Feijoa Ice Cream [Vegan, No-Churn]

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On the back-left burner of my mind is a cookbook idea loosely based around taking every significant recipe I’ve ever made and interpolating it into a new vegan version of its former self. This idea is simmering away quietly and probably going to evaporate completely at some point – cookbooks need a good reason to exist! – but the structure is appealing – I like to think of all that I can eat rather than all that I can’t. Making vegan versions of old favourites is nothing new – we seek the familiar and the familiar comforts! Just type “vegan copycat” into Pinterest for a barrage of recipes. Rewriting your own recipes to fit your current self is a little different though – and since I wrote this blog for ten years before going vegan in 2018 (not to mention publishing a very meaty and buttery cookbook in that time) there’s a lot left behind which I’d love to bring with me. That’s life, isn’t it, taking what worked, reworking that which no longer does, emerging more whole than if you’d discarded those parts of you completely.

It’s also not that deep. What I’m saying is, I’ve been thinking a lot about an ice cream recipe I made back in 2012 and I wanted it, bad.

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A staunch champion of the rain and cold, even I feel a trifle lowered as summer’s stone fruit faded from view and the mornings were suddenly pitch black thanks to the entirely unnecessary daylight saving clock change (I will die on this hill!) To soften this blow comes the emerald in autumn’s crown: the feijoa. If you’ve never eaten this charming fruit before, imagine the soft gritty reticence of a canned pear coupled with the giddy just-been-kissed zing of passionfruit; that’s more or less the flavour and as you can imagine it makes the most wonderful ice cream. Back in 2012 I combined, quite off-the-cuff, sweetened condensed milk and Greek yoghurt with the feijoa flesh – as per usual it was a no-churn affair and it tasted spectacular.

For the last couple of feijoa seasons, I’ve been wondering whether I could just replace the condensed milk and yoghurt with their coconut counterparts, but neither ingredient is particularly cheap and I was nervous about the potential expensive failure. It also seemed too simple – surely some hard work needs to be involved to make it legit, like, do I have to whip aquafaba or blend up a mountain of soaked cashews here?

But finally, I tried it – and –

It worked!

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This ice cream is heavenly, with the light sour richness of the yoghurt and the PVA glue-sticky condensed milk meeting right in the middle to form a velvety ice cream base to uplift the gloriously perfumed and tangy feijoas. It’s utterly delicious, somehow tasting like rainclouds and sunshine simultaneously, a truly autumnal dessert.

@hungryandfrozen

homemade feijoa ice cream 🥰 so easy and delicious 🤠 recipe at hungryandfrozen.com #vegan #recipe #icecream #foodblogger #fyp #feijoa #veganrecipes

♬ Love Is In The Air – John Paul Young

As with all my ice cream recipes, this is no-churn. Another hill I will die on (along with disparaging daylight savings at any opportunity) is that we’re all in the clutches of Big Ice Cream Machine and we don’t need to be! Without the slightest bit of interference this feijoa ice cream is creamy (tautology perhaps but I can’t think of a more appropriate word), rich and utterly lush.

It’s also not terribly attractive – despite the promise of the Wizard of Oz-tinted feijoa exterior, none of that jade shade comes along for the ride and the flesh is more akin to oatmeal, or a stack of manila envelopes. It’s probably not going to light up your Instagram feed (as Nigella Lawson notes in her chapter “A Loving Defence of Brown Food” in Cook, Eat, Repeat: “the medium that has probably done most for the rampant championing of the colourful over the drab”) – but it tastes wonderful and that’s what counts. That being said, a halved feijoa on the side brings not only a welcome pop of green for the eyes to feast upon – you also get to eat more feijoa. An easy win.

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Feijoa Ice Cream

This is the easiest no-churn vegan ice cream – there’s no escaping its beige colour but it shines with pure feijoa flavour. Recipe by myself.

  • 15 – 20 feijoas
  • 1 x 320g tin condensed coconut milk
  • 1 cup/250 ml unflavoured coconut yoghurt
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (optional)

1: Halve the feijoas and scoop their flesh into a mixing bowl, really digging in with your teaspoon to get as much out as possible. Use a stick blender to puree the feijoa flesh. You can also use a food processor or mash the fruit vigorously using a fork or a potato masher – in which case the texture will be a bit rougher but that’s all good.

2: Stir in the condensed milk, yoghurt, and lime juice. If your feijoas are on the young and sour side, you can leave out the lime juice – it’s better for super-ripe fruit.

3: Transfer this beige-brown mixture into a freezer-safe container with a lid. Refrigerate for one hour (although longer is fine if you forget about it) and then freeze it for six hours or overnight. There’s no need to stir or blend it at any stage – just shove it in and forget about it. Leave it to sit for ten minutes on the bench to soften before eating.

Makes around 900ml – 1litre, depending on your feijoas.

Note: You can happily use more than fifteen feijoas but I wouldn’t use any fewer, otherwise you just won’t end up with that much ice cream. If you don’t have feijoas I reckon this would work with bananas or canned pears – about four bananas or two drained cans of pears should do it – and I’d definitely add lime juice if using either of these fruits, especially the bananas.

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music lately:

Dues, by Ronee Blakley. I re-re-rewatched Robert Altman’s Nashville recently, and while Gwen Welles’ character is my favourite, it’s Ronee Blakley’s performances that I love the best – her voice has this soft, buttery sorrowfulness to it which is just so affecting.

Love’s Revenge by Clifton Davis from the 1971 Broadway musical Two Gentlemen of Verona, composed by Galt McDermott who also did Hair – and you can hear it for sure. Two Gentlemen isn’t as instantly memorable but the songs still have that sunny, shambolic loveliness – very present in this ballad and in the opening song Summer, Summer

Germfree Adolescents by X-Ray Spex. The thing about this song is, that I have to listen to it ten times a day. The way it’s so hypnotic – the way Poly Styrene’s voice soars!

PS: As well as being feijoa season it’s also ME season – by which I mean, my birthday is on Saturday – and if you enjoy my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better time than now to do so by joining me behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

Vegan Brown Butter Chocolate Brownies

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Look, everyone’s gonna tell you their vegan chocolate brownie recipe is the best, the one, and you know what? That’s valid. The best need not be a zero-sum game, culinarily speaking, otherwise what’s the point of trying anything new. No, instead it’s a wide couch where we can all sit side by side, happily eating our brownies. So: these are the best vegan chocolate brownies. The one. One of many, that is. But what a one!

Brownies should be the easiest thing to bake – they’re usually one-bowl affairs, you don’t have to worry about them rising or being light-textured like a cake, there’s no faffing about shaping dough, like with cookies, and the presence of chocolate means they’re an instant crowd-pleaser. And yet, we’ve always had a wary relationship – I tend to overcook them into cakey dullness, or overshoot a scientifically crucial ingredient, sending the delicate chemical balance from “fudgy and rich” to “not unlike a peat bog”.

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As it happens, I didn’t get this recipe quite right on the first go. They were somehow too moist and too dry, with a stressful, peanut-butter-esque throat-clogging quality. Sometimes my rejection-sensitive receptors can’t handle this kind of defeat and it’ll send me spiralling with guilt and self-doubt (related: my piece for Tenderly about the heartbreak of recipe failure during lockdown.) I also don’t have all the resources in the world to rigorously test recipes. But we had precisely 100g chocolate left in the house and the first batch was still pleasant enough to eat, so not a total reproachful waste. I cheered myself with the reminder that 99% of the recipes I make up work perfectly the first time, which is pretty extraordinary, slept on it, and woke up knowing exactly how to fix the brownies by adjusting the liquid/flour ratio. It would’ve been nice if these instincts had kicked in a little sooner, but I appreciate them showing up nonetheless.

Second time around: the brownies were perfect. Exactly what you want: a shiny, delicately crisp exterior, a fudgy interior that’s melting without being undercooked, and a staunch chocolate flavour. (Thank goodness.) 

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These brownies are particularly special because of the brown butter step – which is to say, I’m emulating the culinary technique of burning butter to develop its flavour by using an unlikely but potent combination of ingredients. Coconut oil for buttery fatness; soy milk for its proteins; and a tiny dash of vinegar and brown sugar to speed things along, cooked down into a foamy emulsion, at which point I added pecans to assist with the nutty flavour you get from traditional browned butter. I realise this may seem unlikely, but bear with me. The result is this caramelised, toasty liquid with a deep, rich, and genuinely buttery intensity. I love eating vegan food but you have to dance a little harder to give your baked goods the same easily-achieved tastes and textures of non-vegan baking. This vegan browned butter offers complexity and sumptuousness, taking the brownies from two dimensional sweetness to three dimensional deliciousness. I imagine the browned butter would be wonderful used elsewhere, including in savoury recipes, but for now it’s the perfect base for the perfect brownies.

Brownies worth persisting through failure for – brownies so good they require a glamour photo shoot.

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Vegan Brown Butter Chocolate Brownies

These vegan chocolate brownies are fudgy and rich with a crisp edge and absolutely delicious. The “brown butter” step is a little extra work but so worth it. Recipe by myself.

  • 1/4 cup refined coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup soy milk
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon extra brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 100g melted dark chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
  • 150ml boiling water
  • 1/2 cup good cocoa powder
  • 125g flour (this is roughly one cup but try to weigh it if you can)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 100g extra dark chocolate, roughly chopped (optional)

1: First, make the browned butter. Place the coconut oil, soy milk, one tablespoon of brown sugar (save the 1/2 cup for later), the apple cider vinegar, and a pinch of salt into a small frying pan and melt together over a medium heat, stirring constantly. It’ll look dodgy, but trust me.

2: Once it starts looking frothy and bubbly, stir in your pecans and continue cooking and stirring till it’s thickened and pale caramel in colour. Remove from the heat and leave to sit for five minutes. While you’re waiting, set your oven to 180C/350F and line a square brownie pan with baking paper.

3: Now to make the brownie batter – spatula your pecan/brown butter into a mixing bowl and stir in the remaining half cup of brown sugar and the white sugar. Pause to have a little taste: oh my gosh. So delicious.

4: Melt the chocolate (I put it in a small bowl and nuked it in short bursts in the microwave, otherwise heat it in a metal/heatproof bowl resting on a pan of water without touching the water) and stir it into the butter-sugar mix. Stir the coffee powder into the boiling water and set aside. Also – 150ml is more or less 2/3 of a cup, or you can measure 150 grams of water on your scales.

5: Sieve the cocoa powder, flour, and baking powder into the bowl, and add half the coffee liquid. Fold it all together and then add the remaining coffee, the vanilla extract, and the extra chopped chocolate (if using) and fold together.

6: Spatula this mixture into your prepared tin and bake for 30 minutes. At this point, turn off the oven and let the brownies sit there for ten minutes (if your oven tends to really hold its heat, open the door, otherwise leave it closed) and then take the brownies from the oven and let them get basically completely cool before you attempt to slice them. And for that, I recommend a sharp serrated knife and a confident but slow hand.

Notes:

  • Don’t leave out the coffee powder! You don’t taste the coffee specifically but it’s important to add depth of flavour. However, if you can’t have caffeine it’s absolutely fine to use decaf powder.
  • I haven’t tried this with anything other than soy milk. Oat milk would probably work, but I have serious doubts about almond milk.
  • The pecans are specifically used to add a nutty, toasty flavour to the browned butter. I wouldn’t use any other nut here, but if you don’t want the pecans in your brownies you could scoop them out of the browned butter with a slotted spoon and save them for another use. It’s important to use them in the butter step itself though. Hope that makes sense!
  • When I say “good cocoa powder” I mean something with 20g or more fat per 100grams. Look in the nutritional information on the package, anything less than 20g per 100g is unfortunately not worth your time or money!
  • The second time I made these I didn’t have enough chocolate to chop up and fold through and honestly? They were amazing without it. So if you only have 100g chocolate to hand you can totally still make these.

Also if you want a visual reference I made a little tiktok video to go with these brownies. 

@hungryandfrozen

vegan brown butter chocolate brownies 🤠🍫 recipe at hungryandfrozen.com #recipe #foodblogger #chocolate #vegan #veganrecipes #cooking #fyp #brownies

♬ Do You Love Me Now – The Breeders

 

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music lately:

I Love How You Love Me by The Paris Sisters. There’s something about that Phil Spector production where it’s so present yet so distant, it’s like that exact feeling in The Wizard Of Oz where Glinda the Good Witch is smiling benevolently but also floating away unhelpfully; while I was listening to this the cat walked across my laptop and in the process changed the playback speed to 0.75 which gave it an instantly surreal, Julee Cruise quality and I think actually sent me into spontaneous sleep paralysis – but in a good way? So proceed with caution, I guess.

Unfinished Sympathy by Massive Attack, a song which makes me want to cry and levitate? Which can only truly be appreciated while lying down in a darkened room or clinging to the wing of a 747 as it takes off? Once more I say proceed with caution!

Black and White by The dB’s. “Well, I guess I just don’t enjoy you anymore” – what a sentiment for the ages.

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 Passionfruit Panna Cotta

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Gelatine is one of those ingredients where if I see it in a recipe – no matter how chill I am with cooking elaborate stuff – a voice in my head immediately goes “Nah, too hard.” (Which is a particular roadblock when you grew up poring over eighties cookbooks like I did, a cheerfully colloidal time where anything from salmon to tomato soup to chocolate mousse was pointless without a stiff wobble of gelatine.) Through much reading of Nigella Lawson’s reassuring cookbooks I more or less got to grips with leaf gelatine, but still regarded it with some wary caution and didn’t necessarily go out of my way to make recipes using it.

And as for agar agar, gelatine’s friendly vegetarian counterpart, well. What if it doesn’t set? What if it sets too much? What if this reflects upon my entire worth as a person and a food writer in that order? Etc? 

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But! Should you be burdened with similar trepidations as me, let this passionfruit panna cotta recipe put your fears at ease with its easiness. This recipe is just so easy and there’s nothing at all to the agar agar aspect of it – simply stir it in and let the mixture cook a little. I appreciate that it’s a relatively specialist ingredient, but I got a good-sized sachet of the Telephone Brand agar agar from an Asian supermarket for no more than a couple of dollars. And even though panna cotta has a slightly intimidating high-end-dessert vibe, these ones stay in their dinky little glasses, so you don’t have to stress about successfully un-moulding them onto a serving dish. This also means less washing up – will the blessings never cease!

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You could make this with something other than passionfruit, but its sherbety, twinkling sour-sweetness is my ideal pairing for the amicable backdrop of coconut cream. All that tartness captured and suspended in a light yet rich cream is astonishingly delicious – like a cloud made of citric acid – the perfect marriage of texture and flavour – and you’ll find yourself wishing you’d poured the entirety of the mixture into an imperial pint glass all for yourself instead of doling it out between several winsome and dainty goblets for your family to enjoy. (To that end, if you are wondering how I got these nice photos of our dessert it’s because I divided the mixture between six receptacles for the four of us and saved two to photograph the next day, thus depriving my family of a quarter of a fluid ounce each of panna cotta the night before, all for the sake of the blog. What a world we live in.)

I realise last week’s recipe for Vegan Jelly Tip ice cream also used agar agar and I didn’t make a gigantic fuss about it then, for which there are a few reasons: 1) I was planning to blog about this first but the ice cream was just too exciting, 2) I can only say so many things in one blog post, and 3) if I’m gonna coerce you into buying agar agar I at least want to give you plenty of things to do with it. The ice cream is a bit full-on, I grant you, but there’s truly nothing more delicious or simple than this passionfruit panna cotta recipe. Make this, and you’ll suddenly be looking at your tomato soup like damn, maybe those eighties chefs were onto something. 

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Vegan Passionfruit Panna Cotta

This easy vegan panna cotta is creamy, tangy, light and delicious and – I just need to reiterate again – so easy. The recipe is adapted slightly from this one at anisasabet.com.au.

  • 10 passionfruit + 2 to serve, extra
  • 1 x 400ml can full-fat coconut cream
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon powdered agar agar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1: Halve the ten passionfruit and scoop the pulp into a small saucepan. Add the coconut cream and sugar and stir for a minute over a low heat.

2: Mix the agar agar powder with a little water in a small cup, which will make it easier to incorporate into the hot liquid. Add it to the saucepan and stir it briskly to prevent lumps from forming. You’ll be straining it though so don’t stress too much. Continue stirring this mixture over a low heat for another ten minutes without letting it bubble – this will allow it to both thicken slightly and to extract the flavour from the passionfruit.

3: Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and then strain the mixture through a sieve into a measuring jug – extra dishes, I’m afraid, but it’s easier to pour it into the serving dishes this way. Push down on the passionfruit pulp as you’re sieving it, to get the maximum flavour, and save the pulp for smoothies if you like (or at least, this was my plan, but I ended up just eating it all straight out of the sieve.)

4: Pour the coconut cream mixture into your waiting glasses or cups or dishes, and then chill them in the fridge for four to six hours, or overnight if you want to make this in advance.

5: Serve by cutting the remaining passionfruit and spooning the pulp over the panna cottas.

Makes 4 – 6 depending on the size of your receptacles.

Note: You can use a couple more or fewer passionfruit at the start and to serve depending on how many you have.

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music lately:

Cold Rock a Party by MC Lyte feat Missy Elliot. Ok sure, my enjoyment of this song is more vicarious in these unprecedented times but this song is so good and MC Lyte and Missy are so great that even those hypothetical thrills are pretty genuinely thrilling. I’m obsessed with the airy bounce of the Diana Ross sample; sampling is truly an art form.

Lowdown-down by Lea Delaria. She has several albums where she sings standards in a jazzy fashion, a genre I find incredibly soothing. This song, a pragmatically sorrowful number from LaChiusa’s 2000 Broadway show The Wild Party (based on the Joseph Moncure March poem, The Wild Party, which coincidentally inspired a completely separate off-Broadway musical that very same year) isn’t exactly a standard, but it should be.

Sunset Boulevard by Pocket Knife Morales. Obviously, the title caught my eye but it’s an enchanting song, with the sort of wistful vibe which makes you want to put on a large cardigan and wrap it close as you walk down the stone footpath to post a letter with hope in your heart, pausing to salute the horse in the paddock next door, the autumn breeze threatening to lift your cowboy hat, and so on and so forth.

Next time: I really feel like making brownies, but there’s also this incredible bread recipe from Nigella’s new book.

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 Jelly Tip Ice Cream

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The universe sends its swiftest rebukes whenever I attempt to make food motivated first and foremost by “I think this would look cool”, or worse, “this might get me attention”. Any recipe made with too much pride and avarice ends up either unsalvageably disgusting, or worse, flopping, leaving me sweltering in a bonfire of my own vanities.

I mean when it comes down to it, making zeitgeist-baiting food in the hopes of capturing the fickle and changeable attention of literally anyone is 90% of food blogging. Every single recipe I post here, and I won’t pretend otherwise, is done in the hopes that I’ll get enough attention that I no longer have to worry about getting attention because I’ll just be comfortably established, an expected part of the proceedings.

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Anyway, all of this is to say that I made vegan jelly tip ice cream and the idea first came to me because I thought it would look pretty, and also thought perhaps the brand name recognition would make peoples’ eyes light up. But the universe must have identified something pure at heart motivating this because – well – the recipe turned out incredible. So delicious. And I’m delighted to share it with you. For those of you not from New Zealand, Jelly Tip is a chocolate-dipped vanilla ice cream with a raspberry jelly tip, hence the sensibly un-opaque name. It was one of my favourite ice creams growing up and the idea of a vegan version appealed since I can no longer enjoy the dairy-based original. It was later introduced in tub form – which is what my recipe is emulating – and I have many fond memories of digging out as much raspberry jelly ripple as possible with my spoon, probably to the murderous contemplations of all those who had to eat the remaining, brutally excavated ice cream.

My version has a coconut-aquafaba ice cream base, fresh raspberries set with agar-agar for the jelly, and thin shards of dark chocolate. There’s plenty of raspberry for you to dig for, should you be a brat like me, but in truth, the components all need each other and work best together. Each mouthful is a damn symphony of flavours and textures, from the icy vanilla to the vivid slash of raspberry to the snappish and welcome interruption of chocolate. This ice cream has a certain rakish elegance, with those sharp raspberries and the bitter dark chocolate, but without compromising your culinary nostalgia. And for all of my sum-of-its-parts talk, I really want to try making just a vat of the frozen raspberry jelly part, entirely for my own consumption – it’s that good.

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I won’t lie, this recipe is quite time-consuming and involved, but on the other hand, I like to cook? So cooking isn’t a hardship. I appreciate that time is a dissolving commodity, but there’s pleasure to be found in quietly and persistently dicking about in the kitchen in pursuit of one single outcome (delicious ice cream.) And when so many vegan recipes – mine included – involve sticking seventeen things in a high-speed blender – the opportunity to be hands-on at every step of the process feels almost like a treat. Importantly, while there are numerous steps, none of them asks too much of you.

And it really does look pretty. Is that a crime? Not today, according to the universe.

@hungryandfrozen

vegan jelly tip ice cream ♥️🍫🍦🤠 recipe coming soon to hungryandfrozen.com

♬ Orinoco Flow – Enya

Also: I made a goofy little tiktok about making this ice cream – in case I’ve been a dunce and haven’t embedded it properly you can also watch it here. Attention: the most delicious ice cream of all.

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Vegan Jelly Tip Ice Cream

A rather involved recipe, but each of the steps are fairly straightforward and it’s very worth the effort: creamy vanilla ice cream ribboned with fresh raspberry jelly sorbet and dark chocolate, YES! Plus it’s no-churn – you will never need an ice cream maker with my recipes. Makes about 1 litre. Recipe by myself.

  • 2 and 1/2 cups frozen raspberries
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup water plus a little extra for the agar-agar
  • 1 teaspoon powdered agar agar (I got mine from an Asian supermarket for about a dollar and it’s fantastically useful as a gelatine substitute)
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup aquafaba (the brine drained from a can of chickpeas – one can should get you somewhere around this quantity.)
  • 1 teaspoon malt vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon custard powder
  • 1 cup/250ml full-fat coconut cream – if you put the can in the fridge before you start making everything it’ll be easier to get at the thick coconut cream, separated from the coconut water. If you’re not sure that you’ll have enough, refrigerate two cans just in case.

1: Place the raspberries, icing sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to the boil, lowering to a simmer and cooking – stirring occasionally – until the berries have collapsed into a bright red syrup.

2: Meanwhile, measure the agar-agar into a small cup and stir in about two tablespoons of water – this will make it easier to stir into the syrup. Remove the raspberries from the heat and whisk in the agar mixture and the lime juice. Pour this mixture through a sieve into a jug or container, stirring and pressing with a spatula to extract as much raspberry juice as possible – this is really the only annoying step! Refrigerate the sieved raspberry mixture while you get on with everything else. You can save the remaining seeds for smoothies or just eat them on the spot, as I did.

3: Melt the dark chocolate in the microwave, or in a bowl resting over a saucepan of simmering water without actually touching the water. I just used the same pan that the raspberries had been cooking in, figuring correctly that it would help in the washing-up process. Once the chocolate is melted, pour it onto a tray or oven dish lined with baking paper, and spread it out with a spatula to make a fairly even, thin layer of chocolate. Transfer this into the freezer to solidify while you get on with the next step.

4: Tip the aquafaba and vinegar into a large mixing bowl and beat with electric beaters until it’s stiff, pale and frothy. It should move slowly when you tilt the bowl sideways, and when you raise the beaters the mixture should reach up and follow them before slowly collapsing. You can use a whisk for this if you don’t have the equipment but it’ll take a while and be pretty strenuous. But it is possible!

5: Slowly – a little bit at a time – add the sugar, while continuing to beat the aquafaba. It should become very thick and quite glossy and bright-white. Keep beating until you can no longer feel any gritty sugar granules when you taste a little of it; briefly beat in the custard powder, and then you can finally turn off the beaters.

6: Remove the can of coconut milk from the fridge, open the lid, and scoop the thick coconut cream into your measuring cup. If there’s more than a cup’s worth of thick coconut cream, just add it in too. Save the remaining coconut water for smoothies or other cooking (or just drink it, which is what I did.) Fold this coconut cream gently into the aquafaba mixture – it’ll deflate a little which is fine, and it might look a bit bubbly, but this is also fine! Spatula this mixture into a freezer-proof container (I used a 2-litre one just to make sure it had room to move) and place it in the freezer for ten to fifteen minutes before adding the chocolate and the raspberry jelly. I don’t know if this makes a significant difference to the mixture’s structural integrity but it’s what I did so it’s what we’re all going to do.

7: Remove the tray of chocolate from the freezer and using your hands, crack and shatter it into small pieces – I also scrunched up the baking paper around it to help with this process. Remove the raspberry jelly from the fridge, and take the ice cream base out of the freezer. If it still looks a bit bubbly just give it a quick whisk. Drop spoonfuls of the raspberry jelly all over the surface of the ice cream – they’ll sink, but don’t worry. Sprinkle over the chocolate and use the back of the spoon to push most of the chocolate below the surface. You can make a couple of ripple movements through the ice cream with your spoon if you like, but be careful to just barely stir it – you want to leave lots of big ripples of raspberry present.

8: Cover the container and refrigerate it for two hours – I always do this, I think it improves the taste and the texture – then freeze for about six hours or until solid. This particular ice cream sets quite hard so it needs a ten minute rest out of the freezer before you bust into it; because of all the chocolate it’s also hard to get a perfect scoop but the important thing is, it tastes incredible.

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music lately:

Too Real To Feel by Loop. My brother got me onto this band literally this evening and after one listen I feel like I’ve adored them for years. They’re droney and shoegazy and twinkly and sound like a tremolo in a washing machine on the wool/delicates cycle, so of course I love them!

Neither/Nor by Moses Sumney. The whole græ album is exceptional but this song is particularly glorious with that introspective, Led-Zepp-slow-track guitar, his effortless slide into an ethereal falsetto, and the intoxicating, driving drumbeat.

As If We Never Said Goodbye from the musical Sunset Boulevard (based on the film, Sunset Boulevard) as sung by Betty Buckley (who you may know as the gym teacher in the film Carrie). I know I use the word “literally” a lot (and I mean it every single time!) but literally every time I watch her sing the “I’ve come home at last” line around eight minutes into this grainy, poor-quality bootleg video, I start to cry and no amount of rewatching it can desensitise me to its awe-inspiring power.

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.

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.