Vegan Kale, Pecan, and Fried Carrot Salad

IMG_0973

Since my friend Charlotte and I devised the Friend Carrot Noodles last year, not a day has gone by where I don’t think about the fried carrot. Not a single day. This is not me exaggerating to be cute! I know we’re at a crossroads of the word “literally” meaning whatever you want it to mean, and food bloggers insisting every recipe to be the most sandblasting-intensity deliciousness they’ve ever encountered, but even so please believe me when I say that I literally do think about fried carrots all the time. It’s not that we invented the concept, since people have been putting carrots over a heat source for centuries, but I’d never previously considered the carrot to be a main event food. It had been a member of the chorus, a background extra, essential in a sofrito and a useful dip pipeline but not something I relished crunching on raw and unadorned with any great enthusiasm (so much exertion! So punitive!) Fried carrots though – as in, carrots that are left to go caramelised and crisp and collapsing – are incredible, a star, something I’d gladly eat a bowl of on their own.

Having been on a very brief visit to Wellington recently (spurred on by what I thought were cheap flights, which ended up being extremely not-cheap due to numerous hidden fares, causing me once again to curse this ground I was born upon and this country’s terrible public transport) I was able to revisit the Friend Carrot Noodles in their proper setting – with my friend Charlotte. Much as Champagne may only be called such if it’s from the Champagne region of France, these noodles are really at their most exemplary when consumed in their place of origin, otherwise they’re just Fried Carrot Noodles.

IMG_0967

A few things fell into place upon my return home to allow this Kale, Pecan and Fried Carrot Salad come together: first of all, pecans were unexpectedly cheap at the supermarket so I treated myself to a couple packets, secondly, there was not much in the way of ingredients at home other than greens from the garden and a large bag of carrots. Envisioning a wintery salad – more rich and robust than cold and wet – I thought the pecans and the oily sweetness of the carrots would fare well against the substantial, almost leathery kale leaves.

It worked – this salad is so good. The pecans have a real complexity to them, buttery and earthy and dense and just slightly smoky, but if they’re not on special where you are, walnuts or even pine nuts would be a solid back up. The combination of mouthfilling richness and soft crunch is honestly stunning.

You could consider hiffing this salad through some short pasta to make a real meal of it, or add other bits and pieces – peas could work, fresh mint leaves would be wonderful, roasted beetroot is an obvious addition, super bitter leaves like chicory would hold their own. If life is really in your favour, why not add some avocado, or indeed, double the pecans. The worst thing about this salad is also its greatest feature – there’s nothing fun about chopping up that many carrots. But they reward your efforts significantly. In fact, the best thing you could do for this salad would be to add more carrots.

IMG_0970

Kale, Pecan and Fried Carrot Salad

A recipe by myself. Serves 4 as a side.

  • 70g/half a cup pecans
  • 1 spring onion
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Maggi seasoning (or, 1 teaspoon soy sauce or a pinch of salt)
  • Juice and zest of one lemon
  • 4 medium-large carrots
  • Rice bran oil, or similar, for frying
  • 2 cups loosely packed kale leaves, or a mixture of robust leafy greens eg cavolo nero, spinach – roughly a handful of greens per person is a good starting point, use more or less as you please.
  1. Roughly break up the pecans into smaller pieces – you can chop them up but I find it easer to break them along their central lines. Toast them gently in a frying pan for a couple of minutes until they are warmed through and fragrant – being careful not to let them burn. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. Finely slice the spring onion. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the olive oil, Maggi seasoning, lemon zest and lemon juice, and add the spring onions and pecans.
  3. Slice the carrots lengthwise into sticks, not worrying if they’re particularly uniform thickness. It will look like there’s an alarmingly large quantity of carrots but they do reduce down in the pan. Heat a little rice brain oil in a large frying pan and in smallish batches, fry the carrots till they’re browned and caramelised on both sides. The best way to do this is to let them sit in one layer, without stirring, for a few minutes, then use tongs to turn them over. A bit of a faff, but much quicker than constantly stirring them. Remove the carrots as they’re browned and drop them into the mixing bowl with the pecans, and continue frying the remaining carrots, adding a little more oil to the pan each time. Don’t be tempted to skip the oil – it really helps the process and the flavour.
  4. Wash the kale leaves and gently pat or shake them dry, then tear the leaves into small pieces and add to the mixing bowl. Use tongs to mix the ingredients all together, and taste to see if the seasoning needs anything. Transfer to a serving bowl.

IMG_0972

music lately:

Cyclical by Cassowary feat Tyler Cole. This is one song of twenty-nine featured on my latest playlist for Tenderly which I recommend you both read and listen to, especially this song – that opening is funkier than a bottle of Smith and Cross Pot Still Navy Strength rum.

Washington On Your Side from the musical Hamilton, performed by Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan and Leslie Odom Jr. I know there’s all sorts of Hamilton discourse going on and it’s a corny show but it’s my cross to bear that I’m obsessed with musical theatre and if someone’s going to release an incredibly well-produced filmed production of a Broadway show, well it’s probably the only opportunity I’ll ever have to see it, so of course I’m going to watch it with joy in my heart! And this is a really great song! Those decisive strings! The famed breath control from Diggs! That insolent little casiotone melody at the start!

Bo Diddley, by Bo Diddley. Probably one of the most exciting and important pieces of music ever written? You can hear this in so many songs, and if you can’t hear it in a song, then honestly what’s the point?

Next time: I used the cacao butter to make vegan white chocolate and it was amazing and you will be hearing about 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.

bonfires burning bright, pumpkin faces in the night

P1180579

I’ve read seventeen books in the last two months which is more than I read in the last year, in fact I could say with neither hesitation nor exaggeration that it’s than I read in the past four years combined. One of these books was The Idiot by Elif Batuman, I call upon it because partway through this novel there was a passage that absolutely kneecapped me:

Screen Shot 2019-02-22 at 3.19.11 PM

Though I tempered the immediate butter knife that this drove through me by reminding myself that I’d been writing this very blog for eleven years now and have in fact had a cookbook published before; the precision is nevertheless really something, isn’t it, and probably applicable to any vocation that you hold out of your own reach while insisting it’s really external forces standing in the way?

And though this quote dangles in my head like a spider’s legs I’ve done a robust quantity of writing this week to helpfully back up my claim of wanting to write, including the following:

  • I updated my Frasier food blog, covering Episode 18 of Season 1 and a recipe for the Pink Lady Cocktail
  • I updated my Frasier food blog AGAIN, covering Episode 19 and a recipe for homemade Butterfingers
  • At the behest of no-one, I wrote an intense analysis of a performance of The Ladies Who Lunch, Elaine Stritch’s big number from Stephen Sondheim’s 1970 musical Company, likely to the interest of myself only, but I think it’s a fairly brilliant piece of writing.

P1180581

And I’m writing this, aren’t I! The recipe I made this week – Sticky Roast Balsamic Sumac Butternut Pumpkin and Cashews – came about simply because I was craving those precise qualities – sticky and caramelised and crisp and roasted and a little sour and salty and rich, you know what I mean? To be perfectly honest with you the sumac component came in at the last minute – after having taken the photos of this recipe I finally got to consume a bowlful, and while it was delicious it was lacking a certain top note, sort of like if you listen to a stereo and you’ve accidentally turned down the treble dial, so it’s recognisable but a little lifeless? That was when I thought to add the sumac: it dovetails with the balsamic vinegar, it imparts a kind of lemony ebullience, and lightens up the rich, oily heft of the roasted butternut pumpkin and all those cashews.

This combination is just smashingly delicious: the butternut gets all crunchy and almost adhesive to itself in the hot olive oil, the cashews with their brief blast of heat get their mild creamy flavour and crunch deepened, and the drizzle of golden syrup and balsamic vinegar intensifies everything else and ramps up the caramelisation. And the sumac demonstrably saves the day. If you don’t have any of the sour red powder that is sumac, and this is entirely reasonable, I would just squeeze over the juice of a lemon or a lime and furthermore sprinkle over its zest for good measure. Pomegranate molasses or tamarind would have a similar energy but I feel like if you have those you probably also have sumac already and therefore do not require my dupes. On that note; I chose the butternut pumpkin on purpose: it’s buttery and rich, and not only cooks quicker than regular pumpkin it’s also much easier to slice. But consider them fairly interchangeable if you only have the latter.

P1180575

Sticky Roast Balsamic Sumac Butternut Pumpkin and Cashews

a recipe by myself

  • 1/2 a large butternut pumpkin
  • (optional) 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 tablespoons or so olive oil
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1/4 cup raw peanuts (or just more cashews if you like) 
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, plus extra for drizzling
  • 2 teaspoons golden syrup or similar
  • 2 teaspoons sumac
  • coriander leaves to serve, optional
  • lots of salt and pepper

Set your oven to 220C/450F. Pour the oil into a large roasting tray and put the tray into the oven to heat up while you get everything else sorted.

Carefully slice the skin off the pumpkin and dice the flesh into pieces of roughly one inch. Sprinkle the flour over the cubes of pumpkin if you want, this will make it all the more crispy when it roasts but you can leave it out if you want for gluten-avoidance reasons.

Tip the cubes of pumpkin into the roasting dish that’s been heating up and spread them out so they’re all on one layer. Sprinkle over the cumin and drizzle over more oil if it looks like it needs it. Roast for roughly twenty minutes, stirring halfway through – the amount of time will depend on your oven, but don’t be afraid to leave it in there for a while so the pumpkin gets really crispy and browned.

While the butternut pumpkin is in the oven, pile the cashews and peanuts onto your chopping board and roughly chop them into rubble. In a small cup or bowl mix together the golden syrup and balsamic vinegar.

When you’re quite satisfied with the crisp and brown-ness of the cubes of butternut, remove the tray from the oven and drizzle over the balsamic/syrup mixture – it doesn’t have to coat everything evenly – and sprinkle over the chopped nuts. Return the tray to the oven for literally one minute, then turn the oven off. Leave the tray in there for about ten minutes (although check occasionally to make sure the cashews haven’t burnt). Remove the tray from the oven, sprinkle over the sumac and plenty of salt and pepper, and then serve with the coriander leaves sprinkled on top and an extra drizzle of balsamic vinegar for good measure.

P1180591

This recipe is one of those neither-here-nor-there ones, but in a really good way – you can serve it as a side during a larger hearty meal; you could stir it through couscous or bulghur wheat (perhaps with some capers and sultanas); or pile it on rice with some other components; you could fold it through some robust salad leaves, I’m thinking a mixture of rocket and cos lettuce; or you could mix it into spaghetti or other long pasta; or you can do what I did and just eat a bowlful of it on its own. The dish shone at any temperature as well: straight from the oven dish before I’d even decamped it to a serving bowl to photograph; at room temperature once it had finished modelling for me; even fridge-cold, the next-day leftovers were spectacularly good, the balsamic sweetness really coming through the wonderfully oily cubes of butternut pumpkin.

P1180596

(A Ghost sighting in the wild) (Ghost is the name of the dog by the way)

I’m currently staying with my parents for a bit, and have spent the last two days on the road in a car with my mother and her best friend getting from Wellington to Waiuku (including a three hour and one minute journey between the capital and Otaki due to post-Eminem concert-goer traffic – it should normally take around an hour at the most, but it’s all part of the road trip adventure as we optimistically surmised: if there’s one thing Mum and her best friend know how to do, it’s executing a cunning plan and being optimistic about it at every step of the way.) If you remember when I mentioned in my first blog post of the year that Mum suggested I could come home for a bit and frame it as a writer’s retreat, well, like foreshadowing in a prestige television show, that chicken has come home to roost.

The next thing I’m going to be working on is my actual writing projects that I’ve set out for myself (which you can read about here), an article I pitched to The Spinoff, and this month’s exclusive content for my Patreon supporters (a piece about what I believe each character from Gavin and Stacey’s star signs are, and why, and if this admittedly narrow field of appeal appeals to you then you can sign up here.)

title from: Halloween, by Misfits. I love the anxious guitar riff and the abrupt energy and the way lead singer Glenn Danzig slides over his consonants in a muffled, careless manner, much like a young Patti LuPone in, for example, the 1988 Broadway revival of Anything Goes. Let the bodies hit the floor!

music lately:

Survive It, by Ghostpoet. Really beautiful and poetic.

(I Want To See) The Bright Lights, by Julie Covington. She was the first person to record the breakout song Don’t Cry For Me Argentina in the concept album that preceded the musical Evita (when the concept materialised into a musical on the West End the role went to the unsinkable Elaine Paige, and upon its transfer to Broadway the following year, it was none other than the aforementioned Patti LuPone who sang the famous number.) This is from one of her solo albums and is a cover of a Richard and Linda Thompson song, she sounds just gorgeous and the jingle-jangle production is somehow not too dated, and it captures that very British oil-and-water quality of being plaintively melancholy and resiliently upbeat simultaneously.

Sound of Rain, by Solange. She dropped a new album all at once and everything about it, the musicality and her voice and the writing and the production is stunning and she just seems to be in top form. At 39 minutes, When I Get Home is easy to listen to in its entirety but I love this track in particular at the moment.

Next time: Mum has become an abundant and flourishing gardener and the property is positively creaking with home-grown produce, I imagine this will play a part in whatever I cook next.

i set out to disappear and out there i found a new home

P1180558

Since we last talked a lot has happened, so let’s recap! I loved many things about my job as a bartender but I was also like, I could accidentally carry on working round the clock for another year and a half and not actually confront myself with any real life decisions, and so my final shift was last Sunday; as for the moving house bit, well my lease was coming up for renewal and the rent was hiked upwards to a height so dizzying even in this current economic climate that it would give you a nosebleed just to countenance it, and I was like honestly I can’t condone this behaviour from the landlords so I bowed out and am now temporarily but delightedly mucking in at the house of my lovely friends Kate and Jason.

I spent roughly five days in the lead up to moving house entirely consumed by fretting about packing, and doing packing (in that order), aided considerably by my stalwart pal Charlotte who managed to briskly pare my enormous wardrobe down to the point where the pile of clothes I was getting rid of was bigger than that which I kept (and to her credit sat gamely through such dialogue from me as “it’s, you know, just an everyday classic practical see through top, a real wardrobe staple” and “this coat-hanger has been in my family for generations.”) This is the first time I’ve moved house since acquiring an ADHD diagnosis, by which I really mean, this is the first time I’ve moved house with the aid of Ritalin and months of hard work on being slightly less of a liability, and I must say while it was a novelty being so relatively organised in advance I was also hit like a fleet of bicycles by anxiety about how disorganised I’d been in every single moving-of-house hitherto. But – I managed to send the movers that I’d booked to the wrong address in case you were concerned that I’d made too much progress.

P1180553

So now I live in Newtown! I made dinner for Kate and Jason and also our friend Jen on Wednesday night – cooking dinner is something I can easily do in order to be a good houseguest, but also something I haven’t done with any great sense of routine in absolute years; on top of which I’ve been feeling a bit detached and weird and nonplussed and whiplashed since leaving my job and moving house and getting rid of 2/3 of my precious, practical, see-through clothes which is of course totally normal for such circumstances but I’m trying to get a grip on myself and on my sleep cycle and on my use of time and on, well, everything really, and just when I was feeling like none of this was going to happen, I was flicking through one of Kate and Jason’s Ottolenghi cookbooks and saw this recipe and felt filled with inspiration to make it and I was like, well, this is a start.

Ottolenghi is so talented at making any old pile of vegetables feel exciting and exuberant, this is because his recipes are really good as opposed to any deeper level of witchcraft than that; but I mean he’s just such a great read if you’re feeling a bit culinarily blank and it’s also the middle of summer and you want the kind of meal that holds at least two components that are in danger of getting stuck in between your two front teeth, by which I mean, greens.

P1180554

The salad recipe I present to you is a lazy version of the original one in his book, Plenty More. The key components all have their place: the dense granular mildness of the chickpeas, the oily and caramelised fried cauliflower, the sweet summer brightness of the mango, and it’s all just very delicious and simple and straightforward. The curry powder has such a nostalgic quality to it, and its sweet earthiness against both the vibrant and the calmer ingredients is so good, don’t overlook it. Mangoes just sing of summertime, don’t they? I urge you to seek out a pertly bulging specimen, ripe but not fermentingly soft, you want it to be al dente for want of a better word. (Also? I love mangoes but their flavour is so elusive, like trying to move towards a rainbow, that I feel as though I need to eat twelve mangoes in order to experience the power of one actual mango’s flavour? But also matching them with all these savoury elements really makes them come to life?)

P1180561

Ottolenghi’s Chickpea, Mango, and Fried Cauliflower Salad

adapted slightly from a recipe in Plenty More

  • 2 cans of chickpeas in brine
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • indiscriminate quantities of olive oil (not extra virgin) or other neutral oil for frying
  • 1 small cauliflower, broken and sliced into small(er) florets
  • 2 large, firm, ripe mangoes
  • sea salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 50g baby spinach leaves
  • a handful coriander leaves, roughly chopped 

Drain the chickpeas and place them in a large serving bowl with the cumin, curry powder, mustard seeds, and sugar, and stir well.

Heat up a tablespoon of oil in a saucepan and fry the onion till softened and golden, then stir into the chickpeas.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to the boil and cook the cauliflower in it for one minute, then drain thoroughly.

Heat more oil in the same saucepan that the onion was fried in – a couple of tablespoons will do – and once it’s really hot, fry the cauliflower in it in small batches. Don’t overcrowd the pan, and let the cauliflower sit for a few minutes before turning it over, to allow it to get golden and brown. Transfer the browned cauliflower to the bowl of chickpeas and continue till all the cauliflower is done.

Chop the mango into chunks and stir into the chickpeas along with the lime juice, the spinach, the coriander, a good drizzle of olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

I liked this even better the next day when the spices and lime juice had soaked into everything, it didn’t look as good but it tasted more intense.

P1180556

In case you didn’t see my last blog post, my reason for making all these drastic life changes at the expense of all involved is that I am going to write, just like, so much stuff, with this in mind and also my unemployedness – not that it’s anyone else’s responsibility but my own, but it could be yours if you wanted! – I direct you confidently towards my Patreon where you could get in at the ground floor on supporting what I do and receive exclusive content in return. And that really is my plan, to recover from the whiplash of this all-change and to write, well, that and to be as good a house guest as I can possibly be. (I just realised as I type that there’s a double meaning to “write, well” – wow I’m doing great already.)

title from: Baltimore Blues No. 1, Deer Tick. Moody.

music lately:

Walk Away, Sisters of Mercy, they sound, as I described to the long-suffering Charlotte, as though someone is trying to convey jauntiness while trapped underwater (by which I mean, obviously, I love it)

Morning Terrors and Nights of Dread, Shilpa Ray, it starts off surfy (good) and ends up surfy and howl-y (very good!)

Blue by Rico Nasty, she is incredible!

Next time: I tried making some macarons with the leftover aquafaba from the canned chickpeas in this salad and they were delicious but super fragile, but I presumably have the energy now to nail the recipe properly.

forever green, I know she’s here

p1180512

Wednesday was so momentous in a way that I’m not sure I can accurately convey other than to hope that as you’re reading this you’re trying to understand what it means to me: I met Nigella Lawson. I was always into food in an opportunistic way but it was seeing her TV show in 2001 that showed me for the first time that food could be a cause of real happiness for not just the eater but also the cook. Without a doubt I would not have started food blogging if not for her, I probably would not have achieved much of anything in fact. If you’ve been reading this blog for even a minute you’ll already know this, but again, it’s just so big for me! This has got magnitude! It needs big mise-en-scène!

How it came together, and I still can scarcely believe that it did, was that Nigella has been on a tour where she will sit in front of an audience and be cushily interviewed and receive questions (not, as I kept accidentally calling it, “in concert”) and Mum and Dad (it was Dad’s idea) displayed the most absolute incredible parenting skills in getting me a ticket to her Wellington date for Christmas.

p1180505

Ever since I was a child I’ve always been comfortably and righteously convinced that whatever I’m obsessed with, there is none more so than I in possession of said obsession, and I am afraid to say that I was in this same frame of mind when I sat in the audience, selfishly feeling that my very presence there was so tightly packed with intensity that there should be a secondary audience watching me being in the audience in a Marina Ambracoviç-esque performance art piece. I’m not afraid to admit that I genuinely started crying when Nigella Lawson walked out on stage, before she’d even said a word. And once she did, she was – of course – wonderful. So generous, so clever, so good at making the least of the questions appear to inspire these witty and expansive answers, so warm and lovely and confident and just everything a person could hope for in someone so long idolised.

A couple of days ago I took a plate of food to a potluck dinner at a friend’s house and we spent much of the night staring off their thirteenth-floor balcony, beholding the Super Blood Wolf Moon scooting across the night sky. Now, I love the moon (I have no less than three tattoos of the moon on me and at one point was like “I hope the moon is impressed by this” and didn’t even stop to qualify that I was being humorous or whatever because honestly I think was being sincere) and without wanting to sound like a dick it genuinely felt quite momentous to be in its presence on this night, the moon so swollen and golden and we so relatively insignificant.

p1180510

I had this same feeling in the presence of Nigella Lawson, like I was somehow gaining power and energy from her, and while it was probably a combination of hype and restless energy and also lack of sleep – does it make sense to you though? Do you ever see someone and suddenly think “I could achieve anything I want, I need never stand for anything less than what I deserve, and what I deserve is good things, and I could kick a hole in the sky?” If not, have you ever tried standing in front of Nigella Lawson? Is it a coincidence that I saw her in the same week that I saw the Super Blood Wolf Moon? Do coincidences even exist? Will I ever sleep? (I should’ve probably mentioned this sooner but, I wrote this in middle of the night so please bear with me, or continue to at this point.)

Just in case I threaten to float away like a vainglorious novelty balloon, I share with you the following photo which cracks me up but at the time was just seconds away from ruining everything: so, when you line up to get your book signed by Nigella Lawson (as you can see below, that I did), there was a guy standing there to take your phone so he could photograph the moment. But the guy in charge of this important yet straightforward job, somehow thought that the person standing in front of me was my friend, and started to take a photo on their phone. And I was like no, wait, here is my phone, but also don’t you dare distract me from my brief moment with Nigella Lawson don’t you understand my entire life has been mere prelude to this point you actual imbecile – but I didn’t say any of this verbally, not wanting to cause a scene, instead, as you can see below, it was just kind of written on my face instead.

screen shot 2019-01-24 at 2.32.47 am

A beautiful moment.

Luckily I managed to put my own phone in his hands and captured a more sanguine shot of Nigella Lawson and I talking, and for all this talk of being charged with power I was honestly so overwhelmed by being face to face with her that all I managed to do was murmur “you’ll never know how much you mean to me” which to her credit, probably from years and years and years of this sort of carry-on, she received cheerfully, before being hustled away from her glowing, tide-pulling presence.

I brought this week’s recipe with me to the aforementioned potluck dinner; the green beans are but a delicious conduit and the sauce is the real point of the exercise here: you could use said sauce on noodles (udon, I reckon), you could pour it over roast vegetables, you could employ it as a dip, you could mix it with rice, you could use it in a potato salad – but before we get too carried away with its potential, what actually is it? Well, it’s a sauce, that’s green, hence the name Green Sauce. I initially considered it to be both a coriander and peanut pesto and a green satay sauce but also surmised quickly that that would be simultaneously wildly insulting to both Italian and Malaysian cuisine. So: Green Sauce. It does hinge entirely upon your feelings towards coriander, admittedly – I love the stuff, its fragrance somehow earthy yet citrussy at the same time with so much grassy flavour from the stalks. Blitzed into a puree with nutty (of course) peanuts; plenty of rich olive oil, and the caramelly saltiness of miso, this makes for a compellingly punchy and near-instant sauce.

p1180507

Green Beans in Green Sauce

a recipe by myself

Green Sauce

  • leaves and stalks from one of those supermarket coriander plants, or from a large bunch of coriander
  • half a cup, ish, baby spinach leaves
  • 1 cup unsalted peanuts
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (though be prepared to add more)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon white miso paste
  • 1 heaped teaspoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice (or lemon if you don’t have lime)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple syrup or similar
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • Plenty of salt and pepper to taste

To serve

  • 2 cups frozen shelled edamame beans
  • 1 cup long green beans, topped and tailed and halved

Place all the sauce ingredients in a blender and blitz till it forms a thick green paste. Add a little extra olive oil or water (or both) and blend again if it needs to be more liquid. Taste and see if it needs more salt or lime juice.

Steam the edamame and green beans (I put them in a colander balanced on some chopsticks over a pan of boiling water but in fact feel free to simply simmer them in the water itself) – and don’t worry about defrosting the edamame. Once the beans are lightly tender, remove from the heat and run briefly under cold water, allowing them to drain thoroughly.

Tip the beans into a serving bowl, stir through the sauce, and that’s it really. Garnish with a few extra peanuts or reserved coriander leaves if you wish.

As discussed it has plenty of applications but the way I used it – with a double-billing of edamame and long green beans – is delicious, not only do you get the pleasing dovetailing of colour, but the bright, buttery soft crunch of the beans against the fulsomeness of the sauce is wonderful.

screen shot 2019-01-24 at 2.17.39 am

So long in the making, so important.

title from: Velouria by Pixies, not my favourite of theirs but! What a lovely song.

music lately:

I Wanna Sleep In Your Arms by Modern Lovers. Title says it all, really.

The Angel of Death by Hank Williams, its calming waltz time signature belied by the lyrics’ gentle yet sinister persistence.

The Look, by Roxette, a song that is deeply silly and that I also find intoxicating. I remember first hearing it when I was really young and something in the minor key progression and harmonies in the chorus made me feel almost queasy but in a very good way? You know how music does that to you sometimes? (I can’t quite put my finger on why, other than maybe the minor key just genuinely messes with me, but like, for example, Shampain by Marina and the Diamonds has a similar buzz for me.)

Next time: two cocktails!

PS as I mentioned in my last post I have started a Patreon page where you can have the distinct honour of supporting this blog in as small or as large a capacity as you feel like and in return I will create even more content just for you and you’ll be genuinely helping me get by!

this is no corn-fed day it’s gloomy blue and cold

Unfortunately my one personality trait right now is “teeth” (wait: “tired bartender” is the sole other facet to this diamond) so this salad that I made was inevitably tooth-related: devised in anticipation of my wisdom teeth being from my mouth untimely ripp’d next Monday (that’s like, a reference to MacBeth there). I know all I’ll be consuming next week is broth, pureed foods, painkillers and my own drool, so I wanted to make myself something crunchy, salty, spicy and acidic – everything my tender mouth will be shunning mere days from now. 

That vision ended up taking the form of this blackened corn and tortilla salad – crunchy toasted peanuts, juicy charred corn, shards of tortilla, crisp cos lettuce and plenty of sourness and heat in the form of lime, chilli, salt and cumin. Plus some fairly blameless cherry tomatoes. 

Being my generally idiotic heedless self it will come as no surprise when I tell you that I broke my SD card for my camera somehow and so had to instead take the photos of this salad on my phone (other things I’ve broken this week: my Laura necklace, a large glass jar of hot sugar syrup, the will and resilience of everyone around me) so as such the effect is a liiiittle more grainy than I’d like. Also my flatmate of the past year moved out and had the temerity to take his own property with him so I no longer have his immensely sexy slab of a coffee table to take my photos on, and as the next logical place for me to eat is in bed that’s why everything here is pictured against my duvet, giving it something of an eighties glamour shot vibe.

Fortunately I displayed competency in one area at least: this salad is fantastically delicious. The corn is deliciously sweet and charred and chewy, and the textures of the peanuts, fried tortilla, and lettuce – each crunchy in their own way, the peanuts all soft and (duh) nutty, the tortillas crisp and oily, the lettuce super fresh – is extremely delightful. The chilli and lime gives it a great big high kick of flavour and on top of that it couldn’t be easier to make. By the way you really only need one large tortilla but they taste so good when they’re all fried up that I allowed an extra one to account for you eating them all as you make the salad. Maybe you’re more restrained than me, who knows. That aside, the quantities of each ingredient are pretty much up to you and your personal tastes. If avocados are not housing-market-preventatively-expensive in your neighbourhood they they would be a delicious addition and there’s also nothing stopping you adding some meat, but as it is it’s pretty perfect. 

blackened corn and tortilla salad

a recipe by myself

  • one small cos lettuce
  • two flour or corn tortillas
  • a handful of peanuts
  • one punnet cherry tomatoes
  • two cups of frozen corn kernels
  • olive oil
  • a teaspoon or so of chilli flakes
  • a pinch of cumin
  • sea salt
  • a lime

Heat up a large frying pan over a high heat. Toast the peanuts till they’re lightly browned and tip them into a big mixing bowl. Heat up some butter or olive oil and tear the tortillas into small pieces and fry them in the hot pan till they’re crisp and golden. Add them to the bowl with the peanuts. Next, tip the corn into the pan and let it sit without stirring too much so that it gets slightly charred and browned as it cooks.

While this is happening, wash and tear up the lettuce leaves and add them, with the cherry tomatoes, into the mixing bowl. Once the corn is where it needs to be tip that into the mixing bowl. Squeeze in the juice of a lime, add the chilli flakes and cumin, some sea salt and plenty of olive oil. Give it a good stir and then divide between two bowls. Sprinkle over some more cumin and chilli if ya like. 

This honestly makes what I would consider to be two servings, but I ate the entirety in bed (as pictured!) before falling immediately into a deep sleep, I’m not sure if that was related to the ingredients or more to my generally being tired, but I can heartily recommend the two activities together. 

As I said in the last blog post, I’m actually really nervous about getting these teeth out – something about the sedation process and the potential recovery time and oh, the IMMENSE PAIN and BRUTAL PRICE TAG but I am going to be taken under the wing of my dear friends Kate and Jason who will be looking after me and making sure I don’t like, run naked through the town while coming out of sedation (or indeed, at any time, no one should rule it out completely.)

title from: Say Anything, Night’s Song. Praise the night, the only time I feel alright.  

music lately:

One Direction, Teenage Dirtbag. Oh, these simpler times! Their cover of this song is so perfect, and the way Harry Styles is all “Her name is Noelle” at the start does funny things to my heart. 

Oh Land, Sleepy Town. This song is so dreamy and beautiful and it’s not on Spotify which is ruining my entire life! 

Chance the Rapper, No Problem. Such! A! Bop! 

next time: I probably won’t get the opportunity to write till after my tooth-times so it’ll be wall to wall soft foods. 

look into my eyes and tell me girl you know you gotta watch your health

It’s an analogy that’s brought up a lot, but one of the differences in the way that mental and physical health are treated is that like, if you have a broken leg it’s considered completely reasonable to be seen immediately and have it put in a cast and then get follow-up therapy to strengthen your stupid broken leg. Unlike mental health, which is like…imagine if you broke your leg and you were told you had to wait six weeks to see someone, and then when you saw them you really, really had to convince them that your leg was broken even though you’ve tried meditation, and then you’re told to wait another six weeks and at the end of that you’re finally given, with great reluctance, a plaster and some supermarket paracetamol.

This isn’t exactly relevant, I honestly just wanted to complain. But where I’m going with this is, I’m so used to focussing on the moving target that is my mental health that I’m always completely taken by surprise when I get, y’know, physically unwell in the traditional sense. To me, getting actually sick is kind of not an option, simply because I don’t have time for this and so I refuse to acknowledge it.

And yet, here I am, and this head-cold/flu-adjacent thing that is occupying my bod is refusing to acknowledge my refusal to acknowledge it, and as such, I’ve done the only thing anyone can do – google which foods are the most aggressively able to fight germs and then make a recipe out of as many of them as I can get hold of. Since cabbage came up extremely high on the list of “will make your nose bleed from vitamin overload” I decided to use it as the base of a slaw, adding watercress and fennel, a dressing made from ten cloves of garlic, and a scattering of raw turmeric and almonds.

So yeah, it’s good for you – you can wikipedia the individual ingredients if you want to know specifically how, for me it’s just enough to know that they’re doing something – but it also tastes completely fantastic. Cabbage and watercress are both super peppery and fennel has that aniseed heat, but there’s a ton of olive oil and salt to soften it all, plus the incredibly mellow dressing, made by simmering the garlic cloves till they’re softened, both physically and in terms of eye-watering burn. On top of that the almonds – and I use heaps of them – add a kind of contrasting creamy nuttiness, so it’s not all too astringent and cold and a chore to get through. Finally, raw turmeric has a kind of gingery carrot vibe flavourwise and adds pleasing bursts of chrysanthemum yellow against all the purple and green. And it’s SO good for you, guys.

Did it help? I mean honestly, I’ve never felt less healthy. But does correlation equal causation? Am I mad at this salad for not curing me and indeed, solving all the problems in my life? Can you be mad at a salad? Am I doing a terrible job of selling this recipe to you as something you might want to make? If nothing else it surely didn’t do me any harm and above all it tastes amazing so…that will have to do for now.

Feel free to mix and match ingredients depending on what you’re able to get hold of – you could add kale, or use white cabbage, have walnuts or hazelnuts instead of almonds, use rocket instead of cress, anything at all. But as it is in the recipe below, it’s pretty spectacular – so crunchy, oily, salty, garlicky, crisp, peppery, everything. Also – I feel like I say this a lot, but – the recipe looks really long but it’s truly super simple, I’m just super talky. You’re really just chopping up a bunch of stuff and putting it in a bowl.

healthy af slaw

a recipe by myself

  • half a purple cabbage
  • one fennel bulb
  • two handfuls of watercress
  • turmeric root, a couple of inches thereof
  • at least two handful of almonds
  • ten cloves of garlic, give or take
  • plenty of extra virgin olive oil
  • two teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • a couple of drops of maple syrup or clear honey or golden syrup or honestly whatever
  • sea salt

Firstly, put the garlic cloves in a pan and just cover them with water. Bring to the boil and let them simmer away for about five minutes, during which time you can prepare the salad itself. 

Get an enormous serving bowl ready. Peel the thick outer leaves from the cabbage and slice the rest as finely as you can manage, transferring it all into the serving bowl once you’re done. Repeat with the fennel (slightly more difficult due to the unwieldy shape of the bulb.) Then, and this might sound stupid, but drizzle over some olive oil and scatter over some salt and use your hands to vigorously lift and scrunch the cabbage and fennel. This will mix it together but also kind of soften and relax the aggressively stiff purple and white shreds a little. Just do it. 

Roughly chop the almonds and throw them in, and then give the watercress a brief chop before adding them to the salad as well. Use a small sharp knife to slice off the outer peel of the turmeric root and very finely chop up the bright orange flesh underneath, scattering that over the vegetables.

Remove the garlic from the heat (if you haven’t already) and, if necessary, give the cloves a quick rinse under cold water so you don’t burn yourself on them. Remove the papery casing – they’ll be so soft that you just need to give them a squeeze and they should pop out – and either mash them with a fork, blitz them in a food processor, or pulverise them in a pestle and mortar (I chose the latter because my flatmate owns this amazing huge one that I’ve always wanted to use.) Add the cider vinegar, the maple syrup, a good pinch of sea salt, and like, heaps of olive oil, at least three tablespoons but honestly way more than that. Drizzle it over the salad and mix it all together and add more olive oil and salt if you think you need it, plus perhaps more chopped almonds – and then serve. 

It’s – she says, in a Justin Timberlake voice – gonna be May, and the rapid change of one month to another is as good a time as any to look at my life and where I’m at and generally take stock of things/panic wildly about the disproportionate size of the passage of time compared to the Stuff I Have Achieved. On January 1 of this year I published a thing about my struggle with the mental health system and the mental health of my own self. Since then things have zig-zagged wildly but most definitely on an upwards trajectory, and as such I’d like to draw your attention to this podcast I recorded with Ollie, this magical guy who, as well as being the doorman at work, also has his own podcast where he talks to people from all walks of life about, well, their walks of life. I feel like it’s a natural post-script to my original piece. I mean, so many things are still a monumental struggle and I congratulate myself for every day that I get through, but it’s kind of amazing looking at the difference between the me of that podcast and the me of the January 1 article.

Meanwhile, I’ve still got this damn head cold thing, but at least I know it’ll get some attention from the doctors if I tell them about it. And, I’m full of vitamins.

PS: If you’re feeling this slaw, you may well want to check out some other recipes I have along these lines, such as the Lee Brothers’ Cabbage and Lime Salad with Roasted Peanuts, my Silverbeet, Parsley and Horseradish Slaw, or my Aggressively Healthy Bowl with Matcha Mayonnaise (and there’s nothing stopping you making the mayonnaise to dress the slaw in this blog post, it would certainly fit the context.)

title from: Grimes’ amaaaaaaazing song Oblivion, which I will never ever get sick of.

music lately:

Harry Styles, Sign of the Times. NO BIGGIE I”M JUST SOBBING SO HARD I HAVE A BLOOD NOSE anyway I quite like this song is what I’m saying.

Chelsea Jade, Life of the Party. I love this gal and everything she does is gold.

next time: I bought some quinces! So I’m super keen to do something with them! 

i wish i had a river, that i could skate away on, but it don’t snow here, it stays pretty green

Avocados are like a metaphor for life, right? You have all this hope and anticipation that it’s going to be perfect and it’s really expensive but you do it anyway because it’s an avocado and you’d give up everything for this avocado and you feel, gently, from the outside that it’s going to be a good one this time! You’ve been burned before but damn it, you just know this avocado is the one. And you carry it home, imagining all the good times you’re going to have together – will you spread it on toast? Eat it in its entirety with a teaspoon, sprinkled with salt? Roughly mash it into guacamole? You could do anything! The taste is almost in your mouth, your teeth can almost feel that sensation of crushing through its soft, soft flesh. And then you finally slice into it and it turns out that despite your very best efforts, it was not ready to be cut open and exposed to the world; it was underripe and cold at its core. Or it had been left for too long and could not be saved no matter how you try to disguise it – greying and sulphuric and with no way to make you happy. Even though you wanted it so, so bad and you paid so much for it. 

Or sometimes you just randomly buy an avocado because it’s on special and like, slice into it and it’s perfect and you’re like “phewf, don’t know what I would’ve done for lunch otherwise” and that’s kind of that. 

 pretty, green 

pretty, green 

I was not particularly in the mood for metaphors when I made myself lunch the other day: the avocado was green and unblemished and yielding and that was enough for me. I used it in a simple, beautiful pea, mint and avocado salad from Nigella Lawson’s seminal text How To Eat. A book I turn to again and again when I forget how to eat: it’s the most trustworthy manual I know. Her tone is gently bossy yet undone and dishevelled at the same time and it’s ever so comforting. 

Yeah, it’s Spring, so eating sprightly green stuff feels obvious, but no matter what time of year it is this salad is gorgeously delicious. Especially because all you really need to worry about is the state of your avocado – the peas can be frozen and the salad leaves are highly interchangeable for whatever’s seasonal. You can basically make the entire thing in the bowl you’re planning to serve it in, which appeals to my utter laziness, and while it’s meant to be a side salad it makes a thoroughly satisfying meal all on its own, depending on your appetite I suppose. It’s also vegan, which is nice. 

 oh wow, here's the salad from this angle 

oh wow, here’s the salad from this angle 

The flavours here are so wonderful – the green-green-greenness (yes) of the peas, the bitterness of the leaves, the sweet, ice cold mint, the buttery avocado. Then you’ve got crunch and softness and oiliness and saltiness and honestly, all I want is a whole bowlful of this and nothing else. I do think it would be a good vehicle for some roasted asparagus if you’ve got the inclination – I mean, it is Spring! – and you could always add some chopped nuts to add further crunch. But it’s truly perfect just as Nigella stipulates it. As per usual though I have given lots of alternatives and notes because I get helpfully nervous about being too specific in case people feel like they can’t make something because they don’t have the exact right thing. 

pea, mint, and avocado salad

recipe by nigella lawson from her important book How To Eat, below is the vague quantitiy I made though which doesn’t quite match her specs

  • three quarters of a cup of frozen peas, or thereabouts
  • half a bag of baby spinach
  • one perfect, beautiful avocado
  • one whitloof, radicchio, or other bitter lettuce, or just something else crunchy – heck, half a regular iceberg lettuce would be chill here
  • several tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, at least three but definitely more
  • a pinch of sugar
  • one tablespoon of white wine vinegar; you could always use apple cider vinegar though
  • a handful of mint leaves, plus more to serve
  • sea salt

Briefly cook the peas in a pan of boiling water and then strain under cold running water.  If you’ve just bought them from the supermarket and they’re not super frozen you can probably get away with just letting them defrost in a bowl, maybe filled with warm water to hasten the process. Basically: get your frozen peas to be unfrozen, please. 

Put the olive oil, vinegar and sugar in the bowl you’re planning to serve the salad in. You can always add more oil later. Rip up some mint leaves and stir them in. Tip in the drained peas and the baby spinach. Tear in the whitloof leaves, or whichever crunchy leaves you’re adding in, and then halve your avocado and scoop out rough spoonfuls, letting them fall into the same bowl. Use a large spoon to carefully mix all this together, adding a little sea salt and more oil if you like. Throw over a few more mint leaves. You’re done. 

 oh wow here's the salad from THIS angle now

oh wow here’s the salad from THIS angle now

As I said, this recipe is given by Nigella as a side dish, but I quite contentedly polished off the entire thing by myself and didn’t feel inclined to need anything else for a long time after; avocados and olive oil are good like that, making you all shiny-haired and full. 

 stock image #58639 woman laughing with salad

stock image #58639 woman laughing with salad

And it’s surprisingly practical when eaten lying down: I honestly didn’t expect that. 

title from: Joni Mitchell, River. Lol…………………….this song is so sad. 

music lately: 

The Damned, New Rose. I made a kind of surfy punky playlist for work and it turns out I am a sucker for pretty much anything with big drums, this song included. 

New Editions, Something About YouIf you haven’t heard this song from 1996 do yourself an enormous favour, it’s so great. 

next time: more acknowledgements of Spring, I guess? I haven’t actually eaten any asparagus since last year so should get on to that, what with uh, being a food blogger and all. 

but it sours into a routine deceit

I’m sure I’ve conveyed it somehow, but if you were not aware, I am a fulltime bartender. I personally think I’m good at it. I love doing it. But I don’t tend to talk about it too much On Here apart from to like, flop around and whinge about how tired I am, which is something I’ve done whether I’ve been bartending or working in an office or conversely, working in a different office, throughout the entire lifetime of this blog. Interestingly, I sleep better now than I ever have before, possibly because I’m filling my usual insomnia hours with standing up and serving drinks to people. 

But yeah! Cocktails! So fun to make! I love learning about the classics, especially the truly ancient and sometimes forgotten ones – back when someone would mix cold gin with a wineglass of this and a jigger of that and some cad would lean over the bar and be like “hot jimminy dog! This is swell! And I, Lord Flauntleroy, pronounce it a new sensation! I suggest we kiss now, Bertram.”  On that note, it is fun discovering fascinating bartenders from way back when. Like London’s Ada “Coley” Coleman, who invented the Hanky Panky – a variation on the classic Martini using gin, sweet vermouth and that friend of yours and mine, Fernet Branca. She started working as a bartender in 1899, at a time in England when you were either allowed to be devotedly married or quietly reading Pilgrim’s Progress, but nothing else, let alone be employed in the man-crusted world of night-alcohol.  

Ada “Coley” Coleman extremely doing her thing in like 1702

With that in mind I decided to do an impressively deep, powerful lunge sideways from my usual food recipes today to provide a recipe for something that I spend almost as much time thinking about: cocktails. More specifically, my variation on one of my favourite drinks, to make it vegan. So: Sours are generally a shaken-to-heck mix of a spirit, lemon juice, a little sugar and some egg white, the latter of which creates a gloriously silky texture and frothy layer on top. Raw egg white in a drink might sound un-fun but please, bear with me, as I am currently super into them and compelled to make Everything Sours right now. Including any mocktails I make for the glassie during their shift (the person who washes our glasses on busy nights: as I always say, A Hydrated Glassie Is A Hydrated All Of Us.) Importantly, you neither taste nor smell the egg white – it just wraps its proteins around the molecules of the liquid and floofs everything up splendidly as you shake the cocktail, creating a spectacularly light, foamy drink. 

Whisky sours are probably the most well-known take on this format, but I personally favour gin sours, an occasional amaretto sour and the fairly underrated Pisco Sour. Once you start extrapolating out – and why wouldn’t you spend four hours on wikipedia without realising it – it becomes clear how many cocktails fall into the greater Sour family, being a mix of liquor, sugar, and lemon or lime juice – like Margaritas and Daiquiris. Sours have a gloriously punchy, sweet-zingy taste and lush texture – there’s barely a liquor under the sun that isn’t improved by a little sugar and a little citrus. However I also love sours because they’re quite easy to recreate at home. You only need one favourite bottle of spirits, and the rest is just kitchen stuff. Plus you’re getting a hit of protein and vitamin C with every sip. It’s basically an alcoholic multivitamin. 

 whisky sour

whisky sour

However! If you can’t eat egg white – because of preference, allergy, whatever – it seems a massive shame to be missing out on this entire avenue of cocktail deliciousness. I’m neither vegan nor allergic to egg myself, but I don’t think that’s a compelling enough reason to not explore and reimagine existing recipes to make them available to more people. Or at least: I love thinking up recipes and I like challenges, so this is my idea of fun.

If you’ve not yet heard of it, the solution is slightly leftfield. At some point in the recent past, it was discovered that the liquid from canned chickpeas, called aquafaba, behaves almost exactly like egg whites. As in, the stuff that you normally drain off into the sink, can be whisked with sugar and baked and it honestly looks and tastes like meringue. I don’t know why or how, but it’s enough for me that it’s possible. Having used aquafaba successfully before to make pavlova, I got to wondering how it would work in a sour cocktail recipe. The most perfunctory of google searches reveals that roughly five billion people have already thought of this and tested it and I was like fine, I did not discover this, but in my defence this is the first time that I’ve thought of it. 

 gin sour

gin sour

Who cares about provenance when it works so well! First I made myself a whisky sour using aquafaba, then I made another one, just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, then I made a gin sour, and then I realised I hadn’t eaten yet and I was moderately tipsy. The important thing is though: it works! Look at how frothy these drinks are! I barely shook them and they turned into alcoholic foam immediately! I was honestly so excited. And tipsy. Now, the aquafaba liquid is not entirely tasteless –  it’s hard to explain what quality it brings, which possibly means I’m a terrible food blogger, but it just provides a slight background hint of…dust? Faint notes of literal chickpea? I counteracted this by adding slightly more sugar than I normally would. But as long as you’ve braced yourself for that, you’ve got a delicious drink on your hands that you can easily make sizeable batches of and drink joyfully while doing such activities as entertaining guests or testing cocktail recipes. 

Please don’t in the slightest bit feel like you have to spend vast quantities on bartending equipment which you will possibly never use and only grow to resent and accidentally kick over all the time (curious, as you keep it on top of the fridge.) If you’ve got a clean jar with a lid you can put all your ingredients in there to shake vigorously, and pour it through a sieve into your chosen glass. Some kind of plastic container, even, would work, or just your cupped hands if you want to get super artisinal (fine, I don’t condone this, but I do stand by the alcoholic multivitamin statement.)  

Another thing to keep in mind if you haven’t made your own cocktails before is, Sours usually get what’s known as a Dry Shake, which, yeah, doesn’t sound great, but it’s just where you shake up the ingredients initially without any ice before shaking them up with ice to give the egg white a chance to emulsify and aerate. If your ingredients are all cold enough you could possibly get away without shaking it with ice at all, since this gets so foamy, however a tiny bit of dilution from the water is actually desirable, just to meld all the ingredients together. 

Finally, sugar syrup can be made hastily by dissolving equal parts of plain white sugar and water together. And I figure most people have some kind of shot glass lying about the house from when they went on a Con-Tiki trip ten years ago or were students or whatever, otherwise just work with the fact that one tablespoon measures 15ml and go from there. 

vegan whisky sour

  • 45ml/one and a half shots of bourbon or rye whisky
  • 30ml/one shot of lemon juice
  • 15ml/half a shot of sugar syrup
  • 20ml/just under one shot of aquafaba

Place all the ingredients in either the glass of a Boston shaker or inside a clean, empty jar that you have a lid for. Bang the top of the boston shaker onto the glass, or screw the lid onto the jar if you’re using it, and holding them firmly, give them about ten good shakes – you’ll see the contents instantly become frothy and aerated. 

Remove the top of the shaker or the jar lid, add a handful of ice, lid up and shake again briefly. Strain into your chosen glass, decorate with bitters if you wish, drink immediately. Peychaud’s bitters is more traditional but I happened to have a bottle of Angostura Bitters and so used that instead. Leaving your whisky sour naked is also highly acceptable. 

vegan gin sour

  • 45ml/one and a half shots gin
  • 30ml/one shot lemon juice
  • 20ml/just under one shot sugar syrup
  • 20ml/just under one shot of aquafaba

Proceed as above – shake all ingredients together without ice, then add ice, shake again for a bit, strain into your chosen glass. 

To make the non-vegan versions of these, use around 20ml/just under a shot of egg white per drink. I prefer using the pasteurised stuff that you can buy in packages at the supermarket but obviously freshly separated eggs have been doing just fine for quite some time now. 

Of course, nothing’s stopping you from simply having a G&T or a beer at home, but if you happen to have been given a bottle of gin or something for Christmas or feel like being slightly impressive, well now you have one more option. 

As for the remaining chickpeas, they unsurprisingly have their own merits. Realising quickly that I needed some kind of sustenance, I emptied them into a bowl with a handful of baby kale leaves, some salt, some coriander seeds, some apple cider vinegar and a ton of extra virgin olive oil. Coriander seeds are lemony and peppery and the oil brought out the buttery side of the chickpeas. Kale is healthy! But also actually tastes good. 

 this salad is like a non-alcoholic multivitamin

this salad is like a non-alcoholic multivitamin

If putting one alcohol into another under your own roof appeals, I also recommend you try out my simplified take on the Lee Brothers recipe for something called Purple Jesus, and also this recipe for a Christmassy punch of Nigella’s called Poinsettia, halfway down this verrrrrrry old blog post of mine. 

 or come up and see me, also extremely doing my thing

or come up and see me, also extremely doing my thing

title from: Third Eye Blind with their highly self-indulgent unreliably-narrated but extremely listenable song Losing A Whole Year. 

music lately: 

I have always enjoyed INXS but for some reason this week I’ve become obsessed with them. Is it mostly because the tragically late Michael Hutchence was so hot and charismatic? I mean, sure. Their music is amazing though and if you feel in the slightest bit like writing it off as 80s filler then I urge you to give it your ears again. Obviously all the hits are hits but I have been listening to Disappear over and over again and it just gets to me, I don’t even know, just the dreamy lightness of the verses with the sudden rush into the heady exuberance and promise of escapism in the chorus and the massive drums and Hutchence being in effortlessly good voice. Anyway it’s almost embarrassing how long I could go on about this for but I have 100% been listening to this song and you should too. 

I actually have been pretty exclusively listening to INXS recently but…I did rewatch the intensely 90s movie Go and the soundtrack is just wonderful, so much big beats and trip hop and trance and just the sort of thing that makes you want to put on a pleather knee length skirt and some brown lipstick, and put your hair into Bjork buns, ya know? The film’s remix of Fire Up The Shoesaw by Lionrock is one such excellent example here.

Uh, you should also watch Disappear from INXS’s live show at Wembley Stadium in 1991. Note I said “also”, not “alternatively”. 

next time: I don’t know! I have some pastry sheets in the freezer though, that could be fun. 

suddenly colder, it bowled me right over

So it has come to this: ya girl made what is basically a salad and when writing the recipe, called it a bowl instead.

Compelling, no?

But yeah, while bowl food carries with it an oddly smug, insistent attitude, it would be equally insistent and smug of me to deny how good it is; I love that you can really just put anything on top of rice and call it A Bowl, how it contains so many different tastes and textures, and really makes you feel like someone who is a Pinterest star under the name of She Wears Striped Boatneck Tshirts or My Glowing Clean Natural Kitchen or Oh! Dream a Dream, You Wanderer rather than just being an achingly tired rat-human making fun of blog names on Pinterest.

Over the last few days my body has been doing this thing where my sinuses are suddenly made of concrete and I’m even dopier than usual which is honestly something to behold and I cannot, simply cannot, stop sneezing. I decided to put a whole lot of rudely healthy ingredients into a bowl in the hopes of it having some effect on me (the woman who served me at the supermarket: “you should put some ice on your sinuses, your face is all puffy.” me, internally: “I feel like there’s some kind of code you just violated.”) The crowning jewel of it all is the matcha mayonnaise, pairing matcha powder’s intense, oh-wow-I-accidentally-swallowed-grass flavour with equally green olive oil and a little apple cider vinegar, the effect of it all is surprisingly wonderful. If you don’t have matcha powder or feel weary at the thought of making your own mayonnaise, simply spoon over aioli or some other condimenty-paste thing.

Similarly, you can substitute any number of things for any number of things here, but this is the recipe I made and it is so, so very good – a ton of texture and crunch, with earthy turmeric and oily, charred broccoflower and sweet baby carrot and salty, creamy feta and magical walnuts.

I cannot lie, this actually takes a ton of effort to put together and uses so many dishes, especially if you haven’t made the mayonnaise ahead of time, but it is so delicious and has the decency to produce a fair amount of leftovers. And importantly, it’s full of health-making ingredients to make your immune system remember who the boss is here (I mean, I’m still massively sick the following day after eating it but I’m sure I’d be way worse without it, right?)

aggressively healthy bowl with matcha mayonnaise

a recipe by myself. 

  • half a cup of quinoa
  • one teaspoon ground turmeric
  • two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for roasting the vegetables
  • half a head of broccoflower (or broccoli or cauliflower, obviously) 
  • four or so baby carrots
  • a few cloves of garlic, left whole and unpeeled
  • a handful each of walnut kernels and pumpkin seeds
  • half a bunch of cavolo nero leaves
  • 100g or so feta (optional, I suppose)

Cook the quinoa in a large pan of boiling water until it’s fluffy and expanded and, well, cooked. Drain and rinse in a sieve under cold water, then place in your serving bowl and stir in the olive oil and turmeric, plus sea salt to taste. 

Meanwhile, set your oven to 220C/450F and slice the broccoflower into halved and quartered florets. Leave the carrots whole but trim the frondy tops off. Place the florets and carrots plus the garlic cloves on a baking tray, drizzle generously with olive oil, and roast until a bit charred and browned on the edges – around fifteen minutes or so.

Arrange the roasted vegetables and garlic cloves (pop them out of their papery casings first) on top of the quinoa. Place the feta, cubed or crumbled with your own hands, in the bowl. Scatter over the walnuts and pumpkin seeds – I put them on the baking tray that the vegetables were on and used the remaining heat from the oven that I’d just turned off to toast them a bit first – and tuck cavolo nero leaves around the edges of everything. I tried to put everything in neat lines, but it doesn’t really matter! Spoon over the matcha mayonnaise and add more salt if you feel like you need it. 

matcha mayonnaise

  • one large, fresh, organic, free range, bla bla bla egg
  • one heaped teaspoon of matcha powder, or more if you like
  • one teaspoon dijon mustard
  • one tablespoon boiling water
  • around half a cup rice brain oil, or similarly plain oil
  • a third to one half of a cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • two tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • sea salt, to taste

Crack the egg into a bowl, and add the matcha powder and mustard. Whisk briskly just to get everything incorporated, then add the boiling water while continuing to whisk. Continue whisking for what will feel like forever, while slowly adding the oil in a slow drizzle, around a tablespoonful at a time, continually whisking between additions. Does this make sense? Whisk hard, add oil slowly, that’s all. Once you’ve added all the oil, whip in the apple cider vinegar and salt. 

Now, by this point, either it will have thickened significantly and look like mayonnaise, or it will have thickened a bit at resemble a kind of green milkshake. Not to worry: put it in the fridge for an hour and it should turn lusciously thick. Give it a stir before using. Keep for a week or two. 

I’m not going to go down the line and list all the good vitamins and minerals that you get from everything in here but suffice to say, turmeric is powerful stuff and it’s my understanding that a tablespoon of matcha powder is the equivalent of replacing your entire bloodstream with green tea, plus all that olive oil and the nuts and seeds will make you shiny, and garlic and cider vinegar are all germ-fighty and quinoa is, y’know, quinoa, and I haven’t even got started on the green vegetables.

The matcha mayonnaise recipe makes an awful lot but it’s a charming way to take in that green powder – the vinegar and the oil plus the silky, aerated texture sort of encases any harshness of flavour and lifts it up and glides it right to the parts of your tastebuds that enjoy that sort of bitter vibe without dropping it too hard. Uh, it tastes nice, is what I’m saying. Don’t be afraid of how much oil goes into it – you can use less extra virgin olive oil and more plain if you’re worried about the expense – but use some, even just a couple of tablespoons, please, because the green-on-green flavours are so perfect together. Use leftovers as a spread for sandwiches, to rakishly dip truffle fries in for some kind of intensely pastoral experience, to accompany pickled vegetables (it’s 2016, I know you have pickled vegetables on your agenda), however you please.

So yeah, I’m kinda sick, that’s my one personality trait at the moment (it looks like I’m constantly dabbing as I continually sneeze into my elbow which is, at least, a bit hilarious), but one thing I can tell you is that I took myself off to the movies on Monday night to see Ghostbusters and it’s really, really funny and you should see it too. If nothing else, because Kate McKinnon’s swagger has actual gravitational pull. There’s a ton of other reasons why I want to support this movie – to go some small, tiny way towards countering the hideously racist treatment of co-star Leslie Jones on Twitter by awful and awfully normal people; the fact that in this movie not one woman gets murdered, violated, has their size joked about, or is treated as a sex object by a man, Kate McKinnon’s swagger, the extreme preciousness over it being a remake making me bloody-mindedly not care at all that it’s a remake, but uh, basically it’s really funny and you deserve to see a funny movie right now.

If you read this and were all “hot dog, I need more vegetables in my life”, perhaps consider these other salads I’ve blogged about –  Baby Kale and Pomegranate Salad, Silverbeet, Parsley and Horseradish Slaw, or The Rainbow Room Peanut and Carrot Salad.

title from: local hero Bic Runga and her oh so stunning song Suddenly Strange, from, I wanna say, 1996? Maybe 1995? From a time when your opportunity to see music videos was limited to a two hour show on Sundays at 10am that played the top 20 hits in the country that week. I don’t wanna be all “kids these days” but guys, it sucked.

music lately: 

Honestly I don’t know when it’s a good time to watch The Last Five Years – a movie based directly on the Jason Robert Brown off-Broadway musical which follows the blooming and deterioration of a relationship, but with the two main characters’ stories traveling backwards and forwards in time simultaneously, meeting in the middle for one song. I KNOW. Anyway the last song, Goodbye Until Tomorrow/I Could Never Rescue You is my absolute favourite and brings me to my knees and if you’re feeling fragile you probably definitely should listen to it because why not, the sheer optimism from her colliding with his resigned it’s-over self and then-her is unaware of now-him and now-her and it’s awful! But! Such a beautiful, beautiful song, listen to it, watch the whole thing, do it.

Hailee Steinfeld, Love Myself. This song is also good!

next time: white chocolate and burnt butter ice cream.

is she trouble like i’m trouble make it a double

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been tired to the very insides of my insides. Like, my blood is tired, my veins are tired, my ribs are definitely phoning it in. My brain? Not dissimilar to a small, three day old bowl of cold rice noodles. In this middle of all this lethargy though, something really exciting happened: I managed to meet THREE of my idols, all within one week.

I also made this really good pasta today for my lunch. Actual IRL pasta is easily one of my favourite foods, but did you know, you can make extremely damn good fake pasta out of zucchini, which takes about three seconds and which also goes along with my general aim of eating a ton of vegetables in my daily life.

Back to the idols though: I met the incredible writer and The Toast co-founder Mallory Ortberg, whose Childrens Stories Made Horrific series is spine-clenchingly chilling and whose Western Art History series is joyfully hilarious and thoughtful and whose hair is shiny and beautiful and fulsome. I was super delighted to see her at two separate Writers Week events where she was interviewed, but I actually ended up running into her on the waterfront a couple of days before. I’d just had oysters and wine and blurted out about having consumed both, which felt weird, and then I also told her that I wrote Crush Cakes for The Toast and she hugged me, which was awesome. When I met her again after her talk on Friday, I was able to apologise for the, let’s face it, inevitable awkwardness (“there’s something so personal about oysters”) and get a photo and thank her for being excellent and it was all just very, very cool.

me n mallory!!

Come Saturday morning, I was due to march in Wellington Pride with the group I volunteer for, Ballet is for Everyone. I was running late, I was looking for people in tutus carrying a banner, but like, this is Pride. Everyone is in tutus and carrying banners. Just when I was all “I might just run home because I feel social anxiety and I’ll never find my group and I’m not done complaining about how tired I am” I clapped eyes on, OF ALL PEOPLE, Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen. These names may not mean an awful lot to you, but they were the co-writers and two of the four co-stars of one of my very, very, very favourite Broadway musicals, [title of show]. As in, New York City, which is about as far away from New Zealand as you can get before you start coming back around again. It was almost an outrage, like, how dare you be here in Wellington, New Zealand, in front of me, when your musical means so much to me and the lyrics of which have comforted me in times both dark and less dark, and you’ve been on The Literal Broadway and New Zealand is so isolated and I nearly didn’t get out of bed and you’re right in front of me and this is so strange.

part of it all

But they were also really nice and it was somehow low-key and charming yet ridiculous and surreal, which is exactly how it should be when you meet your idols, right?

Back to the zucchini pappardelle though: so as well as raw zucchini there’s also oily, salty slices of crisply fried zucchini. Because the pasta ribbons are so wafer thin and fresh and clean they can really handle a lot of oil and salt being loaded up on them, and it all balances out beautifully. The raw pappardelle is coolly refreshing and a tiny bit creamy yet peppery, and the fried rounds are all luscious and soft and golden and crisp. Parmesan and a blanket of parsley add to the salty-peppery vibe, keeping it all very simple yet really, really gorgeous.

double zucchini pappardelle with parsley and parmesan

a recipe by myself. It looks long and complicated but it’s not, promise. I just like to over-explain.

two large zucchinis
extra virgin olive oil
salt
a handful of parsley, finely chopped
some parmesan

Heat a decent quantity of olive oil in a large, wide pan, like a couple of millimetres deep. 
Finely slice one of the zucchini into rounds, and once the oil is good and hot, place the slices of zucchini in the pan in a single layer. You won’t be able to fit the whole lot in at once, but this only requires a little patience and is totally worth it. Let the slices of zucchini fry in the sizzling oil till they’re browned and a little curling at the edges, turning them over carefully partway through with a spoon or something. Remove the slices to a bowl and sprinkle with salt, and continue frying the rest of the zucchini slices.

Meanwhile, use a sturdy vegetable peeler to make the pappardelle out of the remaining zucchini. It’s very simple – just rub the peeler back and forth along the length of the zucchini and it will rapidly turn into ribbons. Arrange them on a plate and then turn the zucchini over and repeat on the other side. Then just do your best with what’s left – this is going to give you some shorter or skinnier ribbons of zucchini but like, it’s all going in your mouth anyway.

Then, just arrange the fried zucchini on top of the raw zucchini, sprinkle with the parsley, and shave over as much parmesan as you like. Finally, spoon over some of the remaining oil from the saucepan and grind over some salt and pepper.

This serves one, generously.

look at all that vegetable
look at it
 
I honestly can’t emphasise how fast I ate this. It’s delicious.
 
Having almost caught up on my sleep I’ve finally found an agreeable middle ground somewhere between the ferocious healthiness of an uncooked vegetable and the deadening effect of overtiredness, and as Easter is coming up I will have a few precious days off to practice some aggressive serenity. But even when you’re the tiredest ever, sometimes it’s worth getting yourself out of bed because you never know who you might run into. Oh sure, it’ll probably be an ex that you run into while you’re wearing an outfit you hate and you’re stuck in a coughing fit, but it might be a Broadway star or an incredibly inspiring writer.
 
PS: you should definitely check out Ballet is for Everyone, the people behind it and their kaupapa is wonderful and I’m really proud to be volunteering with them. Also, teaching ballet to children is kinda delightful. They are such tiny dinguses.
 
PS PS: ya girl got sponsors: if you’re in Wellington this Sunday I thoroughly recommend you get jammy and pickle-y with the Nairn Street Preservation Society.
 
PS PS PS: actually nah, that’s all.
_______________________________________________________
title from: Green Day’s jaunty song She’s A Rebel, from the so-dated-it’s-timeless and always wonderful American Idiot album.  
_______________________________________________________
music lately: 
Icehouse, Electric Blue. This is the kind of 80s song that gets diluted over time through constant easy listening station rotation but you know when you hear a song really loud when you’re in the middle of a coffee shop and it’s almost like you’ve heard it for the first time and you feel like you’re in a movie? I don’t know, this had a cool chorus is all.
Rihanna, Love On The Brain. I frankly refuse to get over this song.
_______________________________________________________

next time: all this talk of “pasta” has me craving actual pasta. Lol.