stovetop buffalo cauliflower mac and cheese


This may be a common way of visualising the various events and diary-dates of one’s life and not worth commenting on but when drifting through my memories I tend to recall most sharply what I ate and what I wore — that night was the Chorizo Wellington, that evening was the vintage black velvet jumpsuit, that party was the Lemon Prosset when I tried to make a double batch and it didn’t quite set, and so on. And so, it is with earned confidence that I can claim I’m very sure I’ve never actually had buffalo sauce, or any buffalo-adjacent dish in my life, and it is with unearned confidence that I present today’s recipe for Stovetop Buffalo Cauliflower Mac and Cheese. Does dousing something in buffalo sauce make it, well, buffalo? Possibly not. But, does this taste good? You already know!


As someone who grew up guided by the Baby-sitters Club I was already chapter and verse on mysterious, out-of-reach American foods. I have since gained the rueful wisdom that some of those foodstuffs are better in the realm of imagination than actual consumption (e.g. Twizzlers: tasted like oiled pleather). Happily, buffalo sauce lives up to the claims of its wide enjoyment. It’s spicy, yes, but in an invigorating and necessary way. I couldn’t eat more than a bump of cayenne pepper comfortably on its own — in this sauce the cayenne is stabilised by vinegar and fat to the point where guzzling it from the bottle is not out of the question. And in this recipe it’s used to coat fried, crisp florets of cauliflower which are then stirred through a luxuriantly saucy batch of macaroni cheese: the cauliflower itself almost velvety beneath its browned surface, the comforting white sauce tinted peachy-orange and submerging the pasta.


I haven’t gone so far as to strenuously include the components of ranch dressing, which often accompanies chicken wings cooked in buffalo sauce — one American culinary hurdle at a time, thanks — but the garlic and dried herbs echo its flavours a little, and if you have dill or chives growing you’re welcome to chop and scatter them over the finished dish. There’s so much going on — the pearly nuttiness of the cauliflower, the pickle-brine tang and clean propane heat of the buffalo sauce — that you could get away with not adding any cheese at all, if that makes life easier. It’s better with, I’m sorry to confirm, and just choose a solid workhorse grate-and-melt cheese here, but I’d still happily eat it without. (To that end, be my guest if you want to crumble in some blue cheese, which is also customarily eaten with buffalo wings.) Combining spicy, zingy flavours with creamy, rich flavours is an obvious win, but it’s a joyously delicious win nonetheless, and the consolatory soft mellowness of pasta and white sauce is the perfect heated pool for all that liveliness to swim in.

I can reliably be found corrupting mac and cheese to the point where it’s a conceptual figurehead at best, but the results have always served me well; with that in mind if this is your kind of vibe I also recommend trying my Chilli Corn Macaroni, my Triple Pickle Macaroni, or one of the most glittering jewels in my crown, the Thai Yellow Curry Mac’n’Cheese.


Stovetop Buffalo Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Comforting yet abundantly flavoursome, this combines macaroni cheese with buffalo sauce-drenched fried cauliflower without using any extra pans than usual. Add more buffalo sauce as you wish, this dish can handle it. Recipe by myself.

  • 1/2 a head of cauliflower (roughly 250-300g)
  • 2 tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for the pasta water
  • 3 tablespoons plain oil, eg rice bran
  • 5 tablespoons bottled buffalo sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s) plus extra for serving
  • 200g macaroni, or small pasta shape of your choice
  • 50g butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup/250ml milk
  • 1 cup/250ml chicken stock (or, 250ml water and one stock cube)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried celery
  • 2 teaspoons crushed garlic
  • 100g grated cheese (optional, but obviously good)

1: Break the cauliflower into florets, and slice each floret lengthwise to maximise flat surface area on each small piece of cauliflower for browning. Stir the two tablespoons of cornflour and the half teaspoon each of white pepper and salt in a bowl or container and toss the cauliflower pieces in this mixture to lightly coat.

2: Heat the three tablespoons of oil in a wide frying pan, and fry the cauliflower pieces — shaking off any excess cornflower — in a single layer. I let them cook undisturbed for two minutes, then I turned the pieces over and placed a lid on the pan and let them sit for another two minutes — the idea being that steam builds up inside the pan and helps the cauliflower cook through — and then removed the lid and continued frying for another two minutes, turning any pieces that still needed browning. Use this timing as a guide and keep an eye on the cauliflower, as your stovetop may be faster or slower than mine, but by the end of this, the pieces should be cooked through and well-browned. Turn off the heat and remove the cauliflower to a bowl (I used the same one that held the cornflour, discarding any excess) and stir in three tablespoons of the buffalo sauce. Set aside.

3: Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, then add a generous amount of salt (about two teaspoons) and tip in the 200g macaroni pasta, letting it boil for about 10-12 minutes or until tender.

4: While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce by melting the 50g butter in the same pan that you cooked the cauliflower in (no need to clean it, but wipe out any excess oil with a paper towel if need be), then stir in the three tablespoons of flour to form a paste, stirring it for another minute over medium heat. Slowly add the 250ml each of milk and chicken stock, pouring in a little at a time and stirring briskly and thoroughly to prevent lumps. At first, the butter-flour roux will immediately absorb the liquid, but it will slowly loosen up and form a sauce as you go on. Once you’ve added all the liquid, let the sauce simmer, stirring frequently, for 8-10 minutes or until thickened. Stir in the remaining two tablespoons of buffalo sauce, the half teaspoon of dried celery, and the two crushed garlic cloves. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the 100g grated cheese if using.

5: By this point, the pasta should be al dente. Drain it and tip the cooked pasta into the sauce (and if the pasta cooks before you’re done with the sauce, just drain it and set aside) along with the buffalo-sauced fried cauliflower.

Serves 2 with leftovers, or up to 4 as a side dish. I drizzled over a little extra buffalo sauce and sprinkled over some more dried celery to serve.

Notes: I used soy milk here but whatever milk you’re used to should be fine; if you don’t have any butter for the sauce you could substitute three tablespoons of olive oil.


music lately:

God is Alive, Magic is Afoot by Buffy Sainte-Marie. Season 2 of Yellowjackets ended last week and I feel spiritually bereft (and Succession ending for good three days later didn’t help). This show has so many spectacular 90s needle drops which is to be expected, what did take me by delightful surprise was hearing Buffy Sainte-Marie’s haunting and crisp vibrato in this 1969 song — unsettling, beautiful, incantatory, with the lyrics taken from Leonard Cohen’s achingly scriptural poetry.

Simple Passing by Hammerbox. It’s genuinely preposterous how good the soundtrack to the 90s computer game Road Rash was, and what a gift that soundtrack was to impressionable young minds such as mine. I need a full oral history of how it came to be! Til then I am yet to discover the precise combination of supplements that will grant me the same level of energy that this song — from said soundtrack — generates.

Debaser by Pixies. Don’t ask me to choose my favourite Pixies song (or my favourite anything, that is, unless you have forty minutes to hear my answer) but…this could be the one, somehow the more incoherent their lyrics become the more clarity they present, right? I can’t even begin to explain the exhilaration that courses through me while listening to this.

Soave sia il vento, from Mozart’s opera Cosi Fan Tutte; on Friday night I channelled my inner Frasier Crane by attending NZ Opera’s production of this show. It was captivating, as you can imagine from this brief trio performance with all its buttery harmonies.

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 every month. There’s no better time than right now — your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Sheet Pan Gnocchi Puttanesca


Look, I’m the first to yell about how SEO has ruined food blogging and I know we probably don’t say “sheet pan” in New Zealand, but sometimes you have to dance with the enemy in order to steal their jewels, and so this recipe is called Sheet Pan Gnocchi Puttanesca in the hopes that capitulating to Big Algorithm delivers me some sweet, sweet optimisation. That modern ugliness aside, what this recipe will undoubtedly deliver you is a delicious, hands-off dinner in little more than half an hour.


We all know what “puttanesca” means (or at least, we know what it translates to, quite what it’s driving at seems to be mildly contentious) and as a pasta sauce it’s usually found wound around long strands of spaghetti and made in a frying pan; here I’ve leaned into the slatternish element of its name by taking almost all effort out of the equation. Just throw some ingredients in a baking tray and shunt it in the oven and that’s it. I give the gnocchi a slight head start on its own — normally when I’m frying gnocchi I add a splash of water or cover the pan (or both) so it steams and crisps up at the same time, and I’ve transferred that method to this recipe. The gnocchi starts off in a shallow bath of stock and olive oil, emerging tender but with a little roasty bite to its surface.


The puttanesca sauce is a riot of salty, well-preserved intensity — meaty shreds of green olive, tiny morsel-ish capers, fiery chilli flakes. I added some roughly chopped pecans in the hopes their smokiness would play well with the other ingredients (it did) and you don’t need me to tell you that if there’s a tin of anchovies in your possession, they absolutely belong here. The joy of this sauce is that, aside from the parsley, it’s made up of ingredients that have a long shelf life, and so once you’re stocked up you can have it cooking away with very little notice at any time of day or night. The supple gnocchi provide the pillows against which this sauce reclines, and the contrast between squishy, dumpling-y pasta and spicy, high-kicking sauce makes a creditable case for their pairing.


Although this recipe is at its most pantry-standby-ish and low-effort with a package of bought gnocchi, if you feel like making this more effortful (but — to be fair — only just) there’s always my recipe for Instant Homemade Gnocchi; I’ve never tried roasting it but I’m sure it wouldn’t fail. There’s also nothing stopping you from panfrying the gnocchi dough and then adding the sauce ingredients from this recipe to the pan afterwards. And if you’re looking for other recipes that you can just throw into the oven you could try my Green Garlic Oyster Mushrooms, my Oven-baked Pearl Couscous with Pumpkin, Sundried Tomatoes, and Feta, or my Forty Cloves of Garlic with Potatoes and Artichoke Hearts.


Sheet Pan Gnocchi Puttanesca

This couldn’t be easier — just tip your ingredients onto a baking tray, shove it in the oven for a while, and there’s your dinner (admittedly the gnocchi is baked on its own for a bit first, but I think we can still call this easy). The sauce is punched up with olives, capers, and chilli — play around with quantities to suit your tastes. Recipe by myself.

  • 500g package gnocchi
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for serving
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) chicken stock
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup pitted green olives
  • 1/4 cup pecans or walnuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes (I used gochugaru)
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cup curly parsley, or as much as you want

1: Set your oven to 200C/400F. Tumble your gnocchi onto a sheet pan (aka a wide, shallow baking tray) separating them out into one layer. Drizzle over the tablespoon of olive oil and pour over the half cup of chicken stock, and then bake the gnocchi for ten minutes. This step helps to cook through the gnocchi, effectively both steaming and frying them, so they’ll be tender with a little bite when you add the sauce ingredients.

2: Remove the sheet pan from the oven and tip in the tin of chopped tomatoes, the two tablespoons of tomato paste, and the tablespoon of capers. Roughly chop the two garlic cloves, the 1/3 cup of pitted olives, and the 1/4 cup of pecans — though you want the nuts and garlic chopped more finely than the olives — and tip all that into the gnocchi as well, along with the half teaspoon of chilli flakes. Fill the now-empty tomato tin with water, swish it around, and pour it into the sheet pan. Stir briefly to disperse the ingredients, then return the gnocchi to the oven for another 15 – 20 minutes, by which point the sauce should be bubbling and reduced down a little. If it’s looking too dry, add another splash of water.

3: Taste to see if it needs extra salt or a pinch more chilli. Drizzle over a little more olive oil — about a teaspoon or so — then roughly chop the 1/2 cup of parsley and scatter it over the gnocchi.

Serves 2-3, or 4 with other side dishes.


  • I used a full stock cube with 125ml water to make up the chicken stock required, figuring that the added tomatoes and water would dilute the saltiness. I was correct, so feel free to do the same.
  • Anchovies are an expected ingredient here so if you’ve got ’em, throw ’em in.


music lately:

Secondo Coro Delle Lavandaie by Roberto De Simone, this song goes SO hard. However hard you’re thinking, no, it’s even more than that.

Forever Close My Eyes by Dälek, this is the kind of pulse-rushingly, lung-fillingly lush song you can catch a ride on all the way up to the stars.

Invalid Litter Dept. by At The Drive In, the sort of music you should first hear age fifteen, or at least it worked for me then but! — still does, with its billowing emotion and bruising oratory and scattershot guitars; I also in all sincerity recommend their performance of One-Armed Scissor on Jools Holland, it is fantastically shambolic and chaotic and both the worst and best imaginable introductions to that song.

Side By Side by Adrian Lester and the 1996 Donmar Warehouse company of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Company; this might just be my favourite rendition of my favourite Sondheim musical. Lester is magnificent as Bobby — charismatically isolated, passive and reactive, and look, what’s a more fitting addition to the scene, for a musical from 1970, to have this already-manic number a little more artificially-fuelled than usual?

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 every month. There’s no better time than right now — your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Oven-baked Pearl Couscous with Pumpkin, Sundried Tomatoes, and Feta


For someone whose music and movie consumption is almost entirely dominated by the increasingly distant past (as a quick scan through the “music lately” section of these blog posts and my Letterboxd diary will corroborate) I am not particularly nostalgic nor am I interested in dwelling on the past. As Logan Roy succinctly stated: it’s just there’s so much of it. However, nothing makes me quite so heart-wrenchingly, Dorothy-watching-the-Wizard-fly-off-in-a-balloon desolate for days gone by as being unable to truly, accurately re-experience the key food product moments of my childhood. Squiggles biscuits aren’t the same, cheap chocolate tastes cheaper but costs more, the sweet, pillowy, sesame-studded special occasion treat that was Country Split bread disappeared into the ether, and Kango biscuits, Boomys and Fruju Tropical Snow were cruelly discontinued. The jury is still out on mock cream buns and Vienettas but while the odds aren’t positive, I’ll keep an open mind. And, perhaps most egregious of all, Wattie’s did something capricious and unforgivable to their canned spaghetti — a staple childhood food group for me, frequently cold, straight from the tin — and now their pasta has no structural integrity and their sauce tastes dim and milquetoast.

So, upon realising I’d accidentally reverse-engineered the flavour of the canned spaghetti of my childhood memories in this Oven-baked Pearl Couscous with Pumpkin, Sundried Tomatoes, and Feta I entered a kind of haunted culinary trance, and once the dust settled and clarity resumed, I realised my dad may have been not entirely in the grips of a conspiracy theory when he’d always insist they padded out their spaghetti sauce with pumpkin in the factory.


If you’re reading this from outside of New Zealand or if you were not someone whose young blood ran orange with canned spaghetti, let me offer some more relevant descriptive context for this dish. Being a food blogger (of terminally Charlotte Lucas means and prospects) in the midst of this avaricious and unceasing cost of living crisis feels rather like being the dog in that meme where the room is on fire and they say “this is fine“. There’s no method of economically cooking your way out of this because everything that used to cost one dollar now costs ten dollars and everything that used to cost ten dollars is now forty dollars and I’m not going to pretend that my recipes are budget-friendly or a way to make something out of nothing. Budgeting is irrelevant when broccoli costs $7 on a good day, to try and budget in this cost of living crisis is like trying to play chess with a football or planting pencil shavings in the ground and hoping a tree will grow from them. That being said! This recipe came about because I was weary of the overpriced, wilted, and often mouldy fresh produce in the chain supermarkets and wanted a recipe that relied on shelf-stable, long-lasting ingredients. The couscous, condensed pumpkin soup, and sundried tomatoes will last indefinitely, unopened packaged cheese generally keeps for ages in the fridge, and the lemon juice comes from a bottle. The herbs are fresh, but the dish won’t suffer much without them (and rosemary lasts hardily and staunchly in the fridge — the stuff in the photos is about three weeks old.)

Sure, this evokes the poignant memory of back-in-the-day spaghetti that has tormented me like a tomato sauce stain on a plastic storage container, but it’s elegant with it — the Rothko-esque red and white of the sundried tomatoes and feta and their bolstering salty richness, the softly bulging beads of couscous bathed in the sweet mellow pumpkin, the coppice-y fragrance of rosemary. The toppings galvanise the dish. But the couscous below, the titular pearls of pasta in miniature, is confidently compelling and gives comfort food without compromising on aesthetics or structure. As well as this, you get a foolproof way of cooking pearl couscous without having to pay much attention to anything other than your clock timer — you can dial this method back to just the pearl couscous and stock in the oven and then use it as a base or stir in anything else you like. Having primarily made pearl couscous on the stove top, I honestly think the oven is the superior way as far as taste, texture, and hands-off ease goes.

And if you’re after ways of using up the rest of that jar of sundried tomatoes, you might consider my Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese or Creamy Gochujang Tomato Pasta. I had it in my head that I had way more recipes featuring sundried tomatoes, clearly I have some making up to do.

Oven-baked Pearl Couscous with Pumpkin, Sundried Tomatoes, and Feta

Near-effortless elegant comfort food made using long-life pantry items and only a couple of dishes. You can use this oven-baked cooking method to cook the couscous on its own and springboard off to other creations. Recipe by myself.

  • 3/4 cup pearl couscous
  • 1 and 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 chicken stock cube, or flavour of your choice
  • 1 x 400g tin condensed pumpkin soup
  • 1/3 cup sundried tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 100g feta (vegan feta recipe here)
  • The leaves from two stems of rosemary

1: Set your oven to 180C/350F. Place the 3/4 cup pearl couscous and 1 and 1/2 cups boiling water in a roasting dish (the one I used has a capacity of 1 litre/4 cups, anything smaller and it won’t fit). Crumble in the stock cube, give the couscous a stir, then cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, by which point the couscous grains should be tender and swollen with all the water absorbed.

2: Gently stir the tin of condensed pumpkin soup into the couscous and return the roasting dish, uncovered, to the oven for another five minutes. While this is happening, blitz the 1/3 cup sundried tomatoes, the two tablespoons of tomato paste, two teaspoons lemon juice, half teaspoon of smoked paprika, and three tablespoons of olive oil in a blender to form a richly-red puree. Depending on the size and speed of your blender this may be super smooth or significantly textured (like mine was), either is fine so no need to stress about it.

3: To serve, drop spoonfuls of the sundried tomato puree onto the couscous and crumble over the 100g feta, and finally scatter over the rosemary leaves from the two stems.

Serves two heartily as a main, or three to four people as a side dish on a well-laden table.


  • You can replace the condensed pumpkin soup with about 1 and 1/2 cups leftover pumpkin puree or mash, bearing in mind that you might need additional seasoning.
  • The condensed nature of the soup is important, texturally, so if you can only find the non-condensed variety that’s more liquidy, you may need to bake it for another ten or so minutes.
  • If you don’t have rosemary, I’d sub basil or fresh thyme leaves instead — both have a similar resiny, fragrant quality. And if you don’t have any fresh herbs then it’ll still taste fine without them, or you could use a slight dusting of dried herbs.
  • You can easily boost this up to 1 cup couscous/2 cups boiling water without changing any of the other quantities (except you’ll need a slightly bigger roasting dish to cook it in, of course.)
  • For the record, my 1/3 cup of sundried tomatoes were pre-chopped in the jar, if you’re using whole sundried tomatoes you might want to make that 1/3 cup a generous one to account for the space.

music lately:

Railwayed by Kitchens of Distinction, kind of tugs on the heart and makes you feel miserable and soaring of spirit at the same time (with an agreeable, and I’m guessing unintentional, hint of The Stairs by INXS.)

What’s Golden by Jurassic 5, a song so excellent and immediately classic-sounding that it could have easily been made five to seven years earlier than its release date.

They Can’t Take That Away From Me, performed by Maureen McGovern — something in that soft, jazzy piano and those drum brushes and that Gershwin cadence is so hypnotic, as though it’s nearing Christmas and Norah Ephron is frantically writing every word that’s about to come out of my mouth in real time. Impossible to mention Ms McGovern and her immense talent without also bringing up Little Jazz Bird where she impeccably harmonises with the flute.

Spik and Span by The Gordons. My brother and I were discussing what the best local album of all time was, of course I immediately said the 1994 New Zealand Cast Recording of Jesus Christ Superstar and he said The Gordons’ first album, and since our tastes tend to overlap (in one direction, no one else I know is listening to this Jesus Christ Superstar album) I took him at his word and as per usual he was correct, this is just the kind of crashingly downcast post-punk type noise that I am always willing to become obsessed with.

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 every month. There’s no better time than right now — your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Truffle Mushroom Pasta with Gremolata


As a food writer, truffle oil — the closest I’m getting to that elusive mushroom these days — poses an engaging challenge for my powers of description. Can I get away with saying it has notes of armpit, if said armpit belonged to someone wildly attractive? Can something smell silky? If I say it tastes like running your fingers through the cool, mossy detritus on a forest floor while holding a roasted bulb of garlic in your mouth — without chewing! — will that make sense? That it tastes like being proposed to by a crackling fire in an alpine lodge that’s been in your family for generations?

Either way, you can see how we’re only working with a couple of drops of it at a time here.


That being said, you can leave out the truffle oil and this will still be a fantastically delicious mushroom pasta, so if all that talk of armpits and detritus is too much for your sensibilities, or if you simply don’t like the taste of truffle or you — quite reasonably — don’t have access to a bottle of truffle oil, there’s no need to miss out. Mushrooms themselves are no slouch in the arena of flavour that inspires overcooked metaphors, especially when you have a mix of oyster mushrooms and brown Swiss buttons as I have here — oysters for texture and delicately pronounced fungal richness, brown buttons for barky intensity, along with a sweetening splash of mirin (as with last week’s recipe, successfully taking the place of the wine I would’ve used if I’d had it) plus some herbs that echo the sylvan nature of the mushrooms.


Putting a full stop on all that headiness is a handful of gremolata, that enlivening fluff comprising parsley, lemon zest, and garlic — I sliced my lemon zest by hand with a knife so that tiny bursts of lemon oil would pierce through the sumptuous pasta, and the sheer freshness of the gremolata is an ideal contrast to that which it covers. I was delightedly surprised to find the frilly fettuccine you see in the pictures at the supermarket by San Remo, an everyday workhorse pasta company. A new pasta shape dropping from a bottom shelf brand is like hearing a new planet has been discovered — at least it is in this economy — and I love the way this fettuccine gathers the mushrooms and herbs up in its ruffled skirts. Any long pasta will do nicely here though — regular fettuccine, linguine, bucatini, or that most reliable stalwart workhorse herself, spaghetti.


The funghi component of this recipe is inspired by the mushroom ragout in Nigella Lawson’s seminal text How To Eat, and you could certainly subtract the pasta from the equation and serve these mushrooms, or an expanded quantity thereof, over polenta or mashed root vegetables or in any such capacity as you desire. And should you be needing further mushroom motivation, you could consider Nigella’s Pasta with Lemon, Garlic and Thyme Mushrooms, my Fast Crispy Sweet Chilli Oyster Mushrooms, or my Green Garlic Oyster Mushrooms.


Truffle Mushroom Pasta with Gremolata

A heady mouthful of truffle-tinted fried mushrooms tangled through long pasta, this dish is classically elegant and incredibly delicious — and if you don’t have (or want) truffle oil, just leave it out. The mushrooms can stand on their own two feet just fine. Recipe by myself, though inspired by Nigella Lawson’s mushroom ragout in How To Eat.

  • 150g oyster mushrooms
  • 150g brown button mushrooms
  • 25g butter or 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt for the pasta water, and to taste
  • 200g long pasta (eg fettuccine, spaghetti, bucatini)
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 2 teaspoons flour
  • 1 stock cube of your choice
  • 250ml water
  • leaves from a stem of thyme
  • leaves from a sprig of rosemary
  • A couple drops of white truffle oil
  • 15g Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • zest of a lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, extra

1: Wipe any dirt from the mushrooms with a paper towel and trim the clustered ends from the oyster mushrooms. Slice the oyster mushrooms into strips about 1cm wide, and slice the brown button mushrooms thinly. Heat the 25g butter or two tablespoons olive oil in a large, wide frying pan and tumble in the sliced mushrooms, letting them cook over a high heat, stirring and turning occasionally until the mushrooms have reduced in size, browned in places, and the liquid released from them has evaporated. This took me about twenty minutes — don’t rush this step, as the mushrooms really do need to cook down in their own good mysterious time. While the mushrooms are sizzling, bring a large pan of water to the boil and, once it’s boiling, salt it generously. Transfer the cooked mushrooms to a bowl and set aside. Turn off the heat from the mushroom pan, but leave it where it is.

2: Add the 200g pasta to the pan of boiling water, and cook for ten to twelve minutes or until al dente. While this is happening, finely dice the red onion and crush or dice the first garlic clove. In the same, now-empty pan that you cooked the mushrooms in, gently fry the diced onion and garlic over a low heat for a couple minutes until softened. Stir in the two tablespoons of mirin, letting it bubble up, and then stir in the two teaspoons of flour and then crumble in the stock cube. Slowly add half the water and stir it into the onion mixture, which should become thick and saucy as the flour absorbs the water. Add the remaining half cup of water, or as much of it as you need, if the mixture is too thick. Return the mushrooms to the hot pan, along with the thyme and rosemary leaves, and stir to warm through.

3: Remove the pan of mushrooms from the heat and stir in a couple drops of white truffle oil. Drain the pasta and stir it into the mushrooms. Make the gremolata by roughly chopping the 15g of Italian parsley and finely dicing or crushing the garlic clove, and mix them together in a small bowl with the zest of a lemon.

4: Check the pasta for seasoning, and to see if it wants a little more truffle oil. Divide the pasta between two plates and scatter with the gremolata.

Serves 2.


  • You can play around with quantities and varieties of mushrooms — even if all you can find is white button mushrooms this will still taste good.
  • If you have a bottle of red open, or some Marsala handy, you can absolutely use that instead of the mirin.


music lately:

Bring it On by Organized Konfusion, just two verses and a very to-the-point chorus but those verses pin you to the wall! The way Pharoahe Monche kneads the syntax like it were bread dough and rhymes “lobotomy” with “pottery”!

Sunshine by Alice in Chains, Layne Staley’s voice is as much an instrument as anything else going on here: slinky, gravelly, sinewy, gargantuan.

Mother’s Day sung by Sherie Rene Scott from the Broadway musical adaptation of Pedro Almodóvar’s utterly glorious Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Despite its astronomically stacked cast this musical, for reasons I can’t fathom, was not well-received and didn’t last long. At least we have the cast recording; this number sung by Ms Scott is so wistful and acoustic it could almost be an early-to-mid-90s singer/songwriter track that got to number 37 on the hot 100 charts.

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, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours every month. There’s no better time than right now — your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

creamy gochujang tomato pasta


While I’m generally a little suspicious about the baseless seduction of nostalgia and our collective memories being strip-mined and sold back to us in a way that amounts to little more than jingling keys in front of a baby to distract it; I’ve nonetheless found myself sighing nostalgically for the early days of Instagram, where you’d merrily and heedlessly post grainy, filtered photos of a coffee cup or the clouds and it wasn’t an ad-clogged video platform with all the ambience of an abandoned shopping mall. But though Instagram is dimly lit by sputtering fluorescent lightbulbs and there’s a persistent sound of dripping water, there is still joy and inspiration to be found within its murky aisles: specifically, the Creamy Gochujang Tomato Pasta that Bettina Makalintal posted on her fantastic crispyegg420 account. I saw it, I wanted to make it, I made it, it was delicious, and now I’ve begrudgingly said one nice thing about Instagram as a result.


My interpretation of this enticing recipe title involves stirring tomato paste, gochujang, and a finely chopped slurry of sundried tomatoes over high heat, before adding pasta water and coconut cream to soften it up. I was after a minimal sauce that clings to the pasta for dear life as opposed to providing a pool it can swim in, but a heavier hand on the cream will do this no harm (and I can understand if the “creamy” aspect of the title isn’t represented well enough for some of you via this quantity of sauce) nor will increasing the gochujang if you want the fieriness more pronounced.


The gochujang has a dense, layered spiciness — not just heat, but a captivating yet subtle sweetness and tangy richness from the rice paste and its fermentation process. Naturally, it’s magnificent alongside the fresh acidic sweetness of tomato paste, itself caramelised into richness by the pan’s heat. The sundried tomatoes provide the midpoint between the two other red ingredients: intense and savoury, but darkly sweet.


The entire sauce can be made while your pasta is boiling, and the result is comforting without being stultifying, luscious without overwhelming, and immensely layered and flavoursome despite the minimal quantities of ingredients. And — the inspiration continues — as I was chopping the sundried tomatoes it occurred to me that for an even speedier version of this recipe you could simply replace the tomatoes and gochujang with a few heaping tablespoons of vegan gochujang bokkeum. The hardest part of this recipe was locating the particular pasta that I had my heart set on, which turned out to be available at a minimart just around the corner — the jaunty doi-oi-oing springs of fusilli bucati corti make any meal feel like an achievement. A shorter pasta is, I think, all the better here, but there’s really no wrong way to eat this and you certainly don’t need a fancy shape: bowties, penne, even just spaghetti would all be wonderful and benefit from that trois couleurs: rouge (I’m working my way through Kieślowski’s film trilogy if you couldn’t tell) sauce.


Creamy Gochujang Tomato Pasta

Spicy and luscious with caramelised tomato hugging every curve of the pasta. You can of course add more gochujang or cream or grate over a cloud of parmesan; however, this is how I made it and it was delicious. This recipe is directly inspired by Bettina Makalintal’s Instagram post and I recommend following her for further inspiration. Serves 2.

  • 200g short and ridged or curly pasta of your choice (I used fusilli bucati corti)
  • salt, for the pasta water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon gochujang
  • 6 sundried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream, or cream of your choice, plus more to taste
  • Leaves from 2-3 stems of fresh thyme, for garnish

1: Heat a large pan of water and generously salt it once it hits boiling point. Tip in the 200g pasta and let it boil away for 11-12 minutes or until the pasta is tender.

2: Once the pasta is in the water, finely chop the six sundried tomatoes, almost as if you’re trying to turn them into a paste (and if you want this finer-textured, have a stick blender, and don’t mind the extra dishes, feel free to pulverise them into an actual paste that way.)

3: Heat the tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and dollop in the four tablespoons of tomato paste and single tablespoon of gochujang, followed by the finely-chopped sundried tomatoes. Stir this mixture over a high heat for about five minutes — it may appear loose-textured and like it doesn’t want to stick together, but the addition of cream and pasta water later on will turn it into a sauce. The mixture will darken in colour a little as you stir it; this is ideal and adds to the intensity of the tomato flavour.

4: Once the pasta is nearly al dente, remove 1/4 cup of the cooking water and stir it into the tomato mixture, followed by the 1/4 cup of coconut cream. At first the mixture will appear a rather oily and garish orange, but keep stirring and it will grow darker and more richly red as it bubbles away. At this point, it’s up to you whether you want to add more cream to make this (of course) creamier, or a little more pasta water to make it saucier. Remove the tomato mixture pan from the heat, drain the now-cooked pasta, and stir it into the sauce. Divide the pasta between two plates and sprinkle over the thyme leaves.


If you mistime the pasta and have thoroughly cooked it before you’ve started the sauce, just remove half a cup or so of the pasta water, drain the remaining water from the pasta, and tip the pasta back into its still-hot pan (though keeping it off the element it was just cooking on, otherwise it will burn) while you finish the sauce.


music lately:

Hellbound by The Breeders, it sounds very 1990 but also, without too much reaching, like kids with teased beehive hairdos in the 1960s could do elaborate dances to it with names like The Hucklebuck and The Sprained Ankle; needless to say I love it.

I’ve Been Thinking About You by Londonbeat, the way it starts out at 100 miles an hour, the emphatic stab on each word in the chorus, what an eternal masterpiece.

Auto Surgery by Therapy?, like, there’s not much more to it than going quiet then loud then quiet then loud but that’s all it needs! It works!

Les Feuilles Mortes by Juliette Greco, if you haven’t heard of her I recommend spending some time with her Wikipedia page, she truly lived, meanwhile amongst all that living she was also a skilled singer, the simple, exquisite melancholy of this song really does evoke the falling autumn leaves of the title. If you’re feeling gloomy, this will make you feel gloomy but super cool at the same time, and sometimes that’s enough to make it through said gloom.

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 every month. 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


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.


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.


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!

Lemon Rosemary Fettuccine [vegan]


It has been, as the band Staind once said, a while. I’d like to offer up the fact that I moved house yesterday as a defence, but as for the weeks prior to that all I can say is that sometimes not doing stuff begets not doing stuff and that’s about all there is to it. But I’m back, I’m here, and importantly, I’ve got pasta for you.


Something about a new beginning always puts me in mind of old beginnings: Lemon Linguine was the first recipe I ever made from Nigella Lawson’s seminal text How To Eat, and it then became the first recipe I blogged about on here back in 2007. Mum sent me off to my new digs yesterday with a bag of lemons and herbs from the garden as a kind of offering, and immediately I pictured this Lemon Rosemary Fettuccine, the first recipe to sanctify the new space with — not the same method as Nigella’s linguine but an echo of that memory for sure. Better yet, I made it, better still, it tasted excellent.


Fettuccine is very comforting to me, probably because it was one of about four pasta shapes you could buy when I was a kid and it seemed to be by far the fanciest, and therefore fancified whatever it was served with. Now its fanciness is kind of outdated, but that makes it even more comforting, a taste of the world idealised rather than how it is. On a less fanciful note, its generous width suits the delicate sauce, but if you’ve only got spaghetti this will still taste good.

There’s hardly anything to this, and once you’ve stirred the near-instant sauce into the pasta it may look like nothing’s happening at all, but the flavours slide briskly down each broad strand of pasta like a kid at a waterpark: the optimistic freshness of the lemons, the creamy tang of the yoghurt, the rich pepperiness of the olive oil, and the herbs, which even in their small quantities make themselves known. Especially the strident rosemary, hence her place in the recipe title. I know in my heart of hearts that this would be perfect with a scattering of chilli flakes — Aleppo pepper, gochugaru, whatever — and I almost added them, but in the end I wanted a more subtle, diaphanous effect. It was delicious without them, but keep in mind that it would be delicious with them, and add or subtract them according to however you feel in the moment.

And if you’re really in the mood for pasta, you could consider my recipes for Bucatini with Chilli Oil Pumpkin Seeds; Thai Yellow Curry Mac’n’Cheese; or Spaghetti with Horseradish Butter.


Lemon Rosemary Fettuccine

Simple, fresh, absolutely pinging with lemon. Ever since finding an affordable yoghurty yoghurt I’ve been using it in everything, and this is my latest effort: it forms the base of a sauce that’s so fast you barely need to start making it till the pasta is al dente. Recipe by myself.

  • 100g fettuccine
  • salt for the pasta water, and to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
  • 3 heaped tablespoons dairy-free yoghurt of your choice, ideally an oat/rice blend

1: Bring a good-sized pan of water to the boil on the stove (sometimes I’ll boil the kettle first and pour that into the pan if I’m impatient) and then add several pinches of salt and the fettuccine. Let it return to the boil and cook until the pasta is tender, which should take about ten minutes.

2: While the pasta is cooking, roughly chop the tablespoon of rosemary leaves and stir them together with the tablespoon of thyme leaves, the zest and juice of the lemon, the tablespoon of olive oil, the three heaped tablespoons of yoghurt, and salt to taste.

3: Drain the pasta, transfer it into a serving bowl, and stir in the lemon-yoghurt sauce. That’s it, you’re done. Pour over more olive oil if you like (and I did.)

Serves 1.

The Collective vegan oat/rice/coconut yoghurt is the one for me, it’s cheaper than any other brand on the shelf and it really tastes like yoghurt. I love regular coconut yoghurt but I can never afford it and it does mean whatever you cook will taste like coconut. This is never a bad thing but sometimes you want other options!


music lately:

Oceanic Beloved by Alice Coltrane. Those harps! Like the aural equivalent of someone running their fingers through your hair. This entire album (A Monastic Trio) is a masterpiece.

Voices Carry by ‘Til Tuesday. When new wave is good it’s SO good, engulfs your sinuses and makes you question if there’s any other music you could possibly listen to. This is one of those songs, feather-light and airy and yet crushes your heart like 5000 tons of atmospheric pressure is bearing down upon you.

Polish by Fugazi. “We’ll take the package/let the contents remain.” So energetic yet so weary, I love 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!

Bucatini with Chilli Oil Pumpkin Seeds [vegan]


Okay, so there was the Chilli Oil Beans, and then the Sushi Rice with Chilli Oil Nuts, and now we’ve got Bucatini with Chilli Oil Pumpkin Seeds. I’m not trying to pretend like this recipe is a brand new thing! We’re day 85 into the Neverending Lockdown and I am frantically uncreative, and where my creative faculties once lived now sits a reluctant brick wall, covered in fast-moving moss, forgotten by mankind, perhaps to be discovered a hundred years hence by a plucky main character, but it’s looking dubious, and it’s only barely metaphorical. So – a little more repetition! In fairness, lockdown or not I am prone to fervently latching onto particular foods like they’re the new girl at school who needs a makeover, or a favoured mistress in the court of the Sun King. As I said in the prior iterations, and in the recipe, Lao Gan Ma chilli in oil was the initial impetus for this recipe, helped by watching numerous TikToks (eg Chef Priyanka and TiffyCooks) of people pouring hot oil over chilli and spices. My loyalty to Lao Gan Ma goes unchallenged, but also I can’t see myself getting sick of this chilli oil recipe any time soon, or running out of ways to use it. Above all, the most relevant justification for repeating it so often is – it’s really delicious!


So yes, this is incredibly delicious, and it’s very easy – not exactly one-bowl, but there’s not too much in the way of dishes, and toasting nuts and heating oil is not so much a victimless crime as an act of charity, since you’re basically seasoning your pan in the process – I put mine away unwashed, but for a brief swipe using a paper towel, with a clear conscience. Because I ordered three packets of bucatini online back in September as a lockdown treat, I’ve used that here where you might expect to see noodles – and you could use spaghetti or any other long pasta or, of course, actual noodles. It’s not that these long hollow tubes are superior to any other kind of pasta or noodle, but the rarity of it feels fun and opulent. As you can see in the photos I also recently ordered myself a pretty, irregularly-speckled pink plate, as another treat. Getting little packages in the mail is not quite the same as interacting with my loved ones in the outside world and enjoying my one wild and free life but receiving a package is an undeniable rush, and a reminder that there is still much and many to be grateful for.

Well, what is left to say about this chilli oil? Last time I described “the jovial heat of the gochugaru, the aromatic fennel…the allium savoury vibes from the chives and garlic, the soft oil-pastel crunch and sweetness of the cashews and walnuts and the half-hearted yet welcome kick from the ground white pepper.” I’m not sure I can come up with anything new that’s better – just replace the cashews with pumpkin seeds and add the sweet warmth of a broken up cinnamon stick, the softened forbidden-woodchips of which I happily eat as I find them in the pasta, and that sums up this recipe. The bucatini is a perfect backdrop for these lively flavours, twirling them up in a merry vortex around your fork (best not to wear white while eating this) and it makes a stunning contemplative lunch or a casually elegant dinner, and is very easily doubled or trebled to feed more.

It would appear that the more simple and straightforwardly delicious the recipe, the more unhinged and long-winded the blog post must be, let this be a comfort, I guess, and confirmation of how truly good this recipe is.


Bucatini with Chilli Oil Pumpkin Seeds

The chilli oil is back – it never left – and this variation is just as delicious as the others. An easy, fast, luxurious but chill vegan meal for one, I need you to know I didn’t actually measure any of these ingredients and it’s not something to stress about. As you can tell by how often I return to it, this chilli oil can be applied to numerous foods successfully, and I have Lao Gan Ma chilli in oil, and my devotion to it (plus several TikTok videos) to thank for the inspiration that led me to each recipe, including this one. Of course, you can use whatever nuts and seeds you have, and of course you can use spaghetti or noodles or whatever here instead of bucatini.

  • 90g bucatini
  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons gochugaru or chilli flakes of your choice
  • 2 tablespoons snipped chives
  • 1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped
  • a hearty shake of salt and ground white pepper
  • 4 tablespoons neutral oil, such as rice bran

1: Bring a large pot of water to the boil, salt it generously, and then cook your bucatini in it until it’s tender.

2: While this is happening, toast your pumpkin and sunflower seeds in a small pan until they just start to colour. Tip them into a heatproof bowl. Break the cinnamon stick into small shards, and add this to the bowl of seeds along with the fennel seeds, gochugaru – or your chilli flakes of choice – chives, the chopped garlic, and the salt and pepper.

3: Heat the oil – might as well use the same pan you toasted the seeds in – until it’s very hot. You can check by sticking the tip of a handle of a wooden spoon into it, and if small bubbles cling to the surface, it’s ready. Carefully pour this hot oil into the bowl of seeds and spices. It’ll sizzle and bubble but it should settle down quickly. Set aside.

4: Drain the cooked pasta and stir it into the bowl of chilli oil pumpkin seeds. Serve immediately.

Serves 1.


music lately:

Carpe Diem by The Fugs. This is just – so cool!

Don’t Change by Limp Bizkit – a new album from Limp Bizkit in 2021? And they’re covering one of my very favourite INXS songs? Could this be good news at last? Yes! Despite the vaseline-lens softening of nostalgia and the constant mining of the past by both those who both lived through it and those who were conceived in it; time has not exactly been kind to Limp Bizkit, and to still be doing their whole thing in the vastly different climate of 2021 takes some chutzpah. Sure, a gentle acoustic cover is an easy win, and I was always going to listen with generous ears, but this song makes me very happy. (And while it’s low-key, it’s a significantly better decision than their 2003 cover of Behind Blue Eyes, which we simply won’t talk about. Of course, the best cover, and best example of Durst’s underappreciated vocalising, is always going to be Faith.)

I’m Here, from the Broadway musical The Color Purple, sung by Cynthia Erivo, who recently won the role of Elphaba in the film adaptation of Wicked, alongside Ariana Grande as Glinda. Wicked is so dear to my heart that nothing short of a pro-shot of the original cast could satisfy me, and musical film adaptations have been sharply diminishing returns since 2002’s stellar Chicago, but – Erivo has a voice like liquidised satin and she only needs one more letter to claim that EGOT. This could well be 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!

Instant Gnocchi [vegan]


It was somewhere in that indistinct and malleable stretch of the early nineties before the internet became accessible, let alone entrenched, and before every minute was documented – somewhere in that time, I sat down brimming with cheerful anticipation for the latest episode of Full House only to be confronted with a hideous replacement show – Mountain Dew on The Edge – a show whose title is opaque to the point of meaninglessness and yet is somehow entirely and nakedly threatening to be about sports. (To my disgust, it really was about sports.) It was on that sombre day I learned that TV shows have seasons that end, and they don’t just spit out new episodes forever, and you can’t rely on anything or anyone in this cold world but yourself, kid. It was somewhere in that same era that I once again faced disappointment when I turned on the television expecting a brand new episode of a particular sitcom and was met, instead, with a clip show, that budget-saving device TV shows lean on occasionally by cobbling together an episode from previously filmed segments – and I had no media literacy or access to Wikipedia or the TV Tropes website to understand what was happening or why I felt so let down. Who can you trust, if not your TV in the nineties?


Today’s recipe is, I apologetically acknowledge, something of a clip show, taking components familiar to long-term readers of both this blog and my Patreon – although hopefully it’s a clip show in the mildly superior vein of The Simpsons “All Singing, All Dancing” episode which had the grace to grant us the timeless Paint Your Wagon parody before getting into the replays. Just as Homer takes comfort in the presence of Lee Marvin – “he’s always drunk and violent!” – we can take comfort in knowing my recipes are always good, even if you’ve seen them before. And I’m currently in week three (I think?) of a Level 4 lockdown without any promised end date in sight, so I hope you can allow me a short rest on these comfortable laurels.

I wouldn’t be repeating this recipe, first seen here in 2017, if it wasn’t for good reason – this gnocchi is literally instant, using mashed potato flakes instead of peeled, boiled, and mashed potatoes. Whether you’re in lockdown, or you’re depressed, or you don’t have actual potatoes, or the thought of peeling potatoes and waiting for water to boil and then waiting for said potatoes to cook till tender makes you want to sob – whatever’s going on, this gnocchi can be yours in fifteen minutes from start to finish, even quicker if you’re feeling sprightly. (If this sounds like a glib recommendation, please know that I have made this gnocchi in every last one of these states and am speaking from experience.) This recipe is even faster than it was the first time around since I’ve dispensed with the time-consuming fork-rolling step – no great sacrifice and it makes the gnocchi look like tiny little pillows, a benignly pleasing notion.

Obviously – and perhaps this is what I should be really apologetic for – this is not the traditional Italian way of making gnocchi, and I imagine it’s not just the Italians who would get het up at putting instant mashed potato flakes front and centre of a recipe. But these instant mashed potato flakes are singularly useful to have around – they’re cheap, they last forever, they really are instant, and they’re a lifesaver square meal during times when you don’t know how your next actual square meal is going to fit into your bank account. They also make truly delicious gnocchi – light, puffy, golden-crisp and genuinely quite elegant – a dish that feels like a treat at any time, but especially in the middle of lockdown.


Instant Gnocchi

This gnocchi is not traditional – taking a huge shortcut with instant potato flakes – but it is very fast and very delicious, and that counts for something. Recipe, proudly, by myself.

  • 3/4 cup instant mashed potato flakes
  • 3/4 cup just-boiled water
  • a generous pinch of salt
  • 1 and 1/4 cups flour, and perhaps a little more
  • olive oil, for frying

1: Mix the mashed potato flakes, water, and salt together in a bowl – which will turn the flakes, suddenly, into something resembling mashed potato – then stir in the flour, switching to your hands (a little carefully, since it’ll still be hot from the boiling water) to briefly knead/push it into a ball of soft, pliant dough. If it’s too sticky, add a little more flour, if it’s too floury, add more water.

2: Using your hands, roll portions of the dough into long snakes, and cut off pieces at 1-inch intervals, continuing with all the remaining dough till you have a pile of 1-inch pieces of dough, looking like tiny pillows. Obviously, you don’t have to measure with a ruler here. Just cut the stuff up.

3: You can cook the gnocchi in boiling salted water at this point – for a couple of minutes until they start floating on the surface – but what I prefer is to just tumble them into a hot frying pan with a couple spoonfuls of olive oil, place a lid on for a minute or so to sort of steam-fry them, and then remove the lid and turn them over so they get brown and crisp. I realise my lengthy description makes it look like this is the harder method; it’s much easier and, I think, significantly more delicious.

Serves two, modestly, or one, very generously.


To make the also-fairly-instant sauce that goes with the gnocchi in the photos – which is adapted from a recipe of Nigella Lawson’s in her Forever Summer book – take a whole lemon, slice off the ends, the zest and most of the pith, chop the remaining flesh into pieces and throw it into a food processor along with some of the zest (flicking out any seeds that you see with the tip of your knife) and a very large bunch of parsley, process this into a lemony-green gunge, then add a pinch of sugar, a tablespoon of mushroom soy sauce, and at least three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and process again. Pour over your cooked gnocchi. If you have the energy and means, a few finely chopped garlic cloves and a piece of bread roughly chopped into large crumbs fried in olive oil is an excellent topping for all this.

Also feel free to refer to my original version of this recipe, which is served with a fantastically good mixture of fried Brussels sprouts, rosemary and pine nuts and which – as you can see by the similar-but-different quantities in the recipe – will hopefully reassure you that this gnocchi method is very forgiving and hard to get wrong. So many times I’ve made this I accidentally add the flour in with the mashed potato and boiling water and it still turns out quite edible.


music lately:

Take Me To The Other Side by Spacemen 3. Psychedelic and messy and delicious.

Here Comes The Hotstepper by Ini Kamoze. The way this used to fill the dancefloor with reliability at the school disco, a time that feels as distant and improbable as when I last occupied a dancefloor as an adult, to be honest.

Biology by Girls Aloud – this song is always on my mind anyway but after band member Sarah Harding died at age 39 on September 5 it’s been on my mind, well, even harder. Say what you will about Girls Aloud but when they were good they were incredible – their only peers of that jewel-tone cocktail dress era in terms of boundary-pushing yet utterly manufactured pop were the Sugababes (with producer Xenomania in the middle of that Venn diagram). Biology asks, what if a song was all choruses, featured adequate dancing, and was the best thing you’ve ever heard? (And my heart is about as heavy as it can get with the loss of actor Michael K Williams today; no more bad news like this, I beg.)

Losing My Mind, from Sondheim’s musical Follies, performed here by the late Marin Mazzie – oh, since we’re already crying – “you said you loved me – or were you just being kind?”

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Chilli Corn Macaroni [vegan]


I’m not sure there’s a pasta shape in the world where the mere mention of its name immediately evokes and suggests its partner ingredient the way macaroni does with cheese. Yes, there’s spaghetti and its frequent dance partner bolognese. But spaghetti has broad-spectrum versatility, it’s culinarily non-monogamous, whereas – other than perhaps those spooky mid-century salads – what else would you do with macaroni but serve it as mac and cheese?

I say this to point out that while my recipe for Chilli Corn Macaroni isn’t supposed to be a vegan mac and cheese dupe, it still relies on the muscle memory of your taste buds to recognise the similar vibe – bright yellow, crunchy topping, creamy sauce, comfort food. In my earlier days of being vegan, I was more dedicated to coming up with sauces that could emulate and replace the macaroni cheese I’d grown up with, but the longer I stick with it the more I find myself making recipes that owe something to the blueprint but aren’t trying so hard, which – I think – makes them all the more interesting and delicious. I’m talking specifically about my Thai Yellow Curry Mac’n’Cheese or the Triple Pickle Macaroni that I made for my birthday last year; and now I’m adding this Chilli Corn Macaroni to the canon.


And yes, you could make this sauce for linguine or bucatini or something more elegant but it fits best with the homely and unassuming macaroni elbow (or other small shape if that’s all you have) and till the day comes where a decent and affordable vegan cheese appears on New Zealand supermarket shelves – not crayon-waxy, not stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth gluey, but proper and sharp and able to melt into bubbling pools of golden promise – till that day comes, I’ll stick with these recipes.

That being said – would this taste amazing with non-vegan cheese melted on top? Probably! I’m not going to haunt your descendants from beyond the grave if you decide to do it.

Fortunately for the rest of us, this macaroni tastes excellent as is. The corn is pureed into sunshine-coloured velvet and becomes wonderfully buttery and sweet – if yellow had a flavour, this would surely be it. This sauce owes something to the Corn Butter Risotto recipe that I made a few years ago, but it’s significantly simpler to make – though nothing’s stopping you from straining this sauce through a sieve as well I imagine no one has the energy for that right now. While this is comfort food, it’s not entirely coddling you – the hit of chilli ties it all together, which is hardly a surprise when chilli and corn pair so well in numerous other established recipes. The garlic crumbs on top are my usual way of providing added texture and flavour in these circumstances, and rather than thinking of them as a cheese substitute, they are delicious, and indeed, necessary in their own right. In case this sounds like too much effort, rest assured that you don’t have to wash the blender or the pan between making the crumbs and the sauce – beyond that I can’t help you, but I certainly won’t judge you.


Chilli Corn Macaroni

As long as you have some kind of blender this couldn’t be easier – or more comforting – just creamy, buttery pasta evocative of mac’n’cheese without actually trying to be it, blanketed in crunchy garlic crumbs. Recipe by myself.

  • 200g macaroni elbows
  • 2 pieces of bread (any kind is fine, although I’d lean towards white bread)
  • 2 fat garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 x 400g can of whole corn kernels
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (I used mushroom soy sauce)
  • a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha or chilli sauce of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal (optional)
  • a splash of pickle brine (optional, but very good)
  • salt and white pepper, to taste

1: First, bring a pan of water to the boil, generously salt it, then tip in the macaroni elbows and cook them for about twelve minutes or until tender.

2: While this is going on, toast the two slices of bread in the toaster – just to dry them out a little – then tear them into chunks and place in a blender or food processor with the garlic cloves and thyme leaves, and pulse till they form breadcrumbs. Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry these garlicky breadcrumbs till golden and a little crunchy – bearing in mind that they’ll crunch up more upon sitting – then remove them to a bowl and set aside. This makes a decent quantity of breadcrumbs, perhaps more than you really need, but naturally, I’ve allowed extra for you to swipe while making everything else.

3: In the same blender – no need to wash – puree the drained corn kernels along with the mustard, soy sauce, nutmeg, and sriracha along with about 1/2 a cup of water (I just eyeball the quantity from the tap into the empty tin of corn, swirl it around, and pour it in). A high-speed blender works best here to really puree the corn into velvety mush, a regular food processor may struggle to achieve the right texture, or at least, you’ll be blending it for a lot longer. Also, it goes without saying (but I’m saying it just in case) that you can add more or less chilli to suit your taste.

4: Heat the same pan that you cooked the breadcrumbs in – again, no need to clean it – and spatula the corn mixture into the hot pan, along with the cornmeal and pickle brine if you’re using them. The cornmeal helps to thicken it but it’s quite fine without; if you don’t have any just add a small splash of starchy pasta cooking water, the pickle brine is pretty self-explanatory flavour-wise but you could always use a little red wine vinegar instead. Stir over a high heat, letting this bright yellow mixture bubble away and thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste, and then – since the pasta should be cooked by this point – take off the heat and stir in the drained macaroni. Divide between two bowls and top each bowl with a generous quantity of garlic breadcrumbs.

Serves 2. You could get away with putting 300g of macaroni in this, but add a little extra pasta cooking water to the sauce as you stir it. Any more pasta than that and I’d add an extra can of corn (and instead of doubling the seasoning, you could consider instead throwing a vegan chicken stock cube into the blender with the second can of corn.)


music lately:

Can You Get To That by Funkadelic. If the colour yellow had a sound it would be this song!

Evel Knievel by Lilys, it’s a big crunchy distorted beeping stop-start mess of a song but it’s just the kind of thing I want to listen to. For something more straightforwardly pleasant I recommend the delightfully effervescent Ginger – the opening song to Evel Knievel‘s closer on their 1994 album A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns.

Candy Store from the off-Broadway musical Heathers (based on the film, Heathers) performed by Jessica Keenan Wynn, Alice Lee and Elle McLemore; I listened to this cast recording and thought it was fine but then I couldn’t get this song out of my head so here we are – between that glam-rock stomp of a drum beat and the stunning harmonies it’s just very, very catchy! There’s also this one small part of the song Big Fun from the same musical which is forcibly lodged in my head and I can’t get it out, but to prevent you being similarly afflicted I won’t tell you which part.

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!