forty cloves of garlic with potatoes and artichoke hearts

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There’s a fine line between gallows humour and insensitivity, so you’ll just have to trust me that I had this recipe working over in my brain well before the prevalence of coronavirus and the ensuing cancelled events and social distancing. But for what it’s worth: this recipe really does have forty cloves of garlic in it, and garlic is powerfully good for your immune system, and if you’re self-isolating for the safety of the public already you might as well marinade yourself in its divisive pungency.

As someone who’s essentially been in quarantine for the past year anyway (by which I mean – I moved from Wellington to a tiny rural village to live with my parents) not much is changing for me. The routine shutting down or cancellation of everything, in the erstwhile meaning of the word, is pretty overwhelming – Disneyland! The NBA! Tom Hanks! But it’s becoming clear that it’s all for the greater good and there’s no fighting it. I’m definitely feeling anxiety – firstly for people actually contracting the virus, and secondly for everyone whose roles so dearly depend, minute-to-minute, on human contact – such as bartending, the job that used to occupy my every waking moment. Like, I can’t express how difficult-to-nonexistent paid sick leave is in hospitality roles, so if you are out and about I recommend tipping as generously as you can muster since those people are probably especially nervous with few options other than to show up for work and hope for the best. I mean, I would hope you don’t need me to tell you to be nice to anyone in customer service but! Experience would suggest there are numerous people out there who haven’t quite reached this conclusion.

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Roast chicken with forty cloves of garlic is a Provençal-via-American classic from which I’ve quite obviously removed the chicken to make the garlic the star – which is always was, rather in the manner of the curtain pulling aside behind Lina Lamont to reveal Kathy Selden doing all the work in Singin’ In The Rain. To bolster the garlic and to echo the French countryside cuisine vibes I’ve added cubes of potato and artichoke hearts, all of which cook together in a roasting dish to create something spectacular, unpretentiously sumptuous and incredibly delicious. To say nothing of the lack of effort involved: just place it into the oven and wait, hungrily.

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The artichokes offer briny contrast, a little luxury, and a certain gentle fibrousness, and potatoes are just obviously delicious. The garlic cloves, partially braised and partially roasted, grow soft and creamy and buttery and caramelised in their thin casings, and astonishingly mellow considering how much of it there is. The point is to leave them unpeeled so they cook this way, also I couldn’t possibly ask you to undertake the task of actually peeling forty cloves. It means some interaction is involved with your dinner, and there’s no getting around it: you either have to extract the garlic with your teeth, or neatly spit the emptied husks out onto the plate, or swallow them. I freely admit I spat the husks out and then went back to idly chew on them again to access any possible remaining garlic flavour: whether this suggests an upside or a horrifying inculpation of prolonged solitude, is up to you, and I won’t judge you for your reaction.

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This is just so delicious and I am delighted with both it and myself – and as if this recipe weren’t giving me enough already it also looks gorgeous, in a Rococo landscape painting kind of way.

Given that the prevailing advice is to stay in as much as possible, and given that I like to be useful, I’ve compiled a list of some recipes I’ve written about before that are either from the pantry, freezer, or store cupboard, with minimal shopping required for fresh ingredients.

Recipes from or Near the Store Cupboard

What else can I say? Wash your hands thoroughly, check in on people you know who might need help, be patient…and eat garlic.

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Forty Cloves of Garlic with Potatoes and Artichoke Hearts

A recipe by myself

  • 3 garlic bulbs
  • 2 large floury potatoes (eg Agria) clean but not peeled
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 can artichoke hearts (400g or 15oz or thereabouts)
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine or white vermouth
  • Several sprigs of fresh thyme and oregano – around 1 1/2 tablespoons each/a small handful
  • salt and pepper to taste

Note: If you don’t have wine or don’t wish to use it, a couple spoons of brine from the artichokes works well instead. If you can only get hold of one of the herbs feel free to proceed, but they really do need to be fresh. Finally, tough old garlic with green shoots coming out of it won’t work well here – look for unblemished bulbs threaded with pink or purple.

1: Set your oven to 190C/375F.

2: Separate the garlic bulbs into cloves – three bulbs should get you about forty, it’s up to you whether or not you want to be precise or not about the numbers. Chop the potatoes into chunks of roughly 1 inch and scatter them with the garlic cloves into a roasting dish.

3: Drizzle the olive oil over the potatoes and garlic and then place the dish in the oven and roast for fifteen minutes.

4: Chop the artichoke hearts into quarters – they may fall apart a little, this is fine. Remove the dish from the oven and scatter the artichoke hearts over the garlic and potatoes, along with the wine and the oregano and thyme.

5: Return the dish to the oven for another twenty to thirty minutes, until the potatoes are completely tender. At this point you can either serve it as is, or turn the grill on for five to ten minutes to crisp the potatoes up a little, which is what I did.

With bread and a salad this would happily serve two, but also you should know I very, very easily ate the entire thing on my own.

music lately:

Dry The Rain, The Beta Band. It’s not only the line about choking on a vitamin that makes it timely, this song has that warm, hopeful, lazy-yet-momentous sound that makes it feel for real like everything will be okay.

My Man by Barbra Streisand, from the musical Funny Girl – if you only ever listen to one Barbra song, this should be it – and please, indulge me by making this it, since I’m going to presume most people reading this aren’t listening to a whole ton of Barbra to begin with. My Man starts off as a tearful murmur and then without warning it skyrockets, and then keeps going up and up and up to outer-space levels of huge. It’s emotional and intense and glorious, the kind of song where where you want to lie down while listening to it but require an auxiliary lie-down afterwards to recover from how immense it is.

Next time: I made some syrup from the pineapple sage plant in the garden, I suspect it will work well with gin and can’t wait to be proven right.

PS: If you enjoy my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. If nothing else, I have dozens and dozens of book and film reviews on there should your solitude require inspiration.

she saved enough to get back home when spring replaced the winter

 

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Presuming I’m not an unreliable narrator – and we can’t be sure – according to this very food blog I haven’t eaten asparagus since 2014. This would not be particularly worth commenting upon other than the seasonality of asparagus makes it a kind of touchstone to me for the arrival of spring, consuming it is like a tiny ritual heralding both the end of winter and glad days of sunshine to come. I’ve mentioned my intentions to acquire asparagus in every ensuing year since 2014, but it appears to have taken me until today, five years later, to clear this remarkably low bar. Is it coincidence that this timeline coincides with the commencing and ending of my bartending career? Is correlation causation? Are we really saying that eating asparagus is my own personal responsibility along with all my other personal responsibilities now? I can’t keep up!

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Well, whatever the reasons, I’ve got some asparagus today. Unfortunately – and don’t let the sunny look of the photos fool you – it was less of an optimistic spring day and more the sort of horizontal rainy deluge that makes you want to do little more than sit resolutely in a hot bubble bath like a prune soaking in Armagnac. But, you never can tell when personal responsibility is going to hit (infrequently, it would seem) so I ignored the weather and made this decidedly sunny little lunch for myself: roasted asparagus and almond butter skordalia. I went back and forth on whether to call this skordalia when it’s not the traditional recipe, but it’s faithful in intent, for what it’s worth. Skordalia is a garlicky Greek dip that often – but not always! – uses potato and almonds. So does my recipe, just the almond component is pre-pulverised for you.

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Every ingredient plays its part – the potatoes give fluffy, starchy mildness, the vinegar balances and sharpens, the almond butter and olive oil makes it wonderfully rich and smooth, and the garlic makes it garlicky as hell. Together they form this incredibly lush puree that’s perfect for dragging vegetables through or spreading on bread, and it works beautifully with the nutty, grassy flavour of asparagus. If your asparagus is too roasted and floppy to successfully dip, just spoon it over, no harm done. This skordalia keeps well and seems to just get better and better the longer it sits in the fridge: more aromatic, more creamy, more luscious and buttery.

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Roasted Asparagus and Almond Butter Skordalia

A recipe by myself. Serves 1.

  • A handful of fresh asparagus spears (honestly, as many as you want)
  • 2 medium mashing/roasting potatoes
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons almond butter
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine or red wine vinegar
  • plenty of salt, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, to serve

Set your oven to 200C/400F and place your asparagus spears in a roasting dish. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast for about ten minutes, or until they are slightly browned and crisped at the tips.

Peel the potatoes and cook them in a pan of boiling salted water until very tender. If you wish, you can boil the garlic cloves along with the potatoes – this will make their flavour more mellow. Drain thoroughly, retaining about 1/4 cup of the water from the pan.

Whisk together the almond butter, olive oil, potato cooking water, and vinegar. Your options here are to then use a stick/immersion blender to puree the almond butter mixture along with the drained potatoes and peeled garlic cloves. Or, you can use a food processor, or just a fork to mash and then the whisk – it won’t be aerated and velvety, but let’s not rule it out altogether. I used a stick blender, mixing until it was thoroughly pureed. Taste to see if it needs more salt.

Spatula the potato mixture into a serving dish and arrange the asparagus spears on a plate. Sprinkle over the thyme leaves, and serve.

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As if to double down on the whole spring thing, today is also Daylight Savings, not that I actually even noticed because anything before 10am – okay, before noon – feels like 6am to me and it was still pouring with rain either way. But I was delighted when I woke up to find this travel story I wrote for Tenderly about a vegan weekend in Wellington was published, which I sourced and researched during my visit at the start of this surprisingly long month. As with asparagus it’s also been several years since I’ve written a travel story!

PS: If you enjoy my writing and wish to put a price on that; I invite you to join my Patreon where you can support me directly and access exclusive content written especially just for you.

title from: Tecumseh Valley by Townes Van Zandt, just some classic Townes Van Zandt-y beautiful, mournful poetry. 

music lately:

Landlocked Blues by Bright Eyes, from that perennial hit-making genre of “heartbreaking songs with my name in them.”

Do You Love Me Now, by The Breeders, it’s syrupy and slow-moving but has this dizzying, longing urgency and I just love it so much, especially that come back to me right now refrain.

Shy Guy, Diana King. This song is still so good, like every single particle of it is so joyously catchy and breezily confident. And how great is her pinstripe suit!

Next time: I still have some asparagus left so can really be Present and In The Moment with it and also might still cook something else featuring it to make up for five years of culinary neglect.

oh, these sour times

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There’s no dramatic reason for me missing last week’s post, I was literally just really tired and kept being too tired to do anything, and that’s all there is to it. It’s not the kind of tiredness that feels sickness-related, but then it’s also possible that my show-must-go-on hospo work ethic plus my show-must-go-on hospo work hours have completely raised my bar of what sickness looks like far beyond normal. For a minute I was like…is this depression again? But surely not! I’ve been pretty on top of that whole hornets nest for a while now? In this economy, who can honestly tell.

I decided to give myself a hall pass for my lost week because, well, I can’t get it back so I might as well move forward. This week’s recipe is tangentially inspired by a Nigella Lawson recipe – and if anyone’s going to get me up and at it again, it’s she – for something she called Salt and Vinegar Potatoes. I acknowledge that her recipe looks completely delicious, but also, hers and mine ended up completely different in execution. I thought it would be cool to simmer potatoes in heavily vinegared water then roast them a high heat and just like, see what happened as a result. What happened was: they were SO delicious.

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Now obviously you have got to have a taste for salt and vinegar potato chips in the first place, if you don’t then this recipe is not going to change your mind since it so beautifully imitates the flavour of their packaged provenance. As for me, ever since I was a kid I always loved their intense sour-salty flavour, the way they flay the skin from the inside of your mouth like sandpaper and burn your lips. A snack that maims. I have a vague childhood memory of being at a birthday party and alternating handfuls of salt and vinegar chips with handfuls of gumdrops, their gelatinous sugariness providing a neutralising agent in the same way that you might have a cold beer with a dish laden with hot chilli. (I also remember, possibly from the same party, possibly not, thinking it was a good idea to put lollies in my glass of lemonade, showing an early predilection for being either a culinary maverick or a horrifying concern, your stance may vary. There’s no fever dream like a sugar-fuelled child’s birthday, I tell you.)

So anyway, now we’ve established that salt and vinegar as a combination is not something that one sits on a fence about, let me continue insisting on how good this recipe tastes. The potatoes are sliced super thin to ensure maximum surface area for absorption, and I used a combination of apple cider vinegar – softer, mellower – and white vinegar – aggressive, face-dissolving, sour as hell – to simmer them in. Because of all the liquid they absorb the potatoes won’t get super super crisp in the oven, but with a high enough heat they’ll catch and brown while staying lusciously tender underneath. I guess you don’t have to use red potatoes but I like the way they straddle the waxy/floury cellular axis and the colour of the skin just looks good, okay? The finished result is so oddly compulsive – but then I find anything sour and salty to be this way – and you just want more, more, to the point where I don’t really know how many this recipe would feed: I ate the lot in two sittings, but if you’re serving it with other stuff as a side I guess it could cover four people. If in doubt, just add more potatoes.

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Salt and Vinegar Red Potato Gratin

A recipe by myself

  • 5 good-sized red potatoes
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • salt, lots of, preferably sea salt or similar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • fresh thyme, to serve

Slice the potatoes into rounds, as thinly as you can muster.

Place the potatoes in a saucepan with both the vinegars and then add enough water so they’re just covered. Simmer for 20 minutes, partially covered, until the potato slices are tender. If the liquid starts evaporating too much just add some more water, and give the slices a stir every now and then to make sure they don’t stick to the base and burn.

Meanwhile, heat your oven to 200C/400F.

Drain the potato slices and arrange them (as you can see I did it fairly haphazardly, mostly because the slices were super hot to the touch) in an oven-safe dish; drizzle with the olive oil and scatter over plenty of salt.

Bake for fifteen to twenty minutes on a rack positioned fairly close to the top of the oven – basically keep the potatoes in there until you’re satisfied with the level of browned and crispness of the exposed edges. This will all depend on your oven, your opinion, and your patience. Sprinkle over some fresh thyme to serve and…serve.

Don’t even try to hold back on the salt: the wall of sourness from the vinegar needs to be countered somehow. The thyme isn’t just window-dressing, but it’s obviously not the most important aspect, it does lend a gentle fragrant herbal richness to the whole affair.

The only other thing to keep in mind is that this really makes your house smell like the inside of a bag of chips for the rest of the day so make sure your scented candle budget is prioritised this week and keep as many windows open as you can. Eating this is worth having your tender olfactory bits attacked by airborne vinegar particles though: it’s just that delicious.

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I hate that feeling of being in overdraft but with one’s own energy; in lieu of any external factors in my life changing (give or take the occasional kombucha or smoothie upon which I place enormous pressure to solve everything that has been and all that shall ever be) I can only hope to level up. I guess not being super hung up for too long for missing a week of blogging is its own kind of levelling up! And anyway, here I am, full of vim and vinegar, (heavy on the vinegar, working on the vim.)

If you want further potato times; may I suggest some further reading in the form of recipes for Potato Dominoes, Mashed Potato, or with a little more effort, Potato Pizza. These happen to just be great blog posts to read even if you ignore the recipe completely, I was pleased to note.

title from: Sour Times, by Portishead. So silky and noir-ish.

music lately:

River Deep, Mountain High, by Tina Turner. I’m kind of obsessed with that Phil Spector Wall of Sound sound, there’s something so emotive yet calculated about it (quite literally in this hugely incredible song: Turner was reportedly made to do take after take after take for hours before Spector was satisfied.)

Patterns, by Suse Millemann. My friend sent this to me thinking I might like it, and…I do! It’s very understated yet lovely.

Stoned and Starving, by Parquet Courts. I love these guys and they’re coming to Laneway next year and SO IS MITSKI but do I have the energy for a festival? They’re of that genre where you’re like ah, this album from 1982 is fantastic wait what they’re like my age brilliant what am I doing with my life.

Next time: I had a dream about chilli corn relish and then it turns out Nigella – that minx! – has a recipe for something very similar so I’m probably going to try to make that.

PS: If you wish to receive these blog posts every Sunday-ish in your inbox, days ahead of the general public, then consider signing up here. On the other hand, reading it on here is not without its exclusive content, for example: I’m actually eating salt and vinegar chips while posting this and am wondering if it is the food writing equivalent of method acting; I’m also drinking black coffee alongside it and they’re a strangely beguiling flavour pairing? Better sign up AND read it here as well, just in case, is my staunch advice.

oh i wish i had a pizza and a bottle of wine

There’s this movie called Wet Hot America Summer, released in the summer of 2001 to very little attention or acclaim. It’s become notable in the ensuing years for how immensely high profile most of the ensemble cast has gone on to become (Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Elizabeth Banks) and the deliciousness of seeing them in their career infancy. People also finally started to appreciate how stupidly funny it is, and it gathered a lot of steam in a cult-hit kind of way. Anyway, I really love it and it’s one of those movies where whatever is happening in your life, it feels like nothing bad can happen when you’re watching it. I have similar feelings about the One Direction movie.

There’s also this bit in the movie where one of the characters tells the girl that he has a crush on, “I’ve really grown up a lot since before dinner when we last talked”. Due to my live-life-ten-seconds-at-a-time haphazardly whimsical and exhausting persona I have always related to this moment since I first encountered it, but I am like, really feeling it currently.

 actual footage of me actual footage of me

As I said in my last blog post, I’ve started on some new medication for my anxiety and whatnot. It’s been a trip. My doctor was all, there might be some weird side effects, and I was all, ma’am, respectfully, my whole LIFE is a side effect, I’m just keen to try something new. There’s some massively positive stuff, the most of which is that I’m now so UNNERVINGLY calm in comparison to the spiky, nervous tumbleweed of buzzing wires and thorny branches and barbed wire that I was hitherto rolling along in the guise of. I mean, I’m still me, that can’t be helped, but I feel much more able to process information quietly, make decisions, and anticipate things without a constant sound of wasps in my ears and sirens in my stomach.  I feel more able to stand my ground whereas previously I would’ve just panicked. It’s not perfect, but it’s really something observing myself being this person. So yeah, I’ve really grown up a lot since before dinner when we last talked.

Bad side effects are some morning sluggishness and some nighttime head-spins, but in the middle I’m afforded at least a few hours of intense, clear-eyed activity. Which is how, on Monday morning, I found myself making this entire damn pizza from scratch and then eating it within the space of an hour and a half.

I’ve had potato pizza on my culinary to-do list after having it at brunch at Loretta with a friend a while back; theirs had darkly beautiful purple potato slices and I could only find, at best, red-skinned potatoes, but no harm done. On a whim I decided to use fresh yeast instead of the usual instant dried stuff, and I’m a fan! Having not tried this particular recipe, which I made up on the spot, with anything other than fresh yeast, I couldn’t tell you precisely how it’s different to the dried kind but you should know that it’s very little effort, requires barely any kneading or rising time and tastes magical.

Potatoes on pizza is a classic Italian combination, and there’s nothing quite so comforting as carb on carb. The dough is tender and puffy, the potatoes are sliced so thin that they’re almost translucent and so they crisp up quickly under the oven’s heat. I draped slices of nutty, sweet Emmentaler over the pizza, but you could definitely use Gruyere if you can stomach the price. A schmeer of rich, creamy mascarpone with mustard, chilli, and cider vinegar spikes the bland calmness of the other ingredients and the resiny pungency of thyme is just, I don’t know, I really love thyme and like putting it on everything.

Scared though you may be of tackling any kind of yeasted dough from scratch, this one comes together with a few brief stirs, prods, and a rise time so fast you don’t even have to have a TV show cued up to watch while you wait. I suppose there’s more olive oil in it than you might normally expect but I feel that it adds to the soft, puffy texture and the flavour. Plus, you make enough dough for some pizza now, and some pizza for future-you. Planning for the future? ME? Whomst even am I?

 yoink yoink

potato pizza

a recipe by myself

dough:

  • one heaped teaspoon fresh yeast
  • one tablespoon golden syrup (or honey, or maple syrup) 
  • 500ml (two cups) lukewarm water
  • 80ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
  • six cups high grade/strong/bread flour
  • two teaspoons sea salt

the on top stuff:

  • one medium red potato
  • 150g mascarpone
  • one tablespoon chilli oil
  • one teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • one teaspoon dijon, english, or similar mustard
  • 150g emmentaler, thinly sliced
  • fresh thyme leaves

Set your oven to 250C/480F and put an oven tray (or if you have it, a pizza stone) in to heat up. 

Place the yeast, golden syrup and warm water in a large bowl and leave it for fifteen minutes till it’s a little frothy on top. Tip in the salt, oil, and flour, and stir together till it forms a rough, sticky dough. Give it a really quick knead, adding just a little extra flour if you need to, till it’s a smoothish coherent ball. Cover with a tea towel and leave it for fifteen minutes till it’s puffy. 

While this is happening, mix the mascarpone, mustard, chilli oil, and cider vinegar in a small bowl. Use a vegetable peeler to make thin, thin slices out of the potato. You won’t need the whole thing, but just throw the remaining potato in with the pizza as it’s cooking and then eat it or something. Sit the potato slices in a bowl of cold water. This will bring out some of the starches and make it roast quicker. 

Cut the dough in half and place the remaining dough in an airtight container in the fridge to use another time. Place the dough on either a nonstick silicon baking mat or a sheet of baking paper and using your hands, gently push the dough out into a rough rectangle shape. If it seems like it won’t stretch as far as you want, let it rest for a few minutes and continue to shape it. 

Spread the mascarpone across the pizza base. Drain the potato slices and pat them dry with a clean tea towel. Layer the potato and cheese over the mascarpone and finally sprinkle with a little more sea salt. Leave to sit for ten minutes. 

Carefully lift the baking sheet or piece of paper and place it on the hot oven tray or pizza stone. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown and the edges are crisp. Scatter with thyme leaves before eating. 

Pizza is so unfathomable, in that if you cut this rectangle into eight large squares then you could give that to eight people, but you could also QUITE comfortably eat at least half of this yourself and then reheat the other half later, or share it between two people but still be kind of hungry? It’s this strange loaves-and-fishes alchemy that I’ll never understand. Unsurprisingly though, I was in the half-now-for-me, half-now-for-later category of consumers. However you slice it, this pizza is stupidly delicious.

If you’re on a DIY dough buzz, may I suggest some further reading from my archives, such as no-knead Challah, Fougasse Bread, or Nigella’s Maple Walnut Bread.

Till next time…I guess this is growing up.

title from: this surfy punky bratty band (I LOVE surfy punky bratty bands) called Girls, and their song Lust for Life. 

music lately:

SO another weird side effect of the medication is that I’m feeling music on a hellaciously deep level, like I was listening to Meadowlark as sung by Liz Calloway the other day while walking down the street and nearly threw up and fell over sideways from the intensity of it all. I’ve always had the proclivity to y’know, cry at songs and feel like they were written for me and me alone, but this is next level.

I’ve been hitting the Les Mis pretty hard and folks, I’ve never felt more pumped for 1800s Frenchy War Stuff in my life. To pluck but one example from the air, literally every time I watch this clip from the 2014 Tony awards I genuinely cry and get full body shivers (particularly at the revoltingly beautiful face of Ramin Karimloo and Kyle Scatliffe’s monumental voice and Will Swenson’s appealingly nasal Javert) and I’ve been watching it a LOT.

Also been seriously feeling the Meat Puppets lately. Lake of Fire, famously covered by Nirvana, is so sludgy and about to topple over with its own heaviness, but then you’ve got like, Up On The Sun or Aurora Borealis which are just really, really nice grunge.

next time: IT’S DECEMBER! What? Whomst? How? That’s all I have to say about THAT. 

she don’t use butter, and she don’t use cheese

That’s right, it’s another classic “Laura is tired and braindead and has been too busy with work to do a blog post” blog post! But because I’ve got like an hour until I start my next shift I’m going to dispense with the usual self-disapproval posturing and crack on with the post itself, as I’m determined to not let yet another day of October go by without me getting anything done on here. Besides, though work has occupied all my spare time lately, it’s also work stuff that gave me the content for the following recipes, so like, when one door closes you fall out a window or however the saying goes. 

 make it till you fake it

make it till you fake it

Ya girl is majorly into her sustainability these days. Let’s face it, the world is absolutely completely garbage currently and attempting to recycle like, one small thing a week is my tiny way of doing some good and reducing my impact on this crumbling trash earth. As a bartender it pains me how much stuff we throw out – straws, plastic bottles, fruit offcuts – but also when it gets to 3.30am and you just want to go to bed (or to the next bar that’s open slightly later than yours) you don’t necessarily have the energy to suddenly start seventeen different craft projects. So I’m doing little things here and there. One of my more successful missions was taking all the soaked almonds I’d used to make orgeat (almond syrup) and turning them into vegan feta. Last time I took them home I made this almond brittle that I blogged about a few weeks back, but feta has a more practical application, let’s face it. 

There is some work involved here – some soaking, some straining, some waiting, but you end up with a vast tray of rather wonderfully delicious feta-like stuff – creamy, slightly crumbly, tangy, basically everything you could want from something without dairy in it that’s trying its best to convince you that it is what it’s not. On top of that I can only but speculate wildly at how good it is for you to be eating this much condensed almond, they’re absolutely stacked with vitamins and minerals and will give you a glossy coat and supple fetlocks, or something.  

The recipe below is pretty closely modelled on this one here, and there’s nothing stopping you clicking through to their site and following their clear and useful instructions and ignoring my extremely general and vague ones. 

vegan almond feta

a general recipe inspired directly by this one. 

  • blanched almonds
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • garlic cloves
  • sea salt

Cover your almonds in water overnight, or for at least six hours. Keep them refrigerated while you’re doing this. 

Drain the almonds (retain the water if you have any particular purpose for it) and blitz said almonds, in batches if you need to, in a blender with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic cloves, water, and a generous pinch of sea salt, till it forms a smooth, thick mixture. As far as quantities go, for every, say, cup of almonds, you want to add a tablespoon of olive oil, a tablespoon of lemon juice, and half a cup of water. Use your instincts though and add more of anything as you go if you feel you need it. 

The next bit requires some creativity. You want to take this thick white almond mixture and pour it into a cheesecloth lined sieve, and then place that sieve over a bowl of some sort and leave it overnight so that the excess liquid in the almond mixture can slowly drip out. 

After this – you’re so close – press the drained almost-feta into a baking paper lined baking dish and put it in an oven that you’ve set to 160C/325F for about 30 minutes until it’s firm and a little golden on top. Allow it to cool, and you’ve got yourself a ton of vegan cheese. 

Now that you’ve got all this damn stuff, what are you going to do with it? Why, anything you like! I first had it, as photographed above, simply crumbled in a bowl, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with smoked paprika, rosemary, salt and pepper. I roasted potatoes and sprinkled the feta over for the last ten minutes in the oven. I also, as you can see from the picture at the top of this post, did the following recipe with it, which was honestly pretty wonderful. Obviously you can also extremely make this with regular feta, either way, please accept this extra recipe as a peace offering to make up for my lack of, well, literally anything lately. 

potato wrapped roasted red chilis stuffed with vegan feta

  • three large red chilis
  • 100g vegan feta (or, again, regular feta) 
  • one garlic clove, chopped
  • one tablespoon dijon mustard
  • one small floury potato
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil

Set your oven to 220C/450F, generously drizzle a roasting tray with olive oil and pop it in to heat up while you get on with everything else. Slice an incision along the length of the chilis, using your finger to prise it open gently, and pull out as many of the seeds and membranes as you can. Giving the insides of the chilis a quick rinse in cold water helps with this process. 

Mix together the feta, garlic, and mustard in a small bowl and pack as much as you can into the now empty chilis till they’re nicely bulging. 

Carefully, using a peeler, create long ribbons of potato by peeling around and around the potato for as long as you can without breaking said ribbon of peel. Once you have three, wrap them carefully around the stuffed chillis, tucking the ends underneath. The starch in the potato should act as a kind of glue to keep it in place but it really doesn’t matter if it slides around a bit.

Gently place the stuffed, wrapped chilis onto the hot oven tray and roast for about 20 minutes or until the potato is crisp and the chilis are softened and slightly blistered. Turn them over and roast for another five or ten minutes, then remove from the oven and sprinkle over salt and pepper. 

This recipe is admittedly fiddly but it looks fairly spectacular and tasted wonderful – the kettle-chip crispness of the potato against the soft, sweetly hot chili and the creamy salty feta. You want to eat them as soon as possible so that the potato stays crisp, but having wolfed one down several hours later there is a certain charm to a soggy room temperature stuffed chilli as well, however unappealing that might sound. 

My other forays into reducing, reusing and recycling have had mixed results – I made a fantastically tasty fermented Mexican drink called Tepache out of leftover pineapple skins and cores, and some intensely bland cordial out of fruit offcuts. It’s fun though. Really the only hard part is, as I said, not locking myself into seventeen million different projects at the end of a long night – eg, picking my battles – and not getting the Captain Planet song stuck in my head interminably.  

title from: the lovely and weird song She Don’t Use Jelly by the Flaming Lips. 

music lately: 

MF Doom, Fenugreek. This song makes me SO happy. 

Intro by The XX. This song is extremely calming and some clever wag made an hours long loop of it on YouTube, which is amazing, because the only bad thing about the song is when it comes to an end and you’re like damn it there goes my calm vibe! 

next time: My blog turns TEN ACTUAL YEARS OLD this month which is somewhat unreal to me but I want to do something celebratory about it – maybe an enormous cake? I don’t know. 

we’re gift-wrapped kitty cats

I’ve talked a whole lot on here about how unskilled I am at sleeping. In a pink hardback baby book charting my first few months of existence, there’s a passage in my mother’s neat handwriting that tells – from my freshly birthed point of view – about how “I seem to require less sleep than everyone else” and “have already cried a lifetime’s worth of tears”. How completely prescient! Not that I have a ruthlessly raging case of colic as an excuse these days!

As I’ve also recounted here, my ADHD superpowers (having good ideas, absolutely sucking at every other aspect of life) came into play one night when I had trouble sleeping, and blessed me with this concept: what if I took thinly peeled slices of potato and wrapped them around other food and then roasted it so that the potato went all crisp and golden? (Thus neatly encapsulating three of the overarching themes of this blog: I never sleep, I was a small jerk of a child, with great mental health issues comes tiny, tiny kickbacks in the field of creativity.)

I figured this simply had to work, and wanted to try it with the new season’s asparagus. Being extremely pre-payday I had pretty much no money in my bank account, but after fossicking like a tenacious raccoon in all my pockets and the dark corners of my tote bag, I found enough coins to go down to the Cuba Street Fruit Mart. I purchased 1 (one) potato, and a handful of green beans, since asparagus isn’t actually out yet, handed over my pile of carefully counted out twenty cent coins, and went home to make my sleepless dreams a reality.

Guys, this was like...unreal. SO delicious. I could not be more enraptured with myself. Getting on a roll with achieving satisfactory lengths of peeled potato strips takes some work, but any extra bits can be roasted alongside the beans to be snacked upon leisurely (I recommend one of those peelers that’s kind of V shaped as opposed to a regular one.) What you end up with is slightly scorched beans, the oven’s heat giving them a kind of caramelised nutty juiciness (which is the worst thing I’ve ever written) encased in, essentially, a big kettle chip. The fried golden crunchiness of the potato against the beans is superb. I smashed some basil leaves into rock salt with a pestle and mortar just to point up the green taste of the beans, but just regular sea salt with chopped up basil or just salt on its own would be absolutely fine.

I feel like this would make an ideal starter for a dinner party, or you could make heaps and serve them with drinks. I guess they could also act as a fancy side for some kind of larger dish. They’re also vegan AF which is like, nice!

potato-wrapped green beans with basil salt

a recipe by myself

  • one floury potato
  • a handful of green beans
  • olive oil
  • one teaspoon of rock salt (or sea salt flakes)
  • three basil leaves

Set your oven to about as high as it will go – this is usually around 240C/480F. Pour some olive oil into a shallow roasting tray – the shallower the tray, the less oil you need to use, but whatever – so that it’s generously slicked. This is not a time to hold back. Place the tray in the oven so the oil heats up while you get on with preparing the ingredients themselves. 

Peel the skin from the potato (keep it to make vegetable stock or something if you’re virtuous) and then carefully peel long strips of potato from it. I found it easier to go lengthwise, and it took a few goes, but it gets easier, and any scraps can be thrown in with the beans and roasted till crisp for a delightful snack, so no harm done. Wrap the beans, in little bundles of three, with a long strip of potato (as per the picture) and sit them with the tail end tucked underneath. Generally potatoes have their own natural glueyness so you don’t have to worry about them unravelling wildly and flying about the room like a pulled out tape measure.

Place them carefully in the tray of hot oil, and roast for roughly twenty minutes, turning halfway through. However, you mostly want to go by eye here – when the beans look scorched and the potato wrapping is getting golden is when you want to turn them. At this point, add any other peelings and scraps of the remaining potato to the tray – seriously, they’ll turn into kettle chips and taste amazing, plus what else are you going to do with that remaining potato? 

In a pestle and mortar, bash the salt and basil leaves till they form a deeply green dust. If you don’t have this implement, just roughly chop the basil and sprinkle it and some salt over the finished beans. 

Remove the wrapped beans to a plate when you’re quite satisfied with their done-ness, sprinkle over some salt, and eat em. The remaining scraps are particularly good with some smoked paprika and the remaining basil salt.  

I roasted strips and scraps of the remaining potato and then sprinkled them with the remaining basil salt and some smoked paprika which was also ravishingly good. From one potato, sprang forth so much joy. I’m keen as to try this potato wrapped method on other foods – the asparagus of my initial intentions, halloumi, already-roasted beetroot, big red chiles stuffed with feta, maybe some kind of beef…thing…and I was even like, could I wrap potato in potato? Would that work? Am I the greatest genius whomst ever lived?

Well, no: another insomnia-idea was that I thought it’d be cool to roast pears stuffed with chocolate and then dip them in cake batter and bake them, so that they’d be encased in a layer of cake. The cake batter slid off and I ended up with two pears stuck in a large biscuit, which still tasted essentially fine, but was not something I’d recreate in a massive hurry. You can’t win em all, most of the time you can’t even win anything and in fact end up losing dramatically, so I’m quite content with this progression of events.

Back to the lack of sleep thing, before you all start a letter-writing campaign of great concern to your local government about my wellbeing or something, it’s not like I’m not working on it, and I do have naps during the day. I have a prescription for these amazing sleeping pills, I just keep forgetting to go get it filled out. I’ve got all the meditation and rain sounds in the world on YouTube, magnesium tablets, chamomile tea, yoga, you name it. Actually nothing makes me want to drop into a stupor like a gigantic meal of carbohydrates, so maybe potatoes are the way forward. Whether I’m sleepless and thinking about them or sleeping because of them: they are so good.

 any colour you like

any colour you like

A callback for the fans; in my last post I went on a rose-coloured rant about Millennial Pink, and I decided to make a cocktail embodying the colour as well. Plantation Barbados 2000 rum, Peychaud’s bitters, Aperol, thyme bitters, sugar and cream, makes for an alluringly-hued and impressively tasty drink. Just in case you thought I was anything less than totally exhaustingly all-or-nothing.

Finally, if you like Things With Potatoes, you might consider reading some of my other blog posts, including recipes for Halloumi and Hash Brown Potatoes; Potato Dominoes; or a Fried Potato Toastie.

title from: one of the greatest pop songs of all time, Love Machine by Girls Aloud. Also worth listening to is the ebullient Arctic Monkeys cover.

music lately:

Old mate Chelsea Jade released a woozily sweet video for her stonkingly good tune Ride or Cry. Yay!

City and Colour, Northern Wind. Feeeeheeeeelings.

Harry Styles, Sign of the Times. Feeeeeeeeee *sobs* eeeeeeee *literally throws up* eeelings!

next time: I made pulled jackfruit and I’m effing obsessed with it. 

it’s only comfort, calling late

I wrote this entire blog post last night and then it disappeared somehow, which more or less didn’t bother me since a life of breaking and losing things constantly does nothing if not really prepare you for a life of breaking and losing things constantly. The only unfortunate thing is I can’t exactly recapture the magic since I was writing it in a certain location: on the floor of a friend’s house, by a merrily humming heater, in a dimly lit room, with a beautiful dog wandering around and occasionally booping me. In this deleted blog post I talked about the nature of things that bring comfort – because for me, sitting on the floor in the dark next to a heat source that’s emitting white noise is literal serene heaven – and now that I’m rewriting it, I’m in a completely different place. I don’t know if I can recreate that comfort, but in a way all attempts at comforting yourself is just trying to artificially recreate comfort, yeah? Long story short: back your stuff up and press save often, people.  

Included in the thoughts I put forward was the idea of comfort food, which I write about on here often: in this case, it takes the form of gnocchi, a pasta that’s made from potatoes and therefore gives you carb-on-carb comfort, like sleeping with a thick blanket on top AND an electric blanket underneath at the same time. It’s the middle of winter, we’ve all got sniffles and iron deficiencies and debt, the very least we can do for ourselves is cook something warm and moderately stodgy. Normally gnocchi involves peeling and boiling and draining and mashing potatoes like someone with seven years of spare time and a non-tendency to burst into tears at the slightest provocation, but here I shorten the path from A to Carb by using instant mashed potato flakes, and m8888, they are a revelation. Sacrilegious? Sacrelicious! 

When fried in hot oil you end up with these little pillowy puffs that are golden and gratifyingly crispy on the outside and marshmallow-soft within, like the love child of a roast potato and a bowl of fettuccini. Fried brussels sprouts give sprightly green crunch, rosemary adds sex appeal (possibly highly niche sex appeal: I can’t help that I find the scent of fried or flamed rosemary deeply attractive) and pine nuts are just nice as hell. On top of which I made this for myself after having had literally forty minutes of sleep the previous night, so like, you got this. 

fast fried gnocchi with brussels sprouts, rosemary and pine nuts

a recipe by myself

  • one cup instant mashed potato flakes
  • half a cup (125ml) recently boiled water
  • one cup flour
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • a handful of brussels sprouts (idk, six?), halved lengthwise
  • a sprig of rosemary
  • two tablespoons of pine nuts
  • olive oil

Mix the potato flakes, boiling water, and salt together in a bowl, then stir in the flour and knead it a few times (just push the dough away and then pull it towards you and then push it away again, basically emotionally abuse it) till it forms a smooth-ish ball. Add a splash more water if it’s really not coming together. Roll it out into a square about half an inch thick, then slice horizontally and vertically in parallel lines to form a bunch of small rectangles. Roll the back of a fork over them, to press some indentations in, (sort of rolling them lengthwise as you do it) and then set aside.

Heat a good amount of oil – at least three tablespoons – in a large saucepan, and fry the brussels sprouts, cut side down, till they’re browned. Turn them over for a bit just to heat the other side, then remove them to your serving dish. Add some more oil if need be and then tip in the gnocchi, frying them on both sides till they’re golden and crisped. Remove them to the serving plate, and then finally, strip the sprig of rosemary of its leaves and throw them in the hot oil till they’re sizzling, and then finally briefly toast the pine nuts. Tip all of this on top of the gnocchi and sprouts, and then eat it. 

As someone with hardcore, spine clenching anxiety I’m always trying to keep abreast (ha) of the stuff that (I take back that “ha”, so immature) gives me some semblance of calm and staunches that feeling that the veins in your arms have slithered up your shoulder blades and wrapped themselves around your neck. Obviously nothing in particular is going to cure it, but if rain noises or whatever make me feel 9% calmer then that’s still 9% calmer than I was before. (Also, I retract the retracted “ha”, abreast is a funny word and I stand by it. I stand abreast with it, even.) 

Look for comfort where you can. The world kind of sucks. These gnocchi look like they’re all giving you a supportive fist bump, or at least that’s how it looks to me in the photo at the top of this post. And that’s something. 

 Pavlov's Good Boys

Pavlov’s Good Boys

(Evidence that the tableau I described did happen.)

title from: Placebo, the name of one of my favourite bands and also one of my favourite effects, with their nasal goth hit Every You Every Me. 

music lately: 

Spook the Horses, Footfall. Deliciously heavy. 

Laura Lee Lovely, Hot Blood. I got to meet this absolutely beaut person for real recently after years of us exchanging heart emojis on each others instagram selfies, and she’s just released a dreamy banger of a tune. If you like music that makes you feel happy and sad at the same time, give it a hoon. 

next time: Whatever it is, I’m pressing save VIGOROUSLY the entire time I write it. 

do you love me ’cause i can mash potato?

So I spent all of last week extremely bedridden and in unreal amounts of pain while recovering from my wisdom teeth coming through with all the haste and frantic energy of a character entering the room from stage left in a farcical French play about a dinner party gone lightly awry. I’m a very like, impulsive type idiot and so it was almost equally as painful to have to go from living in the moment to living in the bed, and on top of that food bearing any kind of texture whatsoever was out of the question as I could hardly open my mouth and the slightest attempt at chewing caused dagger-stabs of pain right into the very core of my gums. My one solace was that the Tramadol I’d been prescribed, while it didn’t do much whatsoever for the pain, was an extremely good time.  

And so, that’s why I’m blogging about mashed potato. Not because I invented it, or think you don’t know how to make it, and not even because I’m labouring under some kind of delusion that my recipe below is particularly revolutionary in any way, but: it’s what I ate last week. My other options include “half a container of yoghurt, consumed tearfully” and “a bowl of strawberry jelly that had ‘serves four’ on the package”. 

I think I absorbed this method from Nigella Lawson, which makes sense since for most of the week all I could handle concentrating on was her old TV series on loop on youtube – the pop culture equivalent of mashed potato (and pop culture consumption is almost as important as food consumption to me.) It’s very simple – you just throw whole potatoes in a hot oven and bake them, then scoop out the fluffy interiors and fork through as much cream and butter as you wish. Like seriously, I’m not even giving you quantities in this recipe because only you know how much you both desire and can handle. I much prefer this method to boiling the potatoes on the stove top, as there’s no peeling or waiting for the water to boil or draining and also cooking the potatoes without moisture results in, I believe, a far superior mash. 

The only thing I really feel strongly about is that your mashed potato should have some freshly ground nutmeg on it – it gives such a warm, cosy note of spice in the same way cinnamon does on top of, say, porridge, just a tiny hint of subtle depth against the blanketing blandness of the potato. Also my specification for six potatoes is just a guess, really – if you use more potatoes or bigger ones you’ll get more mash, that’s about all there is to it.  

mashed potatoes

  • around six medium sized floury potatoes
  • cream
  • butter
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • nutmeg

Set your oven to 220C/450F, and scrub the potatoes if need be, but don’t peel them. Place them directly onto the rack in the oven – like, not on a baking tray or anything – and let them sit for around half an hour or until they’re extremely, 100% tender when you pierce them with a knife. 

Halve them lengthwise and scoop the soft flesh out into a bowl. Squash it all about with a fork, stirring in as much butter and cream as you like, but if you’re completely unsure start with a few tablespoons of the former and about 20g of the latter. Obviously I added more. If you heat it up it’ll be easier to add in and won’t lower the temperature of the potato. 

Sprinkle over plenty of salt, pepper, and a little freshly grated nutmeg. Dive in. 

Don’t throw out the be-scooped potato skins – if you sprinkle them with grated cheese and I don’t know, some smoked paprika or something and blast them under the grill till the cheese is bubbling you are in for a very good time. Unfortunately, as previously discussed, anything even remotely textural was off limits for me so I tearfully and apologetically hoofed them into the bin. 

The mashed potato itself though: good god. So soft. Eating it is like the feeling of lying on the carpet and being warmed by sun streaming through the window. Like turning off your alarm clock and being wrapped in a thick duvet. Like coming in from the cold and turning on a fan heater and just shutting your eyes and listening to the gentle humming noise it makes. Cream and butter are a simple conduit to happiness (presuming you like, enjoy the taste of them) and every last granule of potato seems to swell fatly with the richness of these ingredients. Salt and the aforementioned nutmeg stops everything from being too plain, and it’s all just very calming and delicious. I ate the whole bowl in bed and then fell asleep. 

Thanks to the magic of antibiotics and bedrest I eventually improved, which means I’ve been back at work this week and I could not be happier about it. My first shift back I honestly got the stupidest grin on my face while making my first cocktail of the night, and all that aside it’s a joy to just be around people again. The errant teeth are going to be pulled out on July 3 though, so we’re not entirely out of the woods yet. My teeth have been so extremely well behaved my whole entire life so I’ve never had any real dentist experiences before – and I apologised to my dentist for being such a cliche but – I’m super nervous about it. So, I’ll probably be revisiting this recipe again many times during that week. Till then, gonna eat so many crispy chewy foods while I can. It’s crunch time! 

title from: Liz Phair, Easy Target. It’s grumbly and whiny, like me! 

music lately: 

Lorde, Writer in the Dark. WHAT IS SHE PLAYING AT ??? How DARE (I’m obsessed with this album if you can’t tell.) 

Lash, Take Me Away. This song is from 2001 or something and it really feels like it production-wise, this band went absolutely nowhere but this is such a bop still, like, that chorus!! 

Polly Scattergood, Wanderlust. This song is so extremely everything I look for in pop music – fizzy and dreamy and a little melancholic. 

next time: something aggressively crunchy before settling back into post-operation pain-fuelled soft foods!!

to fill a whole, to shake the sky in two

You know that Mozart banger, Symphony No. 40, First Movement, Allegro? If you sing “carb! on carb! on carb on carb on carb!” in your head along to the tune of it while making yourself a fried potato toastie, it’s kind of a fun thing to do.

It’s easy to say that 2016 has been a garbage year. I’ve said it myself. It has been an exceptionally hard year for me in ways I didn’t even think would be possible – at least the difficulties have been keeping it fresh and interesting, I guess? – and I’m just one small struggling drop in a bucket in which we’re all lil droplets having our own difficult times magnified in concave through our personal water droplet perspectives (I imagine being a droplet is like viewing everything through a fish eye lens, the kind they used in 90s hip hop videos.)

But consider this: has any year ever been good? Can you name one good year? It’s impossible. They all sucked. And if you think they didn’t, just look at the Wikipedia entry for any given 365 days in history and rest assured that there were atrocities abounding.

All we can really hold onto is moments. Small times. A perfect afternoon. Finishing a task and not failing. A really nice enveloping hug. Realising someone was thinking about you at the exact moment you were thinking about them. A nap where you had a beautiful dream. Catching yourself in the act of existing for one weightless minute of no anxiety. Laughter. The usual stuff.

Last weekend I was up the coast in Raumati South with my two best friends. A long time ago we organised a little getaway in the face of 2016 being so intense – little did we know how much more 2016 would happen between us booking the holiday and us actually getting there. And how much more was to come. On the first night, we were woken just after midnight – full of nachos and red wine and mere minutes into a deliciously early night’s sleep – by a fairly enormous earthquake. The kind that really does damage. And then aftershock upon aftershock upon aftershock. Now I’ve been truly terrified of earthquakes ever since doing a school project on disasters in 1997; yet somehow I was calm and almost managerial throughout the quake itself, comforting my friends and holding them tight and repeating logical things.

As soon as the shaking stopped I threw up three times and then slept a total of about six hours over the next three days that we remained out there. My cool leadership was nice while it lasted I guess. On the other hand being around your best friends in a little wooden bach up a hill is about as safe as you can be against any kind of trouble.

So now all of a sudden we’re in this post-quake time; what were we even doing before it? I’m immensely, immensely lucky that no damage was done at my apartment or workplace, but I’m constantly on edge and anxious and can’t stop myself. LUCKILY, she says self-deprecatingly, I’m always anxious and so this is at least nothing out of the ordinary for me. You’ve gotta keep on keeping on, I tell people, while refusing to leave my bed.

As such I have cooked myself 1 (one) thing in the last week, and it was this: a fried potato toastie. Comfort food, how obvious of me!  But who cares, this is something you can make for yourself which requires very little in the way of gathering ingredients, and there is something about carb on carb that brings some kind of calm to the soul; who am I to fight it.

It’s very simple. Small cubes of potato fried in olive oil till crisp – which doesn’t take that long. Sandwich them in two thick slices of bread spread with something, sit that in the pan till its golden, eat it in bed. There’s something about the salty crunch of potato against fluffy, soft white bread, sinking into the cool sour cream, that makes one feel like the world is a less scary place.

fried potato toastie

recipe by myself. It looks long but I just kind of over-explain everything, it’s really easy I promise. 

  • one large potato, the kind that is ideal for roasting (eg, not a new potato) 
  • olive oil
  • two thick slices of white bread
  • sour cream (or mayonnaise, I just had sour cream and liked the potato salad vibes it gave) or use some kind of vegan mayo or hummus or whatnot to make it vegan. 
  • mustard of some kind

Heat about three tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy pan. Dice the potato quite small, into rough cubes and chunks of one or two centimetres. Once the oil is hot, tip the potato into the pan, with the aim being to get all the potato in one single layer. Add a little more oil if you like. Leave the potato to fry for five to ten minutes and then once they’re golden on one side, turn each piece over to allow it to fry on the other side. This is possibly slightly tedious but it’s also calmingly methodical, and a regular spoon is the easiest way to turn over all the little pieces. Once the potato is all cooked through and crisply golden on both sides, remove them to a plate.

Fry one of the slices of bread on one side, then set it aside. Thickly spread the un-fried side with sour cream and mustard, and spread the same on one side of the other piece of bread. Put the unfried piece of bread in the pan, pile all the potato on top of it, top with the other piece of bread (sour cream side down…) and continue to fry for a little bit longer till the bottom slice appears toasted. Remove to a plate and eat in bed. 

After eating this I immediately fell into a thick, heavy nap, which I believe speaks to the toastie’s inherent power. I didn’t have any cheese to hand and have no doubt that it would improve everything, but the sandwich was perfect on its own – oily, salty, crispy, soft, all the good things.

So now what? I mean, you have to keep on keeping on, (she says, refusing to leave her bed) and making yourself a self-indulgent toastie is definitely one way of doing that. Just do what you can. And if you’re not up to feeding yourself, you know what you should do? Go out. Support your local hospitality scene, because they need you. What are you going to do with your money anyway, put it in a museum and look at it? No! Be with your friends, have a drink, come together, help businesses to keep going. In all honesty the best thing about Wellington is the places to eat and drink, and without them what have we got? In the last couple of days I’ve taken myself out to breakfast at Loretta, coffee at Customs, drinks at Library, shotgunned beers in the backyard with my friends in the sun like nothing was the matter at all; and I barely have any money or free time. I’m also, despite my nerves, doing my best to show everyone at my home-away-from-home Motel the best time possible, because anyone who comes through that door has made the effort to leave the house and connect with people and support us. (I mean I always try to show people a good time but damn it, this earthquake has made me sentimental as heck and suddenly the smallest things feel momentous.) I’m not saying I’m a hero by like, buying a coffee. I’d go with “icon,” personally.

Anyway – just keep looking for the nice moments, and creating as many as you can muster, they are there somewhere.

Also: If carb, on carb, on carb-on-carb-on-carb is your idea of comforting, may I also direct you to my recipes for Halloumi and Hash Brown Burgers; Fried Potato Burghal Wheat with Walnuts and Rocket; and Marmite and Chip Sandwiches.

title from: Blink 182’s sad as song All of This, featuring that sadness maven Robert Smith. 

music lately:

Amy Shark, Adore. I can’t stop listening to this song!

Dead Flowers, Might As Well Get Used To It. Might as well, huh. This song from this NZ band from 1998 is gloomily beautiful and sounds like a cross between that Radiohead song from the Romeo and Juliet soundtrack and that Gorillaz song Tomorrow Comes Today but is also very much its own, sadly charming thing.

Sharon Jones, Got A Thing On My Mind. In yet another thing that makes this year suck, she died the other day, at just 60. I was so lucky to see her live with the Dap Kings when they came to Wellington a few years ago, but it’s ugh, so horrible, she was so young and her music is the most alive thing ever.

next time: hopefully my nerves will subside a bit and allow me to move on from AGGRESSIVELY PRIMAL type cooking but if I’m stuck eating nothing but fried carbs for a while I’m chill with it. 

these girls fall like dominoes

I would describe my demeanour this week as Literal Zombie But With Slightly Worse Hygiene. The reason I have not blogged up until the very moment that you’re reading this is that I have been working on an enormous freelance project with a big company, it was a brilliant opportunity that I would’ve been an idiot to turn down, it did however take up every waking moment when I was not at work. Okay, I’m exaggerating, on Wednesday I took 30 minutes to eat a sandwich and do some thoroughly decent selfies. As I said, I’ve been working my usual hours too and on top of that am also attempting to deal with my personal life in that unspecial everyone-has-their-own-struggle way that we all are, so as a result my brain is FORLORN. But I got the project done and I’m proud of myself for it and I’m delighted that I was considered to do it: something had to give though and alas it was writing this blog post. 

I’m already a bit daft at the best of times – I interpret stuff in a verrrry face value way (April Fool’s Day is honestly so embarrassing for me) and also sometimes forget a simple term and can only elaborately describe my way around it. I’m Occam’s Razor on Opposite Day, basically. This week it has been amplified x a squillion, for example: the recipe below involves cutting potatoes into a particular shape and I could not, just could not recall what the name of that shape was. I googled it, all I got was talk of shapes with names like decadocadecoflipagon which was all too spooky. I took to Facebook to ask: it turns out out the shape I was trying to name was…a cube. I forgot what a cube was. What about a long-ass cube though? I asked. A brick? Suggested my friend Charlotte. Reader, I hung my head. 

 

Later this week I happened to look at my hand and was noticed, idly, that I had got something blue on it. I was wearing blue eyeshadow and it’s no surprise for the makeup on my face to migrate to the rest of my body in streaky patches as I go scruffily about my day. When it wouldn’t wash off however, I started silently freaking out. I messaged my two best friends Kim and Kate to say I was highly nervous because a vein on my hand had grown wide like pappardelle pasta and were the rest of my veins going to follow in this fashion and bust out of my stupid body, and as if I have time for this right now because I have this massive freelance project to finish. Kim was like “it sounds like a bruise” and Kate was like “yep it’s a bruise” and I was like “ohhh yeah. Bruises.” 

Amongst all this one needs to feed one’s self, and also to stop referring to one’s self as “one”, probably. Ever since reading about them on Food52 I’ve been completely entranced by Potato Dominoes, a method of roasting potatoes where you cut all the rounded edges off and then slice the remaining potato verrrry thinly in a brick shape (or a long-ass cube, if you will, this is also the point where I got into a spot of bother with mathematical terms) and push them over slightly – hence the domino name. It all sounds like a lot of faff for very little result but kindly believe my hype. Slicing them all thin creates a ton of surface area and edge bits to get almost hilariously crunchy and crisp, whilst providing a solid base to get all creamy and soft and lush. Is it worth it? Let me work it. Also yes, yes it is worth it. 

Even if they fall apart they are still wonderful (the title of my new pop punk album?) but I nevertheless suggest making them for yourself a few times to get the hang of it before you feed them to, I don’t know, an ambassador’s husband. They’re not difficult, just a tiny bit fiddly. Before you get het up about the utter wastefulness of slicing all the rounded edges off the potatoes, I’m not suggesting you throw them out the window or anything. You can keep em to add to stews or soups or stocks, or do the obvious thing: roast them alongside the potato dominoes and eat them too, as a kind of sneaky chef’s treat. 

Here I’ve used a ton of butter, which melts over the potatoes under the blasting heat of the oven, however I made them again with olive oil in the interests of vegan possibilities and simple curiosity. They were, unsurprisingly, equally excellent. If you don’t have any in the house, the thyme and capers aren’t crucial to the proceedings, but! Thyme’s resiny, sweet herbal flavour is beautiful with the buttery, nutty potatoes, and capers are so salty and good and get as crunchy as the edges of the potatoes that they’re adorning. 

potato dominoes with thyme and capers

adapted gently from a Food52 recipe, which probably has way more helpful instructions than mine. 

  • two big, evenly sized potatoes
  • butter, around 75g OR a plenty of extra virgin olive oil
  • a tablespoon of capers
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme

Set your oven to 220C/450F. Slice all the rounded sides off the potatoes so you end up with a potato brick/cuboid thing. Slice crosswise (I think that’s the word? Not lengthwise, basically) through the potatoes, as thinly as you can muster. Push them into place so they hold their brick shape even when all sliced up. Use a spatula or pancake flipper to transfer them to a baking tray, and push them over slightly so they are like a pile of tipped-over dominoes, or a spread of cards, or a pile of books on a lean, that kind of thing. Surround them with the off cuts of potato if you like. Generously layer slices of the butter across the top of each potato, and use any remaining butter to dot on top of the off cuts, if you’re using them. 

Roast for around 20 minutes, although much will depend upon your oven and the type of potatoes you’ve got. The more waxy and watery the potato, the longer it will take. Scatter with the thyme and capers, eating a few offcuts on the way to test for done-ness, and return to the oven till the capers are crisp and the potatoes are cooked through and thoroughly golden on the outside. 

I fear I have not emphasised enough how delicious these are. They’re SO CRISP. But SO SOFT underneath. It’s SO NOT a huge deal to have to slice them up all funny. All I could find was stupid waxy potatoes that seemed to be filled with water and they STILL turned out gorgeously browned and crisp. I have SO MORE CAPITALISATION where that came from. Anyway I was eating a big plateful of these the other day and my brain was at a particularly low ebb, like the tide carrying any knowledge had washed away out to sea and I was too tired to chase it, or indeed, to come up with a better metaphor, and I was looking at these beautiful, golden and brown, crunchy crisp potatoes, and I got the theme song from Friends in my head and for one rather silly second I attributed the qualities of being there for you when the rain starts to pour and like they’ve been there before to these potatoes and felt comforted. It’s like the potatoes gave me the supportive words I needed but it turns out those words were in my heart all along. 

 Omg this beautiful woman! Lucky London. 

Omg this beautiful woman! Lucky London. 

Speaking of words that were in one’s heart all along, I found myself doing karaoke last night for the second Saturday in a row and it’s amazing how good for the soul it is (apart from wondering, injuriously, why there is no audience out there who wants to hear a moderately terrible singer and thus I can never become a pop star.) All my emotions were slammed around anyway because it was the leaving party for my dear, beautiful friend Charlotte who is bereaving us of her presence but blessing the lesbians of London by moving there for good; on the other hand my angel friend Kate had just returned after a month overseas. Considering I was already at the point of feeling like I was receiving bolstering messages from a bowl of potatoes, you can imagine the near-hysteria in the air last night. Why not add lusty singing into the mix? It was a wonderful night though, so full of support from actual humans and hugs and laughter and new friends and bottles of Rose wine which kept appearing out of nowhere and – once I’ve finished my shift at work that I’m about to head off and do – I made it through this week. Thanks, potatoes.  

If you, too, are on a potatoes vibe then may I also suggest checking out my recipes for Quite Fast Garlic and Parmesan Potatoes, Baked Potato Salad, and/or Halloumi, Fried Potato and Raw Fennel Salad

title from: Nicki Minaj’s wonderfully sweet and pro-woman song, Girls Fall Like Dominoes. We are so lucky to have her. 

music lately: 

I don’t know if it’s indicative of where my head’s at but I’m all “no time like the present to develop an odd obsession with Roxette”, specifically the song The Look which I’ve listened to at least fifty times this week, conservatively estimating. It’s horrifyingly intoxicating. I’m listening to it right now. 

Mr Big, To Be With You. Lol, idk. 

next time:  I made AMAZING white chocolate and burnt butter ice cream and I’m very excited about it. I just have to get photos of it before I eat it all, thus far a losing battle.