New Mexico ain’t bad Lord, and the people there, they treat you kind

Vegan Carne Adovada

Despite having lived a substantial quantity of my life before social media ever wrapped its tentacles around me in a way that felt like love, no one could deny that I’ve thrown myself quite whole-heartedly into it since. Nevertheless I was like, how do I explain the premise of this week’s recipe? Inspired by a tweet I saw? That wasn’t even directed at me? But I guess it’s pretty simple, really, because social media is EVERYWHERE. When I went home for Christmas Mum and Dad were talking about a local Facebook group that is like Craigslist, community noticeboard, judge-jury-and-executioner and then some all in one that started off as a simple meme page. And I was like yeah, there’s one of those where I live but it’s the reverse, initially for students to offload their Psych 101 textbooks and now it’s kind of a Wellington meme page YET also the only conduit I could or indeed would fathom of for like, getting rid of a mattress. And I’m pretty sure every town has one now!

p1180493

I count myself lucky to follow so many people on Twitter who seem genuinely incredible, most of them women, and who will so casually drop the kind of powerful or powerfully hilarious tweets that entire teams of television writers would weep hot tears of jealousy over. And while Minka, the person who wrote the tweet that inspired this week’s recipe, is 100% in this category, the tweet itself was highly innocuous. It was December 4th, it was Minka tweeting to someone else the simple words “IMAGINE VEGAN CARNE ADOVADA” – that’s all! I’ll be honest, I was not feeling particularly wonderful that day and definitely not feeling imaginative. But the tweet stuck in my head, to the point where I would literally hear it as if it were a song’s lyric, and at last I decided to actually, well, imagine it. Am I saying Minka’s tweet cured my depression? I’m not not saying it?

Vegan Carne Adovada

Vegan Carne Adovada

a recipe by myself but inspired directly by this recipe of J.Kenji López-Alt and this recipe from I Am New Mexico.

  • 4 dried ancho or poblano chiles (I used 5 large dried Anaheim chiles as this was alas all I could find), seeds and stems removed
  • 4 whole chipotle chiles, canned in adobo (I used the La Morena brand)
  • Zest and juice of a large orange
  • 5 prunes
  • 3 cups vegetable stock (by which I mean, use your preferred stock powder to make this) plus 1 cup extra
  • 1 heaped tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or similar
  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 can of jackfruit in brine
  • 1/2 cup of flour or cornflour (use the latter to make this gluten-free)
  • plenty of olive oil, for frying
  • 1 large onion, peeled and roughly diced
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or date syrup
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Plenty of salt and pepper to taste
  • Warmed tortillas, coriander, rice, to serve

Step 1: The Sauce

Heat up the dried chiles in a large frying pan, till they are aromatic but not smoking. Add the prunes, the zest and juice of the orange, the canned chipotles (don’t rinse them), the vinegar, the nutritional yeast and three cups of the vegetable stock, and bring to the boil. Let it bubble away for ten minutes, and then remove from the heat. Carefully blitz the lot in a blender to form a thick red sauce, and then transfer this to a large mixing bowl. You might find it easier to scoop out all the solids and blend them with a small quantity of the liquid before adding the rest, either way just be careful about blending hot stuff. Stir in the cumin, oregano, maple syrup, bay leaves, and a good pinch of salt and pepper, and set aside.

Step 2: The Stuff in the Sauce

Wash and dry the saucepan and heat up about three tablespoons of olive oil in it. Trim off the stem and then cut the eggplant into rough cubes and chunks, and fry them in the hot oil till dark golden brown on all sides. Tip them into the bowl of red chile sauce and return the pan to the heat.

Now, gently fry the onion and garlic in the same pan, perhaps adding some more oil if it needs it, stirring occasionally and allowing it to soften and turn golden.

While this is happening, thoroughly drain the can of jackfruit and using your hands, pull the pieces of jackfruit into smaller segments. Don’t throw away any seeds or whatever, it’s all good stuff.

Transfer the onion and garlic into the bowl of red chile sauce with the eggplant and get on to frying the jackfruit. You want to heat up another few tablespoons of olive oil in the same pan, and dip each piece of jackfruit into the flour before throwing it into the pan. Your aim here is to leave the jackfruit for long enough that it caramelises and turns golden on all sides – this will take some patience and the flour will go a bit scungy in the oil but it’s worth it for the end result. When the jackfruit pieces are golden brown and the fibrous edges look good and crisp, throw the whole lot, including whatever flour-oil gunk is in the pan – into the bowl of red chile sauce.

Step 3: Marinating, cooking, actually eating

Cover the bowl of red chile sauce and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight. When you’re ready to cook it, set your oven to 150C/300F and transfer the carne adovada into a baking dish. Give it a taste to see if it wants any more salt or anything. Use the extra cup of vegetable stock (or honestly just tap water is fine by this point) to sluice around the bowl that you’ve been marinating everything in, to catch any remaining sauce, and tip this over the contents of the roasting dish.

Bake for around an hour, or until everything looks rich and saucy and a little caramelised from the oven’s heat. Serve however you like – heated up tortillas, coriander, and rice is a good start.

p1180489

Without exaggeration, I honestly think this is one of the greatest recipes I’ve ever tasted and were it not for Minka’s tweet I’d have missed this opportunity completely. I’ve never been to New Mexico (where the dish originates) and am by no means familiar with New Mexico cuisine; I had in fact only hirtherto heard of Carne Adovada via Minka’s other tweets about it. With this in mind, I strenuously emphasise, that while I created the recipe that you see above, it is completely and directly based on the recipes that I linked to – one quite complex, one very simple – and I’m just a culinary tourist from a far-away land, rather than any kind of expert in this particular field. Nevertheless, allow me to respectfully explain myself.

In order to emulate the pork that is normally used in Carne Adovada (and I know carne means meat but I’m not about to do something gross like calling the recipe “car-nay”) I went for a double-pronged approach: darkly fried cubes of eggplant, oily and melting and rich; and then jackfruit, coated in flour and fried till golden and crisp: this provides that mild sweetness and, for want of better words, meaty fibrousness. Jackfruit is (a) a revelation and (b) really inexpensive and pretty easy to find these days, however on its own it felt a little un-luscious, hence the pairing. Both of these were marinated overnight in a ketchup-thick sauce made hot with papery, blood-dark dried chiles and smoky little canned chipotles and aromatic with cumin and oregano. I used prunes to sweeten the sauce because it’s what I had and I also felt they had a kind of meatiness to them, but you do what suits – one of the recipes I referenced used raisins, while the other recipe didn’t include any sweetening agent at all.

p1180486

The final slow bake in the oven makes the sauce so, well, saucy, and it’s all smoky and hot in this complex-yet-straightforward way and the eggplant and jackfruit melt and pull apart in your mouth and it’s all full-bodied and lush and while there’s a few steps involved it’s unbelievably rewarding and almost meditative to prepare each part of it. Now, when I try to make an existing recipe vegan my aim is more to evoke the abundance that meat or animal products provides rather than “this tastes like meat”, but…it doesn’t not taste meaty, you know? By which I mean I think this would and should be happily received by absolutely anyone. Thank you, Minka!

p1180492

Speaking of social media and providing spectacular content for free; this seems as good a time as any to tell you that I’ve started a Patreon page for my writing. Patreon allows you to be a modern day Patron of the Arts, magnanimously bestowing your literal money upon those of us who create in return for (a) a certain glow that I can merely assume only comes from having money and (b) the promise of exclusive content for your trouble. There is no sense of obligation or expectation placed upon any of you individually, it’s just sheer opportunism – like, if I can get money off someone then I might as well get money off someone, you know? And it’s a whole lot easier to be inspired, by tweets or otherwise, when you can comfortably pay rent. So, I entreat you to consider joining this exclusive band of money-havers, but if you don’t I’m not going to like, stop blogging, I would however like to stop talking about money just one time.

title from: White Freight Liner Blues, by Townes Van Zandt, whose despondence is to my ears like electrolytes are to, well, wherever they go – the blood?

music lately:

Last Week in HTx by Megan Thee Stallion, look her up!! She has so many good tracks but I love the way the “bitch I’m from Texas” line in the hook anchors everything in this song.

Thursday Girl, by Mitski, this song literally ruins me and YET I’ve also made a playlist on Spotify that only has this song on it and no one has stopped me, so. I’m obsessed with the nineties singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant buzz on the fourth refrain of “tell me no” in the chorus.

Venus in Furs, Velvet Underground. So throbbing and hypnotic! I’ll never forget the look on my boss’s face when I was playing it really loudly at the tiny German bakery that I worked at in 2006 and they walked in and without saying a word turned it off and then left and got in their car and drove away.

Dues, by Ronee Blakley, from the amazing Robert Altman film Nashville. Blakley performed this in the film as her character Barbara Jean but she actually wrote it herself in real life, and while several of the songs from the film are meant to be satirical of the country genre, this is just a beautiful and achy waltz and very, very real.

Next time: possibly a cocktail but also it’s been too long since I’ve made ice cream, right?

the corn was golden, we lay in it for days

P1180332

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

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

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

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

P1180338

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

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

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

Corn and Chilli Relish

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

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

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

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

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

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

P1180341_2

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

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

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

A pig shall rise

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

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

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

music lately:

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

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

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

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

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

If you wish to receive this blog post newsletter style on Sunday-ish evening-ish every week do consider signing up here. 

i fell asleep in tuscany and dreamed, the one thing missing was you

If I sound hysterical and shrill, like a man, at any point in this blog post it’s because my old flatmate and always-friend Charlotte and I took our gay selves off to see the heavily acclaimed film Carol, starring Cate Blanchett’s Aggressive Feline Charisma and Rooney Mara’s Quiet Strength and Vulnerability. Basically it’s an Important Lesbian Film and each frame of it is so beautiful that you could print the lot out and pin them sequentially to your bedroom walls and spin around forever and ever watching the story unfold as you get dizzier and dizzier from happiness and, well, spinning around. Honestly, go see it. Even if you’re like, “sounds a bit gay to me, and I’d prefer that kind of thing kept behind closed doors thank you kindly,” (in which case I really don’t know why you’re reading this blog anyway) just know that the performances are so entrancing and the costumes and sets and cinematography are so artful and the music is exquisite and it’s nominated for a zillion Oscars, which means even a bunch of conservative dull old men thought it was worth watching.

Anyway: any money I used to get through tips at work (which is never much, as New Zealanders tend to be incredibly reluctant to tip hospo workers, but that’s a story for another day – actually, that’s the whole story) used to go towards bus money to get me in and out of Newtown. Now that I’m no longer beholden to those busses, all expensive and stuffily overheated and so slow they were definitely going backwards at several stages during the journey, I can spend my tip money on other things. Like vegetables at the market! I have not been to the vegetable market since, I can confidently estimate, around May 2014. Luckily that’s not the last time I actually ate a vegetable, but it’s certainly the last time I felt any sense of ecstasy from buying one. Two taut-skinned, richly purple eggplants for four stupid tiny dollars! A huge bunch of cavolo nero for one and a half dollars! A perfect avocado for eighty cents! (Ah yes, there’s the hysteria.)

With great quantities of vegetables comes great quantities of searching through pinterest and marvelling at the superior lives being led by everyone in America with a blog. I found this incredible-looking recipe for cavolo nero cooked in a carbonara type sauce; and so that became my lunch yesterday within a matter of minutes.

I’m still 100% enamoured with my new house by the way, not least because of its proximity to the vege market making it easier for me to achieve non-scurvy.

putting up some artwork always makes a place feel like it’s mine, all mine. 

My bedroom is feeling more and more like a haven every day, and I’m thoroughly enjoying getting to know the kitchen better, not least because my roommate has a ton of sexy-and-functional cookware that I can play with. And it was one such item – a rather gorgeous shiny saucepan – which I used to swiftly make this recipe. I love cavolo nero, or Tuscan Kale as it’s also known – its leaves are so mutedly dark green and thick, holding their shape under heat while full of almost meaty, rich flavour. Obviously you could fry socks with bacon and cream and they’d be fairly palatable, but throw these heavy leaves into such a mixture and the result is incredible. The recipe I found online wasn’t quite carbonara-y enough for me, so I shaved in slivers of fresh nutmeg, warm and delicate, and added plenty of sharp, crumbly parmesan. I really didn’t measure any of the quantities, which is why the recipe is a tiny bit vague, but if you follow your instincts (essentially: as much cavolo nero as you can be bothered slicing and washing, as much bacon as you can be bothered slicing, and so on, will be as much as you need.)

tuscan kale carbonara

adapted a bit from this recipe at the stone soup. 

several large cavolo nero leaves – around half a bunch
two rashers streaky bacon
butter or olive oil for frying
four tablespoons of cream
fresh nutmeg
parmesan cheese
freshly ground salt and pepper

slice and discard the stems from the cavolo nero leaves (or brew into a nutritious tea or something if that makes you feel guilty), and either keep the leaves as they are or slice them into ribbons. Slice the bacon into small pieces and fry in butter or olive oil till sizzling and crisp. Remove from the pan – I just put them onto the serving plate I was planning to use – and throw the leaves into the pan. Sprinkle a little water over if you like, and just stir and lift them over a high heat till they soften and darken a little. Return the bacon to the pan, and pour over the cream, allowing it to bubble and thicken, which it should do rather quickly. Remove it from the heat, and use a vegetable peeler or small grater to scrape a little fresh nutmeg into the pan, followed by as much parmesan as you feel like. Finish with as much salt and pepper as would make you happy. 

Honestly, this is such a perfect lunch for one – I rakishly deglazed the pan with more cream just to make sure I was able to scrape up all the bacon juices, and recommend you do the same. If you want there to be more to it there’s nothing stopping you serving it with thick slices of bread or stirred through a tangle of pasta, but untampered with, this is total excellence. The only thing I’d do if I owned some was to pour in a little dry white vermouth with the bacon (which is Nigella’s influence: she says “I use this ingredient” and I say “how high”.)

As well as tasting wondrous it’s also very beautiful in its own way – those dark, wrinkly leaves flopping about artlessly with the pink of the bacon and the gold of the cream. This is absolutely going to winkle its way into my regular rotation of recipes – especially because you could always use regular kale, or indeed, silverbeet or spinach – just with the latter two, make sure you add the leaves right at the end because spinach, especially, will wilt into nothingness soon as look at you.

If you’ve got to this point in my blog post and are still totally endeared by me (in which case: well done on your accurate opinion) then I would like to direct you to my new recipe index that I’ve been working on. I’m super proud of it on account of it took a lot of html code copy-pasting and a TON of URL copy-pasting to make it happen, and it’s still a mere work in progress, but it’s already so gratifyingly pretty and useful! (Oh yeah, and as soon as I posted this I brazenly went to update the recipe index and made all the html disappear somehow and now it looks rubbish, so uh, bear with me please.)

PS: even if you never eat another vegetable in your life, just make sure you go watch Carol. And then come shriek with me.
_____________________________________________________________
title from: the important Janet Jackson and her beautiful song Runaway
_____________________________________________________________
music lately:

I cannot stop listening to Rihanna’s new album Anti, especially the dreamydreamydreamy Work featuring Drake and the oh-no-now-I’m-sobbing-forever waltz that is Love on the Brain. (The waltz: a totally underrated time signature.)

I also cannot stop listening to Modern Lovers, something about Jonathan Richman’s voice makes me feel in full teenage dirtbag mode. Obviously I have two ears and a heart and so am obsessed with the song Roadrunner, but maaaaan, Hospital and the early-Who-y I Wanna Sleep In Your Arms are so worth a re-tread.
_____________________________________________________________

next time: I was given a copy of Nigella’s new cookbook and it’s very beautiful and exciting and I cannot wait to cook my way through it…

we’re so much more than pointless fixtures, instagram pictures

*lou reed voice* shiny shiny 

I’ve always been one to self-absorbedly imagine that I’m in a scene in a movie while doing otherwise mundane things like staring inscrutably out the window while on a train or sitting inscrutably on a park bench or getting a coffee by myself, inscrutably – I know I’m not the only one that does this! It’s like, this is the quiet bit in the indie movie where the camera stays fixed on me for an almost uncomfortably long time while I do something very normal but in an utterly enigmatic way. Right?

Anyway after spending the longest time of only listening to podcasts when getting to and from places, I’ve started listening to music through my headphones on my phone again (having got the Spotify app and an ad-free premium account) and wow, nothing enhances the “I’m a mysterious and important character in an indie film that you’ll guiltily download because you can’t stomach spending $25 on a ticket during festival season or waiting forever for it to have a limited-at-best release” feeling like walking down the road utterly immersed in your own personal soundtrack. Sauntering in the dark to Lazy Line Painter Jane by Belle and Sebastian – the lyrics are stupid but the beat and the melody are heavenly and the coda makes the mere act of walking seem like art; striding through the rain to Shazam by Spiderbait feeling like a complete brat as you jaywalk (in my defence the roads in Wellington are ridiculous and there’s nothing to do but jaywalk); drifting dreamily, almost floating, through the industrial end of town to Julee Cruise’s Rockin Back Inside My Heart. I know this is the most pretentious thing I’ve written in a long time and I sound like a teenager who has just discovered Morrissey (you should’ve seen me when I was a teenager who had just discovered Morrissey) but like, it’s just so, so, so long since I’ve done this and it’s such a small thing but it’s so amazing. That’s it, that’s the story: listening to music through headphones is nice, did you know?

*freddy mercury voice* hash! Aaa-aah, saviour of the universe!

Speaking of all the small things; I still haven’t replaced my lost SD card for my fancy digital camera, partly out of not wanting to spend excess money and partly out of a self-flagellating sense of punishment. As such my phone has graduated from being merely my best friend and confidante to my main camera. Which also makes it slightly harder to get a decent bundle of blog-worthy photos happening for any one dish I’ve made at any one time. In lieu of that, I’ve decided to do a wee round-up of some food I’ve made and quickly instagrammed lately – united they are greater than the sum of their parts, or something. All three of these things – peanut butter cookies; sausage and potato hash; and tomato and feta tart – are stupidly delicious and the recipes can be imparted to you super quickly, so…yeah. No harm done.

peanut butter cookies

one cup smooth peanut butter
one cup sugar
one egg
one teaspoon baking powder
dark chocolate

set your oven to 180 c/350 F. Mix all the ingredients together, roll the mixture into rather small balls (the smaller they are, the less likely they are to crumble) and place on a paper-lined baking tray. Press down slightly with the back of a spoon to flatten them juuuust a little. Bake for about ten minutes, then let them sit for ten minutes (important so they don’t crumble…again) before carefully transferring to a wire rack to cool. Melt the chocolate and spoon it over the top of the cooled cookies as you please. Makes many. 

If you’re a gluten-free person you will likely have encountered some version of this recipe already a million times but man it’s good – soft, chewy, salty-sweet cookies, the throat-coating peanut butter cut through with the crunch of bitter dark chocolate. I’d usually prefer milk chocolate here but using dark makes them dairy-free too – I made these to take into work one evening in a kind of a sustain-the-troops kind of move, and also because I thrive on presenting people with food that I’ve made whether they want it or not.

sausage and potato hash

four fresh pork sausages
two large floury potatoes
one onion, diced 
dried thyme
oil and butter
two eggs
HP sauce and/or ketchup/hot sauce/whatever other condiment your sodium-caked heart desires

It’s fairly uncool but if you microwave the sausages in a bowl of water for three minutes and then microwave the potatoes for three minutes (give both of them a stabbing with a fork first) then your life will be an awful lot easier. Otherwise consider simmering them in a pan of water for a bit first or just plough ahead and hope for the best. 

Heat plenty of olive oil or similar in a large pan. Gently fry the onion until softened and golden. Roughly chop the sausages and tip them into the pan, allow them to sizzle and brown. Then dice the potato fairly small, and add to the pan – try and get as much surface area touching the base of the pan as possible to encourage browning and crisping. Put a lid on the pan for about five minutes to allow the steam to cook the potato through, then remove the lid, turn up the heat, add a knob of butter and the thyme and allow everything to sizzle like whoa. Push everything to the side and crack the two eggs into the pan and allow them to fry till you’re quite satisfied. Remove from the heat; divide the sausage and potato mixture between two plates, top with the eggs, and apply as much sauce as you please. 

I made this for my wonderful girlfriend and myself on Sunday when we were both varying degrees of hungover and indecisive (okay, well she fried the eggs – I’m just not that great at eggs and she is) and it was the absolute perfect thing. Cheap, fast, fried, carb-loaded, slightly greasy, sustaining, nourishing, hot, covered in salt and sauce, and the ideal accompaniment to watching 21 Jump Street. From which we can learn two things: one, Dave Franco has ascended to being The Superior Franco, and two, Channing Tatum’s acting career is the greatest thing to happen to America this century.

tomato and feta tart 

one sheet ready-rolled puff pastry
half a tin of chopped tomatoes
one tablespoon cornmeal
about fifty or so grams of feta cheese
thyme leaves
a little oil, milk, melted butter or something for brushing the pastry with

Set your oven to 200 C/400 F and place some baking paper on a baking tray. Put the sheet of pastry on top and score a one-inch border around the edge – this is where you use the point of a knife to almost-but-not-quite cut through it, like you’re drawing a slightly smaller square inside of it. This is gonna make the edges puff up and make a fetching border once you bake it. Sprinkle the cornmeal over the middle of the pastry, drain the tomatoes well and spread them evenly across, then sprinkle/crumble the feta on top of the tomatoes. Brush the edges with melted butter or whatever if you like, and then bake for about 15-20 minutes until it’s golden, puffy and risen around the edges. Sprinkle with salt and strew with thyme leaves. Slice into bits and snarf the lot. 

Look, if you have some ready-rolled pastry in your fridge or freezer then you have the makings of a good time no matter how meagre the rest of your pantry supplies may be. You could literally just bake a piece of pastry and it would still be a charming snack. I mean, I wouldn’t be above such things. Tomatoes and feta are obvious pals so don’t even make me try to explain it to you, but there’s something fun about the tangy feta once it’s warmed through and how it contrasts with the relative sweetness of the tomatoes and the buttery, puffy pastry. This is another one that I threw together for my excellent gf and myself one Sunday and it’s the perfect lunch for two – cut it into four squares, have two each, put a little rocket or spinach on the side if you’re feeling outlandish, and deliciousness shall abound.

*no particular voice* this is a tomato and feta tart
As I alluded to before I’m trying so hard to spend as little money as possible right now, on account of how living paycheck to paycheck is no fun, but I also decided to ignore that rule and hoist myself off to a cafe to write this blog post over a coffee. Also it’s payday today! I doubt I’m gonna be able to afford to replace my SD card any time soon, so you’ll just have to get used to these phone-photos, but honestly instagram is so great that I’m not even too bothered (that said if you’re feeling like you’re too rich right now may I remind you that I have a paypal, pal) – somewhat unsurprisingly I love making my life look more dreamy and hazily lit than it really is. Just as I’m massively digging soundtracking my life like I’m the first person who discovered how to do this. Some might say it’s whimsical, some might say it’s insufferable and not even particularly interesting, but as long as they’re saying something I really don’t mind.
_______________________________________________________________
title from: Queen Beyonce, with her drown-in-the-sexy song Rocket from her incredibly important self-titled album. Don’t listen to it unless you’re ready to fall over sideways. 
_______________________________________________________________
music lately: 
Misterwives, Twisted Tongue. Uhhhh this is such a good pop song, I can’t even deal and I frankly refuse to deal. 
Beach House, A Walk In The Park. Another good one to make your way from A to B to. The perfect child of Billy Idol’s Eyes Without A Face and The Pixies’ Where Is My Mind (a perfect child that I never knew I needed, to be fair.) They’ve just been announced as coming to Laneway festival next year and I MUST GO. 
_______________________________________________________________
next time: I mean technically it’s Spring, despite the weather being more appalling than it has been all winter, and I am determined to hunt down some asparagus. 

when we walked through little italy i saw my reflection come right off your face

Ya girl is back. Or at least, ya girl is trying her best to be back. I’m still nowhere near being unpacked (my room somehow gets more embarrassingly messy the harder I try to clean? I dropped out of science early in high school but I’m pretty sure there’s nothing in all academic teachings that could explain this phenomenon) but I’m cooking more and attempting to get back on the freelancing stallion and am generally determined to recapture my ambition. For something. I mean, I never lost my ambition of being outstanding in the field of excellence, I just lost my drive due to Extenuating Circumstances and if I’m being scrutinisingly harsh, which I don’t enjoy, I probably got a bit exhaustedly complacent in that position of, well, not even trying to try. I’m not sure I’m quite approaching my old burn-all-candles-at-all-ends level, but I am rewatching a lot of Parks and Recreation to re-absorb all of Leslie Knope’s power (“there’s nothing we can’t do if we work hard, never sleep, and shirk all other responsibilities”) and I am trying to write more and I am going to start doing my chocolate cookie dough pretzel thing deliveries again!

Because ya girl is also somewhat broke. Moving house and being too busy/tired to maintain several sources of incoming cash is an expensive pastime. But also I miss scooting around town and dropping off parcels of deliciousness, like some kind of no-strings-attached moderately profitable fairy godmother. So if you’re in the Wellington CBD region and want some of the good stuff for yourself or for your secret admiree, all the information you need is here.

As I said in my last post, I have started watching The Sopranos, and despite my immediate misgivings at the violence and boring wife-is-a-thankless-harpy outlawish-schlub-husband-is-horrible-and-also-the-beloved-hero tropes, it’s so compelling. And it makes me crave Italian food something fierce. Initially I wanted to make meatballs but mine tend to fall apart and I didn’t have it in me on this particular day to bounce back from that kind of failure, so instead I went for something very easy – pasta all’amatriciana. I was hoping that it would translate to something to do with matriarchy, but it gets its name from being a dish from the region of Amatrice. Which is nice in its own way – this is just pasta with bacon and tomatoes, but calling it by its proper name gives it a more official, elegant vibe, like, oh I’m just casually making myself this traditional recipe from a beautiful town in the Lazio region of Italy, how bout you?

It really is very simple though, and therein lies its charm – gloriously saucy enough to feel like you’re doing yourself a favour, fast enough to not be stressful, familiar enough to serve up to fusspots. I feel like I’ve had several bad versions of this in my time at cafes that weren’t trying very hard, but home made it’s highly glorious. Thick tomato sauce, salty-sweet bacon, barely-melting parmesan – all twirled around ribbons of thick, comforting pasta. (Well, I for one find pasta comforting, it’s probably my favourite food.)

I slightly adapted a recipe from the Scotto Family, whose book Italian Comfort Food I own and adore. Half a cup of olive oil may sound terrifying in these austere times, but it becomes part of the sauce, making it rich and deeply flavoured and delicious and more than otherwise just a can of tomatoes. However, I understand you using less. Olive oil is expensive. Their recipe called for bucatini pasta but I am a heathen and adore pappardelle, and it was on special at the supermarket – however if you can’t find it, my sneaky and ingenious trick is to get sheets of fresh lasagne and slice them into wide lengths. Or use whatever pasta you fancy.

pasta all’amatriciana  

adapted slightly from a recipe by the Scotto family, serves two (or one with leftovers for lunch the next day, aw yeah) 

half a cup olive oil (or less, whatever)
100g pancetta or streaky bacon, diced (I used bacon but pancetta is superior if you can get it)
one onion, diced
one can chopped tomatoes
150g pappardelle pasta (or other pasta)
parmesan cheese, grated

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, or until preeetty tender. 

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan, and fry the bacon in it till crisp and sizzling. Remove the bacon and set aside – I just put it on the plate I served the pasta on – and tip the onions into the still-hot pan, stirring them and allowing to cook until softened, but not browned. Basically until that harsh onion taste has been cooked out. At this stage, tip in the tomatoes and stir over a high heat till the sauce is thickened somewhat – maybe ten minutes – then tip in the bacon and stir again for another five minutes or so. Drain the pasta and stir it into the sauce, still over a high heat, and then remove from the heat, add as much parmesan as your heart desires, and serve. 

I haven’t bought parmesan in forever, because every time I pass it in the supermarket I passively-aggressively sigh at myself like some kind of lazily-written thankless shrew wife in nearly any TV show and say “oh…no, no I shouldn’t, that’s expensive” even though the price is never going to change and I could pay a lot more for something else and have a lot less fun. I really should’ve bought some sooner, a fresh grating of it makes so many pastas and risottos more wonderful, and a little bit goes a long way. As I said a lot when I learned the phrase false economy: that’s not false economy!

and it feels like home

There are a lot of things I don’t do that cause varying degrees of incredulity in people – can’t drive, can’t ride a bike, have never changed a lightbulb in my life – but what seems to cause the most gasps is the fact that Harry Potter completely passed me by. I never read any of the books and at most I have half-watched the first movie. But I know several people who are majorly passionate about this series, and I have been wanting to read something that is charming but which I can gallop through for some time now, and so I just…started reading Harry Potter. Three days later I am up to book three, and can say with some authority that I now understand the resilient hype. It’s so good! Hermione is so relatable, that overachieving, keen-to-inform-you-of-her-overachieving hero! Minerva is so icily awesome! Dobby sucks! A lot more of things referenced frequently on the internet make sense to me now! Hurrah for reading. Between Hermione and Leslie Knope, I’m at least surrounded by good influences. Now to allow myself to be aggressively influenced…
___________________________________________________________
title from: PJ Harvey, My Good Fortune. I’ve loved this song since I first heard it in 2000, with its jangling chevron-like melody and satisfyingly ridiculous drawing out of words at the end of each refrain. And PJ Harvey is obviously a goddess. 
___________________________________________________________
music lately
Beyonce’s performance of a medley of her entire self-titled album at the VMA awards. This is so important. I cried, I got the chills, I cried again. I’m getting chills just typing about it, thinking about her face when she sings Jealous or the sight of her standing in front of the word FEMINIST in enormous lit up letters or when Blue says “good job mommy”, I mean, just watch it. 
Liane La Havas, Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye. This wistful, dreamy Leonard Cohen song is made even more dreamy by her voice. 
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Maps. Wait. 
___________________________________________________________
next time: reading Harry Potter just makes me want to eat enormous feasts with hearty puddings and lashings of whipped cream, even though that’s actually more of an Enid Blyton thing, there is a natural echo of her words in JK Rowlings’ descriptions of food. Will see if I can make floating candles and a ceiling that looks like the night sky happen too. 

the day the sun turns black and there’s a money tree

Here’s the thing. (I enjoy saying “here’s the thing” before whatever follows, because it makes me feel cavalierly authoritative.) Tim txts me yesterday afternoon to say that he won a $50 bar tab at a nice place in town. This being New Zealand, that buys us two and a half drinks and one snack, but still – drinks are drinks. I suddenly realise two things: time is passing by quickly, and my motivation for making dinner is waning slightly. Also, I’m wearing high heels that are tormenting my feet with the kind of blisters I haven’t seen since my days en pointe, also I’m trying to ignore the fact that Tim and I still urgently need to wash a lot of teatowels and dishes after our engagement party on Saturday. Also I really just want to get home, eat some good food, and settle in to watching Luther and Orange is the New Black. 
Rather than us spending money on take-out, I thought we could instead go to the supermarket on the way home and pick up some ingredients for fancy pasta, something that was almost more assembly than cooking. It’s Thursday, there has been a smallish protuberance in our bank balance, and we’ve just had some very free liquor. We can afford some packets of stuff. And really, that’s all this is: buying packets of cool things and arranging them on a plate. I call it payday pasta since the ingredients are kind of treats – pistachios, ricotta, and pancetta, oh that Terpsichore of the smallgoods. It has a bonus subtext of being the sort of manageable thing you can make for yourself near-instantly should you have gone out for a drink of an evening. I couldn’t actually find pappardelle, which is my favourite of the pastas, but after some feverish deliberation, I improvised by buying fresh lasagne sheets and slicing them up. 
“Pinenuts! They’re the definitive payday nut!” and “why can’t I bring myself to buy this pancetta even though I set out to buy pancetta…okay we will eat it really reverently” and “why is this dog roll called Wound Dog? No wait, it’s Hound Dog. No wait, why does it have a picture of a cat on it?” and “okay, what’s the secondfanciest nut?” I exclaimed, as we barreled from aisle to aisle, pallid under the fluorescent lights. And once home, I managed to get out of my high heels and dress and into trackpants and a soft old jersey and make this pasta and get it on the table within twenty minutes. 

It goes without saying, except that I’m saying it now, that you don’t have to actually buy pancetta and ricotta and pistachios. You could really sub in ‘most any gaspingly expensive protein and as long as you kept the butter-wine-mustard reduction (or gosh, just drizzle over some olive oil) it’ll be something. Pasta is very forgiving like that.

payday pasta

(apart from the pasta, I measured everything by handfuls or how much felt right, but in the hopes of being more helpful than that, the below measurements are roughly what happened. Don’t feel you have to stick to them to the very last milliliter, though.)

25g butter
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 cup dry white wine
200g pappardelle or fresh lasagne sheets
5 very thin slices pancetta
5 tablespoons ricotta
3 tablespoons raw pistachios
1 tablespoon capers
thyme leaves

In the same pot that you’ll later cook the pasta in, bring the butter, mustard and wine to a rapid boil, stirring occasionally, till golden, bubbly, and reduced by half. Meanwhile, bring a kettle full of water to the boil, and, if you got lasagne sheets, carefully cut them into slices about 2 1/2 cm wide. Lasagne sheets tend to come folded up, so it’s only a few incisions that you’ll have to make.

Tip the butter-wine mix into a small bowl, then fill up the pot with the freshly boiled water, add plenty of salt, and bring to the boil on the stove top. Add the pasta once it’s bubbling, and cook according to packet instructions. Fresh pasta only takes a couple of minutes.

Drain the pasta, and divide between two plates. Quickly tear up the pancetta and arrange evenly between the two plates, spoon over the ricotta, the pistachios, the capers, and the thyme leaves. Pour the butter-wine sauce over the two plates of pasta, and serve immediately.

For all that this is mostly assembly, the moving parts of which were very hastily acquired, it’s still a coherent and, in case you think I’m damning it with faint praise, a gratifyingly delicious dinner. Pappardelle is enormously fun to eat. So wide and cumbersomely floppy, all the cool, milkily plain ricotta cheese pressing into it as you twirl it round your fork, with elegantly salty, tissue-soft pancetta. I will here point out that you mercifully taste every penny of the pancetta. It’s not just overpriced ham. Pistachios add soft crunch, plus pink goes good with green, and the intensely flavoured butter-wine sauce somehow bundles it all together without overshadowing any of the other ingredients on the plate. It’s damn good, and worth waiting till payday for.

Sometimes it’s fun to spend a little money on something you’re just going to make disappear into your mouth as soon as possible. Sometimes that’s not an option. In case this all seems too chest-thumpingly pro-capitalism (to which I say please don’t ask me about capitalism, it’s good, it’s bad, etc, and also ouch, chest-thumping) a couple of payday-eve, or indeed anyday pastas you could consider include spaghetti with chili, lemon and olive oil, macaroni peas, and these two guys

What a week, huh. Tim and I finally had our engagement party. Families converging, some of whom hadn’t really converged themselves in a while, friends, us, all in one room – I was nervous. In fact for the first half of the evening I distinctly felt like my head was floating about two feet above my body. But it all went really well. And as Tim and I kept reminding ourselves, we’re not the only nervous ones, this is our house, and this is a happy occasion. In fact, here’s what happened – everyone appeared, there was nonstop talking and laughing and bonding, everyone got a massive laugh at Tim’s and my photoboard of us from 2005 till now, the food was excellent and all appeared on time, and it was just a very happy, fun night. I just wish I’d specifically organised a photo of Tim and myself, not least because my hair was ballin’ and I had an amazing new black velvet jumpsuit with a short floaty skirt (well…skorts) and enormous bow in the back, but because while making the photoboard we realised we didn’t have many recent photos of ourselves together. D’oh. Oh, and I made a FANTASTIC speech. I just did, it’s true, don’t be shocked by my un-New Zealand lack of modesty! Tim was also there to contribute to the speech once I’d had my ten minutes of ad-libbing (including a musical number fake-out which I’m quite proud of inventing on the spot) in case you’re wondering whether I’m getting married to myself, or something. Also, speaking of wondering, we fed everyone (yeah, I like to cater for forty people for kicks) like so:

snacks, chips, hummus-y dips

cornbread-topped chili, vegetarian cornbread-topped chili, paprika-fried tofu, ham in coca-cola, slaw, buns

vegan lemon-raspberry cake, spongebob squarepants candy, nerds, and jelly dinosaurs, dried fruit, grapes and cheeses.

And now we have leftovers upon leftovers (including maybe three thousand bottles of wine) which is the best way to ease yourself out of the inevitable post-event-planning slump. Nervous though entertaining them makes me, because I want everything to be just right, and slightly resentful though I was that they didn’t make good on my request to bring the cats down to visit too, it was really lovely to see my family and to show them a fun time in Wellington. And now that Tim and I have got this stressful thing out of the way, honestly, I’m feeling so casual about the wedding itself. For now.

In light of what a week it has been outside of my small world, I recommend you read this piece by the wonderful Questlove of The Roots, who wrote a response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin. I also recommend what David Simon (the person behind The Wire and Treme and have you seen The Wire) wrote in response to it. You could also, counter to what I’d usually say, try reading the comments – there is some fascinating stuff coming out in them. I’d also like to acknowledge what Rob Delaney wrote after the sad, sad news that Glee actor Cory Monteith was found dead. All of them write with far more insight on these subjects than I could, and so I’m happy to just link to them and leave it there.

Finally, let’s all reflect upon my knitting progress. After some almost comically prolonged unpicking, I am onto the final square of my blanket. Ready to tackle a hooded cape next, to give me that mysterious-yet-snug demeanour I’m always going for in the winter.
_____________________________________________________________________________
title via: The Money Tree, a gorgeously mournful Kander and Ebb song made all the more so when syncopated with Cabaret’s Maybe This Time and sung by the wondrous Julia Murney and Heidi Blickenstaff.
_____________________________________________________________________________
Music lately:

On Sunday afternoon, after spending all Saturday evening there, our friends came back to watch Rock of Ages. I know it is, um, imperfect, but I love it, I just love it. And it is entirely perfect for watching after organising a large stressful party. ANYWAY, wow, anyone else feel uncomfortably red-faced while watching a disarmingly sexy Tom Cruise, who has never appealed to me before, singing Dead or Alive? Don’t even get me started on Pour Some Sugar On Me. 

Tim and I went to see local musician Watercolours (who I’ve talked to on here before!) at Puppies bar. Talk about disarming. I may have blurted out to her that her song Pazzida is in my walk-up-the-aisle-song shortlist. She took it well.
_____________________________________________________________________________
Next time: I had a sudden urge to make a clafoutis on Tuesday. Still haven’t made good on said urge, but maybe this weekend?

have a cool yule and a frantic first!

I suppose this will be my final post for 2012. So I’d better make it a good one. 

*crickets, galloping endlessly on spinning tumbleweeds as though they are hamsters in a wheel, whilst making their cricket noise that signifies on reality television that someone has nothing of consequence to say*
I actually do have plenty to say, I just really like imagining crickets traveling across the land by scooting inside rolling tumbleweeds, conveying concentrated nothingness.  

So here’s what I have to say: I started my new job last week, only to find myself on holiday all of a sudden. To Tim’s and my endless relief, I got paid for the small quantity of hours I managed to get under my belt before the year ended. And piling further relief on top of that, the Christmas Pulled Pork recipe that I’d had rolling around my brain since about June was made today, and worked. Because…Tim did some noodling around with our incoming and outgoing funds over the next few weeks and it would’ve been way painful had this experiment not worked out. I like to think I have something of a knack for inventing recipes that work the first time (I mean I wrote a damn cookbook) but I did have a play with this a few months ago and it really didn’t turn out well. So I was wary. Nervous. Apprehensive. And other such synonyms.

Check that out though. That’s no failure. It is being photographed on the floor (floorpork!), but we’ve only got one tiny table that friends have donated to us and it became immediately covered in stuff, the kind of stuff that you just don’t know where to put, and I really couldn’t be bothered clearing any of it. Also the wooden floor against the brick wall kinda aesthetically appealed, and this is, after all, a food blog.

I know pulled pork isn’t necessarily what springs to mind for a traditional Christmas meal – in fact it’s probably pretty far down the food chain after turkeys and chickens and so on and so forth. However. I have endeavoured to imbue this tender, shredded pork with so much Decemberific flavour that you can’t help but wonder why we ever even bother with turkey in the first place. So – why not just make it this year?

Firstly, it’s SO DELICIOUS and that argument alone should have some significant weight.  Secondly, it involves very little effort. It does admittedly take over the oven for a long time, and needs a low temperature, but you really hardly have to do anything to it. Thirdly, wow your guests with your unapologetic, tradition-flouting now-ness! For what it’s worth. Fourthly: vegetarians aside, I’ve never met anyone who isn’t tearfully, seraphically happy while eating pulled pork. Fifthly: In case you were concerned about the oven being occupied for so long, just make a coleslaw (out of red and green cabbage if you like, for seasonal tonality) and provide a pile of soft, fresh bread rolls, plus an array of condiments – mustard, mayonaise, etc – and you have yourself one hellish heck of a festive meal.

If Christmas isn’t part of your life, you could of course change the title and just call it like, Cranberry Cinnamon Pulled Pork (which somehow sounds even christmassier? Sorry.)

Christmas Pulled Pork

A recipe by myself. 

2kg (or thereabouts – depending on how many you’re serving, and you’ll want leftovers) of belly-cut pork shoulder, or just plain pork shoulder. I used belly-cut here. Because it’s what I could find.
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
3 or 4 cloves – or 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon dried mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
A pinch of salt

1/4 cup strong, black coffee
2 tablespoons Cointreau (or similar orange liqueur, or the zest and juice of an orange)
2 tablespoons tomato-based chutney, or tomato paste
A handful of dried cranberries

Turn your oven to 140 C (280-ish Fahrenheit) and place the slab o’ pork in an oven dish. I have this theory that ceramic or glass ones are good for slow cooking as they don’t conduct heat so well as say, metal or enamel. But really, just an oven dish of some description is what you want. 

Mix together the spices, sugar and salt in a small bowl and spoon nearly all of it over the cut side of the pork. Then turn this over and rub the remaining into the fat. Cook it, fat side up, for four hours. 

Mix together the coffee, Cointreau, and chutney. Tip this into the roasting dish once the four hours are up, sprinkle over the cranberries, and cover the dish tightly with tinfoil. Reduce the heat to 130 C, and cook it for another half hour or so. 

Once this time is up, remove the tinfoil and carefully shred the pork to pieces – including the crackling, although discard some of it if it makes you feel squicky – I use a fork and a pair of tongs. Stir it through all the sauce and fattened cranberries, and then serve, with masses of pride.

I know the mix of coffee, orange liqueur, and tomato chutney sounds all kinds of odious, but please, trust me. The coffee just mellows and melts into the background, providing dark depth of flavour and a kind of general punchy undertone to the rich pork, without tasting like you’ve inadvertently dropped ham into your flat white. Both orange and tomato work oddly well with said coffee, while pointing up the pork’s sweetness and bringing strident Christmas flavour to echo that of the cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. The coffee needn’t be anything flash, as long as it’s strong and black – even just some instant granules stirred into water will be fine. The dried cranberries are there because sometimes restriction causes solutions – I wanted to include cranberry juice in the liquid, but was wary of adding too much sugar – which could burn – and also of the fact that I would then have to go out and spend money on said juice. I then found dried cranberries in the back of my wardrobe (as you do) while we moved house, and thought they’d be even better – they become swollen with the meaty juices in the oven, and then provide bursts of sour-sweetness once dispersed through the torn apart pork. And they make it look a bit more twinkly and festive.

So whether or not I’ve convinced you to do it, I believe I will be making this on Christmas day for my family.

Our tree keeps on tree-ing!
Christmas is, of course, a time for thinking about consumer items you’d really like. Trinkets that I have my heart set upon this year (and don’t take this to heart Santa, this is more like stuff I’ll buy myself once my earnings buffer up my bank account again) include Pinky Fang’s teeth barrette (just the word barrette fills me with Claudia Kishi thrills); Nigella Lawson’s new book (I don’t even care if it’s good or not, I just love her so much); Devon Anna Smith’s witchy Kittens and Oak print (obsessed); a really good thesaurus (I’d like to become even more wordy!); the dvd of Sondheim’s Company (impossibly thrilling) some new pots and pans that are both photogenic but also really, really good (realised during the move that I have hardly any, and what I have is rubbish); a pet cat and a fleet of Alsatian dogs. Nothing less than a fleet will do. What about you? What’s making you drop heavy hints around the nearest gift-giver in your life these days?
And of course, it’s a time for being around as many people as you love as possible. Well, that’s what they say in the Hallmark cards. I am truly looking forward to seeing my family again, to listening to our old tapes and CDs that are wheeled out every year (favourites: the Tin Lids “Hey Rudolph” tape and this jazzy, blatty, high-sheen Disney CD), to hanging out with the indifferent cats, and to making this pulled pork for everyone and seeing what happens. Since it’s high summer, it’ll likely be grey and insufferably humid – I can’t wait.
(PS: not to make it all about me, except actually to make it all about me since I have this weird – endearing? – tendency to do that anyway, I do believe this strawberry ice cream cake would make the perfect pudding to follow this up.)
See you, yes you, in 2013! Fa la la la la! 
_______________________________________________________________________
Title via: The so important Wanda Woodward in the John Waters movie Cry-baby. Inexplicably, I could not find a screencap or gif of her saying this, but just know that she is the most. To say the least. The very least.
_______________________________________________________________________
Music lately: 

Watercolours, Pazzida. Brand new, and so very cool. Not least because she does this dreamy old-timey tap dance halfway through. I miss tapdancing.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Christine Ebersole. Voice like crystal, and fulfills my need for  Broadway stars singing seasonal songs.
Jessie Ware, Wildest Moments. This song is just so swoonful, o! how I wish I was seeing her at Laneway next year.
And one for luck: Johnny Cash and Neil Young, The Little Drummer Boy. A little strange, a lot wonderful. Their voices are like photo negatives of each other.
_______________________________________________________________________
Next time: It’ll be 2013! I look forward to blogging all often-like and stuff. And till then, I wish you all a Sensible Night, Appropriate Night. Function with relative ease!