Fresh Peach Galette [Vegan]

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When pondering my blog recently, in the way a concerned parent might frown, with tented fingers, at their child’s blotchy and error-strewn schoolbooks, perhaps with unsavoury cartoons drawn in the margins, something occurred to me: the majority of my recipes lately have been baking, with the occasional preserve. The simple reason being I blog about things as I cook and eat them – it’s rare that I’ll make something especially for the blog – and in turn, baking is most likely to happen during the day, which makes for good photography light, as opposed to dinner, which either happens after the sun has set, or in a hurry of serving and eating, or both. As for desserts, which happen even later – well, no wonder I don’t have a ton of recipes for them these days. Unless they’re ice cream, a scoop of which can be photographed in the morning. I would love to have the kind of food blog where I make recipes – and even test them! – in the day time and photograph them specially, which would make it more of a resource, as opposed to in this incidental fashion with the photographing happening moments before the consumption. That’s not likely to change anytime soon, nor is it practical to my living situation, and that’s fine, but in case you’re like, “where are the dinner and dessert recipes already”, well, take comfort from the fact that I frequently lie awake thinking about that very same question.

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Anyway, this week I was the fortunate, grateful receiver of a large bucket of ripe peaches from my godmother’s garden, and I was determined to make something that wasn’t a cake or an ice cream (my first instinct, and – I’m not ruling out the remaining peaches ending up used in this fashion) but a dessert, a proper pudding. Enter this vegan peach galette – the ideal recipe for me, in that I could make it in the day, take some beautifully lit photographs, and then quickly warm it up later on for eating after dinner. And it’s the ideal recipe for you, because it’s a pie – but so much easier – with a careless and carefree method for pastry and filling both. And even though I’ve said it’s a dessert, in the unlikely event of leftovers a slice of this is lovely cold (or briefly nuked in the microwave) with a cup of tea or coffee.

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Untroubled by any other rowdy filling ingredients, the gorgeous peaches shine – lightly caramelised and jammy from the oven’s heat and gently helped along by the resiny warmth of the thyme leaves and a slight kick of lemon. The pastry couldn’t be easier – and yeah, it uses margarine, but let me be upfront: while I’m yet to meet a commercial margarine which doesn’t taste slightly awful either immediately, or later upon sober reflection in the middle of the night, I must concede that it’s a consistently well-behaved ingredient to bake with. Pastry is stressful enough without worrying about it falling to pieces! The margarine, plus the acid of the vinegar added to the milk, makes a pastry which is tender, easy to roll, extremely courteous, and bakes to a biscuity crisp finish. And to counteract the entirely valid stress of it tasting like margarine, I’ve added plenty of cinnamon – I promise, the finished product is purely peach pie, with no unwelcome flavours.

This galette would be beautiful with whatever fruit you have to hand – obviously any stone fruit could be subbed in, but also consider berries, apples, pears, or a thrilling combination of any of the above. But in our current high summer there’s no better fruit than the peach, and they look so gloriously golden and cosy peeking out from under their pastry blanket-hem that I’m almost envious of them – oh to be a peach, gently tucked under a fold of pastry and baked for thirty minutes!

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Fresh Peach Galette

An easy and delicious rustic free-form vegan peach pie, for anyone too scared to make a pie – the pastry is done in the food processor, the filling is basically just sliced peaches, and yet it tastes like so much more.
Recipe by myself. Makes six good-sized slices, or four even-better-sized slices.

  • 7 tablespoons margarine (no need to level them if they’re slightly heaped)
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 cup soy milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 ripe peaches
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons custard powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1: Place the margarine and flour into the food processor bowl and – if it will fit – put the processor bowl in the freezer for ten minutes. If you don’t have the space, chill the margarine and flour in a small bowl before transferring to the food processor. While this is happening, mix the soy milk and vinegar together and set aside to activate/curdle.

2: Briefly blend the chilled margarine, flour, plus the salt and cinnamon in the food processor till everything is incorporated and resembles damp sand. Add the milk and vinegar mixture and pulse two or three times to just mix it in. Don’t worry if it’s not looking particularly coherent at this point, the key to a tender pastry is not over-mixing. Tip the dough into a bowl and press it into a ball with your hands. It’ll be a little sticky, which is fine, but dust a little more flour over if you think it needs it. Cover the bowl and chill the pastry in the fridge for about an hour, although you can leave it overnight if need be.

3: Once the pastry is about done chilling, set your oven to 190C/375F. Slice the peaches and place in a bowl with the sugar, lemon juice, custard powder, and vanilla.

4: Remove the pastry from the fridge and place on a baking paper lined baking tray. Roll it out to a large rough oval or circle shape – it truly doesn’t matter, just roll – about 1/2cm thick. I scattered a little flour on the dough and then put a piece of baking paper on top before rolling, both to prevent it sticking and to save having to wash the rolling pin, I recommend you do the same. The edges don’t have to be uniform, but if they’re particularly jagged, trim them a little, and re-roll the scraps of pastry into the rest of the dough.

5: Pile the peaches into the centre of the pastry, leaving a border of about 8cm free – no need to get out your ruler though, it really doesn’t matter too much either way, you just need to have enough free pastry to fold over the peaches.

6: Sprinkle the thyme leaves over the peaches. Fold the edges of the pastry over the peaches, as you can see in the photos. There should be some liquid remaining in the bowl which held the peaches – pour most of it over the peaches and use the rest to brush over the pastry (or you can simply brush the pastry with a little milk.) Bake your galette for thirty minutes, or until the pastry is golden and crisp. Let it sit for ten minutes before slicing.

Notes:

  • I say five peaches to account for any bruised bits/eating slices of peach as you go. If you have four absolutely perfect peaches and the fortitude to not eat any of them, you can use four. You could probably get away with three peaches, it would just be a smaller galette. And of course, you could use other stone fruit instead – nectarines, apricots, plums, etc.
  • If you don’t have a food processor – one less dish to wash, hurrah – simply rub the cold margarine into the flour with your fingertips, and stir the milk in with a spoon.

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music lately:

I Believe from the Broadway cast recording of Spring Awakening. I’ve been revisiting a lot of cast recordings I haven’t listened to in a long time and getting outstandingly emotional over them, thoroughly recommend it. That being said, I Believe could just about fool someone into thinking it’s not song from a stage show but instead a forgotten folk tune from the 70s, with its hopeful yet bittersweet refrain, yearning harmonies, and pensive guitar strumming.

Force Field by KŌTIRO from their album High-Def Multinational. This is just gorgeous, airy and spacious yet full and warm, like a freshly-baked loaf of bread. I also love the lush and immense Puti’s Maunga from the same album, it’s only 56 seconds long so my advice is to listen to it eighteen times in a row on loop to give yourself time to properly vibe with it.

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. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

The Best Vegan Cupcakes

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Somewhere between Sex and the City, the establishment of Web 2.0, and the 2008 financial crisis, cupcakes truly had a moment. I’ve been around long enough with hungryandfrozen.com to witness their rise, their stagnation, and the mild backlash, and in this time I’ve only actually blogged about them like, once, eleven years ago, and have spent the rest of the time loftily reflecting upon the cupcake’s place in societal food trends and my place as its constant witness. That self-congratulatory nonsense ends today, since I finally made cupcakes again and the thing is, outside of trends or whether you think they’re cutesy or whether you’re still smarting from being charged $9 for one that time when you accidentally wandered into the local organic market and had made too much small talk with the cupcake seller to be able to back out politely without some kind of purchase – outside of all that – cupcakes are wonderful. A small cake! Just for you! Whole and perfect, with nothing to add or subtract! What’s not to love?

Recently it was my brother and father’s birthday, and I strong-armed them into letting me make cupcakes as the candle-bearing birthday cake (a conceit completely undermined by the birthday celebrations occurring at a beach picnic where the untethered wind wouldn’t even let the match stay lit for more than a second). Normally I’m quite confident to just make up a cake but with the pressure of it being for an occasion I wanted to consult an existing recipe, and then this one at Minimalist Baker seemed so straightforward and reasonable that I ended up following it pretty well to the letter. The recipe worked perfectly: tender, vanilla-scented little sponge cakes, exactly how I pictured them in the tastebuds of my mind (or the mind of my tastebuds?) and the ideal load-bearing wall for all that buttercream.

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So while I can’t take credit for the cupcakes, the buttercream is absolutely my invention and I cannot even begin to express how delighted I am with it, and myself. Speaking with a vague, unearned air of science, the process involves making a quick emulsion of oil, vinegar and milk, which imitates butter, and then beating icing sugar into that unlikely emulsion until you end up with clouds of the most dreamy, fudgy, buttery and delicious icing you can fathom (as a vegan, I mean, but everyone I’ve fed this to loves it.) I’d explored different kinds of vegan icing before and while using margarine gives good results texture-wise, it’s so hard to avoid that unfriendly margarine flavour. With this quick emulsion method, you get all texture, all flavour, and none of the crestfallen bereft-ness. I split the buttercream in two and flavoured half with cocoa and half with raspberry flavouring and the latter was absolutely my favourite – obviously chocolate is very good, in fact it hardly needs me to defend it, but there’s something about a pink cupcake that just feels right in my soul.

These really are the perfect cupcakes, and without a drop of exaggeration I’ve thought about them every single day since the last one was consumed. And don’t feel like you have to wait for a special occasion to make these: if birthdays are far off (or out of reach) I’d just make a batch and have them for dinner, in its entirety.

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The Best Vegan Cupcakes (with The Best Vegan Buttercream)

Delicious, classic vanilla cupcakes with raspberry or chocolate vegan buttercream. Cupcake recipe adapted very slightly from the Minimalist Baker; Buttercream recipe by myself. Makes 12.

  • 1 cup soy milk or similar
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup rice bran oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

1: Set your oven to 180C/350F and line a standard muffin tray with 12 paper liners.

2: Start by pouring the milk and vinegar into a large mixing bowl and leaving for a minute or two to curdle slightly. Add the oil, vanilla, and sugar, and whisk to combine.

3: Sieve in the dry ingredients – important, as sieving prevents any baking soda lumps – and as the original recipe recommends sifting some of the flour in before the raising agents followed the remaining flour and salt, I will pass this tip onto you as well. Sieving the dry ingredients in this order helps to ensure that the baking powder and baking soda are fully dispersed amongst the flour. Whisk everything together until well blended without any lumps remaining. The mixture should be about the texture of pancake batter – if it’s too liquidy then just sieve in a couple more tablespoons of flour.

4: Divide the mixture between the twelve paper holders, filling them no more than 3/4 full to allow for the cupcakes rising. The mixture is extremely delicious, and it will look like you’ve got a lot, but I personally recommend waiting until you’ve actually filled the paper cases before you go eating too much of it. Bake the cupcakes in the centre of the oven (that is, not too high or too low) for 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of one of them comes out clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before icing. If the cupcakes have risen quite high, you might want to level off the tops with a serrated knife (and then eat the offcuts, cook’s treat) to make a flat playing field for the icing to go on.

Buttercream:

  • 1/3 cup soft (but not melted) refined coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup soy milk or similar (plus extra if necessary)
  • 1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 level tablespoon golden syrup (or light corn syrup if American)
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon custard powder
  • 2 and 1/2 – 3 cups icing sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons good cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon raspberry flavoured essence
  • few drops pink food colouring
  • Rainbow sprinkles, or sprinkles of your choice, to serve

1: Place the soft coconut oil, milk, vinegar, golden syrup and salt into a mixing bowl and blend with a stick blender. It will look quite unpromising at this point, but don’t worry. Add the custard powder and blend again, followed by the icing sugar, a spoonful at a time while still blending, until it forms a thick, dense frosting that begins to hold its shape.

2: Once it gets particularly thick you can remove the stick blender and add the remaining icing sugar by sieving it in and then stirring to combine – start off with 2 and 1/2 cups, but if it’s too thick, stir in a tablespoon or two of extra soy milk, and if it’s too soft, sieve in a little extra icing sugar. The texture you’re after is a spreadable icing that’s thick enough to hold its shape when you move your spoon through it.

3: Scoop about half of the icing into another small bowl. In one bowl, sieve in the cocoa and stir it in until it’s completely combined – you may want to add another spoonful of milk here, as the cocoa can have quite a drying effect. In the second bowl, stir in the raspberry essence and a few drops of pink food colouring, until it’s the flavour and shade you want.

4: Frost the cupcakes once they’re cooled completely – I just dropped a spoonful of icing on top of a cupcake and spread it around with the back of the spoon, then moved onto the next one, but you could also use the flat side of a knife. Scatter the sprinkles over the cupcakes as soon as you’ve iced them – if you leave it too long the icing will set and the sprinkles will just bounce straight off (I mean, I still got sprinkles everywhere anyway, but.) You might end up with a little more icing than you need, once again: cook’s treat.

Notes:

  • I recommend rice bran oil specifically because of its neutral flavour – because these cupcakes are pretty simple I wouldn’t recommend an oil with an overpowering flavour. Canola or grapeseed oil also have a pretty neutral flavour.
  • I haven’t tried piping this buttercream so I couldn’t honestly say whether or not it’s suitable for the purpose, although I’d guess it would be, since it holds its shape well.
  • The custard powder in the icing is for flavour and texture, but I’ve made it without and it was also fine so don’t stress if you don’t have any.

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music lately:

One For My Baby (And One More For The Road) by the highly underrated Ida Lupino, from one of my favourite films, Road House (1948). She’s not exactly a singer, but the way she acts through this song is exquisite – as the bystander says after she’s done, “She does more without a voice than anyone I’ve ever heard!”

Dress by PJ Harvey. That barrelling drumbeat and the “if you put it on” refrain and everything, it’s just so good.

Regina by The Sugarcubes. You know I have ready a list of Broadway songs I would love to hear Bjork sing (and vice versa, I’ve always thought Idina Menzel would be an ideal person to cover Big Time Sensuality.

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. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

Windfall Five-Spice Plum Ice Cream (Vegan)

If you live in the rural countryside, there’s a solid chance at any stage of the summer that your mother, an aunty, (perhaps yours) or the neighbour’s dog will confidently stride into your house and lower onto the table a bulging tote bag or empty paint bucket filled with plums. I’ve spoken before of that particular proclivity in regards to receiving lemons, but it very much extends to any and all domesticated fruit. If, like me, you find yourself in possession of a lot of plums and are wondering what to make with them, may I suggest this Windfall Five-Spice Plum ice cream – as pink as pureed lipstick, intensely plummy, tartly acerbic, and extremely delicious. Even if you aren’t blessed with a front-end loader’s worth of plums, they’re in season right now and therefore, I hope, easier to acquire – and this ice cream is absolutely worth a little outlay.

This uses a full thirty plums – which is on its own, a lot, but did not make any visible dent in our large tote bag full of them – and yields you a fun-sized 2.5 litres of ice cream. As with all my ice creams, this is no-churn – no ice cream maker necessary – and although my instructions look violently complicated, there’s not really a whole lot asked of you in the process. There are two components to this – first, the simmered plums, thickened to make a kind of dense, pink custard. Then, the aquafaba, that versatile liquid in your canned chickpeas, which is whipped into a glossy meringue and folded together with the plums. I’ve used aquafaba in many of my other recipes and yet, every time, I’m amazed at its functionality and structural integrity. It’s literally just water that beans were cooked in, it somehow becomes, well, everything.

Because of the high proportion of fruit in this ice cream it has an icy, slightly sorbet-like texture, but with a rich smoothness from the aquafaba and custard powder. The plums have an almost tinfoil-biting sourness, which is kept in check by the sugar and the vanilla, and rounded out by a kick of cinnamon and Chinese five-spice powder – in particular, the star anise component of the five-spice is excellent with the jamminess of the plums.

This recipe also works well – and is just as seasonal – in a strawberry-lemon variation – just replace the plums with two to three punnets of hulled, chopped strawberries, use fresh lemon juice instead of water, reduce the sugar to about 1/2 a cup for the syrup and 1/2 a cup for the aquafaba, and I would definitely add a pinch of citric acid to the cooled syrup too (plus the grated zest of however many lemons you squeezed.) This makes around 1.5 litres of dreamy, creamy strawberry-lemon ice cream. Either way, whichever fruit: delicious, bright pink, ice-cold summer happiness awaits.

Windfall Five-Spice Plum Ice Cream

What to do with a lot of plums? Why, make this extremely delicious, no-churn, vegan ice cream. As per usual, the process is much easier than my over-explaining makes it look; all you’re doing is simmering some plums, whipping some aquafaba, and stirring them together. Recipe by myself.

  • 30 ripe plums
  • 1 and 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1/4 cup custard powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder (or to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup aquafaba (the brine from one standard can of chickpeas)
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1: Have ready two containers – preferably with lids – of a combined capacity of about 2.5 litres, since that’s how much this makes. Roughly chop the plums, removing the stones as you go, and place in a good-sized saucepan with one cup of the sugar (the remaining sugar goes in the aquafaba) and the 1/2 cup of water. Bring this mixture to the boil, stirring often, then lower the heat and let it bubble away at a brisk simmer until the fruit has collapsed, still stirring all the while.

2: Meanwhile, whisk the custard powder into the soy milk, making sure there are no lumps remaining. Once the plums have completely softened, almost dissolving into the syrup as you press against them with your wooden spoon, remove the pan from the heat and quickly stir in the soy milk mixture. It will immediately turn from a dark scarlet to a more muted pink, but don’t worry, it will somehow get brighter as it freezes. Return the pan to a low heat for just another minute, stirring as you go, to let the custard powder thicken the syrup up somewhat.

3: Remove the pan from the heat for the final time, stir in the cinnamon, five-spice, and vanilla, and set aside to cool a little. I like to stick it in a sink filled about 1/3 high with cold water to hasten the process. Just make sure anyone else in the house is aware of this so they don’t turn on the tap and blast your pan with cold water (which has actually happened to me. I managed to salvage it – and wouldn’t you know, the resulting ice cream was incredible and I have no idea how to recreate it now.)

4: While this is cooling, place the aquafaba in a large mixing bowl and using electric beaters (you can use a whisk if you have the patience and energy though) whip the aquafaba on a low speed until it’s frothy and opaque. Add the apple cider vinegar and continue beating at a higher speed, until it’s really quite frothy and stiff, and the beaters leave visible trails in the mixture as they move through it. Now, start beating at the highest speed while you add the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar a little at a time. Keep beating until the sugar is entirely dissolved – to test, taste a little of the mixture and if you perceive any sugary grit remaining, keep beating.

5: Fold the plum mixture into the pale-white, aerated aquafaba a little at a time, until it’s all mixed together (I find a 1/3 cup measure useful to transfer the plums into the aquafaba bowl.) The aquafaba will lose a little of its volume, but manages to bear the weight of all that fruit impressively well. To ensure it stays as fluffy as possible, make sure you really are folding the fruit in, rather than briskly stirring or whisking. Taste, to see if it wants a bit more five-spice powder, which it may well do.

6: Spatula this dreamy pink mixture between your containers – I recommend something with a lid, to prevent freezer burn – and then pop these containers into the fridge for two to three hours. This improves the flavour and the texture, I don’t know why, but I cannot make ice cream any other way now. After this time, remove the lid, give the mousse-like mixture a brief folding stir to lift up any fruit which has dropped to the bottom of the containers, return the lid, and then freeze your ice cream for at least six hours, undisturbed (that is, you don’t need to stir, process, or churn it at any stage. So both you and the ice cream are undisturbed, really.)

Makes around 2.5 litres depending on the size of your plums, the curve of the earth, etc.

Notes:

  • If your plums are very sweet, you may want to reduce the sugar a little – perhaps 3/4 cup in the syrup and 1/2 a cup in the aquafaba – I would also recommend adding a pinch of citric acid to the cooled syrup
  • Feel free to use cornflour (cornstarch) in lieu of custard powder
  • This is fairly scoop-able straight from the freezer, but it’s a lot easier if it’s had five-ten minutes on the bench first
  • I’ve made ice cream with pretty much every plant milk available and curiously, soy milk has the most unobtrusive flavour here, hence why I’ve specified it

music lately:

Tentpeg by JFA. Probably one of their more accessible numbers, but still as loud and mean as you please.

On A Clear Day, by Robert Goulet. That voice! That relaxed yet opulent voice! The way he swings into the lip-smacking enunciation all, “Awn-uhh cleah day” – the way that listening to this makes it feel, very briefly, like everything is actually wonderful! Goulet’s version is second only to my favourite interpretation of this song, by the tragically late Laurie Beechman – an astonishing and entirely different take, and one I revisit often.

Lucinda, by A Certain Ratio. May I just say, what a staggeringly funky bassline. I really like their unexpected 2020 release, ACR Loco – good news at last – but the older stuff has a slightly more shambolic, menacing quality to it.

Next time: While we’re talking bright pink foods, I made the beetroot and rhubarb soup from Nigella’s new cookbook and it was excellent.

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. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

The Very Best Christmas Cake (vegan)

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If growing old is humanity’s largely unavoidable curse, its reward is surely discovering and ageing into the untold experiences and possibilities and freedoms which adulthood affords you. Or at least, so I hear. Currently, the only one of these afforded freedoms I can afford, is that the years have sufficiently killed off my tastebuds, so I may genuinely enjoy eating Christmas cake.

Christmas cakes – or fruitcakes in general, be they secular or vaguely pious – were an extreme letdown in my childhood, not just because they tasted so foul to my dilettante palate – but because they looked so storybook spectacular, with that smooth expanse of uninterrupted white icing and that rich chocolatey-looking interior. But oh, such injurious, disgusting dissonance! The icing tasted like fimo modelling clay – the cake beneath like the inky pages of a King James Bible, recently flung into a puddle.

Anyway, time passed, now I like them.

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But if I’m going to eat fruit cake, it still better be excellent, and this recipe, let me assure you, is the most excellent. Yes, it’s vegan, but specifically, it’s not merely the best vegan Christmas cake, it’s, in fact, the best Christmas cake. It is vegan – and it is best. It’s even better than the recipe I put in my 2013 cookbook (pictured up the top there with its dashing star wreath icing – look, it’s a nice picture, and visually, an iced fruitcake is an iced fruitcake, so I reserve the right to repeatedly trot out this relatively old image.)

This fruitcake is wonderful both to make and to eat – as you’ll see in the recipe, the most stressful aspect is lining the tin with baking paper. The combination of dark rum, Guinness and tea give it such a robust backbone of flavour – for some reason, the combination of chai and rooibos is particularly buttery and rich, but if you can only get one or the other then so be it. Guinness tracks its muddy footprints through the batter, lending complexity and intensity. Dark rum speaks for itself (but in case you can’t hear it: it’s just very delicious.)

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I impatiently cut myself a slice as soon as the cake came out of the oven – needing to know whether the recipe actually worked or not – and it was incredible. Two days later, it was like a whole different cake. Deeper, darker, more settled, more confident, it tasted so good I’m ascribing human qualities to it. It tastes like the sound of Bing Crosby’s least phoned-in Christmas album. It’s amazing. It’s the Christmas cake you deserve.

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The Best Christmas Cake

Easy, incredibly delicious, only gets better with age – just like you – and it’s vegan – just like me. I recommend starting this about five days before Christmas, for it to be really peaking right when you need it.

Fruit:

  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup prunes
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sultanas
  • 1 and 1/2 cups tea made with two chai rooibos teabags (or one rooibos, one chai)
  • 1/2 cup dark rum

Cake:

  • 1/2 cup neutral oil, eg rice bran or sunflower
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup treacle, or golden syrup
  • 1 cup Guinness
  • 1/2 cup soy milk, or your preferred milk
  • 4 teaspoons malt vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa
  • 3 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3-4 drops pure orange oil

1: Roughly chop the prunes and dried apricots (measure them out first, then chop them) until they’re all more or less in quarters or thirds, and place them, along with the sultanas, into a small bowl. Cover with the hot tea and the rum, cover, and leave in the fridge overnight, or for at least six hours. But ideally overnight.

2: After a suitable quantity of time has passed, drain the fruit, retaining any of the steeped liquor (there won’t be much, it will be delicious.)

3: Now comes the most difficult part – lining the tin. Take a 22-23cm springform or loose-bottomed cake tin, cut a circle of paper to fit the base, then take a long stretch of paper, fold it in half horizontally/along the long edge, bring the two edges together to make a loop, and fit this inside the cake tin, overlapping the paper where necessary to make it more or less hug the tin’s inner walls. It doesn’t matter if it’s all a bit hodge-podge, the cake batter will hold it in place, but it might help to place a bowl or something inside the tin while you wait, to hold the paper in place. You should end up with the cake tin lined on the base and sides with paper, with a good-sized collar extending over the top edge of the tin.

4: Now comes the easy part – making the cake. Set your oven to 160C/320F. Mix the oil, sugar and treacle together in a large mixing bowl with a wooden spoon. Stir in the Guinness and milk – it will probably froth up a fair bit, but it will subside – followed by the vinegar and vanilla.

5: Add the remaining dry ingredients (you don’t have to sieve the flour but I always sieve baking soda, because I live in fear of lumps in my baking and unfortunately have the past experience to justify such fears) and slowly stir together till it forms a cohesive, liquid-but-thick batter. If you’re worried, the cocoa doesn’t make it taste chocolatey – it just adds another layer of dark intensity.

6: Fold in the drained steeped fruits. Taste to see if you think it needs a bit more of any of the spices – and also just because the batter tastes really good, and you deserve it – and then spatula it all into the waiting cake tin. Even out the top, and then bake for around one and a half hours, or until it’s no longer jiggly when you carefully prod the centre, and a skewer comes out more or less clean. You may want to cover it loosely with tinfoil halfway through, to prevent burning (I did!) Check after an hour, but be prepared to bake it for closer to two hours, it being a very dense mixture.

7: Remove the cake from the oven, spoon over the remaining tea/rum liquid, and allow the cake to cool in its tin. Once cool, carefully remove it and transfer to an airtight container till required. This gets better every single day, although I haven’t had it last longer than a week so I can’t say for sure how far ahead you can make it, but if you keep it in an airtight container still wrapped in its paper, it should be good for at least that long, and surely longer still.

Notes:

  • If you need this cake to be alcohol free, replace the rum with more tea, and I would definitely go for a chai/rooibos blend here rather than black tea. I would add an extra dash of vanilla and maybe an extra quarter cup of brown sugar too. It occurs to me now that the carbonation of the Guinness helps aid the texture of the cake, so try a good ginger beer or ginger ale in its place instead.
  • If you can’t get hold of orange oil, add the zest of a large orange instead.
  • If you lack dark rum, you could use bourbon or a decent-ish brandy – either of these would be preferable to white rum, but golden rum would work in a pinch, and spiced rum is obviously not going to do any harm.
  • You can quite reasonably use just sultanas and prunes if you don’t want dried apricots in it. These are the only concessions I will concede!

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Also, if you really hate fruitcake but seeing the word “cake” has triggered a response in the brain of your taste buds, I recommend this perfect mocha cake (go for the fudgy icing variation) or this molasses loaf which I make roughly once a week, it’s incredibly good and slightly more chill with treacle instead of molasses, too. 

music lately:

Lovely Head, by Goldfrapp. My dear friend Charlotte and I once listened to this song on loop for literally forty minutes – it was also about 1am – and this is exactly how you should listen to it too, and don’t even click through unless you’re prepared for that commitment.

Where Do We Go From Here? by Death. Where, indeed? This is sludgy yet crunchy, like a smashed car windscreen falling into your porridge (or vice versa, I guess.)

A Perfect Relationship by Judy Holliday from the film (based on the Broadway musical) Bells Are Ringing. She was so deadpan hilarious and yet there was something so heartbreaking and tremulous about her. This song, however, is very cute, and in theory is not at all heartbreaking.

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. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

Vegan Treacle Black Pepper Ripple Ice Cream

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For something to be delicious, it only needs one person to perceive it as such. “The customer may not always be right, but their tastebuds are,” is a phrase I used to diplomatically employ while bartending, and it’s true – if a customer wants a microwaved gin and tonic, or a slice of salami garnishing their glass of mid-level chardonnay – if that’s what their personal tastebuds crave – then who am I to deny them? It’s valid! Distressing, but valid. (That being said, your bartender is probably in a huge rush and trying valiantly to ignore their lumbar pain so I would also advise not being wilfully irritating.)

All of which is to say, I made an ice cream that I adored, but no one else in my family wanted to go near. Normally I am disproportionately, long-term wounded if peoples’ response to my cooking doesn’t match the applause I envisioned, but in this case I was happy to take the L, since it meant I got the Treacle Black Pepper Ripple Ice Cream all to myself.

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Despite the presence of treacle, and despite my usual sugary tendencies, this ice cream is bracingly unsweet – or at least, any sweetness is strongly counteracted by the black pepper and generous splashes of malt vinegar. I’ve always found treacle – and by proxy, its cousins golden syrup and molasses – to have a throat-prickling, peppery edge, which is why it traditionally pairs so well with other heat-emanating flavours like ginger and cinnamon. Here, I’ve decided to take this opinion to its natural conclusion and pair the treacle with freshly ground black pepper, adding spice and depth to its already near-savoury burnt toffee taste. Propping it up is whipped aquafaba, that magical leftover brine from your can of chickpeas. Whisked into a billowing meringue with just a scattering of extra sugar, it provides a fluffy, creamy, instantly spoonable proper ice cream texture – even though it’s just water that some beans have been sitting in – and the ideal backdrop to the ribbons of peppery treacle.

The result is quite intense but highly rewarding, and you’ll probably already know whether or not this ice cream is for you. If it’s not, don’t worry – you can make my entirely more accessible, traditionally sweet berry ice cream, which also uses a similar method. And if treacle isn’t hard-core enough for you, then I recommend this ginger-molasses cake (which is, incidentally, also delicious made with treacle) from Bryant Terry’s book The Inspired Vegan – I’ve made this loaf at least once a fortnight since I first posted about it.

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Treacle Black Pepper Ripple Ice Cream

No churn, no equipment, no dairy, no nuts, no coconut – and not for everyone. But for those who dare, it’s SO delicious. Makes around 800-900ml (around two US pints) Recipe by myself.

  • a heaped 1/3 cup treacle (by heaped, I mean – let it be really full and convex meniscus-y)
  • 1/4 cup soy milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • just under 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup aquafaba (the brine from one standard tin of chickpeas)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons malt vinegar

1: Place the treacle, soy milk, and water in a small pan. (I just use the 1/3 cup measure for the soy milk and water, filling it not quite to the top and scraping out every last droplet of treacle with it.) Bring it just to the boil, stirring all the while, and then let it simmer, still stirring regularly, for a minute or two more. It will likely appear quite frothy and pale, but will regulate back into liquid once it cools a little. Remove from the heat, stir in the pepper and salt, and set aside (I sit it in a sink filled with an inch of cold water to rapidly bring down its temperature.)

2: Place the aquafaba and another small pinch of salt in a large mixing bowl and using a whisk, start whipping/beating the aquafaba until it thickens and becomes an opaque white. At this point, continue whisking it briskly while adding a tablespoon of the sugar, whisking, adding a teaspoon of vinegar, whisking, and continuing in this alternating fashion until everything is incorporated and the mixture is thick enough to form soft peaks – this is when you lift the whisk out of the bowl and the mixture rises up with it to form a small peak, which holds its shape long enough for you to notice it before eventually dissipating back down again. Also, if you want to increase the sugar here, I won’t hold it against you.

3: Whisk most of the treacle mixture, saving a few tablespoons, into the aquafaba. It will deflate a little, but this is fine. Turn this aquafaba mixture into a freezer-safe container, and then using a spoon, drizzle the remaining treacle mixture over it in a ripple fashion.

4: Cover the container and refrigerate for two to four hours, but two at the very least. Then, transfer the container into the freezer and leave it for six hours or overnight.

The ice cream is ready to eat, and should be soft enough to scoop, straight from the freezer.

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music lately:

Televised Mind by Fontaines DC. Dad recommended this song to me and he hit it out of the park: it’s really good! Somehow it calls to mind both Joy Division and Dick Dale, a genre crossover which should happen more often in my opinion.

Suddenly Seymour from Little Shop of Horrors by George Salazar and Mj Rodriguez. I’ve listened to so many covers of this song and none comes anywhere close to occupying the same stratosphere as Ellen Greene’s iconic original – until this one. It’s so beautiful, and powerful, and exhilarating! I have chills just thinking about it!

In The City, by Elastica. Ugh, they were just so good.

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. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

Vegan No-Churn Pineapple-Lemon Gelato

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This frozen dessert occupies a space somewhere between sorbet and ice cream – it’s opaquely, mildly creamy, and yet icily brisk and refreshing – and so, with the kind of abject, disrespectful non-authenticity which I seem particularly intent on applying to Italian cuisine only, I’ve called it gelato. It’s inspired by this wonderful lemon curd recipe which I devised last year, with three key components: the pineapple juice for buttery zing and general lengthening, a cornflour-based custard for smooth texture, and a little raw cacao butter for body, richness, and to bevel out the water content.

Unlike with the lemon curd, you really can taste the pineapple when it’s used here, but I decided – once I realised this – that it was intentional. Pineapple and lemon frozen together taste like cold distilled sunshine, with the sugar content somehow making the lemon even more sour, and vice versa. A truly delightful combination.

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As with all my recipes of this nature, this Pineapple-Lemon Gelato doesn’t require an ice cream maker – and I will never cease my objections against Big Ice Cream Maker – you don’t even have to stir or blend it as it freezes, that’s how well-behaved the recipe is. However, the key to success here is to cool the mixture very slowly – first on the bench, and then in the fridge. This allows the cacao butter content to gradually solidify without separating out, plus you can say the gelato has been “aged” to improve the flavour, as though it’s a twenty dollar bottle of wine or a rare cheese. Neither of these outcomes is based on any scientific knowledge – just wild guesswork and following my heart – but the method worked for me.

If being self-satisfied about making a recipe based on another recipe I made up isn’t enough, I also have an alternative ice cream recipe for you that’s even easier than this gelato – the fluffy, soft, rich no-churn Berry Ice Cream that I made for Tenderly, published this week. If making custard and sourcing cacao butter feels like too much effort, all this ice cream uses is a bit of fruit, some sugar, and the aquafaba from a can of chickpeas. And it tastes like a dream.

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Look at it!

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But also look at this! Better make them both, just to be safe.

No-Churn Pineapple-Lemon Gelato

Sour-sweet and delicious, and no special equipment required beyond a wooden spoon. Recipe by myself.

  • 2 cups pineapple juice
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (around four good-sized lemons’ worth)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup soy milk
  • 7 teaspoons cornflour (aka cornstarch)
  • 1 heaped tablespoon finely chopped raw cacao butter*
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt
  • finely grated zest from the lemons (optional but very good)

1: Bring the pineapple juice, lemon juice and sugar to the boil in a saucepan, and then lower to a simmer and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Turn off the heat, but leave the pan where it is.

2: Mix the cornflour with a little of the soymilk in a small bowl – just enough to make it into a wet slurry, which will ensure it blends smoothly without lumps. Add the cornflour mixture and remaining soy milk to the pineapple mixture and cook it over a low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens to about the texture of a good smoothie – you’ll be able to feel the difference in it as you stir, as it becomes less watery and more saucy.

3: Remove from the heat and stir in the cacao butter, vanilla extract, and salt, continuing to stir until the cacao butter has melted and is completely incorporated. At this point, stir in the lemon zest if using.

4: Transfer the mixture to a freezer-safe container, cover, and allow to come to room temperature on the bench. Then, refrigerate it for four to six hours. This step is important – it helps the mixture to settle, so that the fat doesn’t separate, and I am convinced it improves the flavour. Give it a stir – only if it looks like it needs it – and then freeze for six hours or overnight. It should be ready to serve right away, otherwise sit it on the bench for ten minutes first.

Makes around 800ml.

*If you can’t find cacao butter this will probably work with coconut oil – I haven’t tested it but I’m quite sure it would be fine. Keep it at a heaped tablespoon, but you won’t need to chop it up because coconut oil melts very quickly.

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music lately:

Classic Girl by Jane’s Addiction. I love the way it starts drowsy and woozy and suddenly springs to life with those jaunty, Space Oddity-style drum fills. I love whatever top-of-nose metallic register Perry Farrell’s voice is in. An excellent closer to an eternally excellent album.

Legends Never Die by Orville Peck and Shania Twain – in a year of so little positivity, this song is just very uncomplicatedly lovely. Peck’s cavernous Orbison-y voice blends gloriously with Twain’s more raspy vocals on the road-weary lyrics, and they’re both clearly having a wonderful time.

You’ve Got A Friend, sung by Carol Burnett, Bernadette Peters and Mama Cass on a 1971 episode of The Carol Burnett Show. My friend Sam sent this to me correctly assuming it would bring me joy – and oh what joy it brings. The daffy choreography, the flowing gowns, the teeny microphones, the hyperactive vocal arrangement (“you’ve got a friend, you’ve got a good friend, you’ve got a very good friend”) the soaring sumptuousness of Mama Cass’s voice, baby Bernadette Peters’ voice like a china plate falling to the floor but never quite hitting it, the fact that the song lasts six minutes and fifty five whole seconds. There’s something so comforting about that immense, competent professionalism that you get in stars of yesteryear like Carol Burnett (see also the endlessly capable Julie Andrews) which becomes even more comforting when she’s assuring you repeatedly through the medium of song that you’re not alone.

Next time: more pasta?

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. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

Vegan White Chocolate

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It’s with no qualms that I admit I’m far more likely to name a problem and then complain about it ceaselessly rather than do anything about it. But every now and then my rare sense of initiative materialises and I become briefly solutions focussed. In the case of this recipe, I’d already spent a long time complaining about the price and flavour of vegan white chocolate in New Zealand, but then – I tried making my own – and it tasted AMAZING. Capital letters and italics level amazing and, I believe, extremely white chocolate-y.

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Before we go any further, here are the drawbacks: first you have to get your hands on some cacao butter and cashews. As I’ve said before, it pains me to my soul to recommend key ingredients which are potentially expensive or difficult to find, and who knows, perhaps one day I’ll devise a white chocolate recipe comprised solely of flour, water, and air. Till that blessed day comes, there’s no getting around the fact that cashews give this body and heft without any obtrusive nuttiness and the cacao butter gives it authentic texture and richness. The second drawback is this is really just an eating white chocolate – you could chop it up and use it in, say, brownies, but it’s not a melting-and-dipping type creation, or at least, I haven’t tested that aspect of it enough to encourage it with any confidence. Once you’ve got that out of the way it’s fairly straightforward. There’s a lot of blending involved – the near-unavoidable hallmark of vegan cooking – but not much else.

So this is just an eating chocolate, but what an eating experience! It really captures that flickering vanilla creaminess of regular white chocolate, the way it slides across your tongue and dissolves in your throat and the way it tastes better than any other chocolate. I do regret that I can’t approach naturally vegan artisanal dark chocolate with any of the enthusiasm I still hold for cheap non-vegan white chocolate but alas, this is how I am. At least now I can go into the world with my head held a little higher, rallied by the deliciousness of this fake white chocolate.

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It’s been a real week for showing initiative (which presumably means my faculties are spent and the coming weeks will be completely devoid of any resourcefulness.) Specifically, for the first time since I tried fifteen years ago, failed, tried again, got it, freaked out at the responsibility and let it lapse and expire – I have my learners license! It’ll sound like exaggerating to describe how hard I resisted anything to do with driving, instead choosing to be fruitlessly angry at this country’s abysmal public transport and over-reliance on cars, and also at the way learning to drive and ADHD are not immediately compatible. But after fifteen years of that, a different approach was required. I forced myself to focus, and memorise every practice question in the road code, until it was all I could think about, and certainly all I could talk about, and just when my brain was about to explode, I sat the test. And got it. 100%. What a singular rush. Getting my learners means I’m legally allowed to get driving lessons, which will involve a whole lot more wrenching of focus and determination, but I think I’m finally ready, second time around, to take less than fifteen years to achieve this.

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Vegan White Chocolate

Creamy, delicious, and amazingly similar to the memory of white chocolate. The recipe may look wordy but it’s just a case of blending everything thoroughly. Recipe by myself.

  • 70g/half a cup cashews (raw/not toasted)
  • 1 cup roughly chopped cacao butter
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 and 1/2 cups icing sugar + half a cup extra just in case
  • 1/8 teaspoon (as in, a tiny, tiny pinch) cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt
  • freeze-dried raspberry powder for garnish (optional)

1: Soak the cashews in recently-boiled water for at least two hours, around four hours is optimal.
2: Place the cacao butter and coconut oil in a heatproof bowl and rest this bowl on top of a small pot or pan of simmering water (as in, the bowl rests in the mouth of the pan but the base doesn’t actually touch the water.) Let the heat from the water melt the cacao butter, stirring it occasionally (the bowl itself will heat up, so be careful.) Once the cacao butter is melted, turn off the heat and leave it till required.
3: Drain the cashews and place them in a medium sized mixing bowl. Using a stick/immersion blender, begin to blend the cashews until they are very smooth. It may help to add a little of the icing sugar at this point to give the blender more to grip on to. Add the cocoa and blend again to combine. You can leave out the cocoa if you want, but I feel, psychologically at least, that it adds something.
4: Add the icing sugar and melted cacao butter mixture to the cashews alternately a quarter cup or so at a time with the blender still running.
5: If the mixture looks like it’s not quite coming together, add the extra half cup of icing sugar a little at a time.
6: Once you’ve added in everything, switch to a spatula and fold in the vanilla and salt. I found that this folding motion also helped to incorporate any final visible cacao butter. Spatula this mixture into a 20cm square tin lined with baking paper (or whatever tin you have, it doesn’t matter if it won’t fill it completely) and leave to set in the fridge for about an hour or until firm. Sprinkle with the raspberry powder, if using. In all honestly I only added it because I thought it would make the photos look better, but it did taste lovely.

Slice into squares and store in the fridge.

Note: thank you to this recipe at glutenfreeonashoestring.com – our recipes are not the same but mine is inspired directly by reading theirs. I have not tried making this using a regular food processor – I’m sure it’s possible, the important thing is to make sure the cashews are thoroughly blended smooth before adding the melted cacao butter.

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music lately:

Mary Anne by Boytoy. This song is featured in the monumentally charming new Baby-Sitters Club series on Netflix, which I implore you to watch, and then to read the expression of adoration about it which I wrote for Tenderly. This song is wonderfully sixties in that sunny, Turtles/Monkees fashion, and disarmingly catchy.

I Know The End by Phoebe Bridgers. It starts like (this) and ends like THIS which is the ideal way for songs to progress! I also love Salt in the Wound by Boygenius, a group which Phoebe Bridgers is in, another excellent example of going from small to huge, this time with amazing harmonies, it’s real hardcore swoony stuff. I have my dear friend Charlotte to thank for introducing me to Phoebe Bridgers (or at least, for making it clear that she wasn’t Kasey Chambers, when I inexplicably thought they were the same person) and also for making me watch the Baby-Sitters Club series, which you should also watch!

Next time: I used cacao butter to try making ice cream and honestly? It didn’t really work. But I feel like I’m getting closer.

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. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

a low-key handful of recipes: mushroom stroganoff, gumbo-esque stew, mince on toast, chocolate pear pudding

We’re about three weeks into lockdown here in NZ but for me it’s been a full month since I’ve left the house – even to go outside at all. I had romantic notions of reading and knitting in the yard but every time you open a window wasps and mice and flies pour in and though it gives the vibe of living in a Southern Gothic novel it’s also massively off-putting. I generally regard the outdoors with suspicion anyway so I guess this is simply the universe reinforcing my assessment of it.

If you’re reading this I certainly hope things are as close to your current working definition of “okay” as possible. I personally cannot complain too much (and yet!) but I do find myself increasingly quick to irritation as a result of all this repetition. People trying to be funny online annoy me, people trying to be heartfelt annoy me, if you say something inane, that’s annoying, if you say something deep, that’s super annoying, if you mention hanging out with your partner, it’s plumbing the very teeth-eroding depths of intolerable. Oh, don’t worry, I find literally everything I say and do annoying too – and then comes the guilt at being so grumpy at everyone, guilt for not being a fountain of perky positivity – even though I’ve always been irritated by fountains of perky positivity whether or not there was a pandemic closing in on us. Then, just as it feels like my skin is going to fall off from sheer, resentful aggravation – I stand up and do some form of cardio exercise. And afterwards, even if I only exerted myself for ten minutes, and if I’m honest it’s seldom more than ten minutes – afterwards I’ll feel benign, positively magnanimous. Everyone is excused, everyone is clearly doing their best in these trying circumstances!

And then I get annoyed at the exercise, for being so maddeningly effective. Why can’t I get my endorphins from sitting down?

As you can see this blog post is a little different from usual; despite having all the time in the world I have a lot less focus – and I didn’t have an abundance to begin with – and while I’ve been cooking food I haven’t exactly been making specific recipes. I was about to give up on the notion of writing this altogether to sit and stew in my own pinging, directionless ire, when I realised I could still talk about what I’d cooked, and perhaps, collectively, it might be of some use. Each recipe is, as you can see, open to tinkering with – indeed, each one of them was the result of me meandering about, hoping what I was cooking would meet the image in my mind. The stroganoff is rich and creamy and lush (and don’t skip the cayenne, it might be that there is very little going on in my life but for days after I couldn’t stop thinking about how perfectly a pinprick of pepper brought the whole stroganoff to life.) The gumbo-esque stew was inspired by a Bryant Terry recipe, in that I looked at it and then ignored pretty much everything he suggested, but I would absolutely not have had this incredible dinner without him as a starting point. Mince on toast is pretty self-explanatory but I am keen to champion Chinese Five-Spice to anyone who will listen; and the pudding is even more self-explanatory: pudding is nice.

You may notice I haven’t mentioned garlic at all in any of the savoury recipes: it’s not that none was used – quite the opposite – but I also assume you each have highly specific opinions on what constitutes a suitable quantity and so I’m going to trust you to follow your instincts there. And once again – I really do hope you’re all okay, whatever okay is!

Mushroom Stroganoff

Slice enough button mushrooms for however many people you’re serving. If you don’t know how many mushrooms to serve people, just slice up every mushroom you have – they shrink in the pan and if you have leftovers, so be it. Fry a chopped onion in plenty of olive oil till softened, then add the mushrooms and continue stirring till they’ve collapsed and browned. Add a 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, one heaped teaspoon paprika, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and a spoonful of whatever mustard you have, along with two tablespoons of flour. Add a splash of whatever wine you’re drinking, if you have it – red or white, doesn’t matter. After stirring this around for a minute or two, slowly pour in coconut milk (or almond milk/soy milk/whatever) continuing to stir as you pour, and then let it simmer away, stirring, until as thickened yet saucy as you want it to be. Feel free to add more coconut milk and make it really saucy, and if you only have a little milk to hand you can top it up with water. I am going to assume at some point you’ve added salt and pepper. Taste to see if it needs more of anything, then serve over rice or mashed potatoes with chopped parsley. Of course you can use portobello mushrooms or fancy mushrooms or a mix but, button mushrooms will do the trick just fine.

Gumbo-esque Stew

I say Gumbo-esque because this lacks the requisite filé powder (though if you have it, go ahead) and other signposts of a classic gumbo. It tastes magnificent though, and it’s even better the next day. Roughly chop a generous handful of greens per person: spinach, kale, silverbeet, cabbage, whatever you have. It’ll shrink down in the pan, so don’t hold back. Finely chop a large onion, one or two sticks of celery, and a green capsicum (bell pepper for the Americans.) Heat four tablespoons olive oil and half a cup of flour together in a large pan, stirring over a medium heat for at least ten minutes, or until the flour is a rich golden brown colour. Then add the onion/celery/capsicum mixture and cook until the vegetables are a little softened. Add two teaspoons paprika, a good pinch of cayenne, a teaspoon of sugar (or maple syrup or molasses or whatever) and then slowly stir in about four cups of strongly seasoned stock/broth (I like vegan beef stock here for the flavour), followed by a drained can of black beans (or whatever beans you like, and you can add more beans to feed more people) as well as any extra chopped vegetables you want – carrots, kumara, etc. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly, then add the greens. Simmer for about 20-40 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more of anything (including stock) until it’s the taste and texture you want. If you have some good vegan sausages, chop them up and add them to the simmering pot too. And if you have a bay leaf, now would be the time to throw that in. Once it’s done simmering, stir in plenty of fresh thyme leaves and a splash of any vinegar you have before serving over rice or simply as is.

Mince on Toast

I mean like: cook mince and put it on toast, but also: fry an onion and a few chopped button mushrooms, add your vegan mince, stir to let it cook through, then tip in a quarter to half a jar of tomato relish and a good teaspoon of Marmite, add a splash of water/red wine and let simmer. A pinch of Chinese Five-Spice always makes everything delicious. If you don’t have vegan mince to hand, a mixture of fried mushrooms, chopped walnuts and chopped sun-dried tomatoes is really good.

Chocolate Pear Pudding

This is based on a recipe of Nigella Lawson’s, which I made vegan and more chocolatey. If you have fresh actual pears – which we did, and which was what prompted the making of this – then slice them up and arrange them in the baking dish and pop them in the oven as it heats up while you make the batter. Otherwise, as is more likely the case, simply drain two tins of pears and arrange over the base of a baking dish. Melt 1/3 cup coconut oil (though you could use margarine) and stir in 1 cup sugar, 1 and 1/2 cups flour, 4 tablespoons cocoa, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds mixed with 4 tablespoons of water (mix the flaxseed and water first and leave it to sit while you mix everything else.) Finally, stir in around 3/4 cup soy milk or whatever milk you have, until the texture is thick yet softly spreadable. Chop up about 50g-75g dark chocolate and sprinkle it over the pears, then spoon the batter over the top, smoothing it evenly with a knife or the back of a spoon. It will only just cover the pears, so try not to eat too much while you’re making it. Bake for about thirty minutes at 180C/350F. Serve as is, or with cold coconut milk or ice cream.

music lately:

Lungs, by Townes Van Zandt, from his Live at the Old Quarter album. That final line, “we’ll tell the world we tried,” I just!

Yon Ferrets Return, Neko Case. Possibly the most fiercely joyful song ever written about the ferret, and #14 in another playlist I made for Tenderly, this time about the less-celebrated members of the animal kingdom.

I’m Going Home, from the 36th Annual Sacred Harp Convention. Turns out you can get your endorphins sitting down: listening to this – and I recommend headphones – is even more rewarding than cardio. I mean, everything’s more rewarding than cardio to me, but this really does approach similar levels of busting through the hardened plaque built up around one’s brain.

Next time: photos, I promise! It’s my birthday tomorrow (the 17th) so I’m aiming to cook something cool for dinner and will report back here. I mean, there’s not much else I can do for a birthday in lockdown, but fortunately cooking dinner is pretty much all I ever want to do anyway.

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. Also! I wrote a round up of television recommendations if you need them while stuck at home, which anyone can read on my Patreon for free.

old fashioned vegan fudge

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It’s 2020! Hasn’t this year got off to a smashingly awful start? Aren’t we doing well, at being terrible? I wasn’t even sure how to articulate all of this and then fortunately – and I mean fortunately on a minuscule scale – I ended up writing a poem that was published on The Spinoff, about how everything feels right now. The thrust of the poem, and indeed, how I feel about 2020, is that it seems like all the bad things are global-scale, and all the good things are only small and anecdotal. Hence its title: Anecdotal Happiness.

Who knows what this murky new decade will bring, but I’m starting it here providentially with a recipe for fudge – proper, old fashioned fudge, with that dense, granular texture like hard-packed wet sand, where you can feel the sugar softly exfoliating your teeth as they slide through it. Creamy and rich with no particular flavour other than that of caramelised sugar – the very best flavour there is. Tiny squares that burst into dissolution in your mouth and almost make you cough from the throat-burning sweetness.

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This recipe tastes just like the fudge that I used to make as a child, despite having not quite the same ingredients – since this is vegan fudge – though I suspect you might detect a fluttering taste of coconut from it, especially the longer it sits. Fudge is, frankly, quite a stressful undertaking, with all the magma-hot boiling sugar and careful timing and so on. But even if it all goes wrong it will still be incredibly delicious. The first time I made this – as you might be able to see in the photos – I both boiled and beat it a little too long, giving it a slightly crumbly dry texture. The second time I was more cautious and was rewarded with perfection.

At any rate, if you go in confidently you should be fine – I feel that food, like horses, can sense your nervousness and reacts accordingly, but even as a child I managed to make this without any mishaps. Although when I was a kid it was always microwaved fudge, poured into a buttered upturned Pyrex lid, perhaps with a little cocoa added in if I wanted to be extra fancy. I think – unless you grow up in a particularly moneyed and permissive environment – those occasional childhood moments where you’re allowed to experience such pure sugar rush end up sticking with you in a more emotional way, and is probably why, now that I’m vegan, I’m always trying to recreate such recipes (like the lemon curd) because, without butter and cream and so on, they’re now further out of reach culinarily as well as just from the passage of time and so it makes that emotional pull feel stronger.

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Does that make sense? What I’m saying is: this fudge tastes wonderful, you should make it.

With the dawn of a new decade comes changes. When I started hungryandfrozen.com in 2007, in the decade before last, I thought it would be super cute to have all my blog post titles be the lyrics of songs that related somehow to the recipe, rather than just the name of the recipe itself. It was indeed pretty cute. Initially. As the blog enters its thirteenth year I have decided to finally retire this quirky notion. My motivation is partly mercenary – I honestly shudder to think what these song lyrics titles have done to my site’s SEO, and what might have transpired had my recipes been slightly more easy to google. But it’s also motivated by sheer exhaustion – I was actually, genuinely, running out of songs to plunder for lyrics. That might sound like exaggeration, but I’ve written nearly 700 blog posts so far. The whole thing was honestly giving me anxiety every time I had to find a new title, which is stupid, since only a small number of people even read this blog, probably because of all the obtuse titles making everything so hard to find! So from now on the blog posts will just have the title of the recipe – which feels strange, though perhaps not quite as strange as it feels for you reading this mini-essay breaking down my feelings about this inconsequential aspect of my blog.

Also – as well as reading Anecdotal Happiness, you may also wish to read my recent essay, that I’m very proud of, about Dawn Schafer, the teenage vegetarian from The Baby-Sitters Club. She was not necessarily the most loveable of the cast of babysitters, but looking back, she was remarkably ahead of her time.

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Old Fashioned Fudge

  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup coconut cream*
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 4 tablespoons golden syrup*
  • a solid pinch of salt, plus more to taste

* Use full fat coconut cream, and look at the ingredients list to make sure there’s at least 85-90% coconut extract. If you are in America and can’t get golden syrup, try using light corn syrup or even maple syrup instead. The flavour of golden syrup is spectacular though, it’s worth hunting for.

1: Get a sheet of baking paper and place it in a regular sized oven dish – the sort you’d bake brownies or a slice in. That said, because the fudge sets so quickly you can really turn it out onto anything – even just a baking tray. Whatever it is you end up using, just make sure there’s baking paper on it and it’s ready to go.

2: Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve. Continue to let the mixture bubble away for seven minutes (set a timer if this helps.) You may need to occasionally reduce the heat to stop it bubbling over – hence why a big pan is useful – but ideally it will be properly bubbling the whole time.

(Seven minutes should do the trick but for peace of mind you can also try carefully dropping a spoonful of the mixture into a glass of very cold water, if, once it’s dropped to the bottom, you can pick it up and it holds its shape between your fingers, then the fudge is ready. If it dissolves into the water then you need to keep boiling it.)

3: At this point remove the fudge from the heat and start stirring it vigorously – but carefully, this stuff is HOT – with a wooden spoon or similar implement. The timing of this stage is quite crucial – you want to stop just as it starts to thicken up and lose its gloss – the very second this happens, quickly spatula it into your prepared tin and use the back of a spoon to press it out into an even layer. Wetting the spoon first helps.

If you beat it for slightly too long it’ll seize up and suddenly feel like cement, it’s still very edible but will just be quite crumbly.

4: Allow to set in the fridge for a few hours before slicing into small pieces – about an inch squared works for me. Store the fudge in an airtight container somewhere cool.

music lately:

Pull Back The Bolt by Minimal Man, from their 1984 album Safari. This has a kind of Gary Numan fizziness to it and this incredible combination of urgency and dizzy exhilaration. I just want to listen to it over and over and over. If you’re sitting around glumly all like “it’s a while since I’ve become completely obsessed with a song,” this could be the one.

Werkin Girls by Angel Haze. I was obsessed with them in 2014 and this song – from 2012 – still has the impact of one freshly-baked this morning. I love the way that whiplash-speed rapping slides into the swagger of the chorus.

Next time: I am prosaically but understandably keen to make the most of summer food while it’s still summer.

PS: Consider truly starting your decade correctly by supporting me and my writing directly through my Patreon. It’s like a cordoned-off VIP area where you can access content written just for you: recipes, updates, poems, reviews, short stories.

swing from high to deep, extremes of sweet and sour

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While food blogging is mostly just quietly writing recipes and then being largely ignored but feeling a modest sense of peace at your own unswerving constancy and excellence; now and then a recipe comes along that makes you quite sure everything is going to change as a result of it. You’ll one day tell your grandchildren, or someone else’s grandchildren, or your small dog, that this was your origin story, the recipe equivalent of being discovered loitering in a shopping mall by a roving talent scout. I had that feeling with the caramelised tomato spaghetti and the vegan carne adovada this year, I had that feeling in 2013 when I’m quite sure I personally invented halloumi fries, and I’ve got it now with this vegan lemon curd recipe. To be fair, my instincts have never served me particularly well – my mind tells me “all who shall eat this will surely fall in love with me” like I’m some kind of fairy godmother hovering with purposeful menace at Sleeping Beauty’s christening; in reality it’s more like, literally nothing happens and life goes on, and perhaps the feeling of certainty that a recipe is truly next-level amazing is its own reward. (But you know what’s even more of a reward? Actual rewards!)

All delusional entitlement aside, let’s talk about this recipe. Lemon curd is immensely scientific for something one artlessly spreads on toast – the precise meeting point of liquefying solids and solidifying liquids. So how do you achieve this without the usual eggs and butter? In this recipe I’ve employed cornflour and coconut oil for thickening and enriching, but that’s not the part that excited me most. The real key ingredient here, the maverick game-changer, is…

Pineapple juice.

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I’ve long thought pineapple evoked a buttery vibe, without knowing quite how or why – something in the way its flavour fills the mouth – and had planned to eventually do something with this idea. While researching a piece about cocktails with pineapple juice in them for Tenderly, I asked Facebook why the juice goes frothy when shaken up (short answer: it just does, that’s why!) and a bartender friend informed me that both butter and pineapple contain butyric acid, and like Homer Simpson with the ideas of “dental plan” and “Lisa needs braces” swirling around in his head waiting to connect to each other, I suddenly saw before me what might be possible, and this lemon curd recipe jumped into my brain, fully-formed. And I could not possibly be happier with it.

Vegan Lemon Curd

A recipe by myself

  • 1 cup/250ml pineapple juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • Juice of one lemon (roughly 1/4 – 1/3 cup)
  • 4 teaspoons cornflour
  • 4 tablespoons refined coconut oil
  • 2 drops food grade lemon oil (optional, but good)

Note: the pineapple juice can come from a bottle, but make sure it’s more or less 100% pineapple juice, without any added sugar or like, cut with apple juice. You can of course add the zest of the lemon if you wish, it’s a very good idea, I was using frozen fresh lemon juice so didn’t have any zest to work with. Refined coconut oil means that it’s flavourless. If you can only get unrefined it will still work, but there will be a slight coconutty flavour to contend with. The lemon oil is optional but really boosts the fragrant lemon flavour, obviously. The finished product sets to a soft, spoonable lemon curd, if you want it thicker add another teaspoon or two of cornflour.

Bring the pineapple juice and sugar to the boil in a small saucepan, and let it bubble away for two minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat.

Mix the cornflour and lemon juice together – this helps prevent the cornflour forming lumps – then tip this into the pineapple mixture. Return the saucepan to a low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens – it will still be liquidy but should have some gelatinous body to it. Remove from the heat and thoroughly stir in the coconut oil, and the lemon oil if you’re using it. I found a small whisk ideal for this part as it takes a minute to incorporate the solid coconut oil into the liquid.

Allow to cool slightly then pour into a hot, sterile jar. Refrigerate for at least four hours, or overnight – it will thicken as it cools and the texture will appear more creamy and opaque. Makes one jar, around 300ml.

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The pineapple juice gives you heft, as in, provides the bulk of the volume, and its acidic juiciness dovetails perfectly with the sourness of the lemon without distracting – the lemon is still absolutely the star. The coconut oil with the cornflour-thickened juice gives a rich, satiny texture, but somehow combined with the pineapple juice, and its intense sunshine lusciousness, the whole thing genuinely tastes like lemon curd, and I can’t stop eating it from the jar with a spoon in wonderment at just how tart and sweet and velvety and decadent and completely lemon-curd-like it is. Perhaps even better? Honestly, I think this is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever made in my twelve years of food blogging, and I have nothing else to say about it because that’s all there is to it, really.

title from: Sit Down by James, this song is just so jangly and bittersweet and nice, isn’t it!

music lately:

Destroy The Heart by House of Love. I do enjoy an upbeat song paired with a gloomy vocal, it’s the real sound of the summer. There is this amazing guitar riff that sluices through the melody halfway through, never to reappear: I salute its mysteriousness.

I Wanna Sleep In Your Arms, by The Modern Lovers. I think if I could only listen to one band for eternity these guys would be the main contenders for the role. I love the grubby urgency of this song’s guitar riff and the sheer endearing-ness of the lyrics and Johnathan Richmond’s slightly congested singing voice, with its ad-libs and occasional charming slide into speak-singing.

As If We Never Said Goodbye, Diahann Carroll, from the musical Sunset Boulevard (based on the incredible film.) This is such a perfect musical theatre song, full of resolute controlled triumph, it’s simple, yet completely out of reach for most vocalists. The “I’ve come home at last” line at 3:20 absolutely kneecaps me, such a masterstroke of putting one note in front of the other – part of me wishes that the whole song was just that refrain. The late Diahann Carroll performs it beautifully with richness and vibrato, but I absolutely urge you to also watch Broadway legend Betty Buckley’s exquisite performance – if you jump to 8:04, I got full body chills at the effortless way she held the note on “home” so long that the audience spontaneously started applauding mid-song.

Next time: Now that I’ve tackled lemon curd I think I’d like to try making vegan fudge.

PS: if you enjoy my writing and would like to support me directly, you can do so by joining my Patreon. It’s like a cordoned-off VIP area where you can access content written just for you: recipes, updates, the opening sentences of the novel I wrote.