sometimes I think you’re just too good for me, every day is Christmas, every night is New Year’s Eve

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With last week’s post being absolutely enormous I thought I’d make this one fairly low-key, calm, brief. But then I watched classic Christmas film Die Hard for the first time ever and it’s really hard to not feel seasonally hyped up after that, right? So instead I decided to do the absolute opposite and give you something high-key, vast, yet still fairly calming in its own way: my annual round-up of recipes from this blog that I think would be worth considering if you’re wanting to do the home-made edible Christmas present thing. Whether or not Christmas is something you acknowledge, be it for religious reasons, self-preservation reasons, or something else entirely, there’s no denying that it’s going to literally happen this very month and besides, you could use this list at any time of year that you have a person for whom a gift is required. I for one think there’s nothing more delightful than the tangible and consumable result of a person’s concentrated time and effort as a gift, not to mention the joy of stomping on the delicate, exposed foot of capitalism by DIY-ing it yourself. (That said – and look, no one is out here defending capitalism, don’t worry – I’d also like to throw my voice to the chorus urging you to consider shopping local/small/ethical/indigenous/gay/generally independent this season.)

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THE HUNGRY AND FROZEN MODERATELY INDISPUTABLE LIST OF EDIBLE GIFT RECIPE IDEAS FOR LIFE, NOT JUST FOR CHRISTMAS

Caveat 1: Because this goes so far back through the archives, the majority of which I spent neck-deep in butter, well, there’s going to be some butter. I’ve marked accordingly whether a recipe is vegan, also gluten free if applicable – I see you!
Caveat 2: Because this goes so far back through the archives the continuity/life details on display in any given post might be kind of jarring and this is what happens when you write about many details of your life for eleven years! But if we can handle our TV characters like, changing haircuts and so on throughout the course of a series, so can we handle such things here.
Caveat 3: (And just know that I couldn’t help but hear “O CAVEAT THREE-EE-EE” in a superloud, third-time-round, “O come let us adore him” vibe in my head) I moved my blog over to WordPress halfway through this year and all the formatting completely fritzed out, so just know, every single individual blog post that I’ve linked to here that does have, y’know, line breaks, has had its individual html edited by me, and I haven’t quite managed to catch them all yet. This caveat is more of a weird flex, but.

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Category 1: Things in Jars

Too easy! Jars make everything look pulled together and clever, whether it’s the unsinkable salted caramel sauce or some pickled-into-submission vegetable. To ease any anxieties – which you admittedly might not have even considered having, but that’s why I’m here –  on the part of both giver and receiver, I advise including a gift tag with some recommendations of how to use the stuff within the jar ( and “consume in one go in bed” is entirely viable here.)

Subsection A: Saucy Stuff

Subsection B: Stuff stuff

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Category 2: Baked Goods

As easy or as hard as you like, whether it’s some cookies in a takeout container with a ribbon around it (and honestly: those takeout containers – you know the ones – are always useful to have around so it’s not a cop-out) or whether you go full out, make someone an enormous Christmas Cake and find a tastefully yet jaw-droppingly stunning plate to serve it on and make that part of the gift too. To maximise on tis-the-season seasonality I recommend embarking on all baking projects late at night with some kind of liqueur by your side, it just feels right.

 

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Category 3: No-bake Novelty!

This is (a) lots of taxing recreations of candy you can get for like forty cents at the corner dairy, (b) lots of stuffing existing products into other existing products and (c) nevertheless the most fun category.

And one more for luck:

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Almond Butter Toffee

a recipe by myself

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) water
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3 heaped tablespoons crunchy almond butter
  • 250g dark chocolate
  • sea salt

Line a baking tray or tin with a large piece of baking paper.

Place the sugar, water, and cream of tartar in a saucepan and slowly bring to the boil over a medium heat, without stirring at all. Let it continue to bubble away for five to ten minutes, until it just starts to turn golden – even though it’s boring for a while, don’t walk away or lose focus or it WILL burn, it just will – and as a pale gold cast creeps across the bubbling sugar, at this point immediately remove it from the heat. I hate to be harsh but if the sugar has turned a dark golden brown this means it’s caramelised too far and will taste harshly bitter and burnt; better to start over with more sugar and water than to try to forge ahead, I promise (I speak from much experience.)  Stir in the almond butter, and, working quickly and carefully, tip the lot onto the sheet of baking paper, coaxing it around with a spatula if need be to make it an even shape/thickness. Sprinkle over a good pinch of sea salt. Allow to set and get completely cool, then break it into pieces. 

Melt the chocolate however you prefer – short bursts in the microwave does it for me – and dip each piece of toffee in the chocolate before returning to the baking paper lined tray to set again. Sprinkle over more sea salt if you wish. Store refrigerated in an airtight container.

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This stuff tastes not entirely unlike those magical Daim bars (or Dime bars as they’re known in the UK) with a buttery, snappish crunch that is somehow sweet enough to taunt the teeth with impending fissures and yet mellow and balanced enough for you to eat an alarming quantity without giving it a second thought. As is or chocolate-dipped: novelty perfection. (And especially delicious if kept in the freezer, for some reason.)

I guess humans make traditions to give us something to cling on to in a harsh world, something that marks the passage of time other than the time itself, and making this list has become something of a tradition for me so it’s nice to visit it again, even as my eyeballs throb from all that painstaking hyperlinking. Even if you don’t make a single thing on the list – and you’re under absolutey no obligation to – the fact that you’re reading this far means you’re part of my tradition too. Sentimental, yes! But as I said: I watched Die Hard for the first time, so, you understand.

title from: Sade, The Sweetest Taboo. The sultriness! Ma’am!

music lately:

The Pure and the Damned, Oneohtrix Point Never ft Iggy Pop: “Someday I swear we’re gonna go to a place where we can do everything we want to, and we can pet the crocodiles.”

Turkey Lurkey Time, from the 1969 Tony Awards performance from the musical Promises, Promises. Another tradition! Every year on December 1st and not a moment sooner I rewatch this and every year I am breathtaken anew! Michael Bennett’s audacious choreography that cares not for your chiropractic bill! Donna McKechnie (in the red dress), triple threat, rubber-legged, spinal chord cracking like a whip! The lyrics which are SO STUPID! The final minute which every time makes tears spring to my eyes at the sheer magnitude of it!

Whack World, the album by rapper Tierra Whack. Every one of her songs is precisely one minute long (which is just perfect for me) with its own precise personality. I particularly love Black Nails and F**k Off.

Next time: less REALLY will be more, I promise. 

don’t have a cow, man

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I’m warning you right now, this blog post is long as HELL due to the fact that I was tinkering around with ideas for Christmas Dinner recipes and somehow ended up making three recipes at once in an absolute fugue state of proficiency and perspicacity: Brined and Roasted Whole Cauliflower with Pesto Glaze; Roasted Whole Pumpkin with Herb and Onion Stuffing, and Eggplant Roulade, AND Mushroom, Walnut and Red Wine Gravy. It’s suddenly less than a month till Christmas and whether or not you observe the holiday in an official capacity there’s no denying that this time of year calls for an excess of abundance and an abundance of excess so I was like why not just … write about this all this at once. So whether you’re the kind to settle in with a glass of port to scrutinise this from top to bottom or you’re already flexing your scrolling finger (or indeed, whichever body part you use to scroll downwards through large swathes of text), here we go.

I’m not one to not boast, but I just want the record to state that I made every single one of the below recipes all at once in just under two and a half hours. Why? You know and I know, because I bring it up a lot, because it happens a lot: I’m quite all or nothing. At times an inert snake lying in bed unable to finish, well, even this sentence; at times I’m like “Uh I wrote an entire violin symphony in twelve minutes” (to everything, turn turn, there is a season, turn turn) and while the presence of Ritalin in my life has helped to both enable activity on the inert-snake days and to moderate the high energy hyper-focus, that’s still just how I am. And I guess this week’s blog is precisely an example of that hyperfocus in action: I had all these ideas for recipes that might be cool for Christmas dinner, or indeed, any celebratory food-eating time, and I just put my head down and made the whole lot at once without really thinking through what I was doing and suddenly two and a half hours later there was an enormous meal just sitting there. (This is how I know I’ve made personal growth/consumed some Ritalin though: I actually wrote down the recipes as I was making them. Yes, this is what counts as personal growth for me.)

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Somewhat hilariously, none of the friends that I messaged to come help me eat it were available, leaving me alone at the table with this massive feast and wondering ruefully whether perhaps you really cannot, in fact, win friends with salad. I’m not saying I like, threw it all in the bin or anything, I had a delicious plateful of everything and have been eating leftovers gleefully ever since, but what I am saying is that you’ll just have to take my word for it that these recipes are good.

My aim for these recipes was to create a sense of lavishness, intense deliciousness and layers of texture and flavour, so that there was no sense of being without, that you would feel and indeed taste the effort and care taken. I wanted food that was somehow inherently Christmassy – which is a little weird, I grant you, because in New Zealand Christmas falls in the middle of summer but so many people still have a very traditional English style full roast meal. By which I mean, even though we’re all sweating uncomfortably, the food is resolutely winter wonderland because that’s just how it is. So that’s what I was going for.

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1: Brined and Roasted Whole Cauliflower with Pesto Glaze

A recipe by myself, but inspired by the title of this one on Food52.

  • 1 whole cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Brine:

  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick, snapped in half/into bits
  • 1 inch or so slice of fresh ginger (or 1 teaspoon ground ginger)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced in half (no need to peel)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

Pesto:

  • The leaves from 1 of those supermarket basil plants (roughly two cups loosely packed basil leaves)
  • 1 cup loosely packed rocket leaves
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice (can be from a bottle)
  • Plenty of salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup water, optional

Remove the leaves from the cauliflower and trim off as much of the stem as you can manage, so that the cauliflower is able to sit on its haunches, so to speak, without anything protruding from the base.

Place all the brine ingredients in a large mixing bowl, fill partway with cold water, and give it a stir just to dissolve the maple syrup and salt somewhat. Sit the cauliflower in this and top with water till the cauliflower is more or less submerged. Cover – either with plastic wrap or simply by sitting a plate on top – and set aside away from any heat for an hour, although if it’s like an hour and fifteen minutes because you forgot or something came up that’s honestly fine.

Get on with the pesto while the cauliflower is brining – throw all the ingredients into a food processor and blitz to form a rough green paste. Add a little water to loosen it up a bit, it can absorb it without making it watery. Taste for salt, pepper, or more lime juice, and set aside.

Set your oven to 200C/400F and get an oven dish ready. Once the oven is hot and the brining time is up, remove the cauliflower from the brine, shaking off any bits that have stuck to it, and place it in the roasting dish. Drizzle with the two tablespoons of olive oil and roast, uncovered, for about 40 minutes, or until it’s evenly golden on the surface. At this point, spoon some of the pesto over the cauliflower, using a pastry brush to spread it down over the florets, and return to the oven for another ten minutes. Serve with the remaining pesto in a dish beside for those who (rightly) want more.

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2: Roasted Whole Pumpkin with Herb and Onion Stuffing

A recipe by myself

  • 1 good-sized buttercup pumpkin (roughly 900g I guess? But I personally relate more to “good sized” than weight for accuracy)
  • 1 can white beans, often sold as haricot beans
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 small ciabatta or similarly hearty bread roll
  • 1 tablespoon English Mustard or wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
  • Plenty of salt and pepper, to taste

Set your oven to 200C/400F. Cut the ciabatta in half and sit it in the oven while it’s heating up for about five minutes, the aim being to lightly toast it and dry it out (just don’t forget that it’s there.)

Using a small, sharp knife, make incisions in a circular fashion around the stem of the pumpkin so you can wiggle it out and reveal the insides. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon – set aside to roast them if you like but this level of sustainability was unfortunately too much for me, and I simply binned them. (This might be a good time to check on the state of your ciabatta in the oven.)

Dice the onion and gently fry it in the olive oil till it’s softened and golden. Add the pumpkin seeds and give them a stir for a minute just to toast them a little, then set the pan aside off the heat.

Drain the can of beans and roughly mash them with a fork, it doesn’t matter if some are left whole. Roughly slice the ciabatta into small cubes and add this to the mashed beans along with the thyme, rosemary, mustard, maple syrup, cider vinegar, nutmeg, plenty of salt and pepper, and the onion/pumpkin seed mixture.

Carefully spoon all of this into the waiting and emptied pumpkin, pushing down with the spoon to fill every crevice and cavity. Place the stem on top like a lid. Sit the pumpkin on a large piece of tinfoil and bring the tinfoil up the sides of the pumpkin so it’s mostly wrapped but with the stem still exposed (did I explain this right?) and then sit this in a roasting dish. Roast for an hour and a half or until a knife can easily pierce through the side of the pumpkin, thus meaning the inside is good and tender. Serve by cutting the pumpkin into large wedges.

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3: Eggplant Roulade

A recipe by myself

  • 2 sheets flaky puff pastry (check the ingredients to make sure they’re dairy free, if this is of concern)
  • 1 large eggplant
  • olive oil, for frying
  • 1 cup bulghur wheat
  • 70g walnuts
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • plenty of salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons almond butter

Set your oven to 200C/400F. Place the bulghur wheat in a large bowl and pour over water from a just-boiled kettle to cover it by about 1cm. Cover with plastic wrap or similar and set aside for about ten minutes for it to absorb.

Meanwhile, slice the eggplant as thinly as you can lengthwise. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the eggplant slices a few at a time on both sides till softened and browned, adding more olive oil as you (inevitably) need it. Set aside.

Fluff the cooked bulghur wheat with a fork and stir in the walnuts, cranberries, rosemary, cumin, cinnamon, and plenty of salt and pepper.

Set the two sheets of pastry side by side with one inch overlap on a large piece of baking paper, and press down where they overlap to kind of glue them together into one large piece of pastry. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the almond butter over the pastry – soften it with a little olive oil if you need to. Place the eggplant slices on top of this in one layer starting from the left side, with the long side of the eggplant parallel to the long side of the pastry – I had six slices of eggplant so there was two sets of three laid horizontally, if that makes sense. If it doesn’t, let me know and I’ll try to explain further. Now take the bulghur wheat and spoon it in a thick column on top of the eggplant, roughly an inch in from the short side on the left. Carefully but confidently roll the pastry from the short side over the bulghur wheat and continue rolling, sushi-like, till you have a fat cylinder of pastry coiled around the eggplant and bulghur. Tuck the edges down and pinch them together, and carefully place the pastry into a baking dish. Make a couple of slashes in the top with a sharp knife and brush the surface with olive oil, then bake for 30 – 40 minutes until the pastry is puffy and golden brown. Serve in thick slices.

(There’ll be heaps of bulghur wheat leftover but it’s delicious reheated and drizzled with lots of olive oil the next day, however reduce the quantity if you don’t want leftovers.)

4: Mushroom, Walnut and Red Wine Gravy

A (vague, I admit) recipe by myself

  • 1 onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 7 brown mushrooms (if you have like 9 this is not a problem)
  • olive oil, for frying
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 70g walnuts
  • A pinch each of ground nutmeg and cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

Roughly chop the onion and garlic. Make sure the mushrooms have any dirt brushed off and roughly chop them as well. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan and fry all of this over a low heat until the onions and mushrooms are softened. Sprinkle over the flour and stir for a couple of minutes, before raising the heat and tipping in the red wine. Stir till the wine is absorbed into the floury oniony mushrooms, then tip in the walnuts, the nutritional yeast, and the cinnamon and nutmeg. Slowly add water – around 250ml/1 cup – and allow it to come to the boil, stirring continuously till it’s looking a little thick. You’re going to be blending this up so all the ingredients will naturally thicken it, so it doesn’t have to be too reduced down. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before blitzing it carefully in a high speed blender. I tipped it straight back into the pan to reheat it, but by all means strain it if you want it to be super smooth. It may need more water added at this point if it’s too thick, but up to you. Finally add the soy sauce to taste, and serve hot over EVERYTHING.

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With all that in mind, let’s assess them individually.

1: The concept of roasting a whole cauliflower is, as I noted, an idea I got from Food52, and the idea of brining it first is something I got from a Nigella turkey recipe. I love the idea of treating a vegetable in the same way that you’d treat meat and while cauliflower is more or less going to look after itself in the oven this does come out sweet and tender with its crisp pesto-crusted exterior. It also looks rather wonderful in the roasting dish because it’s so big and whole. On the other hand, because one must be critical: even with the brining and the pesto, this is still just like, a cauliflower alone on a plate. My verdict: this is delicious but I would want it as well as something else, as opposed to being the only thing, otherwise it’s like “wow cool thanks for my slice of damp vegetable really appreciate this.” You of course personally might be more than satisfied by this! But this is how I feel.

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2: The whole pumpkin looks really cool, somehow splendid yet storybook-adorable at the same time. The stuffing has, somehow, and I mean this in an entirely positive and non-innuendo way: a certain sausagey-ness to it. Something in the way the vinegar and mustard play off the rich thyme and the mashed beans and the texture of the bread, it’s all very cured-smallgoodsy and hearty and traditional tasting. My verdict: I am super pleased with this, however I would recommend leaning further into the luxuriousness by making the pesto anyway to have alongside, and perhaps consider adding some pistachios or something else treat-y to the stuffing so that the vegan in your close proximity feels particularly loved.

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3: The eggplant roulade was my favourite! There’s something about pastry that makes anything feel like an enormous effort was made (which, if you managed to make it through my attempts at instructing how to roll the pastry up, is entirely true) and also tastes of true opulence. Happily, it’s very easy to find ready-rolled sheets of puff pastry at the supermarket which are incidentally vegan because they use baker’s margarine or whatever they call it; and it still somehow tastes exactly like it should, probably because it’s what’s used in all commercially made pies and pastries and so our tastebuds are used to it (depending on how many times you’ve fallen asleep with a half-eaten gas station pie nestled beside you on your pillow, I guess.) The eggplant is rich and fulsome and the cinnamon and cranberries in the bulghur wheat are merrily Christmassy. Again, you could consider adding more to make this more, well, more: pistachios, almonds, that ubiquitous pesto, but as it is this is just wonderful. My verdict: Yes.

4: Gravy is so important and I refuse to miss out! This is pretty straightforward, layering savoury upon savoury upon savoury. My verdict: absolutely necessary.

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Because this is already sprawlingly enormous I’m going to wrap it up but overall I’m delighted with everything and with myself. I mentioned last time that I was sick with something flu-like, I thought it had gone away but then halfway through Friday night at work my voice started to disappear, unfortunately I skipped right over sexy-husky and went straight to useless (whispering “hello…welcome” in a strangled modulation as customers blithely walked by, not hearing a single thing I’d said) and seemed to be regressing back into glum sickness. Fortunately I managed to harness the one burst of high-octane energy that I’ve had all week to hoon through making these recipes; I also managed to update my Frasier food blog (Niles and Daphne, sitting in a Gothic mansion!) and have spent the rest of the time when not at work in bed irritably lacking in voice, which is possibly why I’m luxuriating in talking so much on here. Whether it’s residual sickness or just sheer effort I now feel like I need a nap after writing down all those recipes and you may well too if you’ve managed to read this far: napping is the most seasonally-appropriate activity there is, let’s be honest.

title from: Initially I was going to make it “you don’t win friends with salad” from that Simpsons bit but then I thought the “don’t have a cow, man” Simpsons quote was even funnier, all things considered.

music lately:

Blackberry Molasses, Mista This was one of my favourite songs in 1996 and it’s still super sweet, but I am also so sure that the version we got on the radio was faster than this? Can anyone verify?

Laugh It Off, Chelsea Jade. I actually did 1 (one) other activity this week: I went to see local angel Chelsea Jade live at Meow. Her music is just incredible, floaty and dreamy but pinprick-sharp as well and it was so cool to see her again.

Two Dots on a Map, Russian Futurists. This song is so swoony and expansive and pretty much undeniable Laura-bait. While I’m here may I also recommend their aggressively enthusiastic song Paul Simon.

Next time: less is more, I promise.

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daylight, see the dew on the sunflower

I admit, I held some concerns that this recipe was a little insubstantial, especially after the (a) pomp and (b) circumstance of the last blog post’s layer cake, but in a long long work week this felt, and was, manageable. On top of which, as I reasoned with myself: people always need dip. A pile of various crunch-adjacent foods and a bowl of something pliant into which to plunge them is 100% an ideal meal for me, there’s just something so abundant and yet casual, organised yet constraint-free about it.

And in case you were worried that it was all going to be too effortless, be assured that there are no less than two time-consuming steps involved in this, firstly the soaking of the sunflower seeds and then the roasting of the garlic. But nothing is required of you while both these things are happening!

I found this recipe while scooting around online and as you can see, if you click through, my recipe here is quite directly influenced by it. I made some distinct changes though based on interest and availability: the two main ones being I toasted the sunflower seeds before soaking to intensify their flavour, and because I couldn’t find the required black garlic I used regular stuff instead. Naturally I was all, “I feel like this calls for an entire bulb of garlic” – I’m at the point where my perception of garlic has shifted so much that I’m probably going to start treating bulbs of garlic as though they’re individual cloves, but we’ll cross that pungent bridge when we come to it. Honestly though once you roast the hell out of garlic like I did here the flavour is so sweetly mellow, if anything I wanted more of it but appreciate that it would be somewhat ridiculous.

(I also appreciate that it’s wantonly wasteful to turn an oven on for half an hour just for one lone garlic bulb, indeed, with guilt in my heart I also made a loaf of Irish Soda Bread to bake at the same time. It turned out to be absolutely disgusting somehow, completely inedible and I had to remorsefully throw the entire thing in the bin, with the best of intentions creating even more waste. Lesson learned: blameless garlic deserves to take up space.)

This dip (I cannot bring myself to call it hummus as per the recipe it’s based on since it doesn’t contain chickpeas but I grant you: the texture is similar) is just wonderful, buttery and fulsome with an intense nuttiness, with the earthy cumin and sharp lime keeping it from being too formless. Using sunflower seeds as the base was a bit of a revelation for me – they give gorgeous creamy texture and substance and incredible flavour, and delightfully, they cost hardly anything. I happily and willingly ate a whole plateful of vegetables simply because I had this dip to drag them through: against the sweetness of carrots the lime and cumin really sang, while the richness of the olive oil was a magnificent pairing with the surprisingly buttery baby turnips.

Toasted Sunflower Seed and Garlic Dip

A recipe inspired by this one

  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 whole garlic bulb
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon tahini (I only had black tahini leftover from this salted caramel ice cream recipe hence the murky colour of the finished dip btw)
  • salt and ground pepper, to taste

Toast the sunflower seeds in a dry saucepan (that is, no oil in it or anything) over a medium heat, stirring and keeping an eye on them till they’re all more or less lightly browned. Tip them into a bowl or small jug, cover with water and refrigerate for around six hours, or overnight if that’s easier.

At this point, set your oven to 180C/350F, wrap the garlic bulb loosely in tinfoil and pop it in the oven for about half an hour.

Now it can all come together: Drain the sunflower seeds and tip them into a high speed blender (or a regular food processor, the finished result won’t be quite as smooth though.) Remove the garlic from the tinfoil and carefully disrobe each clove from its papery casing and add them to the blender. The garlic will (obviously) be very hot, but the softened cloves should pop out easily enough. Add the cumin, oil, lime juice, tahini, and plenty of salt and pepper, and blitz the lot together till it has become a smooth, slightly nubbly paste.

Add a little fresh water to thin it if need be, and taste for whether it needs anything more – whether it needs the sharpness of more lime, a little extra body from the oil, depth from the cumin or the old fashioned helping hand of more salt and pepper. Spatula into a bowl or container and refrigerate till you need it, and festoon with mint leaves, more olive oil, and sesame seeds (or of course: more sunflower seeds) to serve, if you wish.

And finally, its salinity helped replenish my depleted vital electrolytes after watching the remake of A Star Is Born, that monumentally melodramatic movie that I consumed with predictable breathlessness. I have many thoughts about it which I wrote and then deleted (on the one hand, there’s a lot of “I see you, Brunette Girl” as a trope, on the other hand, at last: a movie where Bradley Cooper is handsome) and literally whenever I even think about the bit in the trailer where Lady Gaga walks towards the mic and starts howling I get tearful and frantic like a fretful infant, but I also can’t stop rewatching the trailer just so I can see that bit again.

If you agree, enthusiastically, with my claim that people always need dip, then may I also recommend the following recipes on here: Tarator (somehow basically just bread and water but also incredible) pomegranate-laden Hummus, or lush Cambodian Wedding Day Dip.

title from: Memory, the ubiquitous torch song from the musical Cats. For me there is but one person who I acknowledge in the role of Grizabella, and that is the late Laurie Beechman. I thought I’d heard this song so many times that its power was entirely diluted but her singing it makes me cry every time including right now. The emphatic h’s that she throws in at the start of words (“all alone h-with h-my memory”); the gentle vibrato rumbling on “enter innnnnn”; the slight youthful creak to her voice that’s just so appealing, (reminiscent of Glynis Johns or perhaps even Alma Cogan); the way she belts so hard while looking like she’s barely getting started yet and you’re looking around like where did that voice come from? Just watch her.

music lately:

The Sacred Harp Singers, Soar Away. Yeah, I don’t know, I’ve just been listening to a lot of this particular kind of old-timey church music. This one though: a stern and ominous banger, I have played it back easily 100 times in the last week without exaggeration. There are stirring enough versions of modern sacred harp groups performing it on youtube but to my ears, the definitive rendition (on spotify only unfortunately) is this, a decades-old recording which has a kind of shouty, nasal, rough-and-ready vibe that renders modern interpretations too soft and polished and frankly unfearsome.

Wedding Bell Blues, by Laura Nyro. Man, she was just not afraid to be sad and haunting, even, if not especially, in the middle of what sounds deceptively like just a classic sixties-girl-group song.

Will You Smile Again For Me, by …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. It’s very good!

Next time: well, not that damn Irish Soda Bread, that’s for sure.

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perfect hexagon of the honeycomb and you soothe yourself with the shapes you know

how much trouble can one ice cream be?

Prologue: Laura.

Confused yet? I decided to write this blog post somewhat in the style of a Baby-Sitters Club book, for no good reason other than it occurred to me and I ran with it.

Chapter 1

WHUMP! CLATTER! 

That’s the sound of me jumping onto my bed while holding a bowl of ice cream and delicious homemade honeycomb sauce, immediately knocking over the worrying number of empty juice cans that I’m lazily keeping beside it instead of putting them in the bin. “Auughhhh!” I just manage to stop the rapidly-melting ice cream and warm sauce from spilling over onto my bed. What a day!

I guess you’re wondering by now who I am, and what I’m wearing. Well there’s me, Laura – I hope you’re taking notes, I’m going to quiz you on this later! Psych! I’m kind of the humorous one here, or so I always say. I’ve got chin-length unruly red hair and glasses, but people do still hang out with me. I’m wearing these old cerulean blue shorts that I think used to be part of some boys’ high school regulation gym uniform (I love vintage!) and a white crop top that has the word “CHALLENGE” written across the front in big black letters, because I like to wear clothing that doubles as a friendly warning for what kind of person I am. I don’t have pierced ears, but people do still hang out with me. Most importantly, I’m eating ice cream, even though it’s not even breakfast time yet. I know what you’re thinking – how do I eat all this ice cream without getting in trouble? The thing is, I’m kind of an individual when it comes to doing what I want. I’m also the only person ever that has ever been into cooking. It’s kind of my one personality trait. If anyone else likes it, I’m certainly not acknowledging it!

this ice cream is sensitive and a good listener

Chapter 2

My best friends work during the day and I work at night, but when we get together, we always have a good time! We’re the best friends you’ll ever have. Does that sound like a threat? I’m inclined to tell you the intimate details of their respective family history, but that would be really weird, so I’ll just do a brief hagiography (that means documentation of the lives of saints, it’s a word I learned recently). There’s Kim, who has lo-oo-ong dark hair and the enormous macadamia-shaped eyes of a curious woodland deer. She’s kind of the wise, yet wickedly fun one of the group. Kate has just dyed her hair blonde, which means she is now even more popular and sophisticated – she also has a crazy household with a cat AND a dog, and a real, live, husband! Confusingly, Kate is also wise yet wickedly fun. This week because of Easter and having days off I’ve been able to see them relatively heaps and it has been very good for the soul, as the saying goes. For example, on Monday night we sat on the floor of my bedroom (it’s a great meeting space, I’m so lucky to have my own one!) and ate Pop-Tarts and drank Boulevardiers. That’s a cocktail which is like a negroni but uses bourbon instead of gin, and it’s one of my favourites. We clinked our glasses together in what we call “a toast”, and in that moment we felt like real Big City women.

darn it! I said ruefully. I only described their hair, not their outfits. 

 

Chapter 3

“We’re finally getting to the plot!” I thought ruefully, tucking a lock of unruly red hair behind my tragically unpierced ears. So, I’m kind of the “food blogger” around here. I’m also kind of an ideas person. I have Big Ideas and then Occasionally Make Them Happen Around Three Weeks Later If I’m Awake Enough, I know, it’s a little exhausting trying to keep up with me! When my Ideas and food blogging combine – bam! Honeycomb Sauce. Okay, okay, I had honeycomb ice cream at a local restaurant and immediately decided that honeycomb was the new salted caramel, and wanted to make some version of it for myself to have again and again in the comfort of my own bed and/or more normal area in the house to eat. But after some time I learned a little bit about myself and a lot about the true meaning of friendship: it’s not a competition. Salted Caramel may be heavily overexposed, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious. Honeycomb is just a flavour I hadn’t thought about in forever!

I know what you’re thinking – just honey and sugar? Way too sweet. Booooring. About as fun as a pop quiz or getting Salisbury Steak for lunch, neither of which I’ve ever actually experienced.

In fact, the delicate floral sweetness of the honey and the richness of the butter come together to make something pretty magical, and very individual. It doesn’t taste overly of honey, it’s more reminiscent of (that means “reminiscent of”, it’s a word I learned recently) actual honeycomb, the kind of stuff that you find inside Crunchy Bars or other similar candies hidden around your room. This sauce isn’t perfect – I admit! – half of it remained saucy and the other half solidified as soon as it hit the cold ice cream, but this was all so fun and delicious that I decided to share it with you anyway.

honeycomb sauce: a delicious prototype 

A recipe by myself. I’m thinking of adding a tablespoon or so of cream to it next time to see if that keeps it more liquid but I do love it just like this. 

100g butter
half a cup of sugar
one tablespoon brown sugar
one heaped tablespoon honey

Heat everything together in a saucepan, stirring gently as it comes to the boil. Remove from the heat once it starts bubbling and continue stirring for a bit. Allow it to cool somewhat (it’ll be like actual lava initially) before pouring it all over your ice cream. 



Chapter 4

I decided to end the day with ice cream and honeycomb sauce – after all, I’m a grown up and kind of a bad girl who makes her own rules. The remaining sauce had turned rock solid in the fridge, so I had to carefully sit the bottle inside a cup of boiling water to soften it, but during this time, I learned five more lessons about friendship. Unfortunately I’m still wearing the same outfit that I was at the start of this story, but to pad things out a bit, I’ll tell you about what I wore yesterday: a vintage white minidress with pink and orange diamond patterns across it and a high neck with a collar. I wore it with my yellow socks with pizzas on them and chunky black ankle boots – pretty wild, huh? I’m a pretty wild dresser!

feel free to judge how well the illustration matches the description

Prologue:

Ice cream twice in 24 hours – that day was a summer I’ll never forget.

title from: One Beat by Sleater-Kinney. Howl-y goodness. Oh yeah, and while I’m all “what would Kristy Thomas, President of the Babysitters Club, have to say about Sleater-Kinney?” I’m also dropping the conceit for the remainder of the blog post, okay?  

music lately: 

I’ve finally given Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton a proper listen and I am predictably entranced and addicted. That man is a beautiful genius and I will ramble at extreme length if given the chance to talk about him. Also look, please just watch him and other members of the cast perform My Shot for the damn president at The White House and I dare you to not get shivers.

Listening to one modern musical about historic political American times got me thinking about another one: Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, which in the opposite direction of the incredible success of Hamilton, ran for a mere hundred and twenty something performances on Broadway before closing. I saw a production of it in New Orleans a few years back but haven’t listened to it since; its pop punk sound is like…perfect? I don’t know what the best entry point would be, maybe Rockstar if you want something fast or Saddest Song if you want something amazing.

Kid Cudi with MGMT, Pursuit of Happiness. Whatever track this samples is intoxicating and then the rest of the song has the temerity to be excellent as well. This song is moderately ancient but sounds so fresh.

next time: the novelty is over, kids, and I have some brussels sprouts to emphasise this (they’re fried with pistachios and truffle butter though, so) 

i see christmas lights reflect in your eyes

chocolate candy cane bark the herald angels sing
It’s less than ten days to Christmas and it’s times like these that one’s thoughts turn to…how it’s less than ten days till Christmas. There has been so much going on in my life and also in the lives of others that are plaited into mine and as such it has been a bit hard to blog with my usual aggression; or at least that’s what I assume it is that’s slowing me down? – every time I’ve sat down with my laptop and been all “hello old friend, we meet again, let’s tango” I’ve instead got really lethargic and rapidly blacked out with tiredness and woken up an hour later drooling lavishly into my own cleavage. Oh sure, it’s funny the first like, seven times! But now it’s nearly literal Christmas and I still haven’t got this blog post out. However, you are reading this, which I suspect means I have finally done it. 
So anyway, every year with charming self-absorption I present you with a list of recipes I’ve blogged about over the years which would also make excellent Christmas presents. And it’s that time of that time of year again! Oh sure, material goods are an unmitigated delight, but unless you’re surrounded by brats I am supremely confident that there is an impressive number of people in your life who want nothing more than to be presented with something completely delicious that they can tuck into with impunity, rather than, say, a small cow figurine or an earnestly hideous vase which they then have to pretend to feel joy about when in fact it is an insult to their carefully curated personal aesthetic.  
cornbread cookie squares with maple buttercream: aka found footage of heaven
Honestly though, say it with eat-y stuff. Whether or not Christmas is a thing that affects you or that you pay attention to, there’s no harm in having a delicious arsenal of ideas for things you can make for people at any old time to express your gratitude and selflessness. This is just a time of year where gift-giving is impressed upon us as being really important. And so, here I am to help. Okay, yes, the rise of the dawn of the planet of the Buzzfeed has rendered this entirely superfluous but what my list has that buzzfeed doesn’t is…me! So much me! It has actually been fairly unusual compiling all these old blog posts and reading through the million different people I have been, but the recipes still absolutely hold up (as does the writing, obviously) and there’s not one thing in this list that I wouldn’t love to be presented with, before presenting it directly into my own mouth. 
So here goes: the hungryandfrozen edible gift idea round-up.

Category One: Things in Jars.

We are no longer quite at Peak Mason Jar, and thank goodness tbh, but: jars will never die. Jars are gonna save you this Christmas. 

  1. orange confit (This is basically just slices of orange in syrup, but is surprisingly applicable to a variety of cake surfaces. And it’s so pretty. And so cheap.) (vg, gf)
  2. cranberry sauce (this is stupidly easy and you should make it to go with your main meal anyway) (vg, gf)
  3. bacon jam (Best made at the last minute, because it needs refrigerating) (gf)
  4. cashew butter (vg, gf) (just don’t drop your wooden spoon into the food processor) 
  5. red chilli nahm jim (gf)
  6. cranberry (or any-berry) curd (it involves a lot of effort but it’s so pretty. Just like me.) (gf)
  7. rhubarb-fig jam (gf)
  8. salted caramel sauce (gf, has a vegan variant) (Salted caramel is kind of the cockroach of food trends, in that it could still be popular in a post-apocalyptic landscape where we all eat dust that has been milled into varying levels of granularity. Salted caramel in a jar is a double whammy.) 
  9. apple cinnamon granola (vg)
  10. strawberry jam granola (vg) 
  11. Marinated Tamarillos (vg, gf)
  12. taco pickles (vg, gf)
  13. pickled blueberries (vg, gf)
  14. peach balsamic barbecue sauce (vg, gf)
  15. berry chia seed jam (vg, gf) 


berry chia seed jam: this is my jam

Peach Balsamic Barbecue Sauce: give a fusspot a pot of fussy stuff. 

chocolate dipped brown sugar cookies: oooh

Category Two: Baked Goods.

Make your house smell glorious, eat some cake batter, wrap the baked things you haven’t eaten in rustic-looking brown paper and tie it all up with string, then toast to your own productivity and excellence.

Also first of all, my Christmas Cake is amazing. It just is: deal with my lack of coyness. Even if you decide at the last minute to make it on Christmas Day itself, it will still taste so great. 
  1. christmas-spiced chocolate cake (Also a good xmas-day pudding) (gf)
  2. chocolate orange loaf cake
  3. vegan chocolate cake (It’s good! It’s easy!) (vg)
  4. chocolate chunk oatmeal cookies
  5. cheese stars (make twelve times the amount you think you need because these are addictive and also great to serve as blotting paper for the inevitable copious liquor that happens this time of year)
  6. coconut macaroons (gf)
  7. chocolate macaroons (gf)
  8. gingerbread cut-out cookies (vg)
  9. coconut condensed milk brownies
  10. salted caramel slice (hello again Salted Caramel! Your persistence is as admirable as your deliciousness!)
  11. fancy tea cookies
  12. chocolate olive oil cake
  13. cinnamon bars
  14. coffee caramel slice
  15. everyday chocolate brownies
  16. cornbread cookie squares with maple buttercream
  17. cranberry white chocolate cookies
  18. peanut butter cookies
  19. secret centre mini-pavlovas
  20. avocado chocolate brownies (gf, df)
  21. bobby dazzler cake
  22. chocolate-dipped brown sugar cookies
Also, if you click on the link to the Orange Confit above, you’ll see a recipe for the easiest, fastest fruitcake loaf. It makes an excellent present, for the sort of person who’d like to receive fruitcake. And it’s dairy free.

secret centre mini-pavlovas
peanut butter chocolate caramel nut caramel chocolate peanut butter slice caramel
Category Three: Novelty!

This is mostly either homemade recreations of things you can buy from the corner dairy for fifty cents, or sticky-sweet things where you melt one ready-made thing into another. It’s frankly the best category and you know it
  1. moonshine biffs (like homemade Milk Bottles!) (gf)
  2. raw vegan chocolate cookie dough truffles (vg, gf)
  3. lolly cake
  4. peppermint schnapps (vg, gf) (this is some harsh moonshine but also SO FUN. Weirdly, more fun the more you drink of it?)
  5. candy cane chocolate bark (No effort, vegan – well, I think candy canes are vegan – gluten free, amazingly delicious, just store it carefully so it doesn’t melt)
  6. white chocolate coco pops slice 
  7. homemade cherry ripe
  8. mars bar cornflake slice 
  9. chocolate cookie dough pretzel things  
  10. brown sugar malteaser cardamom fudge
  11. peanut butter chocolate caramel nut slice
Delightful Bonus Category: Stuff to bring! 

A brief list of things you could consider making and taking to the next seasonal party in which there are heavy implications that you need to bring a plate and that it should be something amazing that people will actually enjoy. 
  1. roasted kumara with feta, walnuts, thyme and breadcrumbs
  2. very easy coffee ice cream
  3. fried tomatoes with garlic
  4. double cauliflower salad
  5. fried green beans with chilli and garlic
  6. pasta salad with broccoli pesto, mint, feta and olive oil
  7. fougasse bread
  8. earl grey and maple syrup cake
  9. cinnamon-golden syrup roasted butternut squash
  10. fried potato burghal wheat with walnuts and rocket
  11. wasabi cauliflower cheese
  12. peaches and cream
Whether or not this list is helpful, I’m honestly just so glad that I got this damn blog post done finally so I really am beyond caring. (Kidding, I care ever so much, like, in a completely uncool lacking-in-chill kind of way.) I’m working as much as I physically can over Christmas and new years, and will be spending the day with work family eating and drinking and eating and drinking and so on in that fashion. I can’t wait, and while it would be lovely to be going up home to my family, spending my one spare day with people I adore and cooking a ton of nice food for them is something I am super looking forward to. However! Were money something I felt irritatingly mellow about, my Christmas list would look a little like the following: 
– a new leather bomber jacket (my current one is falling to pieces 100% literally)
– timberland boots (2003 called, and I’m ignoring it because I don’t care if they’re outdated) 
– Marc Jacobs Lola perfume (am never not cursing myself for using up all my supplies last year by calling it “baller deodorant” when I could’ve just used nivea roll-on) 
– a watch: either something very heavily masculine or something plasticky and stupid looking
– a set of pots and pans, preferably the kind that looks stupidly good in photos; I currently have very little in the way of anything 
– a handbag: my last one basically dissolved into the air within less than a month and I’ve since been lugging my earthly possessions about in a grubby tote 
– a candle that smells like cinnamon
– several bottles of fancy liquor so I can finally start my liquor cabinet: some nice gin, some sweet and dry vermouth, some fernet (it rhymes with cliche!), a campari and a bourbon…y’know, no biggie.
– A record player – nothing fancy, just something that I can literally play all my records on. 
Whatever it is you want for Christmas, especially if it’s world peace, I hope you get it. I’m definitely going to be blogging again before Christmas and that all sounded a bit final, but nevertheless: get what you want! Get it! Go on, now!
_____________________________________________________________
title from: 2005’s plaintive Athlete song, Wires. It’s plaintive but it’s still got legs, I reckon. 
_____________________________________________________________
music lately: 
Mariah Carey, Oh Holy Night, from her Merry Christmas II You album. That’s right, she has other Christmas songs, and this one is classic Mimi. She sounds so good. 
The Wombats, Greek Tragedy. Pop! So poppy! 
Idina Menzel’s Christmas album. She is my idol, and I am a completist.

Also: my dreamy summer playlist on spotify. Look, I could either list every song here or I could just link you directly to the playlist, but either way it’s very very good and feels like sunshine on your shoulders. 

_____________________________________________________________
next time: no sleep allowed! I made some roasted asparagus with burned butter hollandaise which was amazing, however I also haven’t made ice cream in ages and am feeling the need. 

like peaches ‘n cream, she’s gonna wish on stars and touch the sky, you know what I mean

Laura please don’t knock this off the ledge onto the walkway below Laura please don’t knock thi

It was a full moon in Pisces this week, so I don’t need to tell you that this particular horoscope stirred up some intense emotions. Luckily for me I was coolly prepared by already maintaining a lifestyle of nonstop emotional intensity! Also luckily there were lots of nice things going on, like eating a giant pretzel Momofuku cake for my girl Kate’s birthday, dressing up as Columbia for a special screening of Rocky Horror at work, more pats with Percy the corgi, and discovering and then watching the entirety of in one evening, the truly heart-wrenchingly delightful TV show Faking It. It was also the excellent Tim’s birthday, and I made him this peach balsamic barbecue sauce as a present (what is our friendship if it cannot withstand my coming out and ending our engagement?) I had a half tin of peaches in the fridge and many spices and condiments in the pantry and a budget that stretched to one small red onion. This recipe that I found appealed to me because of all these reasons, but also there’s something oddly pleasing about making your own preserves and sauces and such, and I thought the peachiness might add a sweet, summery Americana vibe to something already so very American. (Also…I had half a can of peaches in the fridge.)

Apologies for including a fiddly specialty ingredient like liquid smoke, but it’s not that hard to get hold of a bottle of it in fancy food shops or online, and if you like things to taste smokey then you can either find some or sigh perpetually about how nothing tastes smokey. (That’s as much tough love as I can possibly muster: buy this thing if you like, but only maybe, and either way I’m sorry.) If you can’t find it you’ll still have a deliciously peachy sweet-sour sauce, but as soon as the liquid smoke is stirred in it suddenly becomes like sunshine on your shoulders and protein seared on magma-hot metal (said protein could be tofu, I’m easy) and your hair being scented like woodchips for days and being ravenous and everything taking so, so long to be cooked through so you have to drink a lot of beer while you wait. So like, you might want to get some.

peach balsamic barbecue sauce

adapted from this recipe on damndelicious.net, makes around 250ml

  • one tablespoon olive oil
  • one red onion, diced
  • one tablespoon chilli sauce (or to taste, I used sriracha which is kinda mild, hence a tablespoon)
  • one teaspoon cumin seeds
  • two large ripe peaches, diced, or the equivalent of canned peaches
  • two tablespoons maple syrup (or golden syrup or honey – maple is smokier though)
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • one tablespoon dijon mustard
  • one tablespoon tomato sauce/paste/similar
  • about half a teaspoon of liquid smoke
  • salt and brown sugar to taste – it definitely needs salt, sugar though? Depends on you.

Heat the oil in a pan and gently fry the red onion till it’s soft but not browned. Throw everything else in, except the liquid smoke, and allow to come to the boil while stirring constantly. Simmer for about ten minutes, then either blend it till smooth in a food processor or use one of those stick things that you use for pureeing soup (they’re genius! So little washing up to do!) (my new flat has one, I’ve never used them before) (anyway) and pour it into a small jar/small jars or directly into a bowl to serve alongside/on top of your dinner.

(red and white twine to evoke The White Stripes)

This sauce is so delicious. And I’m not entirely a heathen, I didn’t go eating Tim’s birthday present, there was in fact enough to fill a jar for him and a small ramekin leftover for me. I intended to pour it over rice or something but I just ended up eating the lot with a spoon. The aggressive throat-pinching sourness of the vinegar and heat of the chilli sauce is mellowed by the sweet, sweet peaches, and the spices give it depth and, well, spice. And as I’ve already iterated at feverish length, liquid smoke is also good. It doesn’t make an awful lot but then at least you don’t have to stress about desperately pressing bottles of it onto visitors forevermore, and if it’s really not to your tastes then at least all you wasted was a couple of tablespoons of this and that. Conversely, if you really love it, the recipe is very easy to double or triple. Barbecue sauce for all! I always thought I hated barbecue sauce actually, but it just turns out that I dislike the particular overly sweet nothingness-paste that gets swirled onto certain takeaway pizzas, which tastes like neither barbecue nor sauce. And it certainly doesn’t taste like going on for paragraph after paragraph about sunshine on one’s shoulders, etc.

I’m flying up home this afternoon for the first time since Christmas, so that’s something. Am looking forward to seeing my family and the cats (the cats are family but you might not pick up on my implications unless I spell it out for you) and spending time knitting and reading.

Finally: It’s election time in New Zealand! Can’t wait for it to be over so that I don’t have to see billboards everywhere, but am looking forward to voting. It’s completely appalling that prisoners can’t vote, but hopefully my own small vote and my right to do it can help be a snowflake in an ever-rolling snowball of good change. Your politics are your own business, but what you do with them can affect everyone, you know?

But also: you can now buy my cookbook directly from me! Which is exciting because ya girl remains flat broke, and unlike when it was sold in stores, every dollar from books sold through me goes straight to me. Yay though, right? My cookbook isn’t so easy to get hold of anymore so if you’re wanting a copy you better get moving as my stocks are limited…

title via: Britney Spears’ important song Brave New Girl. It’s easily one of my very favourite songs of hers, that kind of headrush-pop that fills my heart with glitter.

music lately:

Dum Dum Girls, Coming Down. Six minutes and thirty-two seconds of dreamy sad perfection.

Sarah Jaffe, Lover Girl. Was listening to my favourites Dark Dark Dark on Spotify and looked at related artists and was like, “Spotify, show me something new!” So I tried listening to this woman and I immediately loved every single song I listened to, starting with this.

Rita Ora, I Will Never Let You Down. Adorable and hopeful and happy.

Next time: seems like all I have in my pantry right now is pasta, which I’m happy about because I love pasta, so…yeah. We’ll see?

 

this is jam hot, this is jam hot

It’s gonna look so pretty: well established by now as a large part of my motivation for making food, ever

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I was mightily spiritual as a kid. Obsessed with Linda Goodman, attempting to cast spells with limited resources (where is a twelve year old going to obtain tincture of nettle, honestly), loitering by the 100 bit of the nonfiction section of the library, seeing how many significant words I could make from the letters of my name (AURA, OMG) placing great faith in rose quartz, jasper, hematite and whatever other semi-precious stones I could buy with my pocket money, burning essential oils, lighting incense, moonlighting as a palm-reader during my primary school lunchtimes after reading a book and thinking I knew what I was doing (the teachers did not approve of that one), making tea from herbs, fervently interpreting my dreams. Huh, I even surprised myself just now as I wrote that. Examples kept springing to mind. Anyway, I’ve retained some of that – a kind of fondness for what I got up to in my witchy youth, and a still-fascinated respect for it all. Which is why I was totally chill with having my tarot cards read on the first day of 2014. Where I’m going with this is, my tarot card for May was essentially “lol everything will go wrong and you’ll have no money” which, alas, was almost too on the nose. But June: this month the cards suggest I’m battle-weary but I’m gonna win. Exhausted but determined. Setback-y but resilient-y. Etc. And…I’m kinda feeling it. That’s me right now.

(I’d like to add here that I don’t simply allow things to happen because a particular card says so, but consider it more of a snapshot of how things might be and where I can go from there. Humans are just generally always looking for meaning and direction, right? Whether it’s religion or reading your horoscopes or txting a friend a picture of yourself and asking if they think this dress seems really “you.”)

So yeah. Despite setbacks and rejection emails and uh, still being unemployed, I’m feeling curiously better about my future as a human who does stuff. I’m actually not quite sure what I want to do specifically with my cooking and writing to become incredibly famous and celebrated for my cooking and writing, but I feel like an idea is just out of reach, just around the corner, on the tip of my dreams, that kind of thing. As per usual though, if you want to employ me to be wonderful and write freelance but in a paid capacity for you, I would oblige so hard.

Possibly this uncharacteristically bullish outlook is nothing to do with the suggestions of the tarot cards and everything to do with the vitamins and minerals my system has been waterblasted with after eating heaps of this berry chia seed jam I made. It’s just chia seeds and berries, you can’t help but feel good after eating that. Chia seeds are a rather fashionable superfood, but don’t hold that against them. They look unassuming at first but when mixed with liquid they swell up, soften, and thicken gelatinously in a way that admittedly sounds horrifying, but can be very applicable in the kitchen. Here, they absorb the juice of the berries, holding it all together in a rudimentarily jammy fashion. It’s not spreadable like the usual jam, but hot damn it tastes wonderful. And involves very little effort. I used a mixture of frozen strawberries and raspberries, mostly because it’s what I had in the freezer, but also because I liked the idea of the chia seeds echoing the texture of the raspberries, and of the balance between sweet and sharp that the two berries would give each other. I imagine this would be excellent with blackberries or boysenberries – anything with seeds, particularly – but try whatever you like.

berry chia seed jam

with thanks to sans ceuticals for this recipe

  • two cups of berries, frozen or fresh. I used one cup frozen strawberries, one cup frozen raspberries, and I most definitely recommend it.
  • half a cup of water
  • juice of a lemon
  • three to five tablespoons of chia seeds
  • one tablespoon honey, maple syrup, sugar, whatever really

If your berries are frozen allow them to defrost, otherwise place the berries in two bowls, roughly half in each, although I went for more of a two thirds/third kinda thing. Add the water to whichever bowl looks more full, along with the lemon juice and honey/whatever sugar you’re adding. Mash thoroughly with a fork till it’s roughly pureed and liquidish. Stir in the whole berries and the chia seeds, and then spatula it all into a jar and refrigerate overnight. Try to make sure all the chia seeds are actually in amongst the berries, if they ride up onto the insides of the jar they will stick like glue. Other than that: now you’ve got jam, honey.

It’s delicious. It’s beautiful. It’s easy. And chia seeds are stuuuupidly good for you, so that’s something to bask in.

It’s not proper jam but actually I like it better. For someone who eats so much sugar that I probably have pure syrup running through my veins instead of your regular human-blood, I’ve never been alllll that big on jam. I tend to find that any fruit flavour is overpowered by sickly sugariness. Whereas this stuff is pure, intense, sun-bursting-through-the-clouds berry flavour, barely altered and instantly accessible to your lucky, lucky mouth.

Some things you could do with this jam (I mostly went for the first two options, so you know)

eat 90% of it from the jar while leaning on your kitchen bench // spoon it into thick delicious yoghurt for a dessert-like snack, or snack-like dessert // add it to your porridge // eat spoonfuls of it alternated with generous pumps of canned whipped cream (wish I’d done this, what am I doing with my life) // spoon it over ice cream // smear it on your face, go out and terrify the neighbourhood children, rinse it off and notice that your skin has benefited from the high vitamin content of the berries // irritate a strict jam traditionalist by talking loudly about how wonderful it is // give a jar of it to a cool person // fill tartlets with it and top with lemon curd // google “things to do with jam” // spread it on buttery toast // employ me as a glamorous and thrilling food writer for your excellent media outlet (would also consider: having own TV show; being paid to do nothing for some reason I haven’t yet worked out.)

title from: Beats International, Dub Be Good To Me. I was just a nipper in the early nineties but this gives me nostalgia for it all the same. Which is the most impressive type of nostalgia: the kind for a place you ain’t even been. And Lindi Layton’s vocals are stunner.

music lately:

Lana Del Rey, Brooklyn Baby. I’ll always love Lana Del Rey, even though her music puts me through an emotional wringer. This new single is jam hot, but if you want to feel entranced yet chilled to your bones, you better listen to her covering Once Upon A Dream from Sleeping Beauty.

Gossling, Never Expire. My favourite genre: dreamy.

next time: probs some more fancy plans and pants to match with recipes to go with Nautilus Wine! That’s right, I’ve still got some fancy left in me.