesn’t mess up your bench top and you can then slide it straight onto the baking tray when it’s ready to cook. 

In the same bowl that you mixed the dough in – because, why not – roughly mash together the ricotta, the feta, and the mozzarella with the remaining egg. Spread this golden mixture thickly across one of the rolled out pieces of dough, leaving a few centimetres border around the edge. Carefully lay the second rolled out dough across the top of this – if a few holes appear, just patch them up, the dough is pretty forgiving – and roll over the edges or pinch them together securely with the prongs of a fork. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until it’s puffy and golden and bready on top. Give it a few minutes before slicing into it. 

root vegetable stew with saffron, cinnamon, and turmeric

a recipe by myself, inspired loosely by Nigella’s Tunisian stew in Feast. This recipe is vegan and gluten-free.  

olive oil
about four sticks of celery
three carrots
two parsnips
half a butternut squash, or one small crown pumpkin, or that quantity of similar
two tins of tomatoes
one cinnamon stick
two heaped teaspoons turmeric
a pinch of ground cumin
three tablespoons golden sultanas (or dried apricots, chopped roughly)
a handful of sundried tomatoes, chopped roughly
pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds, to garnish, plus any green herb you like – flat leaf parsley or coriander would be great here 

Using a large knife, finely chop the celery sticks and two of the carrots into small dice – it doesn’t have to be neat, just keep chopping till you have a pile of formless orange and green. 

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan and tip in the carrot and celery. Sprinkle over some salt and allow to cook gently over a medium heat until softened. Meanwhile, chop the remaining carrot into thick cubes or half-moons or whatever you like; slice the parsnip into short sticks, and peel and cube the pumpkin. Throw all these vegetables into the pan and stir them, then add the two tins of tomatoes, the cinnamon stick, the turmeric, cumin, sultanas and dried tomatoes.

Add some salt and pepper, and bring all of this to the boil. Reduce the heat back to low, and then let it simmer for about an hour, adding a little water or stock if it looks a bit too dry. You’re basically done at this point, but you could carry on simmering it for several more hours if you like, or let it to sit and then reheat it the next day – essentially, nothing can hurt this dish. Add more spice or salt and pepper if you see fit. Once you’re ready to serve it, simply scatter it with pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds, and bring it to the table. More olive oil to drizzle over would be nice. 

Obviously softly sweet pumpkin and parsnip with earthy turmeric and saffron and richly tomato-y sauce is going to be wonderful, all hearty and spiced and twinkling with jewel-like green pumpkin seeds and golden sultanas, but the main attraction was obviously the cheese bread. Three different kinds of cheese? In this economy?

The combination of salty feta, the barging-into-your-mouth melty nature of mozzarella, and mild, milky ricotta is superb, and when surrounded by soft, warm, scone-like bread, leavened only by eggs and baking soda, it’s celestially – almost stressfully – good. Make this, I implore you. My only other proviso is to grind over plenty of black pepper once you’ve sliced into it – the cacio e pepe vibes make it spring to life.

The three of us sat on the floor around my flatmate’s amazing coffee table, toasted to ourselves with the world’s cheapest mimosas, ate heartily, and cackled with laughter at ourselves, half in the funny-haha way and in the oh-my-god-what-is-life-I’m-breaking-the-fourth-wall-to-ruefully-shrug-at-the-studio-audience-haha way. And then I staggered to work, full of cheese and good feelings (one and the same, really) and safe in the knowledge that when I got home there was a billion tons of leftovers.

Extra delightfully, I got to dance with my two best girls last night at Dirtbag Disco, the fundraiser dance party for Ballet is For Everyone. If you’ve ever considered supporting a cause, this is a super nice one. Please keep Kim and I in your prayers and candlelit vigils during Kate’s absence, although having consumed a large quantity of this hatchapuri already this week I see it filling the void that her presence leaves more or less adequately.

PS: If slow-cooked vegetable food appeals, then maybe consider similar blog posts I’ve done, about Penang Tofu Curry and Slow Roasted Eggplant and Butternut with Fried Cauliflower.
 

title from: Arctic Monkeys, From the Ritz to the Rubble from their amaaaazing first album
 

music lately: Dirtbag Disco edition

A$AP Rocky/Drake/2Chainz/Kendrick Lamar, F***in’ Problems. This song remains so addictive and the best thing to dance to.

M.I.A, Bad Girls. This song remains so addictive and the best thing to dance to.

Rihanna, We Found Love. This song remaings so addictive and the best thing to dance to.

next time: all I’ve been eating is leftovers from this! But I will make something happen. 

 

i got my batches and cookies

As a kid I actually really wanted to be a fashion designer, and would fill up scrapbooks with drawings of clothes that I wished would exist. For example, one outfit that I invented when I was about 9, that I would totally wear now, is a hooded white velvet minidress with a long zip up the front and hot pink feathers around the edge of the hood. Honestly, like, someone please make me that immediately for a casual daytime look. Somehow fashion design morphed into recipe design, but I still love clothes so, so, so much, and approach them much the same way in which I do food – with my mind on texture and bringing together slightly strange elements with more recognisable and familiar things. Not much makes me happier than fossicking through op shops and vintage shops, allowing time to dissolve like a sachet of colourfree raspberry flavoured Raro juice in a jug of water as I try on garment after garment and imagine how I can incorporate them into my daily costumes.

However! I can talk myself out of buying clothes, no matter how much I need them, like, my shoes will be held together with superglue and have the holes in the soles buffered with beer coasters and I will still be all “uhhhh I probably shouldn’t spend money on these new, excellent value, durable, good-looking replacement shoes, I will just hobble around in these travesties for another year.” When it comes to food though, I go into a damn trance. Just two days ago I went in to the supermarket to get cocoa and buckwheat flour and walked out of the supermarket with a jar of raw organic probiotic sauerkraut (which is, thankfully, SO delicious.) I absentmindedly meandered into Commonsense Organics the other day and came out with seven whole turmeric roots.

they pair well with a rose wine from the local dairy and one’s bed

I’m kind of not really going anywhere with this – it’s just that the reason I was going to buy cocoa and buckwheat flour was because I was going to make the cookies that you see here, and it got me thinking about myself because that’s all I think about, apparently.

These cookies though! I was recently given a copy of Simply Nigella, the new cookbook by my idol Nigella Lawson. I want to make pretty much everything in it but this recipe caught my eye with the inarguable motivating factor of, if I make them then I will have cookies. It also seemed like a nice thing to be able to tell my newish roommate that there are cookies on the bench and they can help themselves to as many as they want – I just like being that person!

The buckwheat flour in these cookies makes them gluten-free, which might be pleasing news to some of you, and also gives it a rather fascinating smoky tone echoed in the rich cocoa and almost throat-burningly dark chocolate. They’re all cakey and melting and punctuated with chunks of chocolate. They look like lumps of coal and are altogether highly compelling wee things; you could make them with regular flour which would make them taste more normal but I like the oddly addictive husky flavour the buckwheat gives. I am lacking in measuring scales and so had to estimate the quantities in cup measures; thus I have written out here the recipe I made since this is the one that worked for me. I accidentally got white sugar instead of the brown sugar requested in her recipe, because my reading comprehension is useless – I’m very sure they’d be even nicer with it though.

smoky triple chocolate buckwheat cookies

from Simply Nigella, altered slightly to accommodate for things like cup measures and the fact that a block of chocolate here is 250g and I couldn’t be bothered buying an extra 20g chocolate to make up her specified quantities.

125g melted dark chocolate
125g dark chocolate, roughly chopped (or the same amount of buttons/chips etc)
60g soft butter
half a cup sugar
two fridge-cold eggs
one cup buckwheat flour
quarter of a cup of cocoa
half a teaspoon baking soda
a good pinch of sea salt

set your oven to 180C/350F and line a baking tray with paper (or in my case, realise you have no baking paper so just hope for the best.)

Beat the butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon or whatever, until it’s quite light and fluffy. Briskly beat in the melted chocolate – make sure you let it sit for a minute or two so it’s not boiling hot before you tip it in – and then beat in the eggs quickly. It will look far too liquid at this point but stir in the flour, cocoa, baking soda and finally the remaining chocolate bits and it will suddenly turn into a thick cookie dough.

Take heaped spoonfuls of the dough and drop them onto the baking tray – Nigella suggests leaving 6cm space between them but they don’t spread that much – and bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove them from the oven and leave them to sit on the tray for five minutes before carefully transferring them to a plate or rack, then repeat with the remaining dough, which you should put in the fridge while you’re waiting for each batch to cook.

These are so good! I’ve had one in my mouth pretty much the entire time that I’ve been typing this (that is, I’ve eaten several in quick succession, it wasn’t just one cookie) and couldn’t be happier about it. For once I got as many cookies out of the batch as the recipe promised, as the raw dough is honestly not thaaaaat nice – however the grainy density of the buckwheat becomes entirely delicious once it’s all cooked. They’re even better the next day, somehow even more melting and more chocolatey.

All I’ve done lately is work so I have little to report but coincidentally I’m feeling moderately financially chill for the first time in living memory (I have the memory of a goldfish though, but also goldfish are incredibly intelligent and their three-second memory is a total myth so…ha! Okay, I got a bit lost here.) I don’t know how I’m doing so okay as my rent is more expensive than it has ever been but I’m trying really hard at budgeting and freelance hustling and so on; I’ve always identified heavily with grubby uselessness-monger Nick Miller from the TV show New Girl, but as the latest season unfolds it’s nice to see we are growing together.

“they said avocado is extra and I said shh, I know it’s extra. but I want it.” Nick is I and I are Nick.

title from: the siiiiick Lizzo song Batches and Cookies featuring Sophia Eris. Such queens.

music lately:

DZ Deathrays, Blood on My Leather. I spontaneously went to see these guys at Bodega a couple of years ago and they were sooooo good. I love their bratty sound.

Rihanna feat Drake, Work. She released a double video for this and they’re both so dreamy and gorgeous. This song just gets better with every listen: praise Rih.

Stereo Total, I Love You, Ono it starts off disguised as an irritating song but suddenly the more you listen the more it gets stupidly endearing.

next time: maybe something more from Simply Nigella, this book is a stunnerrrrrr.

 

eight years later you won me over

you say potato, I say potato, you say this is confusing without vocal cues for context

Historically speaking, more than a few auspicious things have happened on October 14: in 1964 Martin Luther King Jr received the Nobel Peace Prize; the first gay rights march was held in Washington DC in ’79; Katherine Mansfield, Usher, Ben Whishaw and the All Saints’ Shaznay all were born, and in 2007, I started this blog. I mean. Wow. I may not be on the Wikipedia page for “On This Day In History Yet”, but I stand by my Wow.

I went back and read through some blog posts from that time eight years ago and was struck by two things: firstly, I was vigorously earnest. In a way that I’m going to insist upon thinking of as endearing, for self-care purposes. Secondly, I’m kind of impressed at how hard I threw myself into this blog. In October 2007 alone I wrote 22 posts. That’s almost as many as I’ve written this entire damn year. And I was so adventurous – every single post is all like, “Well, I got home from uni so I thought I’d make three pavlovas for my flatmates” or “just marinating two kilos of pork” or “I made this steamed pudding and this loaf of bread and this tray of brownies for while we caught up on Outrageous Fortune which is basically like studying for uni since the title is a Shakespeare quote, zing!”

But here I am, many addresses, story arcs, jobs, sub-plots, identities, hair colours, recipes and one cookbook later. And this blog is still one of the most important things in my life, and it’s still going. I think that’s impressive, yeah? Much as I feel vaguely cringey occasionally looking back at my old blog posts, I mean, it’s not like I’m that amazing now at being not-cringey. If anything, it wouldn’t hurt to try and harness that fresh-faced 2007-level of energy.

But, today is not that day. Earlier this week I thought it would be cool to make myself an enormous birthday cake to be all “yay hungryandfrozen!” but instead I went to work and then went out dancing and then slept for most of the next day in an embarrassingly unproductive off-brand manner and suddenly it was several days later, so instead all you’re getting is my introspective introspection and this potato salad.

Fortunately, it’s an incredible potato salad.

For all that Nigella gets framed as someone who is wantonly extravagant (and frankly I would be too if I had her millions) if you dig around she has so many recipes that are extremely accessible to the average living-paycheck-to-paycheck human. Which is why I was able to throw myself into her cookbooks as a ludicrously broke student many years ago – although admittedly it’s because I would often buy, say, pomegranates or dried porcini while sticking bits of cardboard in the bottom of my shoes to block the holes in the soles and tying the broken shoelaces together instead of buying more – and in hindsight, I frankly don’t know why on earth buying new shoelaces seemed like such a personal sacrifice but I guess it explains something about who I am as a person.

Within her excellent and fairly underrated book Forever Summer, I found a recipe that perfectly straddled my particular needs on a particular day: cheap enough to make on Payday Eve, and fulfilling my bid to eat a vegetable occasionally.

baked potato salad 

this is how I made Nigella Lawson’s recipe from her book Forever Summer. 

three medium-to-large floury potatoes
extra virgin olive oil
salt
sumac
flat-leaf parsley 
lemon juice

Set your oven to 200C/400F and give the potatoes a quick stab with a fork or other stabbing implement. Wrap them snugly in tinfoil and throw them in the oven for an hour or so until a sharp knife slides right into them without the slightest hint of resistance. 

Carefully unwrap the potatoes and half them lengthwise, and allow them to cool just enough that they’re not entirely resembling the surface of the sun. Use a spoon to scrape out the soft baked potato flesh from the skins, and pile it all onto a large flat plate. That is all the hard work done: now just drizzle over as much olive oil as you please, squeeze lemon juice over, scatter with salt and sumac and finally adorn it all with parsley leaves. This is nicest when it’s right at room temperature but eat it how and when you choose. 

Meanwhile, because the universe is occasionally bountiful, you can also turn the oven to grill, put grated cheese in the cavities of the remaining scraped-out potato skins, and grill them till it’s all bubblingly melted and the skins are crunchy and everything is good.  

Sumac is a spice that is similar to pomegranate and tamarind in that it imparts a fresh, punchy sourness along with gorgeous colour – so if you don’t have any on you and are unlikely to find some anytime soon, consider just blanketing this with tendrils of lemon zest. Sometimes recipes can seem almost too simple, as though you have to explain them contritely to whoever you’re serving them to in case they’re like “wait so is this just a potato on a plate or what” but simplicity of this salad is what makes it so perfect. The olive oil sinks into the crumbled, tender potato, the parsley gives a slight stab of peppery leafiness, the sumac and lemon juice subtly yet tartly liven everything up, and it really doesn’t matter how much of any particular ingredient you add. I guess this technically serves a few people but I ate the entire thing all at once; if you want more just add more ingredients, silly.

Aside from achieving eight years of being in a relationship with this blog, the only other real significant things that have happened recently are: I finally finished watching every last episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Kate and became an emotional unfilled brandy snap as a result (that is; hollow and fragile and fairly outdated); and I dyed my hair bright red. My parents also visited Wellington for the first time in ages and I was able to show them around my stomping grounds (that is, work) and it was lovely to spend time with them. Unfortunately they didn’t bring the cats along on the visit, but I won’t hold it against them.

I’m a lot happier about the dye job than I let on

So I didn’t manage to get my act together to celebrate my blog’s birthday in a suitably jaunty manner, but I think it will be okay. I mean, look how far I’ve come since this photo I posted here eight years ago. I still have that plate, and for some reason that year our flat got sent a LOT of Scientology literature and pamphlets, which is what it’s sitting next to. Thanks to all of you who have been reading this though, whether for years and years or merely for regretful minutes – I appreciate every set of eyeballs, every kind email I’ve got, everyone who has lived through my life along with me. As I said in my very first blog post, “what I’ve been cooking and what I’ve been up to lately are often the same thing”. Bring on six seasons and a movie.
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title from: The Veronicas’ mercilessly sad song In Another Life. There’s actually a bit where you hear an audible sniffle (followed by me audibly breaking down)
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music lately: 

Millencolin, Penguins and Polar Bears. I heard this song for the first time in forever at Kim’s goth-themed birthday party recently and have been listening to it nonstop ever since. It contains many of my kryptonites: a gratuitously adorable song title, angst, and a lead singer who sounds like they’ve got a blocked nose. 

Roxette, She’s Got The Look. Oh my gosh, this SONG. It came on the other day when I was out dancing and I hadn’t heard it in actual years and it slays me, all that 80s-ness and minor keys and frantic-ness. 

Tom Cruise, Dead or Alive. I mean. I rewatched Rock of Ages with Kim recently and was so irritated at how hot he is in this. Also Bon Jovi is another of my many kryptonites, so. But seriously, just watch this and then deal with your feelings. 
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next time: maybe a better-late-than-never cake? 

you could have my heart or we could share it like the last slice

so delicious that Pony by Ginuwine starts to play non-diegetically when you take a bite

There’s a scene in the important film Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, where Dewey Cox is starting his rapid trajectory towards being a famous rock’n’roll star. He tells his wife Edith, “I’m gonna miss some things, okay? I’m gonna miss some birthdays and some christenings. I’m gonna miss some births, period. It’s just unrealistic to expect that I’m gonna be here for every time you have a baby.” I’m currently relating heavily to this, apart from, tragically, the bit with the ascension to fame, because I’m week three into working roughly five thousand times more hours than I normally do. Luckily, I adore my job and doing so many hours does make payday fun, but all I’ve been doing is sleeping and working which doesn’t bode well for getting blog posts done, or indeed anything. In fact, I’ve been trying to write this very one here that you’re reading for about seven days now, but every time I went to write I would instead just stare into space and then wake up three hours later, gently spooning my laptop like it was some kind of ergonomically disappointing teddy bear.

Yet finally here I am! With a really wilfully stupid peanut butter chocolate caramel slice! It was in a brief moment of lucidity that I concocted it, taking a base made largely of peanut butter and actual butter, a centre made of condensed milk and more butter and a handful of roasted salted nuts, and a top of melted milk chocolate. Seriously, that’s really all there is to it. You pretty much know the recipe now.

hey baby, I think I wanna marry you

It sounds like it would be stupidly, almost uncomfortably sweet and rich, and while admittedly I have literal syrup running through my veins instead of blood and therefore my bar for the overly sweet is set quite high, I assert to you that it’s honestly very manageable to eat. In that you could easily manage to eat three quarters of it before you even realise the knife is in your hand and you’re standing at the fridge slicing off thick squares of it.

Oddly enough it’s the caramel centre that keeps it in check – you blast the hell out of the condensed milk and butter in the microwave before spreading it across the base, and all that heat reduces it down and brings out the ocean-deep dark toffee flavours present in the sugars. Then the roasted nuts, crunchy as popcorn and covered in salt, add to this. Just in case it starts to sound all too sensible I then cover it in the plainest sweetest mellowest milk chocolate, but with good reason, because dark chocolate would be too punishingly intense and make it a chore to eat.

it isn’t too hard to see, we’re in heaven

Speaking of important movies and delicious things that make people flustered, my one other accomplishment of recent time is, last night I went to the movies and watched Magic Mike XXL with my girlfriend and her flatmates. But Laura! I said to myself. Aren’t you really like…gay? How could a movie about male strippers possibly hold your precious attention? My people, this movie is one of the best pieces of filmmaking I’ve ever encountered, one of the most joyful, kind-hearted, generous movies, and honestly, a rare film where women of all shapes and skin colours and faces have fun and are celebrated and support their friends and are in charge and are never, ever the joke, even though you keep thinking that’s where the movie’s gonna go. A film where men are emotional and express their love for each other without once adding “no homo”, but also a bisexual character is not seen as a curiosity to be analysed and picked apart. A film where guys listen to women and help them, not in a “you frail stupid woman let me do this better than you” kind of way, but a “I’d like to make things better so you can be happy because that’d be nice” kind of way. Just when you think it’s gonna zig, it zags. Honestly I’m getting emotional just trying to write about it.

Oh and if you’re into the sight of men and stuff, there’s…a lot of abdominal muscles being flung around. But truly, this movie is so very good, in the way that an old dog tied up on the street waiting patiently for their owner is good. Take your mother, take your 300 year old grandmother, take your husband, take your nine year old child, take everyone to see this movie! Put it this way: I came out of it saying that I’d actually love to read think-pieces on it, and normally my attitude towards think-pieces is that they should be thrown into the ocean. So. While I’ve been berating myself frowningly for not being outstanding in the field of achievement lately, getting this movie under my belt (hey-oh!) makes me feel like I’ve used my time very wisely.

just imagine another song from the Magic Mike XXL soundtrack here okay

Okay, one more thing about this movie before I get back to that other ridiculously sexy caramel confection: I love that there was more or less zero conflict. The characters were just happy and chill and overcame small hurdles and that was it! I have come to realise that I hate when movies, especially movies about an existing entity are like, what shall we do with these characters that the audience knows and loves – better make them fight and be isolated from each other until about ten minutes before the end. (For some reason A Goofy Movie is what sprang to mind here: hot take, A Goofy Movie was a bit disappointing.) Up with niceness! Okay that’s quite the end of my breathless and shrieking thoughts on Magic Mike XXL. On here at least.

peanut butter chocolate caramel nut slice

a recipe that I made by smashing several Nigella recipes together and adding bits of my own thoughts so yeah

200g smooth peanut butter
50g soft butter
half a cup brown sugar
one and a half cups icing sugar

one tin sweetened condensed milk
200g butter
two tablespoons golden syrup
half a cup (or so) salted roasted mixed nuts 

200g milk chocolate

Line a brownie tin – either a 23cm square one or a regular sized rectangular one – with a large piece of baking paper. Use a wooden spoon to beat the peanut butter and butter together, then carefully stir in the sugars (I say carefully, because icing sugar tends to fly everywhere in dusty white clouds at the slightest provocation) until you have a sandy, crumbly mixture. Press it into the base of the baking tin, using the back of a spoon (it helps if you dust it with icing sugar first) to flatten it out fairly evenly. Refrigerate while you get on with the filling.

To make the filling, melt the butter in a decent-sized china bowl (or something else microwave-proof) and then stir in the condensed milk and golden syrup. Microwave for five to seven minutes, stirring every minute or so – it will bubble up angrily but shouldn’t overflow, it’s better to stir it too much than to let it burn or overflow though – by which stage it should be thickened, and darkened into a rich, but still fairly light, golden colour. Let it sit for a bit to cool slightly, and then stir in the nuts. Pour this over the peanut butter base, using a spatula to get every last bit out and to smooth it out on top, then refrigerate till set and firm. 

Finally, microwave the chocolate in short bursts till it’s collapsing, and stir till it’s totally melted and smooth. Gently spread across the caramel layer, and allow to set either in the fridge or a cool place. 

Wait, I’ve achieved two other things lately: I zoomed to a party after one of my shifts and danced my face off with friends and had my sister-from-another-species vibe with Percy the corgi reconfirmed.
And, I dyed my hair purple. Well, more specifically, I stuck my hands in the pot of purple dye and kind of mussed up my hair (which was at the time a fading blue colour) in a haphazard manner just to see what would happen. It turned out pretty well, I think. In fact there’s probably also a metaphor for my life in there (or at least I’m self-centred enough to think that pretty much everything could be a metaphor for my life and indeed, that my life is fascinating enough to warrant multiple metaphors to represent it.) (I’m not sure if that made any sense but in my defense: oh man I’m tired.)
title from: Drake, Best I Ever Had, which is just…so Drake. “Sweat pants, hair tied, chillin’ with no make-up on/That’s when you’re the prettiest, I hope that you don’t take it wrong.”
music lately:
 
Carly Rae Jepsen, Run Away With Me. It’s like the best eighties song you don’t remember. 
 
Janet Jackson, No Sleep. It’s so dreamy. She’s back and she never even left.  
next time: I’m still working a ton more than usual but I’m gonna try so hard to cook for myself one time and blog about it before, I don’t know, the next financial year end rolls around.