he’s a hero, a lover, a quince, she’s not there

I have come to recognise that while I’m pretty brainy (maths/science aside, but what have either of those disciplines ever, ever done for humanity?) said brain will sometimes mix things up entirely for me, usually the more confident I am that what I’m saying or doing or thinking is correct. For example, I got How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson back in 2006 and it only just, just this week clicked into place how great her Food Processor Danish Pastry recipe is. Normally with recipes like this you need to slowly massage cold butter into the yeasted dough while rolling it out over and folding it over and over again. Nigella’s blasts the butter into the dough right at the start, so it’s already there come the rolling-out stage. This whole time I’ve been all, “oooh, I’m using a food processor to briefly cut in the butter, la de da” (in a Homer Simpson voice) not realising she was removing a ton of effort from an otherwise intimidating recipe. Oh Nigella, moon of my life.

Another example, because I don’t think I explained the singular drama of pastry comprehension very well: I recently with vociferous disdain described someone as a “typical 99 percenter.” I was well into my spiel before I realised, prompted by puzzled looks of those around me, that “wait! I meant 1 percent! I was dissing the 1 percent! You know that!” Way to go, brain, constantly making me backtrack when I could be making pie.

This recipe for Quince Tarte Tatin is a significant undertaking, so I’m letting you know well in advance that you’ll need to let yourself know well in advance that you want to make it. This is the kind of thing that ought to come with some kind of apologetic medical pamphlet covered in cartoonish diagrams. The pastry alone takes two days, the quinces at least two hours. However most of that time is waiting (apart from a brief but sweatily red-faced pastry-rolling session) and not all foodstuffs can appear to us immediately. If you want to make a pie with bought pastry and ingredients with swiftlier-to-disintegrate cell structure than quinces, that is completely fine. This is not the only pie in the world.

There’s three parts to this recipe: firstly the pastry, which is care of a Nigella Lawson recipe, then dealing with the quinces, for which I adapted a Floriditas recipe, and finally slapping it all together, where I went back to Nigella and followed her timings for an apple tarte tatin recipe.

This is most definitely not the required 50x50cm square, yet still it turned into pastry. So, hopefully that’s kind of encouraging to everyone. And it goes without saying that this is one of the most blissfully delicious kinds of uncooked pastry dough under the sun.

One nice thing about all the effort that goes into the pastry is that you only need half of it to make the tart, so I’ve frozen the other half for undoubtedly smug future use.

Processor Danish Pastry

From Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess – and if you don’t have a food processor then cube the butter and roughly rub it into the dry ingredients at the start with your thumb and fingertips, making sure there’s still visible bits of butter, and then proceed as per the recipe. I’m sure that would work out fine.

  • 350g bread flour
  • 250g butter, cold and sliced thinly synapse
  • Pinch salt
  • 25g sugar
  • 1 sachet instant dried yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) room temperature milk
  • 60ml lukewarm water

Blend together the butter, flour, salt, sugar and yeast briefly till the butter is fairly well dispersed through in small pieces. Mix together the egg, water and milk in a bowl and tip in the floury buttery mixture. Stir together quickly, then cover and refrigerate overnight. This recipe takes time.

The next day, let it come to room temperature and roll it out to 50cm x 50cm, or the best you can manage. I undershot the mark ridiculously, but also my arms nearly fell off from the exertion and in the end I was proud of my wobbly 35cm shape. If it’s sticky – and mine was, immensely so – just continue to sprinkle over flour. Fold it in three, like a business letter or something, then roll it out again as best you can to the same shape. This got a bit painful but it’s necessary – all these folds are creating air pockets which will make the pastry deliciously puffy and layered as it bakes. Based on the results, I’d say attempt to roll it out as far as you can, but if you can only manage a weird shape like me, you’ll probably still be fine. Repeat this once more and just as you’re about to collapse, divide the pastry in half and either refrigerate for another hour before using once it’s returned back to room temperature, or wrap and freeze for another time. Just like that!

Not that quinces are a burden, as far as burdens – or anything – goes, it’s just that every year I get all “Hooray! Quinces! So fragrant! Sniff them! Seasonal eating, it’s quite the thing to do! Have YOU ever sniffed a quince?” and then realise I don’t have all that many recipes for them and I’m not entirely sure how to get the most out of their short autumnal tenure. I was lucky this year that Tim’s grandmother on his dad’s side gave us a bunch of quinces from Taihape, and also that in a comment on my previous blog post, Sophie recommended quince tarte tatin for using up quinces.

Quinces are rock-hard, can’t be eaten raw, take forever to cook and generally reward you by turning an odd pinkish brown colour. Maybe if they weren’t so irreverently rare we wouldn’t be so excited by them? I don’t know. But I love them, with their rich flavour of rose petals and lemon and pears and apples. Cooking them in the oven for a long time under a low heat slowly busts through their solidity and makes them as soft as canned peaches. Which would be a fine substitute, if you want a faster pie. I adapted this recipe from one in my Morning Noon and Night cookbook from the beautiful Floriditas cafe, basically by making it really lazy. The original recipe isn’t even that difficult or anything, I’m just a corner-cutter from way back.

Oven-poached Quinces

Adapted from Morning, Noon and Night, the Floriditas cookbook.

  • Quinces (about 2kg)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 litre water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Tip everything except the quinces into a large roasting dish and mix to combine. Then, rub away any fluff clinging to the surface of the quinces then chop them up, leaving the skin on. In half is fine although mine were in all sorts of irregular shapes because they were a bit blemished. I cut off the knobby bit at the top, but leave the seeds in. Sit the quince pieces in the roasting dish, and then cover with a sheet of baking paper under a sheet of tinfoil. You can scrunch the tinfoil over the edges of the roasting dish to hold the paper in place. Place in the oven and leave for about 2 hours. They won’t look overly promising but should be extremely tender and smelling wondrous. They’re done when a fork or skewer plunges easily into the fruit’s flesh.

Finally, to bring the two separate elements together in pie unity:

First catch your pie dish. Lots of people end up with those straight-sided fluted ceramic pie dishes, it’s not quite as good but it’ll do the trick. There is actually such thing as a tarte tatin dish, but I don’t even know what they look like so I’ll just give you instructions for what I used which was this metal plate with sloped sides which I got for a dollar at a garage sale in Paraparaumu.

Quince Tarte Tatin

1/2 measure pastry from above recipe
Poached quinces from above recipe

Set your oven to 200 C/400 F and put a baking tray to heat up at the same time. Place the fruit snugly in the dish and dot with about 25g chopped up butter and scatter with a tablespoon of sugar. Place in the oven to heat up a little while you roll out half of the pastry (freeze or refrigerate the rest of the pastry for another use). Remove the pie dish from the oven, drape the pastry on top of the fruit, tucking it in carefully round the sides, then bake on top of the baking tray for 20-30 minutes. It’ll be puffy golden brown on top. Remove from the oven, slide a knife round the sides and place a large plate over the pie dish. Carefully flip it over so that the pie drops onto the plate, revealing a crown of fruit. If some sticks to the pie dish, just pick it up and push it back into place.

Also: feel free to use a different fruit to quinces here. Something like apples or pears might require a little softening in a pan with some butter and sugar first, but anything from a can should be good to go.

The sheer deliciousness of this pie is augmented by relief that all that effort didn’t go to waste. I think so, anyway: honeyed, soft fruit and palpably excellent pastry, buttery and puffy and echoing all the good things about croissants.

You can serve it with syrup from poaching the quinces or just photograph it in a pretty bottle you bought then save it for mixing with vodka and lemonade. Up to you! We took it round to our dear friend Jo’s to eat while watching Veronica Mars (so important) with another dear Laura, who had brought some blue cheese. Someone suggested a slice of the blue cheese on the slice of the pie. It was pretty incredible.

You might think I throw round terms like ‘dear friend’ flippantly but seriously, look at the beauteous cake Jo, Kate and Kim made for me on my two-weeks-after-the-fact birthday party! Tim and I took the rest of the pie round to their place and that’s where it got finished. Which is really all good…because we’ve still got a significant volume of four-layer surprise birthday cake to get through.

Title via: Superboy and the Invisible Girl from the Broadway Musical Next to Normal, with the gorgeous and gorgeously talented Jennifer Damiano and Aaron Tveit. The actual line is ‘a lover a prince’, and even though I know that’s what it is I can never stop myself from saying ‘a lover of Prince’ whenever I’m singing along.

Music lately:

Am listening to the excellent new Homebrew album while I type. You can’t go wrong by listening to Listen to Us again, or ever.

212, Azealia Banks. Took a while, but: obsessed.

Next time: I have a lot of tofu in the fridge. And if there’s one thing I know about tofu, it’s that it doesn’t get better with age…

 

dance on the coral beaches, make a feast of the plums and peaches…

When I was a kid I used to draw and draw and draw and draw. When you’d get your stationary at the start of the year I’d ask to get an extra “jotter pad” (those A4 notebooks with weak, brownish paper and inevitably a cartoon elephant on the front), one for actual schoolwork and one to draw in. At one point I managed to procure, somehow, one of those enormous notepads for offices that are nearly the size of a table which I hubristically and ostentatiously kept on my desk for drawing on when I was done with my schoolwork. (It gets worse. I also used to also keep a large stack of books on my desk for reading in between being taught stuff. Like, while the teacher was right there still teaching everyone things. OH the conceit! But admit it, it’s a good idea.) There was untold envy and reverence for my best friend at the time, who got her hands on one of those large, seemingly endless rolls of butcher’s paper. Basically my life revolved around obtaining surfaces to draw on. What did I draw? Well…ladies. Initially the Babysitters Club (both scenes from books and those imagined) then Spice Girls (I had a jotter pad expressly for drawing them) and fashion designs and characters from my stories. Like a woman called Stuyvesant who had blue hair and a black belt in karate.

So you could say I liked drawing and did it a lot. Somewhere down the line though, I lost the habit of drawing constantly. Fast forward many years to yesterday, when I casually picked up a pen to doodle away and I just couldn’t. Muscle memory means I can still remember bits of dances I learned over fifteen years ago, but drawing was just not working for me. It wasn’t like getting back on a bicycle in any sense of the word, since…I can’t ride a bike either. (I know. What kind of child of New Zealand am I? Frankly drawing the Babysitters Club was much more fun than cycling looked, which didn’t help with my motivation. Also I could not stay upright.) Has this ever happened to you? Something you were so invested in, which suddenly disappears on you?

Happily, some skills work in the right way, going from fearful to awesome. Like pie! As a food-interested youth, pie seemed so far out of my league that I practically had a Pretty in Pink relationship with it, the out-of-reach Blane to my uncool Andie. These days I’m more like Clare in the Breakfast Club to pie’s…anyway, my point is I’m now really calm about making pie, pastry and all. It is no big deal to me. Even with an florid title like Plum Chocolate Meringue Crumble Pie. Although it sounds like too much detail to take on board, it’s a remarkably cohesive disc of deliciousness, inspired by two things: the many kilos of plums Tim and I bought in Greytown with friends Kim and Brendan, and the beautiful Favourite Recipes of America: Desserts book that I scored in Featherston, which I showed you in my last post.

So instead of showing you the book again, I’ll show you where we got the plums from. See how excited I got with the Instagram filters!

Like we were purchasing plums in a Primal Scream music video!

This Favourite Recipes book I mention was published in the sixties and is full of more delight than I can possibly convey. So I’ll just list a couple of its dishes. Berlin Peach Punch. Miami Beach Birthday Cake. Lime Highbrow. Raspberry Razzle. I should like to make them all. (Especially the Berlin Peach Punch, anyone want to donate me some brandy?) It was, however, very light on plum recipes. So I used another recipe from the book and ended up changing it so much that it doesn’t bear a ton of resemblance to the original. But thanks all the same, Mrs Ivan Kessinger of Morgantown, who submitted the Cherry Crunch that I based the following on.

It’s not as difficult as it sounds – for one thing, there’s no pastry to deal with or filling to mix and heat. There is, admittedly, meringue, but as it’s covered with crumble you don’t have to put too much investment into how good it looks, plus two lonely egg whites’ll whip up before your arm muscles have even had a chance to get sore.

And it is stunningly, well-timed-thwack-to-the-back-of-the-knees-staggeringly delicious.

Plum Chocolate Meringue Crumble Pie


1 packet of plain, cheesecake-bottomish biscuits (I used Budget Vanilla Rounds)
125g butter, melted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon flour
7 plums (or so)
100g good milk chocolate (I used Whittaker’s, which is mysteriously caramelly and wonderful)
1/2 cup almonds
2 egg whites
1/3 cup sugar + 1 tablespoon


Smash up the biscuits – either in a food processor or with a rolling pin. Mix in the melted butter and cinnamon and try, just try not to eat it all because you’ll need it! If you suspect you will eat lots, then add more biscuits and butter, of course.


Press 3/4 of it into the base of a paper-lined pie tin, to cover the base and about 1cm of the sides. Keep the other 1/4 for later…


Bake at 180 C for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, turn it down to 130 C, and throw in the almonds for a few minutes to roast, if you like – if you can’t be bothered, I understand. Either way, the oven needs to be 130 C. Sprinkle the tablespoon of flour and the extra tablespoon of sugar over the biscuit base, then slice up the plums and roughly chop the chocolate and layer them up on top of the flour and sugar. Try to layer the plums in such a way that they’re fairly smooth, so that you don’t have any trouble layering the meringue over.


In a clean metal bowl, whisk the egg whites till thickened and frothy, then slowly add the sugar while whisking continuously, till thick and shiny and bright white. Carefully spread this across the top of the plums in the pietin. Roughly chop the almonds and mix them into the remaining crumble, scatter this on top of the meringue. Bake the pie for 35 minutes. Allow to cool a little before eating. 

It’s honestly not as ridiculously sweet as it sounds. The salty butter and sharp, juicy plums keeps all that in check. You would not believe how brilliant sour plum juice and creamy milk chocolate is when it melts together. Not forgetting the soft solidness of the meringue relinquishing against the crunchy, almond-rich crumble top.

It’s genuflectingly delicious. Really the only problem is, as you can see, it’s not particularly solid. This could possibly be helped by refrigerating the heck out of it, but it’s wonderful at room temperature – all the flavours really shining – so just be prepared to carefully ease it out of the pie tin and eat the broken mess that lands on your plate with a spoon.

The reason I’ve been compelled to pick up a pen and put it to paper is that I’ve been home sick with a sudden sore throat, cough, attack of the phlegm, that kind of thing. As drawing wasn’t a goer – although I will keep trying – I’ve been occupying myself with Never Mind The Buzzcocks on YouTube. Later host Simon Amstell is adorable, and early host Mark Lamarr is so sharp and dry, so it’s win win really, and I’m reminded of late nights when I was living in England, watching it before bed with Hovis Extra-Thick Square Cut toast.
___________________________________________________________
Title: Warning: I’m going to use the word “obsessed” a lot now. I am obsessed with the song Meadowlark, which this lyric comes from. Liz Callaway’s version is tear-bringingly exquisite, honestly – if you click through please stick past the fairytale-ish opening lyrics, because it gets better, plus you’ll miss Callaway’s awesomely emphasised ‘r’ as she sings “larrrrk”. 
___________________________________________________________
Music lately:

I am also OBSESSED with the song Rockin’ Back Inside My Heart by Julee Cruise, from Twin Peaks – you do not want to know how many times I’ve listened to it this week, since first hearing it in an episode where it’s sung at the Roadhouse. I know the title is awful (I thought it was “right back” and I’d like to pretend it really is and everyone else has been wrong the whole time) but it’s so hypnotic that I don’t really mind.

Not obsessed with this song, but it is still quite good: St Vincent, Cruel. Delightful and delightfully catchy.
___________________________________________________________
Next time: I am still really compelled by the Meat-free Monday cookbook and will likely reproduce something from that, unless I get hold of some brandy and get to make the Berlin Peach Punch, of course. 

and what’s more baby, I can cook

Christmas christmas christmas christmas christmas christmas christmas!
Christmas christmas christm- I’m just kidding. But it is upon us once more. Which means it’s time for our 6th Annual Christmas Dinner and follow-up blog post! Back in 2006 there were five of us, I wasn’t on Twitter and I didn’t have my blog. What did I even do with my time? Six years later, there were at least fifteen people, the party went for 10 hours and there were intermittent twitter updates from nearly all involved, because that’s just how life is these days. In every sense: I never thought those years ago that we’d have a veritable family of so many good people. I’m not the best out there at making and keeping friends – to the point where getting referred to by someone as part of “my ladies” nearly brought me to tears the other day. 
But anyway, let the bumper Christmas Dinner edition blog post commence! The day goes like this: I cook a huge feast, everyone turns up and eats it. This is my idea of fun, so don’t imagine me crying in the kitchen while everyone else is whooping it up. Alas, not everyone that we love could be there on Saturday but on the whole it was pretty astounding that we got so many people in the room this close to Christmas. Or anytime. 

Involtini. I make this every year. It’s Nigella Lawson’s recipe, which for me has evolved and simplified into slices of eggplant, grilled four at a time in the sandwich press, with a spoonful of herbed, almond-studded quinoa rolled messily in each, covered in tomato sauce and baked. You’re welcome to feta it up or use bulghur wheat but I had some well-meaning half packets of quinoa that needed using up, resulting in this being not only entirely vegan but also gluten free. Hey-oh!

Keeping it Nigella I simmered vast quantities of pickled pork, or gammon as it’s known in the UK, in liquids till they turned into ham – in the foreground is the one I cooked in Old Mout Cranberry Cider, and in the hindquarter is one I cooked in Budget Cola. Both wonderful. Cola has a smoky cinnamon kinda flavour while cider has that distinctive musky fermented-fruit thing going on, both of which are excellent when absorbed into the fibres of sweet, salty pink ham. Pickled pork can be a bit of a misson to find but it’s worth it – I got mine from Preston’s butchers (near Yan’s on Torrens Terrace in Wellington city) and the people there were so friendly and it was so reasonably priced and I totally recommend them.

Didn’t have the mental capacity for gravy, so instead I made up a batch of the wondrous balm that is Bacon Jam, and then – as you might be able to make out here – sprinkled over some edible glitter. Christmas christmas christmas! Honestly, this is one of my favourite discoveries of 2011 – nay, my life. It’s jam, but instead of raspberries or whatever, there is bacon. It’s perfect, it tastes as dazzlingly sticky and sweet and salty as it sounds, and it gives the feast an insouciant Ron Swansonish air.

This Hazelnut, Cranberry and Mushroom Stuffing was a new recipe from Fine Cooking magazine – entirely vegan, with the ingredients being both Christmassy but also ideally suited to each other. I simplified it to suit my needs and budget. For a recreation of my appropriation (across the nation!) roughly cube a large loaf of sourdough or similarly intense bread, drizzle with oil and toast in a hot oven. Meanwhile, fry up a diced onion and a whole bunch o’ mushrooms – the fancier the better, but I used regular button types – the real important thing here is quantity, as they reduce down. Mix together the whole lot, add a large handful of toasted hazelnuts and dried cranberries. Pour over 1 cup of stock (I used miso soup – it’s what I had) and bake for about 40 minutes at 190 C/350 F. The rich, sweet hazelnuts and savoury aggro of the mushrooms plus the occasional burst of cranberry against the croutonesque bread is some kind of taste revelation, I assure you.  

I make this cornbread stuffing every year. Cornbread’s one of my favourite foods as is, but mixing it in with eggs, butter, and cranberries then baking it again is perfection achieved. There was a bit of trouble in making it this time though, and I’m going to write it in tiny, tiny letters so you don’t all go green around the gills and start crying instead of my intention of making you salivate like hungry Alsatians. (Three rotten eggs in a row. THREE. They had weeks before the “use by” date and I even did the thing where you check it in a glass of water. The utter depressingness of that dull, formless thud with which the contents of the shell hit the bowl combined with the smell which hits you straight in the back of the throat takes you to a dark place when people are turning up in an hour, but with some reassurance, some rescue remedy and some hastily opened windows we got through it.) Also, spot the peas – I heedlessly bought 2kg of them going cheap at Moore Wilson a while back and so their presence on this table, in order to cut down on my freezer’s crowded infrastructure, was non-negotiable.

Butter in cubes on a small plate with a proper knife: because I am turning into my mother more and more every day. I love that my friends who stayed for ages and required a late-night snack asked where this butter was so they could spread it on the leftover cold potatoes. 

“FLIRTINIS ALL ROUND”. Because of a few lines in The Mighty Boosh, and because increasingly it seems everything I consume has to have a pop culture reference attached to it, I made this drink. Increasingly come-hither was that Nigella Lawson herself recently put a recipe for it online, giving me even more assurance that it was meant to be. Flirtinis are fairly hardcore but divided amongst many guests and with lots of food as blotting paper it’s all good. In a large jug, mix one cup (250ml) vodka and one cup fizzy white wine (eg, Lindauer) and top up with pineapple juice – about a litre, depending on the size of your vessel of course. Stir with a wooden spoon like you’re Betty Draper and serve in plastic cups so you don’t have to do so many dishes. 

Oh, this pie. Coffee Toffee Salted Cashew Pie, to use its full title. Another revelation from Fine Cooking, which I adapted quite easily to make necessarily dairy-free. And, with all due respect to Fine Cooking, to be less sugary and to include cashews. I think American palates have a different capacity for sugar than ours, and also cashews make a cheaper – but still exciting – substitute for their choice of pecans. 
Into a pie plate lined with a half-batch of this cookie dough, (minus the spices, and you don’t need to blind bake it) tumble 1 cup of salted roasted cashews and pour over a whisked up mixture of 1 cup golden syrup, 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, 2 tablespoons rum (I used Smoke and Oakum’s Gunpowder Rum), 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder – yes instant, it’s useful for baking and it smells weirdly alluring, okay? Look for the blue packet by Greggs – 2 tablespoons rice bran oil and three eggs. Bake at 190 C/375 F for 45 minutes to an hour, covering with tinfoil if need be. You then need to let it cool completely. I didn’t see this instruction and it would’ve saved me a reckless moment of “We’ll just eat it now and if it’s not set it can just be sauce for the ice cream, dammit!” Fortunately everyone managed to talk me down in a chorus of soothing voices while we stashed it precariously in the freezer, and it really was better for a good chilling, especially as the cold went some way to soften the intense sugar hit. It’s an incredible pie, with salty creamy cashews in their pool of intensely dark caramel-caffiene filling. 

And finally, some ice cream, since that’s my kneejerk culinary response to the promise of people in our house. This is the only photo I got of said ice cream, but in the back is my own Chocolate Coconut Ice Cream – which I’ve made many times now since Christmas 2009. It’s beautiful and it’s dairy-free and I can now make it in my sleep almost literally, but should you be awake and trying it for the first time it’s not overly taxing either. In the front is Lemonade Sorbet (with a hard ‘t’) which started life as failed jelly; it was a little weird but refreshing, and the price was right. 
There were also two roast chickens – but no-one wants me to try and take a decent photo of their sorry hides, and beautiful canapes from Jo, and homemade bread rolls brought by Piona (that’s Pia and Fiona but don’t their names condense perfectly?) There was a moment where everyone became anxious and queasy during Barbra Streisand’s Jingle Bells (you think I’m exaggerating! Not this time!) there was a psychological skirmish during supercool boardgame Apples to Apples; there was an incredible reveal from Pia whose orange dress looked cool enough under her coat, but upon removal of that coat it turned out the dress sleeves were layered and ruffly like a flamenco skirt on each arm; there was candy cane whittling; there was imaginary Christmas cracker pulling; there was semi-unpremeditated singing of Total Eclipse of the Heart; there was a portrait of me etched in a pudding bowl; there were at least ten candy canes per capita, especially once I got changed into my candy cane-esque dress; and there was so much food brought to donate to the Downtown Community Ministry Foodbank that Tim and I will have to drive it down in our ute because it’s too much to lug down in our collection of environmentally conscious yet aesthetically designed shopping carry bags. We love our friends.

And now, mere singular days from Christmas I am typically underslept, however I managed to finally get a tiny bit of Christmas shopping done, including a small gift for myself of a flower hairclip. It’s amazing how when your personality and brainpower has evaporated due to lack of sleep, put a big flower in your hair and you can trick yourself into thinking you’re still an interesting person.

It makes me feel like this: Look at how zany and witty I am! There’s a flower in my hair! I have such a personality!
________________________________________________________________
Title via: Lea Delaria singing I Can Cook Too from On The Town. This challenging and excellently subject-ed song is especially good in her brassy growl of a voice.

________________________________________________________________
Music lately: 

Still Haven’t Got My Gift by The Goodfun. Hilarious. But also a really nice tune.

O Holy Night, Liz Callaway and her sister Ann Hampton Callaway. You may think you’re over this son but Liz’s silvery voice against Ann’s rich golden one is pure joy for the ear canals.

Julien Dyne, Fallin’ Down – the mellow, slinky antithesis to my Broadway dalliances.
________________________________________________________________
Next time: I was really convinced I’d have time to blog about the roast tomato-stuffed roast capsicums, but it just didn’t work out, no matter how I tried. So I guess I’ll change up that aim to see if I can get them done before Christmas now…

we are the custard pie appreciation consortium

Pie!

Blackberry Coconut Custard Chocolate Chunk Cookie Pie!
But before the pie, one thing. I’m not even sorry for lulling you into a false sense of pie-related security, that was in fact my aim.
After becoming besotted with Parks and Recreation and watching it fanatically with Tim, I couldn’t work out who the character of Ron Swanson reminded me of. And then, while looking through photos, it hit me: Rupert, our dead family cat.
I even uploaded this unfairly terrible photo of myself with Rupert so I could say: See? Look at the similar contempt in their eyes. Their comparable face shapes. Their pelts, both elegant and abundant. The resemblance doesn’t stop at the physical or the disposition, either. Like Ron, Rupert’s appetite was legendary. I’m pretty sure had we offered it to him, he wouldn’t have turned down The Swanson (that’s a turkey leg wrapped in bacon.)
Anyway, unsparing self-indulgence aside, here’s some pie that I invented…self-indulgently.
I’ve had this idea tucked away in my brain for a week or two, but only had the time and energy to test it out this morning. That idea was: what if I made a pie, but instead of using pastry, I used cookie dough? It’d be like there was a giant cookie on top! But it’d be a pie! You can see how I got so enthusiastic about this.
I mean, I really thought this was a good idea. Luckily for me, it actually worked out well, because I can’t predict what would’ve happened to my self-esteem/general demeanour if it had tasted awful or broken in half or something – I made such a huge mess of the kitchen in the process of making this and it was gratifying to have something delicious to justify it.
I guess you could employ near-on anything in the filling, but I wanted to use things I already had, which was frozen blackberries, dessicated coconut, and a little dark chocolate. The custard powder acts as a thickening agent, but importantly, along with the coconut, absorbs the bulk of the berry juice, thus preventing it seeping into the pastry and becoming soggy. This was my assumption, and it did exactly what I’d hoped. Apart from the sheer uncertainty of it all, and my chronic clumsiness meaning that there was a large and suspicious looking pile of baking powder on the floor, THIS PIE IS SO STRAIGHTFORWARD that I had to put that bit in capitals in case you were scrolling through this in a bit of a hurry and not really properly reading it, because (a) it’s a very important point and (b) people do that, we’re only human.
It’s not only straightforward, it turned out vegan, so feel free to feed this to near-on anyone you like (except Ron Swanson, who probably wouldn’t appreciate that there was no meat was involved.)
Blackberry Coconut Custard Chocolate Chunk Cookie Pie (it’s a good name, right?)
Cookie Dough Pastry
Follow this recipe, leaving out the spices, but adding in a teaspoon of cinnamon. Note: the texture of the dough when I made it this time round was much more traditionally cookie-like, but I honestly think I forgot half the flour when I made it last time. Depending on your ingredients the results may vary but it should be recognisably like cookie dough.
Roll out a decent handful of the dough and carefully lay it in a pie plate (as you can see from the photos, I put a sheet of baking paper in the pie plate.) Press it down, but don’t bother to trim the edges too much. Refrigerate.
Roughly chop about 70g dark chocolate (I used Whittaker’s Dark Ghana) and stir through the remaining dough. Roll out another decent handful of this dough into a rough circle.
Filling:
2 1/2 cups blackberries (or whichever frozen berries you like)
3 tablespoons custard powder
1 tablespoon golden syrup
2 generous teaspoons vanilla extract or paste
1 cup dessicated coconut
Mix everything except the coconut in a small pan, so that the berries are covered in the custard powder. Heat gently, stirring constantly. The berries will start to release their juice which will absorb the custard powder, slowly becoming brighter in colour. Slowly bring to the boil, by which stage it should be pretty liquid, then simmer for about three minutes, stirring the whole time. Stir in the coconut and allow it to cool a little.
Spread it all into the base of the pie and then top with the chocolate chunk layer. Pinch/fold the edges together.
Bake at 190 C/375 F for 15 or so minutes. Keep an eye out on it though. Like cookies, the dough will become more solid upon cooling.
This will make more cookie dough than what you’ll need for a pie, but whatever you don’t use, tip into a freezer bag and use in future as an instant crumble topping for fruit. Or if you’ve got the energy, roll it out and use it to make cookies.
So what does it taste like? All the nicer for sitting on this brazenly pretty plate shaped like a leaf, I can tell you. (It’s from Vanishing Point at 40 Abel Smith Street and their stuff is very reasonably priced, considering this is Wellington.)
As I said, the hypothesis paid off and both the base and top were crisp and chewy and, well, cookie-ish, without the slightest hint of disintegrating into a pastry swamp from the berry juices. The cookie recipe’s a good one, so it wasn’t surprising that it tasted delicious, but the small bursts of very dark, velvety chocolate against the more sweet, fragrant filling was very delightful. The whole thing was pretty brilliant actually – richly berried, softly gritty and crimson of filling, sturdy and intermittently chocolately of exterior.
As far as endorsement that’s not from me goes, Tim and I cheerfully fed this pie today to a cool crowd: Kate, Jason, Jo (thanks for the flowers Jo) Kim, and Brendan (who doesn’t have anything to link to.) They all seemed to really like it, and not just because I was standing right there with a serrated knife. Also, it was ostensibly given in exchange for more Parks and Recreation from Kate and Jason (that kind of rhymes!) so it’s all nicely circular. Tim and I watched an episode while having dinner tonight, it’s actually concerning how hyped up we were. Mind you, we do this over a lot of TV, at least we’re both like this. (Tim: “Mmm, both of us”.)
It has been a good weekend: Yesterday I had the fortuitous opportunity to have lunch at Kayu Manis with the esteemed Chef Wan and several other local food bloggers (find out more and see the photos here) and on Friday night I had another very fun food blogger occasion in the form of a Wellington on a Plate dinner at Fratelli. Last night Tim and I went to see @Peace at Chow, which was a sort of awkward location, but it was a cool night. Well, a cool morning. It started after 1am. Hence these stilted and expressionless sentences. I felt things! I had emotions! I just had two really late nights in a row and am feeling increasingly useless at placing words in a row effectively as this evening wears on.
Luckily, this being 2011, my thoughts on this pie, and all other good things, can be summed up with one simple gif.
___________________________________________
Title via: The Kinks’ excellent, if lengthily titled Village Green Preservation Society, which now always makes me think of the good fight fought by the people of Otaua back in 2008.
___________________________________________
Music lately:
Scritti Politti, The Sweetest Girl. Some songs that you initially don’t think you like whatsoever and then end up listening to them on repeat many times over in one sitting? This one. Is one.
Have linked to it before but Disfunktional by the aforementioned @Peace is such a good song. Last night it was sent out to anyone fighting with their other half. Such is the fervour inspired in people by @Peace and its members, there was huge cheering from the audience, until they were told not to cheer because it’s not something to be proud of. I guess you had to be there, but it was pretty funny. Probably because I was standing near one especially enthusiastic guy. Who cheered at that point.
____________________________________________
Next time: Made a simple dinner of rice and peas tonight from the Lee Brothers’ book – might put that one up next. Doesn’t sound very fun, but it tasted just perfect.

like a dream I’m flowing with no stopping, sweeter than a cherry pie with ready whip topping

Telling people you love a particular TV show can be a bit like telling them about a dream you had last night. They think, Great. I’m really pleased that I’m hearing about something fictitious which happened while you were entirely sedentary. With my weekend, I sculpted the concept “love” out of clay*, bought an adorable classic car, went to three different concerts, and took a mini-break to the seaside with my many, many friends. Tim mostly bears the brunt of my dream-recollection, including my fairly irrational indignation when he does something annoying in said dreams, but I do find it hard not to talk plenty to whoever’ll listen about TV shows that I love. In case you’re wondering, it’s all the obvious ones – Mad Men (I want a pencil skirt!) Game of Thrones (I want a dragon!) The Wire (I want Stringer Bell!) But recently Ange, our ex-flatmate but current friend, gave Tim and I something we’d been after for a long time – the TV-est TV show of all: Twin Peaks. A show that gave water coolers a dual reason for existence. A show that has basically one piece of music for its entire score. A show that straddles horror and hilarity. A show with a feature-length pilot episode that was sold off to Europe as a stand-alone movie.

And a show – this is where I’m hoping it’ll start to make sense – a show that talks about pie a lot. Also donuts, but the cherry pie is apparently a big damn deal to Kyle McLachlan’s character Dale Cooper, and I swear nearly every time he mentions it, he uses some kind of reference to death. As one of my old uni tutors would say, while slapping a copy of In Cold Blood in time to each syllable, it’s all in the text. To illustrate the dramatic-ness of how we feel about it, last Saturday night Tim and I had planned to go out and do Saturday night things. We thought we’d casually watch a bit of TV till the point of the evening where it feels acceptably late enough to leave the house. At 1.30am, five episodes into Twin Peaks, we realised we weren’t going to be leaving the house that night at all. And I realised the time had come, after Dale Cooper’s boundless and influential enthusiasm, for me to make a cherry pie.
Above: If Dale Cooper was here, he’d zoom in on this picture of cherries and see my reflection in them. (+10 points for referencing something from the show while referencing something from the show!)


Lucky for me, I had a jar of morello cherries that my nana had given me as a present a while back sitting in the cupboard. If you’re not blessed with such a cool and shrewd nan as I, the jars seem to be fairly easy to get hold of and not very expensive – plus their syrupy habitat means you can turn this out any time of year. While cherry pie is as American as apple pie (or pecan pie, or blueberry pie – what a lucky country!) I somewhat predictably turned to Nigella Lawson and a recipe from her seminal text How To Eat. While you can make pastry completely by hand, and I’ve done it, it’s definitely a squillion times easier with a food processor. Either way, the significant upside is that this recipe doesn’t need blind baking – you just roll it out, line the pie plate, fill it up, put a pastry lid on it and bake.
This pie is a joy, both in the making and the eating. Rolling out the pastry and carefully arranging the light-catching cherries. The scent of them jammily cooking away, and of butter and flour coming together as one to form rich, crisp pastry in the oven. The feeling of grabbing it out of the oven with teatowel-shielded hands, setting it down on the bench and vaingloriously roaring “I MADE PIE”.
And how. The pastry is biscuity and buttery and miraculously not prone to soggy-ness (unlike the endearing but mysteriously Deputy Sheriff Andy Brennan in Twin Peaks who cries constantly.) The filling is an appealing mix of tart and sugary. And due to the minimal ingredients, the peerless, fragrantly sweet cherry flavour is allowed to shine.
Above: Dale Cooper really liked black coffee. And that’s actual coffee in there, which I drank after taking this photo. Not just an empty-cup-as-prop. I keep it real for this blog, even while engaging in flights of baking-fantasy as inspired by an ancient television show.
Dale Cooper: “They’ve got a cherry pie there that’ll kill you!”
*Just when you thought I couldn’t get any cooler, I should probably own up that this is a reference to Ashley Wyeth, a character from Baby Sitters Club #12, Claudia and the New Girl. That is all.
Cherry Pie

Recipe from How To Eat, by Nigella Lawson

Pastry:

240g self-raising flour (or, plain plus a heaped teaspoon baking powder)
120g cold diced butter
2 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt
2 tablespoons water

Filling:

1 jar – around 700g – of morello cherries in syrup
30g melted butter
90g sugar
1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
1 tablespoon of juice from the jar of drained cherries

Set your oven to 200 C/400 F, and put in a baking tray to heat up while this is happening. This helps to properly cook the bottom of the pastry shell.

Put your butter and flour into the freezer for a few minutes, before briefly whizzing in a food processor to the point where there are no large pieces of butter and it looks like damp sand.
Mix the liquid pastry ingredients together and add to the food processor, briefly processing again till it comes together in larger clumps, and if you pinch together some of the crumbs they stick together. Tip out this crumbly mixture, push it together into a large lump, and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.

Then, divide into two discs, roll out both, and use one to line a fairly shallow 20cm pie plate.

Filling: Drain the cherries of their juices. Mix the butter, sugar, flour and reserved tablespoon of cherry juice to make a pinkish paste and spread this across the inside of the pastry lining the pastry place. Dot the cherries evenly across the pie plate until it’s covered, then drape the other disc of pastry across the top, trimming the edges and crimping them if you’re good at that (I’m not!)

Make a few small slices in the top with a knife to allow steam to escape, and then place on the hot baking tray in the oven. After 15 minutes, cover loosely with tin foil and reduce the temperature to 180 C. Bake for another 18 minutes. Allow to cool a bit before eating – it’ll collapse if you try to slice it too soon.
______________________________________________________
Title via: The Beastie Boys, Whatcha Want – very likely my favourite song of theirs after Remote Control, and fortuitously referencing cherry pie. Not that ready whip topping was involved in the making of this, but it wouldn’t be out of context if you’ve got some handy…
______________________________________________________

Music lately:

I know she has so many hits that even ten years ago it required a double CD package to release a compilation of them all – but some of Mariah Carey’s early album tracks are absolutely glorious in their own right, too. Like And You Don’t Remember from her second album Emotions which could’ve easily been a single alongside the rest of the outrageously good ones from that album.
From Slow Boat Records today I snapped up the 1987 revival cast recording of Anything Goes on vinyl. Patti LuPone was in sublime form (and wears very cool blue and white tap shoes) and gets so many good songs it’s hard to know where to start. But of course the title track is as good a place as any.
Falling, aka the Twin Peaks theme. Someone kindly made a montage of of images of waterfalls for you while you listen to it on youtube.
_______________________________________________________

Next time: Not pie. Probably something from my Ottolenghi cookbook, since I flicked through it this morning and thought “oh, that’s right! I want to cook every single recipe in this!” Also: my parents adopted a kitten. There might be photos, accompanied by captions deeply imbued with longing.

as if to say he doesn’t like chocolate, he’s born a liar

Self Portrait With Chocolate Fudge Pie.
I have many many people that I look up to in this world. For example: Susan Blackwell. She is extremely funny and clever, she has a very cool job and she’s aspirational – despite (I’m sorry Susan Blackwell, if you’re reading this – and if you are, hiii!) not having the most bankable voice, she starred in the Tony-nominated musical [title of show]. As herself. I love that she has created basically the only role I could ever hope to play in a musical (apart from maybe the girl from A Chorus Line who can’t sing), for having one of the few songs that I can absentmindedly sing along to without stopping mid-note and saying “oh forget it” which is what happened when I was singing (yes, lustily) along to Aquarius from the musical Hair the other day. These days, among other things, she has her own joyful online show where she interviews Broadway stars in an array of locations. It’s called Side By Side By Susan Blackwell. I basically would like to model my life upon her career trajectory. Except with the addition of authoring an extremely excellent cookbook. Perhaps if my (still hypothetical) cookbook becomes exceptionally popular, I’ll just be able to command that someone puts on a local production of [title of show] and casts me as Susan. That’s quite the “if” though…
Anyway, the point of all this is that in one of her recent segments of SBSBSB, she interviews stage and screen actor Billy Crudup, and, in the process, they make his grandma’s recipe, Chocolate Fudge Pie. I was captivated by this; its name, its provenance, its promise of chocolate, fudge, and pie in one handy substance…and vowed to make it pronto.
Obligatory pouring-of-mixture into receptacle shot, which I can never quite get right.
I adapted this very American recipe into metric (hello, cups of butter, what?) but the only thing I had trouble with was the original request for “six squares of bittersweet chocolate”. Figuring that because “this America, man,” these squares are probably fairly large. Even taking into account that I’m halving the recipe presented on the show, 70g of chocolate felt about right. Enough for plenty of flavour plus a little bit of mixture-tasting.
Billy Crudup’s Grandma’s Chocolate Fudge Pie
With thanks to Billy Crudup, Billy Crudup’s Grandma, Susan Blackwell, and whoever hired Billy Crudup on Broadway so that he’d be a legitimate interview subject for Susan Blackwell thus creating the opportunity for him to share this recipe in a place that I was likely to find it.
70g dark, dark chocolate (I used Whittaker’s Dark Ghana)
180g butter
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup plain flour
pinch of salt

Set your oven to 160 C/325 F. Grease a 20-22cm pie plate (like the one in my picture. You could also use one of those throwaway tinfoil tins that are very, very cheap at the supermarket) I also cut a circle of baking paper for the base, because I’m nervous like that.

Carefully – either in the microwave, in a double-boiler contraption (rest one heatproof bowl over a small pan of simmering water, not letting the water touch the bottom of the bowl) or just in a pan over a low heat, melt the butter and chocolate together. Set aside. Whisk the living daylights out of the eggs and sugar, pour in the chocolatey butter, the flour (good to sift it to prevent lumps) and the salt.

Bake for around 45 minutes until no longer super wobbly in the middle. I found 45 minutes perfect for me but you may want to check it at 35, in case your oven is a bit enthusiastic.
This pie rules. Like brownies, but somehow superior, because here in every single slice there is an ideal and just plain nice ratio of cakey exterior to melting, squidgy centre. It’s not off-puttingly rich, and the relatively scanty quantity of chocolate somehow flourishes while baking to create a result of astonishing chocolatey depth. It’d be completely fantastic with some ice cream on the side, slowly liquefying into its pliant, satiny centre – but is still practical and cake-resembling enough for me to take a clingfilm-wrapped slice to work in my handbag for lunch.
My attempt at prettying up this brown spongey savannah with icing sugar was patchy to middlingly successful, at best.
I’m not just saying this because the recipe came to me via someone that I think is really, really really cool (I’m talking about Susan Blackwell, not Billy Crudup by the way, hence the ‘via’) but this recipe is amazing and will most definitely become a regular fixture on my circuit. Speshly because it gives me a legitimate excuse to bore people about [title of show], as my knife hovers with maddening endlessness over the pie and they wait for me to serve them a slice. “It’s about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical!”
By the way, I did three really clumsy things on the day of making this Chocolate Fudge Pie. Firstly, I dropped my phone into a bowl of salad. Secondly, I dropped and smashed my Kilner jar, at least half full of homemade quince brandy (oh, the swearing and endless vacuuming that ensued) and finally, I dropped a full, open, king-sized box of weetbix (not actual weetbix, but those “weeta-brix” knockoff type ones) down the back of the pantry. Yet I managed to make this entire pie, chocolatey and eggy and rich, in a white shirt, without getting one particle of it on myself. At this point, I was really expecting to get covered in mixture, somehow it didn’t happen. I’m not sure what my message is here, apart from: enjoy life/your nice alcohol/applicable consumable item now, rather than saving it for an appropriate occasion, because you never know when it might slip out of your hands and smash to pieces. On carpet. Even as the jar of brandy fell I remember thinking “wheeee-ew, it’s landing on carpet, it’ll bounc-ohhhh no.”
_________________________________________________________
Title via: Bloc Party’s Helicopter. I really like these guys, although it’s hard to know if my view of them is softened because they really remind me of living in the UK in 2005. Although I spose any music can be affected by the circumstances that you hear it in, I’m pretty sure this is still a good song with or without my contexty lens over it.
_________________________________________________________

Music lately:

Probably said it before, but while the movie adaptation of the musical Hair is pretty awful, they got one thing right in the casting of Cheryl Barnes to sing the song Easy To Be Hard; it’s so beautiful. Even then, I hate that the camera cuts away from her so much.

@Peace, a new creation from Homebrew’s Tom Scott and Nothing To Nobody’s Lui Tuiasau. You can stream it, or you can buy it – and in a cool but bold move from its makers – pay what you like for it, right here. It’s all excellent, with silky as production from Benny Tones, and if you’re not sure, the title track is a good place to start (although so is the opening song, “this goes out to all walks, living in this village that we call Aucks”)
__________________________________________________________

Next time: Completing the completely coincidental trifecta (pie-fecta?) of blog posts about pies, and entirely inspired by Twin Peaks, which Tim and I have been obsessively watching lately: Cherry Pie.

every time I eat vegetables it makes me think of you

While I completely welcome, luxuriate in, and devote a lot of time to generating the puddings and soups and casseroles that Winter brings…sometimes it’s nice to interrupt all that, suspend the stodge-production and create something altogether more Spring-like and vegetable-focussed.
Although these are essentially just small pies, their unusual, sesame-studded pastry is light and crisp, and their filling has soft, caramelised vegetables contending with salty, fragrant miso. And I managed to make them while feeling physically dilapidated by a cold, which makes me think that they’re not that fiddly to make, either. (I’ve still got this cough, by the way, but I think as far as the battle goes I’m now winning.)
I found the recipe in the latest CLEO magazine (who, I should add, have been very good to me over the last year or so, if you see my “Attention” tab up the top there) and it’s by a clever lady called Janella Purcell who has a cookbook called Eating For The Seasons. Which, judging by this one excellent recipe, is probably a really good book. Despite what looks like Mistral font used on the cover.
The pastry is gluten-free, which is fun, especially if you can’t eat gluten yourself. I’m pretty sure that these are also vegan, so if you’re wondering what it is that’s even holding them together…read on.

Roast Vegetable Sesame Tarts

Adapted from a recipe by Janella Purcell, found in the July issue of CLEO magazine.

Pastry:

1 1/2 cups brown rice flour, or spelt flour, or whatever flour you’ve got really – even regular flour (which, I hope I don’t have to spell out to you, will mean these are no longer gluten-free)
1/2 cup sesame seeds, toasted if you have the energy (I didn’t)
2 tablespoons olive, rice bran or avocado oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce or Tamari sauce
3/4 cup boiling water

Combine the flour and sesame seeds in a bowl. Tip in the oils, the water, and the soy sauce and mix together. Knead well till it forms a soft ball, then rest for 30 minutes while you get on with everything else.

Filling:

Olive oil
1 onion, finely sliced
1 cup pumpkin or kumara (I used kumara) diced or thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, sliced
1 tablespoon white miso paste
Toasted seeds to garnish – pumpkin, sunflower, or just more sesame seeds if you like. Pine nuts or almonds would be nice too, but seeds are less expensive and just as delicious.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and slowly cook the onions till caramelised. While this is happening, roast the vegetables on a tray at 200 C/400 F for about 20 minutes.

Once your onions are cooked, but while your veges are still roasting, roll out the pastry fairly thinly and use a cookie cutter or similar (I used one of those ramekins that you might make creme brulee in) to stamp out circles of pastry. It’s a little different to the usual – quite springy and playdough-y, and you’ll need to re-roll it a couple of times. Just bear with it though, it will work. Fit your circles of pastry into a greased and floured/silicon muffin tray, not worrying if you get folds of pastry, it’s all good if it looks a bit ramshackle – and bake them, as is, for 15 minutes.

Once the cases are out of the oven, dab a tiny bit of miso paste on the inside of each, then top with your roast vegetables and a sprinkling of toasted seeds. They should remove easily from the muffin tray – and then eat!

Makes 12.

Note – I made the following changes:

– Halved the recipe (so you can easily double what’s above)
– Used spelt flour instead of brown rice flour, as that’s what I had
– You’re supposed to use all sesame oil in the pastry but as it’s expensive and precious I cut it back and replaced some with other oil, but you do as you like
– I only had black sesame seeds, but it’s all good
– Used soy sauce instead of Tamari as that’s what I had
– Changed the vegetables a little – the original recipe didn’t have fennel and had pumkin instead of kumara
– I think that’s it. One other thing to note is that different flours absorb water at a different rate so don’t be afraid to add more flour if your pastry dough is a sticky mess, or more liquid if it’s not coming together. Just a little at a time though.
So as you can see I adapted this recipe quite a bit, and I think you could continue to do so yourself. Once you’ve got the pastry cases sorted, it’s really all a matter of what’s in your fridge.
For example, the following could be delicious…
– Roast capsicums and tomatoes, with toasted chopped almonds and a little orange zest
– Sliced leeks, softened and caramelised in a pan, with feta
– Roast mushrooms with thyme, then chop them up, fill the tarts and top with pumpkin seeds
– Roasted zucchini with capers
– Raw grated beetroot, coriander leaves and toasted walnuts
– Slices of avocado and raw zucchini, topped with mint…
– Mince and cheese! Yay. Or, like, slow-braised beef ragu and parmesan.
I’m also thinking about removing the soy sauce from the pastry, using a plain oil, and filling the cooked cases with sweet things instead, like berries, or chocolate mousse, or – best of all – nuts and caramel sauce. And beyond that, I’m also wondering if you could just roll out the pastry and stamp out and bake awesome crackers from it.
But all those imaginary tarts aside, how did the actual ones that I made taste?
Amazing.
So delicious. The pastry is all nutty and biscuity, and just a tiny bit salty – a very addictive combination. I personally am glad I added the fennel, its aniseedy freshness and quick-to-caramelise, oniony structure was quite lush against the sweeter softer kumara. And they taste really, really good cold as well, to the point where I was wishing I hadn’t halved the original recipe. Twelve mini tarts between Tim and myself just wasn’t enough.

Hooray for pie!

_________________________________________________________


Title via: The Ramones, and the song really is called Every Time I Eat Vegetables I Think Of You. I love them (the Ramones, but also vegetables.)
_________________________________________________________

Music lately:
Ella Fitzgerald, When I Get Low I Get High. I think partly because of its compelling Puttin’ On The Ritz style fast swing, Fitzgerald’s gorgeous voice, and partly the fact that it’s just so short, is why I would’ve listened to this song roughly a squillion times over the last week or two.
Matthew and Son by Cat Stevens, I’ve said it before but I love this song so much that it’s always worth repeating: oh my gosh I love this song so much. The video (if you click through) is also quite incredible. His shoulder-pumping dance, the strangely bland and unaffected expressions on the young people’s faces, the bit around 1.55 where he stares down into the camera while singing *fans self*
__________________________________________________________
Next time: Billy Crudup’s Grandma’s Chocolate Fudge Pie. It’s wild.

honey to the bee that’s you for me

Note: As mentioned in my last blog post, I’ve been nominated for a Wellingtonista award, and while it’s seriously exciting and happiness-inducing to be amongst some distinctly high-profile nominees, it’s also quite nice to be voted for, so I can hype myself up into thinking I might win. As well as myself, you can also vote for other Wellington-related things you like, or nothing at all – the only compulsory fields are your name and email address. What I’m trying to say is that if you do vote (here here here) it’d be really great and I’d appreciate it heaps and heaps.

I recently got sent some honey – two jars – from the astute folk at Airborne. I was caught off-guard when they contacted me, am not sure where I stand on “accepting then blogging about free stuff” because it hasn’t really happened till now. Some people are hardline about this, refusing to accept anything, and I suspect I’d want to avoid it too – this is my blog and I’ll talk about what I want when I want – but damnit, I liked the idea of free honey and was 99% sure it would taste good and not compromise some kind of policy I haven’t even got the kind of clout to be developing in the first place. To find out more about Airborne, by the way, their “Why Choose Us” page is a reassuring read – these people treat their bees and their honey well.
So, two jars arrived – a large jar of thick, creamy Kamahi and a smaller jar of liquid, clear Tawari. And, thought I, here’s the chance to try all those recipes with lots of honey in them! But for some reason I either couldn’t find anything, or the stuff I could find, I was all “eh” about, so I decided to just make up my own stuff instead. (That said, Mum, if get the time could you please email me the recipe for those honey buns we used to make? From that handwritten recipe book I think?) (Edit: Thanks heaps Mum!)
At the vege market down the road there’s this amazingly good tofu at $4 for a large block, scored into four ‘fillets’ as I call them. However no matter how much I try, I can never quite finish it before it starts to go all orange and creepy. There’s only so much dense, filling firm tofu I can get through in a couple of days. On top of that we somehow ended up with three heads of brocolli, because I forgot that we had it and then bought some more. I hate wasting food but I’m also very forgetful, so this just sometimes happens. This following recipe however takes some neglected brocolli, some teacher’s pet asparagus, and some tofu that was somewhat past its best (not at the ‘unsafe’ stage or anything, just not looking so happy to see me when I opened the fridge) and turns it into a feast.
Honey Miso Roast Vegetables

I used a square of firm tofu, a head of broccoli, and a handful of asparagus. Use what you have – the veges need to be able to withstand some roasting. Cauliflower and kumara would be pretty perfect here too.

Whisk together:
  • 2 teaspoons white miso paste

  • 1 tablespoon clear honey (I used Airbourne’s Tawari)

  • 1 teaspoon (or more) sambal oelek or other red chilli paste

  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

  • 1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard

Set your oven to 200 C. Chop your vegetables and tofu into fairly similar sized smallish pieces. lay the chopped vegetables on a baking-paper lined tray and spoon over the miso-honey mixture. You could also pour the mixture into a big bowl and toss the veges through it, but I couldn’t be bothered with the extra dishes. Roast for about 20 minutes or until everything looks burnished and cooked through. Eat over rice or noodles or just as is.
Don’t be alarmed by the dark, miso-toffee bits that appear (strangely delicious too, I couldn’t help peeling it off the baking paper and eating it) as whatever clings to the vegetables and tofu will taste incredible – sticky, savoury and full of complex, fragrant flavour. The tightly clenched branches of brocolli stretch out under the heat and become deliciously crisp, while their stems remain juicy and tender. The flavour of the asparagus intensifies under the caramelly, hot honey and the tofu becomes…totally passable.
Obviously with honey some kind of pudding or baking attempt is only right. It was relatively recently that I learned about frangipane, a buttery, almondy mix for filling pies and tarts and so on. I had an idea that honey could be a good exchange for the sugar. So I did it.
Honey, Almond and Dried Apricot Tart

1 square of bought puff pastry (I guess you should try and get good quality all-butter stuff. The ingredients on my Edmond’s ready-rolled sheets said “butter” but I have heard terrifying rumours of some awful sounding substance called “baker’s margarine”.)
1 egg
2 tablespoons creamy honey – I used Airborne’s Kamahi
Heaped 1/3 cup ground almonds
40g butter, melted
About 20 soft dried apricots

Set your oven to 220 C, and place the square of pastry onto a baking paper-lined tray. Lightly score a 1cm border around the edge with a sharp knife (don’t cut right through). Once in the oven, this will puff up and look really pretty.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and the honey. Stir in the ground almonds and melted butter. This will make enough for the tart plus a generous amount for you to taste (it’s delicious!) Spoon carefully over the centre of the pastry, spreading a thin layer across to meet the edge of the margin you’ve scored (as per the picture.) Carefully pull or slice the apricots in half or – if you’ve got lots of apricots, just leave them whole – and arrange on top of the pastry. Paint a little melted butter or egg yolk round the margin if you like. Bake for about 15-20 minutes – as long as you can leave it in without burning.
The first time I made it, I was doing the dishes and forgot to check on the oven. All the sugars in the honey and apricots couldn’t take being ignored, and the tart was a blackened mess (did this stop us eating it? Erm, no). It was late at night, the kitchen was covered in frangipane-smeared implements (myself included), and the ingredients aren’t the cheapest, so I may have yelled “I’m never doing the dishes again! It’s a sign! I hate everything!” Or something to that effect.
The second time I made this tart earlier in the evening and with new enthusiasm, I watched it like I was judging gymnastics at the Olympics – focussed, scrutineering, coldly assessing for any stepping outside the lines. I can’t have eaten nearly enough delicious frangipane mixture though because there was too much on the pastry – it billowed up and spilled over. I quickly turned the oven off to halt the frangipane pilgrimage to the edge of the oven tray, but this meant that the centre of the pastry sheet didn’t have time to get light and flaky. It wasn’t uncooked, just sadly damp, floppy and uncrisp.

While this was happening Tim was watching footage of the Pike River chief executive Peter Whittall, who can’t have slept in the past week, showing a map of where the 29 miners were thought to be, deep in the stomach of the earth. The projector cast shadows across Whittall’s face, and I looked at the tart and thought “oh well”. So we ate it, and it was fine – delicious in fact, with what I considered a bonus breadth of cakey frangipane to pull off the tray contemplatively. Yes, the underside needed longer in the heat, but the soft dried apricots were warmed to an heady, jammy perfumedness, while the fruity, creamy Kamahi honey somehow amplified the fresh, Christmassy flavour of the often dull ground almonds.

While it may need some tweaking here and there, you can feel free to go ahead and make this recipe. Although, while I ended up with deliciousness I’ve only made this recipe twice and it was somewhat fail-y both times…don’t blame me if you get frangipane all over your oven/walls/hair.
For any international readers, the Pike River mine explosion last Friday caused the disappearance, followed by confirmed death after a second explosion on Wednesday, of 29 miners on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island. I was a bit naive and was saying “I hope they’re staying calm” to which people would reply, “if they’re alive”. The sickening sadness that their families, friends, colleagues and community went through, and continue to go through, makes the heart ache. If you read the newspaper (and it’s usually the narrow columns to the left and right of the page that relay the saddest stories in the briefest of paragraphs) you’ll see that tragedy happens everywhere and every day. The scale and public nature of this disaster means it has particular resonance across the country though. With that in mind – with anything in mind really – a burnt or awkward tart is something I can shrug at.
On Thursday morning, the Kamahi honey was spread thickly across hot toast, cut from a loaf of Rewena, the honey slowly filling the pools of butter that gathered in the bread’s crevices. The simplest solution of all, and it was so good. And, at a stretch, a kind of an early prototype version of the above tart. Actually I bet honey and apricot jam on toast (just spontaneously riffing here) would be amazing.
________________________________________________
Title via: YES, quoting Billie Piper’s Honey To The Bee here. It’s strange how, while not one note of the rest of her music appeals to me, I have an intense and unapologetic love for this one song. The swooning rapturousness with which the bizarre lyrics are delivered, the slow-dripping melody, and the late-nineties technological charm of its video make for quite the experience.
________________________________________________
Music lately:
Mariah Carey, Emotions from her album of the same name. Listening to her non-stop brings me no closer to the secret of what makes her so flawless.
The Damned, Eloise. Excellence!
____________________________________________
Next time: most definitely the Chicken Salad Lorraine, plus we’re off to Tiger Translate tonight so there’ll probably be a breathless account of that too.

that one treasure, thick golden crust and a layer of cheese

As I said in the sign off for my last post, I’m probably going to have to lay off the Nigella Kitchen recipes before I end up recreating the entire book here, because I’m not sure it would go down well with her camp (that said, there are a squillion food blogs out there and I doubt her camp is watching me. If they are…hi Nigella, you’re amazing!).

Anyway, here we are again with Kitchen. While I’m more than happy improvising dinner from what’s around, it’s nice to look at a recipe and realise you actually have everything and you don’t have to make any special trips or put it off or never even consider making it ever (like that cake in How To Be A Domestic Goddess which has about a litre of real maple syrup in it). Nigella’s crustless pizza recipe is a nice example of this as I had everything, even the more expensive cheese and chorizo, within reach. Not that there’s a lot to it. A little flour. One egg. A cup of milk. Somehow it turns into a seriously good dinner. I wish I’d known about this back when I was a hungry student.
Nigella’s description of her Crustless Pizza was a little confusing – I pictured a pile of melted cheese and toppings especially when she says “think of it as a cheese toastie, without the bread”. So…just cheese then? I thought it turned out more like a giant pancake myself, but the main point is, it tastes absolutely amazing and comes together when you think you’ve got nothing in the cupboard.
Crustless Pizza

From Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen

Serves 2 – 4 but I wouldn’t want to share this with more than one other person.

1 egg
100g plain flour
250ml (1 cup) milk
100g grated cheese
Optional – 50g chorizo, sliced finely
1 round ovenproof pie dish, about 20cm diameter

Set your oven to 200 C. Whisk the egg, milk and flour with a little salt to make a smooth batter. Butter the pie dish, pour in the batter, using a spatula to make sure you get it all, and sprinkle over half the grated cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. While it’s baking, get your chorizo ready. Once this time’s up, sprinkle over the chorizo slices and remaining cheese and bake for another couple of minutes till it’s all melted. Cut into four slices.

I was nervous about it sticking to the tin but using a plastic pie-lifter fish slice thing it came away easily. I did butter it pretty generously though, and if you’re worried that you’ve got a sticker of a pan on your hands maybe you could go to the trouble of cutting out a little circle of baking paper. Or, you could just eat the whole thing straight from the pan, digging it out with a fork… it’s what I’d do.
It’s not crustless at all, more like sort-of-crusted, but that just sounds bad… The egg, flour and milk forms a deliciously thick, crisped pancake-like base for the cheese and chorizo. I just loved how simple and fast it was and couldn’t believe that so few ingredients turned into something so delicious and comforting to eat – but then I just love melted cheese. You could probably replace the milk with soymilk and leave out the cheese to make the base dairy-free, but how to replace the egg is a bit beyond my skills, however if you’re a vegan maybe you’ve already got an artillary of egg-replacements up your sleeve and don’t need me to clumsily google them for you. Of course the chorizo doesn’t need to be there – although it is delicious, all oily and spicy – it could be replaced or supplemented by any number of things, the obvious one being tomatoes…
_______________________________________________
Title via: Horse The Band’s Crippled By Pizza, just one of their heavy, driven odes to pizza. Even if you don’t like their hardcore sound, there’s something likeable about an EP devoted to pizza.
_______________________________________________
Music lately:
Mara TK’s the main vocalist for Electric Wire Hustle who we saw earlier on this year electrifying the packed crowd at San Francisco Bath House. Like many local artists, he doesn’t stick to just one project, and he’s now got some solo stuff happening – check out Run (Away From the Valley of Fear) on his bandcamp site and watch out for more mightiness from him in the form of Taniwhunk, his pending EP.
On Saturday night Tim and I headed to Watusi to check out Eddie Numbers who was down from Auckland. Our flatmates brother was on the decks and while it was well, an intimate set (I guess not many people knew it was happening) it was fun and I’m glad we went. I’d already heard some of his stuff here and there (specifically Cracks In The Evening) and it was cool to see someone talented doing what they love, he even dropped a Wellington-specific freestyle on the spot. I’ve sadly forgotten the name of the guy who was on stage with him but he had a sweet voice too….
_______________________________________________
Next time: I made an awesome crumble tonight, the lighting was low and the camera battery ready to fall asleep but I managed to get a few good snaps, I also made this awesome pasta recipe from the Floridita’s cookbook…

it’s sweetness that i’m thinking of

Girdlebuster pie. There’s not much I can say about it that its list of ingredients doesn’t explain better. There really isn’t one positive thing about these ingredients. It’s a menace to society. This pie is as punk as they come.

Tim: We should have this pie before and after dinner.

I made Girdlebuster pie from Nigella Christmas three weeks ago for Rod Stewart Appreciation Day. However, I also made a roasting dish full of macaroni cheese and plenty else besides, and hadn’t banked on how full everyone would be. The pie remained in the freezer. My best friend was visiting Wellington and came over for dinner last week. I planned on serving this pie triumphantly for pudding. However the dinner I made filled us up too much and we were too tired to eat anything else. The pie remained in the freezer. I began to wonder if the pie was cursed.

In hindsight this is kind of stupid, and maybe I just need to stop overfeeding everyone I meet.

Unable to deal with it sitting there sullenly by the tray of ice cubes, I brought it out after dinner last night. Holy cow. It won’t just bust your girdle, it’ll dissolve your teeth. Potentially it will remove years from your life. But people, it tastes incredible.

Girdlebuster Pie

From Nigella Christmas. Who else could this have come from?

  • 375g digestive/superwine/Girl Guide biscuits 
  • 75g soft butter
  • 100g dark or milk chocolate, chopped
  • 1 litre coffee flavoured ice cream
  • 300g golden syrup
  • 100 light muscovado sugar
  • 75g butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon (I used whisky)
  • 125ml cream

In a food processor, blast the biscuits, the butter and the chocolate pieces till it’s all crumbs. In all frightening honesty I added a little more butter as it seemed too dry. Press into a 23cm pie plate (I had a 25cm one which was sweet as) working carefully to form a ‘lip’ of biscuit higher than the rim of the dish if you can. Took me a while but wasn’t too tough. Freeze, till solid.

Let the ice cream soften, then spread it into the biscuit base carefully. Cover in clingfilm, return to the freezer. Meanwhile, put the sugar, syrup and butter into a saucepan and let it melt over a low to medium heat, then turn it up to boiling for five minutes. It will get darker and bubbly but try and let it stay there as long as you dare. Without it burning fully of course. Remove from the heat and add the bourbon. It will hiss and splutter a bit. Add the cream, stir in thoroughly, then allow the sauce to cool a bit. Pour it over the pie to cover the ice cream layer, and return to the freezer. Serve it straight from the freezer – no need to let it thaw.

I always offer a sneer when a recipe says to cut into small slices because it’s rich. With that in mind, kindly don’t sneer when I ask you to do the same here. This isn’t so much rich as deadly, deadly sweet. Its sweetness is like anaconda venom. Fun at first, but then five minutes later you can’t feel your legs. Maybe I’m mixing my metaphors here. Long story short, don’t wear a high-waisted pencil skirt while you’re eating this (fellas, I’m looking at you too).

Apologies for the terrible photography. For some reason my camera was on a particularly grainy setting…like there was a dusting of sugar across the lens…

Aside from the fact that one slice sent me into a frantic, blinky downward spiral as my blood cells united to try and fight off the caramel sauce, it is rather delicious. It’s not rocket science – chocolatey biscuit base, cold, creamy ice cream centre, and sauce, darkly toffee-d and deepened by the splash of alcohol – but experiencing them all together is something of a revelation, like every single public holiday and birthday and bar mitzvah condensed into one pie dish. It’s delicious, but it’s hardcore. Eat with trepidation.

Tonight I went to a preview of BOY, a film by the exceptionally talented Taika Waititi (of Two Cars, One Night and Eagle vs Shark). Boy is a rather stunning film, with lots of quickly cut light and dark moments, gorgeous visuals (including hand-scrawled animation) and perfect music choices, but what really moves it forward is the beautiful acting performances from everyone on screen. Go see it if you can – it’s pretty easy to love.
_____________________________________________________

Title brought to you by Neneh Cherry’s Buffalo Stance! Such an excellent song! That it deserves more exclamation marks! The video I link to is her looking amazing while performing at the Smash Hits awards in 1989. I wonder if they still have the Best House/Rap/Dance outfit award? This song is from her album Raw Like Sushi, which is just the sort of simile I’d employ if I was making that album too. Love your work, Neneh.
_____________________________________________________

Music while I type:

Lazy Line Painter Jane by Belle and Sebastian from their EP of the same name. I wouldn’t say I’m a Belle and Sebastian fan but I do love this song – from it’s purposefully strummed opening chords to the rather glorious coda five minutes later. Worth sitting round for.

Grandmaster Flash, The Message. The other day Tim was singing away, all “Don’t. Push. Me. Cause. I’m. Close. To. The. Edge” while we were doing groceries and kid you not, I told him to stop singing Limp Bizkit. Oops. Either it has been too long since I’ve heard this song or Tim is really bad at his vocal interpretations. Either way we both kind of suck. You have to admit, taken out of context, those lyrics do have a nu-metal tang to them. Unlike us, this song doesn’t suck. Hypnotic beat, relaxed delivery, and completely, completely classic.

Vampire Weekend, Cousins, from their latest album Contra. This is the first song Vampire Weekend has put out there which has really gripped me (not that they care, I’m sure.) It’s so high energy and catchy and over before you know it and all those other good things that a pop song should be.
____________________________________________________
Next time: I might make something a little more grown-up. I have two quinces in the fridge, I’m trying to work out how to best celebrate them being in season, I’m thinking sorbet…