Clove-fried Onion and Marinated Mushroom Sandwich

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In this era of Covid and cancelled plans a little absence is hardly a surprise but nonetheless I’m sorry it’s been a while since I’ve posted! I have spent most of September knocked on my ear with a bad cold — not Covid, at least according to the four rat tests I did — but not at all pleasant. Aside from sneezing with metronome regularity, the most noticeable feature of this cold was that it rendered me both ravenously hungry and completely stupid. A unique and infuriating challenge: desperate for lavish meals, a backlog of writing work calling me, and barely able to concentrate on even the most lowest-common-denominator television. Somewhere around day nine, after a brief and congested visit home to see my parents (and to deplete their resources of tissue and eucalyptus oil); I made this sandwich. It pleased me greatly, I thought it was delicious, but I was still insensible with cold; fortunately for you it draws inspiration from two separate reputable sources so the odds are in your favour that it actually is quite good.

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It’s not very attractive, let’s get that out of the way first: pale bread, pale creamy onions, pale mushrooms, and of course I forgot to buy parsley for garnish, though I’m not sure just how much pale expanse it could’ve masked, all things considered. And yes, we eat with our eyes first, but we also literally eat with our mouths, so that’s the sector we should be most concerned with appeasing. I read about a sandwich filled with clove-scented fried onions in Niki Segnit’s rollickingly entertaining book The Flavour Thesaurus, and its simplicity and warmth appealed; to further bulk out the sandwich I remembered the marinated mushrooms from Nigella’s pasta recipe that I blogged about a few weeks back — yes, this is outfit repeating, but the cold really did make me dopey as hell and this was all I could think of. (To be clear, repeating recipes is obviously fantastic in real life, just not so practical in a food blogging content way.) The sensation of soft onions fresh from the pan against the cool, vinegar-tanged mushrooms is a contrast sensation that jolts you back to life in the same way that ejecting and blowing on a piece of uncooperative technology sometimes does the trick.

@hungryandfrozen

clove-fried onion and marinated mushroom sandwich, recipe on my blog at the link above 🥖 #vegan #sandwich #mushrooms #recipe #foodblogger #fyp

♬ Goodbye Horses – Q Lazzarus

The cloves offer comforting yet bracingly strident warmth and sophistication — I could only find whole cloves, which made for a more subtle flavour profile, next time I absolutely want the unequivocal hit of ground. Their presence contributed to the name of this recipe (you’re telling me a clove fried this onion? et cetera) but there’s plenty else going on: punchy, autumnal rosemary, the meekly savoury onions, the sophisticated rasp of red wine vinegar. There’s nothing stopping you adding more elements to this sandwich; fewer would be fine too — I’d happily eat a bun filled to dripping with the onions alone. And who knows, the cloves, looking like tiny rusty nails dropped into the frying pan, may have helped hasten the cold’s departure with all their purported antioxidants and other vague health-giving properties.

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Clove-fried Onion and Marinated Mushroom Sandwich

Ugly but delicious, and surprisingly luxurious for its humble ingredients. Recipe inspired by an entry in The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit.

  • 4 button mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons extra for frying
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 whole cloves, or a scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons dairy-free cream of your choice (optional)
  • 1 fresh baguette

1: First get the mushrooms soaking up their marinade. Slice the button mushrooms (not too thinly, but not too thick either) and toss in a bowl with two tablespoons of the olive oil, the tablespoon of red wine vinegar, the teaspoon of maple syrup, the leaves from the sprig of rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside while you get on with the onion.

2: Finely slice the onion and gently fry in the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil with a sprinkling of salt and the cloves. If you’re using ground cloves just stir them in, and if you’ve got whole ones, squash them a bit under a wooden spoon or bash them with a heavy knife to help release more of their fragrance, and make sure to push down on them as you stir the onions. Now, it’s up to you whether you want these onions brown and crisp or soft and caramelised, the only difference is heat and time. I wanted them tender and golden, so I kept the heat low and stirred them for about ten to fifteen minutes. Once you’ve got them where you want them, stir in the cream (if using) and remove from the heat.

3: Split your baguette in half, and spread a thick layer of the creamy fried onions over one side. Top with a layer of marinated mushrooms, clamp on the other half of the baguette, and eat, messily.

Makes one substantial sandwich.

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music lately:

Goodbye Horses by Q Lazzarus. Toasty, hypnotic, otherworldly, makes me feel like I’m floating away but also like I’m extremely in the present moment.

This Bitter Earth/On the Nature of Daylight by Max Richter and Dinah Washington. These two songs are exquisite on their own, but mashed together? I honestly had a little Stendhal Syndrome moment when I first heard it as a bonus track on Richter’s gorgeous album The Blue Notebooks; it was recommended to me and now I’m recommending it to you.

The Whole World by OutKast ft Killer Mike, an unbelievably satisfying track, from Andre 3000’s Cole Porter-esque prelude to Killer Mike’s whip-snappishly dynamic verse and Big Boi’s words skittering around the beat like marbles in a Tupperware container.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time tha

Salt and Vinegar Beans

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Often my indecision isn’t based on actual lack of ability to make a decision, it’s just that I still, to ambivalently quote Bono, haven’t found what I’m looking for. I spent forty minutes today sniffing scented candles in the hopes of being able to commit to one; it didn’t take so long because I couldn’t decide, it took so long because none of them were quite explicitly pleasing enough to my nose for me to take that fragrant leap. (I eventually alit upon one with a fairly uncool name — Rendezvous — but a richly elegant bouquet of amber and orchid, and decided, decisively, that I could compromise on the name for the smell which is, after all, the point of it all.)

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This is why I keep running lists everywhere — on my notes app, on various documents strewn across my laptop’s memory, in my journal, on any piece of paper — of recipe ideas that occur to me at any given moment. The question of what to cook next is of course shaped by numerous factors, ninety percent of them financial, but just having an idea to push you in a direction does mean a good chunk of the legwork is already done. In this case, I’d written down the words “salt and vinegar beans” and put it in bold so that future-me would be unable to miss it. A half-bag of beans in the cupboard and a free day for bean-simmering appeared, and I thought I’d give it a go. A few years back I made a Salt and Vinegar Potato Gratin with happy results and so it was no great surprise that the flavour could be successfully transferred to another medium, in this case, lipstick-soft borlotti beans.

@hungryandfrozen

salt and vinegar beans hell yeah full recipe at hungryandfrozen dot com #vegan #recipe #beantok #saltandvinegar

♬ Help Me – Judy Kuhn

Even those who consider themselves truly indecisive surely have an opinion on salt and vinegar, a flavour that people seem to instantly know where they stand on. If it’s not the packet of chips you reach for first then this recipe is unlikely to convince you or change your mind, nor would I expect it to (you might, however, consider my chilli oil beans recipe instead.) For those of us who like our snacks to bite us back, this is heavenly — sure, I wasn’t surprised that it worked, but I was astonished at just how excellent it was, with the creamy and tender beans slicked in their caustic coating, the sourness somehow at odds with and yet so perfect with the beans’ texture at the same time. The flounce of rocket leaves offers pepperiness without distraction, and livens things up visually; I do think they’re necessary but if you can’t get hold of any, just use some actual pepper instead, the salt and vinegar is the real reason we’re here.

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Although I like the brisk antiseptic rasp of white vinegar I went for red wine vinegar this time, it has an easy-going elegance but still enough of a kick to send tingles up the side of your face with every mouthful. White wine vinegar would also work, balsamic would be too balsamic-y, I think, but black vinegar could just well be wonderful. Whatever you end up using, I recommend serving the beans with bottles of vinegar and olive oil and the salt within reach so that you can simply pour more of each into your bowl while you eat, as your tastebuds decree.

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Salt and Vinegar Beans

This is — unsurprisingly — one for the salt-and-vinegar-heads, and very good too, with the creamy, slow-simmered beans coated in a shimmering film of red wine vinegar, olive oil, and plenty of salt. The quantities of the aforementioned ingredients are purposefully vague, as only you can know how much you want. Oh, and you’ll need to start this a day ahead to give yourself time to soak the beans. Recipe by myself.

  • 1 cup dried borlotti beans
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • a hearty pinch of good salt
  • a handful of rocket leaves (about a third of one of those supermarket packets, but use as much as you want)

1: Place the borlotti beans in a good-sized bowl, cover generously with water, and leave to sit for at least six hours, or better still, overnight. You may need to top up the water if they absorb it too greedily.

2: The next day, drain and rinse the beans and place them in a saucepan, again covering them generously with water. Add the bay leaf, bring the water to the boil, and then once it does, cover the pan with a lid and lower the heat right down. Let the beans simmer for about an hour, although be prepared to simmer them for twice as long, fishing one out now and then to test for doneness. Once they’re completely tender, drain the beans and discard the bay leaf.

3: Stir one to two tablespoons of red wine vinegar, two to three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and a hearty pinch of salt together in a large bowl. As mentioned above, the quantities are vague because it all depends on your tastes, but if you’re unsure, start off with the smaller quantity and add more if you need it. Tip the drained beans, still warm, into the vinegar mixture, and gently stir it together. Taste to see if it wants more of anything, then stir in the rocket leaves, and serve immediately.

Serves two generously, or four as part of a meal with other bits and pieces. If you want to make this ahead of time, either add the rocket at the last minute or make your peace with wilted rocket. It tastes great either way, so no harm done. And if you are making it ahead of time and storing it in the fridge, let the beans come to room temperature before serving. I happily ate these beans just as they were, but to make it a full meal, some bread alongside wouldn’t go amiss, and maybe something vegetal but not vinegary: sliced tomatoes, roasted broccoli, et cetera.

Note:
I haven’t tried this with ready-cooked tinned beans, but can’t think of any earthly reason why it wouldn’t work. I’d use two tins of borlotti beans, drained, rinsed, and maybe warmed through in a little vegetable stock. Equally, I’m confident you could use a different dried bean to the borlotti, I’m just partial to their soft pink colour, especially against the green of the rocket.

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music lately:

I Took Your Name by R.E.M. I truly cannot overstate the power the tremolo has over me!

O-o-h Child by the Five Stairsteps. So comforting it’s almost hypnotic.

Help Me by Judy Kuhn, a cover of the Joni Mitchell song, which you probably could’ve guessed without knowing just by the questioning, peaks-and-troughs path of the vocals. There’s little I love more than a Broadway solo album — the production done on most of them could almost be a genre in itself — and Kuhn’s crystal-clear voice and level-headed vibrato is perfect for interpreting this song.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Vegetables à la Grecque

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I have all the time in the world for vegetables, but nothing makes my mood plummet quicker than a vegetable that has been boiled or steamed without any other mitigating spices, fats, seasonings or textural elements added to it. As a vegan — in fact, as a food writer — I should be able to face vegetables in such an untampered, intact state, and if politeness is required of a situation of course I will quietly capitulate, but internally it’ll be wall-to-wall culinary sorrow at the limpness of texture and blandness of vibe.

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Peevishly, I still crave variety, and there’s only so many times I can eat fried or roasted vegetables in quick succession. So, when I find a new-to-me method that allows me to hoon a vast quantity of vegetables in a way that’s pleasing to both my palate and boundaries, I’m obviously going to try it. It was in two separate books — Beard on Food by James Beard and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison — that I found this preparation for Vegetables à la Grecque, and while there is undeniably some boiling, it involves generous amounts of vermouth, olive oil, and spices, forming a rich yet graceful broth that you then reduce down to an intensely-flavoured liquor, before pouring it back over the vegetables, and then finally serving it chilled.

I chose fennel and green beans, and the result was so elegant: the tender, aniseed petals of fennel and the sweetness of the beans swimming in all that lush, lemony, herbal liquid, each doing their level best to infuse the other with flavour. Because this is made in advance and placidly sits in the fridge until required, it’s a useful recipe to have in your repertoire; it could stand up to a hearty stew or other slow-cooked thing as a vegetable side, but would fit happily on a table of smaller sharing plates, especially if there’s lots of bread for mopping up, and I can also see it being a friendly salad alternative in high summer when you can only face foods that have known the chill of refrigeration. I’d like to try it with cauliflower, in which case I might consider throwing in a handful of sultanas and even — should budget allow — a pinch of saffron. (Although let’s face it, with the cost of living these days the cauliflower is likely to be more expensive than the saffron.) My aversion to plain boiled vegetables may never be truly rehabilitated, but this recipe for all seasons is definite — and delicious — progress.

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Vegetables à la Grecque

A simple but elegant way to prepare vegetables, simmered and then chilled in a lush vermouth-y broth. If you need to feed more people, just add more vegetables and a bit more of everything else. Adapted from recipes by James Beard (Beard on Food) and Deborah Madison (Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone.)

  • 2-3 medium-sized fennel bulbs
  • 300g green beans
  • 1/3 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a good pinch of salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 and 1/2 cups water
  • fresh thyme, parsley, or other herbs of your choice to serve 

1: Trim the bases from the fennel bulbs and chop each bulb into quarters or sixths, depending on how big they are. Trim the ends off the beans.

2: In a saucepan big enough to fit the vegetables in (bearing in mind they will collapse down a bit as they cook) combine the 1/3 cup vermouth, the juice of the lemon and a long strip of its peel, the three tablespoons of olive oil, the teaspoon each of fennel and coriander seeds, the bay leaf, the pinch of salt and a few twists of pepper (or, if you like, you can throw in a couple of whole peppercorns.) If you have the necessary pestle and mortar you can bash about the seeds a bit first to release their fragrance, but it’ll be absolutely fine if you don’t. Pour in the 1 and 1/2 cups of water — you may not need all of it depending on the size of your pan — and bring everything to the boil.

3: Once the broth is at the boil, lower the vegetables into the pan and turn the heat down to a simmer, partially covering the pan with a lid. Simmer for about ten minutes, or until the vegetables are tender but still with a good bite to them. Depending on your vegetables you may want to stagger the timing a little — when I make this again I’ll probably add the beans a few minutes after the fennel so they keep their colour better.

4: Once the vegetables are tender but bite-y, remove them to a serving dish using tongs or some other similarly useful implement, then turn up the heat on the saucepan and let the broth cook away until it has reduced down by about half. Don’t get too hung up on the precision of this, but I find sticking the end of a wooden spoon into the pan at various intervals to see what the tide is like helps to keep track of the reduction. Once it’s reduced down sufficiently, pour the entire contents of the pan over the waiting vegetables in their serving dish, cover, and refrigerate until cooled. Chop up some fresh herbs — thyme, parsley, basil would be perfect — and scatter over before serving.

Serves 2 as a side, although I happily ate all of this by myself with some bread to dip into the liquor, and it could stretch to another person, maybe even two more, if you had plenty of other food on the table.

Note:

  • If you don’t like fennel, or beans, or can’t get hold of them, you could try using any other firm vegetable: James Beard recommends eggplant and artichoke, and Deborah Madison suggests cauliflower, carrots, mushrooms and turnips. While I haven’t made it with these myself, I am confident they would all be delicious.
  • If you have a few cloves of garlic on hand and like to eat it then definitely add them, finely sliced, to the simmering broth — the only reason I left it out was because I forgot it, but it’s good to know it tastes great without should I find myself in this situation again.

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music lately:

Sparks by Faith and the Muse. Weighs a ton and yet floats right through you.

No, No, No by Dawn Penn. A classic. A classic!

Roly Poly by Doris Day and Perry Blackwell from the film Pillow Talk. I wish there were more recordings of Blackwell available, her presence and voice are great, but at least we get this very fun moment in this very fun film.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Catalan Chickpeas and Spinach [vegan]

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I have come to realise that time — as a concept, as a thing that happens to me and as a heavyweight opponent with whom I must fruitlessly wrestle — is simply none of my business. There is no point trying to understand how “it’s night before it’s afternoon/December is here before it’s June”, as Dr Seuss put it. If I had a tab open on my browser since last October, intending to presently reference the recipe therein, and if I have only just returned to it now, in the following April, and feel as though perhaps a week has passed, a month at the most, who’s to say that’s not true? Who’s going to come for me? The time police? Even if they did exist, I do not acknowledge them.

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Back in October, when I first consulted this recipe, time was moving in a more comminuted way — we were partway through a hundred-plus day lockdown, and my family’s solution to making one 24-hour period even marginally different from the one before was to choose a different country each day, and cook its food (or an approximation thereof) and listen to its music. (We stayed in lockdown so long that this was just one of our various daily schemes, but it’s the relevant one to this recipe.) I made these Catalan Chickpeas with Spinach when we got to Spain, along with some other Spain-wards recipes, and it really floored me — for something so simple, starring two undeniably excellent but not terribly flashy ingredients, it’s just beautiful. Gutsy, earthy, mellow, layered, delicious.

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I feel that of all the ingredients I might need to reassure you about in a kind but firm manner, it’s the raisins. If you’re already au fait with raisins in savoury recipes then this doesn’t apply to you, but if you are feeling suspicious, let me not only put your mind at ease but request, specifically, that you don’t leave them out — the tiny, lightly swollen bursts of winey sweetness are absolutely lush against the grainy soft chickpeas and the dark leafy spinach, to leave them out you’d lose what makes this dish so elevated and spectacular. That being said, if your suspicion for raisins veers into sensory issues territory then this doesn’t apply to you either! But put it this way, I have never once been a person who would eat a handful of raisins, the thought makes me shuddery, but once there’s some salt and olive oil involved they suddenly become entirely welcome.

@hungryandfrozen

Catalan Chickpeas and Spinach • recipe at hungryandfrozen dot com • adapted from @gimmesomeoven #vegan #cookingtiktok #beantok #chickpeas #foodblog #fyp

♬ Sascha – Jolie Holland

Maybe I’ve got time especially on the mind because my birthday is approaching, and, well, we live in a society where interrogative introspection follows each blowing out of candles; currently I’m coping by declaring, at every opportunity, that turning 36 is “so chic”. If you’re also in the ballpark of my generation or older you’re most welcome to use this framing device yourself, it’s…kind of helpful. Anyway, these chickpeas: time may be none of my business, but nonetheless I do wish I’d made them again sooner in a literal way, rather than in a “soon, in my warped and debilitating experience of the passage of time” kind of way. You should make them, and then make them again, for yourself, for friends, as a bring-a-plate, should you be in a place where socialising is relatively chill again. It would be a charming light meal for two with bread alongside (or, alternatively, the promise of dessert after); or it could easily feed four when served alongside a few other dishes, and if you’re feeling hungry, it’s all yours and no one else’s.

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Catalan Chickpeas and Spinach

An incredibly delicious, hearty, and simple dish, and impossible to make just once. I found this recipe on gimmesomeoven.com and have toyed with it just a little; if I had pine nuts I would’ve obviously preferred to use them as the original suggests, but the significantly less expensive sunflower seeds are a fine substitute.

  • 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 1 large onion
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds (or, 1 teaspoon ground cumin)
  • 1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained
  • 3 tablespoons dry vermouth (or dry sherry, or a splash of water)
  • 3 tablespoons raisins (or sultanas)
  • 3 large handfuls spinach
  • salt, to taste, and extra virgin olive oil, to finish

1: Toast the three tablespoons of sunflower seeds in a hot pan for a few minutes, until they go from pale to golden brown. Tip them into a bowl or plate and set aside.

2: Peel and finely dice the onion, then peel and roughly chop the six cloves garlic. Warm the two tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan — I used the same one that I toasted the sunflower seeds in — and fry the chopped onion and garlic over a low heat until they’re softened. Tip in the teaspoon of smoked paprika and half teaspoon of cumin seeds, and stir to coat the onions.

3: Turn up the heat a little and tip in the chickpeas, followed by the three tablespoons of vermouth (although, I generally slosh rather than measure, for what it’s worth), and the three tablespoons of raisins or sultanas, and let it simmer for about five minutes, adding a splash of water if the pan is looking too dry.

4: Roughly chop the spinach and throw it into the pan. You can simply stir the spinach into the chickpeas with the heat on, or you can turn off the heat, clamp on a lid, and let the residual heat and steam wilt the spinach. Either way, it shouldn’t take more than a minute or two for the spinach to flop into almost nothing.

5: Remove the pan from the heat, scatter over the reserved sunflower seeds, season with salt (and pepper, if you wish) and drizzle over a little extra virgin olive oil. You could also consider a squeeze of lemon juice (especially if you used water instead of vermouth or sherry).

Serves 2—4, lightly, depending on what’s being eaten alongside, or one hungry person.

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music lately:

Forever and Ever by Demis Roussos, although this song evokes memories of Alison Steadman in the horror film (not in genre, but in vibe, you understand) Abigail’s Party, there’s something about those effortlessly gliding vocals and the full-hearted romance and proto-dream pop energy that is very loveable.

Persuasive by Doechii, I love how this is somehow quiet and loud at the same time. Utterly hypnotic, I can’t stop listening to it.

Forever, by Pete Drake. I was sent this video, along with the description that it was staggeringly Lynchian, and: I agree! If it wasn’t for the fact that it’s from 1964 I would have sworn on my own grave that David Lynch’s handprints were all over this tableau, it’s got that mix of heartbreaking comfort and looming, yet unidentifiable sinisterness and a general pervading Americanness. It’s almost hard to believe it’s real, but, somehow, it is.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

The Best Granola [vegan]

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I may be prone to exaggeration, but I come by it honestly; that is, I wouldn’t consider how I describe things to be exaggeration, merely accurate. So when I call this The Best Granola, it’s not to be cute, it’s just telling you exactly how good it is. In fact — honestly — it’s better than any granola I’ve ever made before, and I have put my name to a lot of granola recipes. The idea for this recipe comes directly from Rachel Ama, and her book Rachel Ama’s Vegan Eats; prior to that I hadn’t considered flipping the quantities of oats to nuts and seeds, now I will never make granola any other way.

This recipe is comprised almost entirely of almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, the oats are there but resolutely in the background, and the result is extraordinary — so light, so crunchy without being the slightest burden on your masseter muscles, rich and very filling, but filling you with the sense that you could take on the world (or at least pick up that sock from the middle of the floor, where it has sat procumbent for the past week) instead of immediately needing a nap.

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There’s no getting around the fact that this is an expensive recipe — although it does make a gratifyingly whopping five litres — but when supermarkets will charge you anything from $7 to $17 for a teeny-tiny bag of mass-produced granola, making your own pays for itself by the second bowlful, not to mention that in these times of alarmingly spiking cost-of-living, it’s one more way to avoid buying off the shelf from our tyrannical supermarket duopoly overlords. With that in mind, I obviously wouldn’t recommend using your local supermarket to buy the ingredients for this (unless wherever you happen to live isn’t currently experiencing the same price surges we are, coupled with an excellent range of products, in which case, good for you, and what’s that like?) If you have a Bin Inn or other bulk store nearby then this is the time to use them, if you weren’t already, otherwise, I recommend going to a smaller greengrocer or Asian supermarket, as they tend to have bags of nuts and seeds (usually on a small shelf above the fruit and vegetables) for significantly more reasonable prices than the supermarket, indeed, I recommend prioritising them over regular supermarkets as much as you can anyway.

@hungryandfrozen

babe wake up she’s making five litres of granola again • recipe at hungryandfrozen dot com • thanks @rachelama for the inspiration #granola #breakfast #foodblogger #vegan #fyp

♬ You Don’t Have to Cry – Emma Ruth Rundle

As for the ingredients themselves, I know it might seem pedantic to ask for both whole and slivered almonds, but both of them together are necessary for just the right texture, and I swear they do taste different somehow! So far I’ve kept the flavourings fairly simple: a generous hand with the cinnamon, the smoky sweetness of molasses and golden or maple syrup, and the muted sourness of dried cranberries. You can use whichever dried fruit you like, but for me the cranberries work well here, feeling like more of a treat than sultanas, but still relatively inexpensive, and their jewel-bright colour is a lovely visual contrast to the Sahara-golden toasted nuts and the subdued green of the pumpkin seeds. Such is my trust in this recipe that I know whatever you end up putting in it will still work, indeed, I’m looking forward to slowly working through all my existing granola recipes, keeping their flavours but changing the method to match this one.

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I do like breakfast in theory, and I like the idea of being a breakfast person, but committing to any kind of routine is where I stumble — and not just at breakfast — this granola, however, is so delicious that my day simply hasn’t started until I’ve eaten some, and if I have it in the house I will eat it every day for breakfast without fail, and all things considered I can’t offer any greater recommendation for it than that.

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The Best Granola

Make this once and you’ll be hooked on its superlight, crunchy texture and deliciousness. This recipe makes a LOT, and I find that it’s worth the financial outlay in the short term to do it this way, but I have included smaller quantities in the notes if that suits you better. This recipe is based on Rachel Ama’s from her excellent book Rachel Ama’s Vegan Eats, I’m forever grateful for it and am sure you will be too upon making this.

  • 500g whole, natural almonds
  • 500g whole, raw cashews
  • 500g slivered almonds
  • 500g pumpkin seeds (preferably organic)
  • 500g sunflower seeds
  • 200g whole flaxseeds (that is, not ground — they are also sometimes called linseeds)
  • 150g sesame seeds
  • 150g coconut chips/flakes
  • 250g rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons refined coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup, or maple syrup
  • 3-4 tablespoons molasses
  • 3-4 teaspoons cinnamon, to taste
  • a hearty pinch of salt
  • 250g dried cranberries

1: Set your oven to 190C/370F on fan bake. Set aside two large baking trays — I use the ones that come with the oven, which fit into it like shelves, making sure that they’re very clean first with no prior roasted garlic etc residue on them. Basically you want something with a broad surface area and shallow sides.

2: Roughly chop your 500g each of whole natural almonds and raw cashews, so that you have some smaller, rubbly pieces and some nuts left whole. Logic would dictate that the quickest way to do this would be to hiff them into the food processor and pulse a few times, but for some reason I feel compelled every time to chop them by hand with my mezzaluna knife, which takes significantly longer and tends to send bits of almond flying everywhere. Up to you; but either is fine and, more importantly, doable.

3: Get the largest mixing bowl you can find — otherwise you may need two separate ones — and tip your chopped almonds and cashews into it, followed by the 500g slivered almonds, 500g pumpkin seeds, 500g sunflower seeds, 200g whole flaxseeds, 150g sesame seeds, 150g coconut chips, and the 250g rolled oats. Give them a stir, carefully, and then tip in the three tablespoons of refined coconut oil, three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, two tablespoons golden syrup, three tablespoons of molasses, and three teaspoons of cinnamon. Carefully stir this together — it shouldn’t be overly sticky, but add an extra tablespoon or so of molasses if you think it needs it.

4: Carefully divide this mixture between your two roasting trays, spreading it into an even layer. Place the trays in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. This seems like a long time but it has never failed me, that being said stop and check once or twice — sometimes it needs stirring before the twenty minutes is up, sometimes it doesn’t. After twenty minutes, remove the trays from the oven and stir, making sure the granola from the edges of the tray comes into the centre and vice versa, and return to the oven for another five to ten minutes, or until everything is nicely browned. It pays to stay in the kitchen while this is happening, because it can only be a matter of moments between toasted and burnt nuts; but don’t be too cautious either, you want the granola to really get some colour on it.

5: Once you’re satisfied at the done-ness — and bearing in mind that it will get crisper and crunchier as it cools — remove the trays from the oven and let them cool completely. At this point, sprinkle over a good pinch of salt (it seems easier to disperse it this way than in the mixing bowl) and finally tip the 250g dried cranberries over the two trays and stir them in.

Makes about 5 litres. Store in an airtight container out of direct sunlight.

Notes:

  • If feeling flush or freewheeling I’ll sometimes add a small packet or two of pecans, roughly crumbled in my hands first, and while they’re not essential, they really do add a little something as you can imagine.
  • I say 200g of flaxseeds but I have never once actually measured these properly, I just start pouring and stop when it feels right, I trust you to do the same. And if you can find organic pumpkin seeds, get them — for some reason they just taste nicer. Don’t stop yourself making this if you can only find regular ones though.

Quantities for about 1.5 litres of granola, as you can see it’s not a mathematically downscaled ratio by any means, but it works:

  • 500g natural almonds
  • 250g organic pumpkin seeds
  • 250g sunflower seeds
  • 100g flax seeds
  • 100-200g sesame seeds, cashews, pecans etc, whatever you’ve got
  • 100g coconut chips/shredded coconut
  • 150g rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons refined coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup (or maple syrup)
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon, or to taste
  • a good pinch of salt
  • 150g dried cranberries

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music lately:

Wo de Schönen Trompeten Blasen, from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn, sung exquisitely by Jessye Norman in this 1972 recording. I’ve started listening to opera while I’m writing (there’s only so many ambient beats I can cope with before getting bored) and so far it’s working well, the inherent beauty of opera makes for a great creative backdrop, most of it is more or less unfamiliar to my ears, and generally it’s not sung in English so the words themselves aren’t distracting. Which is not to damn Norman’s singing by calling it background music; her voice demands to be listened to — and so I will, again, outside of the context of writing — and I found myself pausing my typing to gaze misty-eyed into the middle distance while this particular piece played.

There is precisely one song — Army — by Ben Folds Five that I like (admittedly I haven’t tried very hard to find more) but I REALLY love it, but even then I specifically want to listen to this stripped back live version with just Ben Folds himself — there is not much more satisfying than when the audience comes in halfway through to sing the part of the horn section in the original studio recording. That being said, this live version with the full band, providing their own vocals for the horns is very charming, and Ben Folds playing two pianos at once is very impressive, but it’s the simple live version for me, and not much else.

Tornado, by Minako Yoshida, from her MONOCHROME album, which I have listened to so many times; it’s the kind of music that makes you feel like a Sophisticated Lady Late At Night (and I realise that saying those words is very unsophisticated, but.) All the tunes are spectacular, but you might as well start with the opening track, it’s moody, neon-lit, with not a small hint of Steely Dan.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes (including this one, two months ago) reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Ottolenghi’s White Bean Mash with Garlic Aioli or, Cannellini Beans Three Ways [vegan]

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Food blogging is an endurance sport at the most air-conditioned of times, but in the middle of summer, you really feel like an Olympic marathon runner accessing their deepest well of psychological stamina, with all the bargaining and motivational platitudes one can muster. Or at least, that’s how I felt while simmering a large pan of beans for reasons increasingly lost to me with each passing minute, unable to tell whether I or the beans were currently experiencing more discomfort. My concentration wavered at various stages including one point where I thought I would actually never be finished with making this, and it would just be me and the beans, forevermore.

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With all that in mind, why would I then pass this recipe on to you to toil over? Well, presumably you don’t all live in the same violently prickly microclimate as me (by which I mean, the house that I live in is, by some cruel trick of nature, more humid and swampy than anywhere else in the same area code) and if you have your wits about you, this dish is incredibly rewarding and delicious. And even I, with my wits absolutely not about me, still managed to make it and found it to be both these things.

In this recipe, cannellini beans are sent off in three directions and then brought back together in a fantastic crescendo; mashed, blitzed into a garlic-heavy aioli, and dressed with infused oil. It’s a recipe from Ottolenghi Flavour, written by Ottolenghi himself and Ixta Belfrage, and I am quite sure that given a more temperate climate, the hardest part would be remembering to soak the beans overnight beforehand.

@hungryandfrozen

white bean mash with garlic aioli from @Ottolenghi Flavour 🧄 full recipe at hungryandfrozen dot com #veganrecipes #aioli #foodblogger #beans #tapas

♬ The Big E – A Certain Ratio

What all this effort gets you—and it’s really more time-consuming than effortful, there is a significant difference, as Nigella taught me—is a side dish or snack of self-possessed simplicity, as ivory-neutral and elegant as Shiv Roy’s high-waisted slacks. And I think, very subconsciously, this simile may have drawn me to the recipe in the first place. Alongside the beans is a garlic-infused olive oil which informs all three components, and the result is rich, mellow, heady with garlic but not the slightest bit acrid. I was a bit nervous for some reason about presenting this to my family (once again, I blame the heat), like, it’s just a big plate of beans on beans on beans, and I know beans are the best but how do I explain what I’ve got myself into, but everyone not only got what I was going for, they all ate it enthusiastically. Anything less than enthusiasm probably would’ve been the undoing of me at that point but I trust my own tastebuds and they say: this is good stuff.

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Ottolenghi’s White Bean Mash with Garlic Aioli (or, Cannellini Beans Three Ways)

Very minimally adapted from Ottolenghi Flavour, this takes a bag of dried legumes and turns it into mash, aioli, and, of course, actual beans, all infused one way or another with slow-simmered garlic oil, chilli and herbs. It’s somehow very low-effort and quite strenuous all at once but very worth it, and it makes an excellent side dish for almost anything, or an elegant snack for swiping at with bread and crackers alongside other dips and bits. I freely admit that my alterations mostly came from a place of being flustered and overheated rather than thinking I could do better than the original.

  • 350g dried cannellini beans
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 spring onion (or use a regular onion)
  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 red chilli, stem and seeds removed
  • 200ml olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons Chinkiang vinegar (black vinegar)
  • Juice of one lime
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • extra thyme and rosemary, to serve

1: The day before you intend to make this, soak the beans in a bowl with plenty of cold water and the teaspoon of baking soda. I kept mine in the fridge since it’s so hot at the moment but if your kitchen is cool they should be safe, covered, on the bench. Either way, check once or twice to see if the water levels need topping up.

2: Drain the beans and place them in a large saucepan with the trimmed spring onion, (or the peeled and quartered onion as the original recipe suggests), and cover with plenty of water. Bring to the boil—I placed a lid half-on to hasten the water along—and then lower the heat and simmer for around fifty minutes or until the beans are completely tender. Top up with extra water at any stage if needed, and once cooked, drain the beans well under cool water and set aside. At this point you can store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.

3: While the beans are cooking, make the infused oil. Place the 10 garlic cloves, two sprigs of rosemary, three sprigs of thyme, and the red chilli (which I sliced up but you don’t actually need to) into a saucepan that you have a lid for. Pour the olive oil into the pan and place it on a medium low heat, covered, till the garlic cloves are lightly golden and soft to the prod of a wooden spoon. I kept the heat very low – a tiny bit of bubbling is fine, I think, but you don’t want the herbs deep frying in there. This is more of a slowwww warm bath. Once the garlic is soft and golden, remove the pan from the heat and let it sit for ten minutes, although longer is fine. At this point you can transfer it to an airtight container and keep it in the fridge for up to three days. If you’re using it right away, discard the herbs and set aside the chilli, garlic cloves and the oil.

4: Now that the beans are cooked and the oil is infused, we can actually make the three components of the finished dish. First: the dressed beans. Stir 150g of the cooked beans in a bowl with the teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, 3 tablespoons of your garlic-infused oil, and plenty of salt and pepper. Set aside.

5: Secondly, the aioli. Place all the garlic cloves into a food processor along with 100g of the cooked beans, the tablespoon of dijon mustard, the juice of half the lime, 75ml of the oil (that’s 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon), a splash of water, and plenty of salt and pepper. Blitz thoroughly till it’s thick and creamy as aioli should be. Spatula this delicious mixture out to a bowl or container.

6: Then, the final component, the mashed beans. Without washing out the processor, tip in the remaining cooked beans, along with the two teaspoons of Chinkiang vinegar, the juice of the remaining half of the lime, plenty of salt and pepper, and—if you used a whole onion—throw that in, too, and process to a creamy thick mash. I somehow completely missed the onion-adding step, and also didn’t have an onion anyway, just a spring onion which was entirely too limp after cooking the beans to be of any use, but it still ended up tasting fantastic.

7: Finally-finally, the assembly: Spatula the mashed beans onto a wide plate or large, shallow bowl, and spread it around thickly. Spoon the aioli on top, and then tumble over your cooked, dressed beans. Let any remaining infused oil fall from its container onto this pale plate, and then sprinkle over more fresh rosemary and thyme leaves. If you have Alleppo chilli flakes, this is what is recommended by Ottolenghi to serve, and I would certainly back up this recommendation, but I don’t have any. In lieu, the herbs are quite fine. And if you want to scatter over the chopped red chilli from the oil, now would be the time.

Serves 4 as a side, maybe 6-8 as part of a larger table of snacks or mezze.

Notes:

  • I found dried cannellini beans at my nearest Asian supermarket, and nowhere else, and they were labelled “white kidney beans”. Since that supermarket is by far my preferred outlet this was not a problem, but consider this a heads up in case you were looking for the beans in a nationwide franchise-type supermarket.
  • As well as blanking on the onion in the mash I also forgot completely to account for the dill that Ottolenghi instructs you to add to the dressed beans, and the anchovies that he uses in the aioli—not that I’d be eating anchovies, but I didn’t replace them with anything. Nonetheless, this still tasted so good.
  • As I didn’t have the lemon juice the original required I used apple cider vinegar, lime juice, and black vinegar, but if you have actual lemons (probably a higher likelihood than having all three of the former ingredients) he specifies one and a half tablespoons juice in the dressed beans, 2 tablespoon in the aioli, 2 and a half tablespoons of juice in the mashed beans.

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music lately:

I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City by Harry Nilsson, simply one of the most lovely songs ever written. When the verse goes—up? Like that? That’s the ticket! I am also partial to Sherie Rene Scott’s version from her Broadway show Everyday Rapture, the minimal production and her mellow voice suit the melody beautifully.

Love You Down by Ready for the World, but also INOJ’s version with its jittery little drum machine, you know I cannot choose between them! They’re both perfect.

The Big E, by A Certain Ratio, surely one of the most comforting and reassuring songs from the post-punk scene with its insistence of “I won’t stop loving you, I still believe in you”.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Fast Crispy Sweet Chilli Oyster Mushrooms [vegan]

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It’s 2022 and I can barely process this information because it’s just too hot. It’s too hot to think, it’s too hot to write, it’s too hot to work, it’s too hot to eat. With an emphasis on the former; I wrote “it’s too hot to think” three times before realising I’d repeated myself and also spelled the recipe title as “Sweet Chilly Oister Mushrooms” and stared at it for five minutes unable to work out what was wrong. Despite my gloom at us having strode purposefully into a new era of climate crisis, and despite my heat-induced fatigue, I still somehow have a recipe for you, but it’s easy to make, easy to read about (truly, I won’t go on much longer than this paragraph) and, most importantly, VERY delicious. I didn’t even take proper photos, just took some desultory snaps on my phone while trying to not faint in the midday sun—indeed, you can see the shadow of my phone in the first photo.

@hungryandfrozen

fast crispy sweet chilli oyster mushrooms 🍄 recipe @ hungryandfrozen dot com 🍄 #vegan #mushrooms #recipe #foodblogger #veganrecipes #easyrecipe #fyp

♬ Fade Into You – Mazzy Star

Oyster mushrooms are a somewhat imbalanced beast; the flavour is faint to the point of nothingness, but the texture is excellently chewy and robust and it’s this texture that makes them a high priority for me. Frying things till crisp and brown, however, makes anything taste important, a dash of mustard and Maggi seasoning or soy sauce gives the mushrooms bite and then finally—rather than getting you to make a sauce from scratch at this taxing juncture—you just pour on some sweet chilli sauce and call it a day. So now it’s sweet, sticky, crunchy, oily, and salty, and only ten minutes have passed from start to finish. The most demanding part was taking the photos in the blazing sunlight, and of course, you don’t have to do that. If you’re reading this from a frosty northern hemisphere location and can’t relate to my melodramatics, well, I’m very envious of you and these will still taste good in cold weather.

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Fast Crispy Sweet Chilli Oyster Mushrooms

Barely a recipe; but it’s quick and good and just what you want to be eating. Add whatever extra seasonings and sauces you like, and if you want more mushrooms, just bump up the quantities of everything else a little. Recipe by myself.

  • 10 or so oyster mushrooms, some big, some smaller
  • 1/3 cup oat milk, soy milk, or similar
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • Several dashes of Maggi seasoning sauce, or two teaspoons of soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried celery, or a dash of celery salt
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 2-3 tablespoons rice bran oil, or similar
  • 2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
  • Chopped herbs, such as basil, parsley, or chives, to serve (I used basil)

1: Trim the ends of the mushrooms (as in, the very ends, the tips where they join together, I want you to leave the stalks themselves intact) and brush off any dirt with your fingers or a paper towel.

2: Mix the 1/3 cup of milk, teaspoon of mustard, few dashes of Maggi (or soy sauce), and half teaspoon of celery salt in a bowl. Drop the mushrooms into the bowl and briefly stir so they all get thoroughly dunked. Tip the 1/3 cup flour over the mushrooms and stir again briefly, just enough to let the flour and milk combine somewhat and for the mushrooms to get coated in something, be it unmixed flour or the batter that has formed from mixing the flour and milk. Does that make sense? Don’t put too much effort in, basically.

3: Heat the oil in a large frying pan and once it’s hot, drop the mushrooms in and let them cook thoroughly on each side until well browned. Don’t be tempted to remove the mushrooms once they’re merely golden, a few minutes more patience will yield a brown and crispy coating. Transfer the mushrooms to a serving plate and spoon over the sweet chilli sauce. Sprinkle with the chopped herbs, if you want them.

Serves one, depending on the size of your mushrooms and appetite. Could easily serve two as part of a more padded out meal, like a rice bowl or tacos.

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music lately:

Summer’s Cauldron by XTC—the entire Skylarking album is absolute magic, but this song particularly captures my current vibe, as you can probably tell by the title.

Out Of Space by The Prodigy, if anything can shake me from this heat inertia and make me feel alive for the first time it’s surely this song!! This is the sort of song that makes you long for the sun in the middle of winter, so you can leap around on the grass like a happy idiot while everyone looks on benevolently.

Beneath The Lights of Home by Deanna Durbin. I love talking to my Nana about old movies. She mentioned that she particularly loved Deanna Durbin’s singing, and so I’ve been listening to her (both Nana’s opinion, and Deanna Durbin’s singing.) This song is beautiful, the kind of richly comforting arrangement that reassures you everything will be, not only okay, but wonderful.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Roasted Garlic Lentil Soup [vegan]

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Despite my love of attention I fantasise about being an eminently successful author and quietly detaching myself from all online life, content to mysteriously and elusively enjoy and redistribute my wealth, resurfacing once every seven years or so for a rare, anecdote-jewelled interview or avant-garde photoshoot. Constantly battling to carve out some kind of online platform – a mere presence, even – means you have to forgo any hopes of appearing mysterious and elusive, because that one stupid thought you didn’t tweet could’ve been the tweet that would go viral which would make publishers think you’re a viable option because that’s how we sell books now, and so on.

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Nevertheless, I did get to enjoy a little mysteriousness all of my own recently: we’ve been experiencing an infuriating combination of frantic humidity, antipodean Santa Ana Winds, and the promise of more humidity to come, and yet I found myself craving – and not just craving, but planning for – of all things – lentil vege soup. In lieu of any actual mysteriousness…that’s a mystery!

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I also had it in my head that a roasted whole bulb of garlic, pureed, added to the soup, would be wonderful. Wanting lentil soup in humid November is mysterious (perhaps the brothy quality of the air gave me the idea) but wanting roast garlic really isn’t – it’s all starting to add up.

There are simpler recipes than this – and you could certainly just fry some chopped aromatics, hiff some lentils and water and seasoning into a pan and still have a very fine meal, but with a little more effort and equipment (and staggering through my over-written recipe) you get this lentil soup: velvety, buttery, flooded with pure garlic and studded with rich, sweet fennel seeds. This soup is cosy, but it’s elegant with it. Roasting the entire bulb of garlic first does mean you can’t make this at the last minute, but the time spent is not wasted – the garlic, in its little foil-pouch sauna, becomes soft, caramelised, and mellow, its flavour unfurling like a flower leaning towards the sun, indeed, if you’re roasting one you might as well do a few at a time since the resulting garlic is so versatile and welcome.

@hungryandfrozen

lentil soup with a whole bulb of garlic in it 🧄 recipe at hungryandfrozen.com 🤠 #goodsoup #veganrecipes #lentilsoup #garlic #roastedgarlic #nz #fyp

♬ Autobahn (Single Edit) – Kraftwerk

My culinary whims are always fairly erratic and I’m happy to indulgently indulge them, but we’re currently 92 excruciating days into lockdown so maybe it’s no surprise that I’m reaching for the kind of pureed food that doesn’t push back. I’m just grateful that I’ve managed to come up with something new in the midst of this creativity-sapping isolation misery-fog – not that I regret a single moment of my chilli-oil hat trick of recipes, in fact…now that I think about it…this soup would be even more delicious with the chilli oil pumpkin seeds strewn on top. It also occurred to me that I could call this “Lentil Soup with Forty Cloves Of Garlic” a la the classic French recipe (and a la my own artichoke and potato recipe) but with only a mere singular bulb of garlic involved it’s not quite worthy of the title; since I love to fiddle with my own recipes this could well be the next variation for those who instinctively double the quantity of garlic in every recipe they meet. 

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Roasted Garlic Lentil Soup

I’ve done it again – and by “again” I mean I’ve taken a fairly straightforward recipe and somehow written it in the most convoluted and multi-paragraphed way possible. Admittedly, there is a bit of work involved here (and two different kinds of blender, I’m genuinely sorry) but the soup you get is worth it, I promise: creamy, rich, full of garlic, and vegan of course. Recipe by myself.

  • 1 whole, large, bulb of garlic
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for frying
  • 1 onion
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 teaspoon dried celery
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves, plus more to serve
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 3 cups/750ml water, extra
  • 1 mushroom stock cube (or your preferred flavour)
  • 1 tablespoon vegan oyster sauce, or soy sauce (or Maggi seasoning, or similar)
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • a couple tablespoons of cashew butter, coconut yoghurt, tahini, hummus, whatever you’ve got, to serve (optional)

1: Set your oven to 200C/400F. Place a bulb of garlic in a square of tinfoil (or use baking paper tied with kitchen string) drizzle over just a little olive oil, and pinch the edges of the tinfoil together so the garlic is sealed in, but fairly loosely wrapped. Put it in the oven for about 40 minutes, until a skewer carefully stabbed into it reveals soft and yielding garlic cloves. Either use it right away once it’s cool enough to handle, or store it in a sealed container in the fridge for 3-5 days till you’re ready.

2: Slice the tufty base off the bulb of roasted garlic – being careful not to lose any actual, precious garlic in the process – and then throw the garlic bulb itself, whole and unpeeled, into a high-speed blender with 1/3 cup water and a couple tablespoons of olive oil, blitzing it into a beige liquid. Because there’s only a small quantity of liquid here, you may need to stop and shake the blender every now and then. Spatula this garlic mixture into a sieve over a bowl, stirring and scraping to extract every last bit of garlic puree into the bowl below. Discard the remaining husky bits of garlic peel, although you could save them for making stock with (I admit, I just ate them on the spot.)

3: Peel and roughly chop the onion and throw it into the unwashed blender – if you’re going to have extra dishes I try to make it work your while – along with the carrot, also roughly chopped (no need to peel, but up to you). Blitz them into a babyfood-looking mush and spatula them into a saucepan, along with a couple tablespoons of olive oil.

4: Stir the onion-carrot mixture over a low heat, adding the dried celery, pepper, and thyme leaves. Wash your lentils – I tip them into a bowl, cover in cold water, sluice it round with my fingertips and carefully drain it – and add them to the pan, along with three cups/750ml water. Let it come to a boil, stirring often, then place a lid on the saucepan, lower the heat right down, and let it simmer – stirring occasionally – till the lentils have completely softened and collapsed into the liquid. Depending on your lentils, this could happen quite instantly, or it could take up to 20 minutes.

5: Remove the lid and add the stock cube – stirring to break it down – and oyster sauce. Tip in about 90% of your garlic puree, reserving the rest for serving (unless you want to dispense with the drizzle-of-something, in which case add all the garlic here.) Taste to see if the seasoning needs correcting, then remove the pan from the heat and use a stick blender (sorry, a second appliance) to puree it, or you can carefully transfer it to your blender and use that, being very careful of the air pressure that builds up when blending hot liquids.

6: Heat the fennel seeds and about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a small frying pan until the oil is just starting to wobble, then remove from the heat. Stir the remaining garlic puree into a couple of tablespoons of coconut yoghurt, or cashew butter loosened with a little water, or tahini treated the same way, or even hummus diluted slightly with water, whatever you’ve got.

7: Divide the soup between 2-3 bowls and spoon over some of the fennel seeds and their oil, and the garlic drizzle if you’re using it. Sprinkle with extra thyme leaves, and serve.

Makes 2-3 generous servings. If you’ve got four people to feed, add an extra 1/2 cup lentils and 1 and 1/2 cups water, any more people than that and you might as well double the whole recipe.

Notes:

  • If you have a stick of celery to hand, leave out the dried stuff and throw the roughly chopped fresh celery in the blender with the onion and carrot. This would actually be my preferred choice, to be honest, but we didn’t have any fresh celery.
  • If fennel seeds aren’t your thing – though I urge you to use them, when fried in oil they are intensely good – then warm through a stalk or two’s worth of fresh rosemary needles in olive oil and spoon that over the soup instead. Better yet: porque no los dos?
  • If – quite reasonably – you balk at the idea of turning on your oven just for a bulb of garlic, throw it in while you’re using the oven for something else (ideally savoury, unless you don’t mind whatever’s being cooked alongside it being garlic-scented).
  • Should you have a bottle of dry sherry or Marsala around you should definitely add a splash of it to the soup towards the end, this is what I will be doing in the future (but it tasted great without, so don’t worry if this isn’t going to happen for you.)
  • Making this without a blender or stick blender of some kind is not ideal, but not impossible – extract your garlic by cutting the top off the roasted bulb and squeezing out as much roasted garlic as is humanly possible, and mash it with a fork to form a paste. Finely chop your onion and carrot instead of blending them, and while the soup tastes better when blended up, it’s not an insurmountable hardship to eat it as it comes.

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music lately:

Autobahn by Kraftwork. I cannot even fathom how it must’ve felt to reckon with this level of Teutonic ebullience and charm when Autobahn was released in 1974, disarming, I’m sure! Immensely cheering stuff.

Allandale by Laura Lee Lovely – good news at last! It’s dreamy and glorious and makes me want to dance under neon lights right NOW!!

Germ-Free Adolescents, by X-Ray Spex. This has, to my enormous offence, been removed from Spotify. There’s no better way to spend an afternoon than by sitting staring into space listening to this on loop and now it’s one step more difficult for me to do so and I am taking umbrage!

Red Light by Linda Clifford, from the 1980 film Fame. An absolutely unreal song that manages to stand out and grab you by the ankles even in the middle of a soundtrack jostling with the best songs you’ve ever heard in your life.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Chilli Oil Beans [vegan]

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For all that the instant and the fast and the promise of the fifteen-minute feast in seven ingredients or fewer have had a persistent hold on food writing directed at all people from around the age where they’re able to operate a toaster unsupervised; there is joy to be found in the circuitous route, in taking your time, in being present and looking your food in the eye (metaphorically, speaking as a vegan) and saying “I see you”.

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This is – you could say – a circuitous route to describe a recipe that is actually pretty instant, but I wanted to set the scene in case you glance over these Chilli Oil Beans and think “why would I do this when I could just open a jar of Lao Gan Ma chilli in oil instead?” Well, first of all, that would be a valid and delightful decision and I’m not going to talk you out of it! My recipe merely involves spooning sizzling hot oil from a pan into a bowl of aromatics, and this gentle yet decisive incubation process creates a stunningly fragrant and rich spice-jewelled condiment, absolutely lush stuff, and sheer magic against the creamy mellowness of the beans.

The road to this recipe was many-pronged – first, I was struggling to find kimchi online during lockdown, so I ended up ordering gochugaru (Korean chilli flakes) to make my own, and the bag that arrived was roughly the size of my head, so I had a significant quantity leftover. Second, several TikTok videos involving chilli oil entered my peripheral vision (including this one by Chef Priyanka and this one by TiffyCooks) and the notion of pouring hot oil over spices really stuck with me – and I know I keep bringing up TikTok but I’ve been in lockdown since mid-August, I live in the middle of nowhere and I’m 90% unemployed, so my reference points are going to be fairly narrow and repetitive, and that’s a personal guarantee! Besides which, TikTok can be a brilliant culinary resource, especially in the case of these creators. Finally, I’d been thinking about this chilli oil and how it would be wonderful stirred through beans or lentils – the dense, grainy legumes and the crunch of chopped nuts and quick-toasted whole spices and the crackle of hot chilli all together – and so, here we are.

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(every now and then I break my personal rule of never photographing food with ingredients scattered impractically hither and yon; but it’s my understanding that people like this kind of photography and the algorithm is a vengeful god who must be appeased with occasional sacrifices)

Whether or not you’re in lockdown this is just the kind of food that makes you feel free and glorious both in the making and the eating – and despite my opening paragraph, I really must reiterate how straightforward it is. Although I presume you know how to deal with a bowl of beans, this can be more than just a snack in and of itself. It would be excellent piled onto rice or stirred through pasta – short, I reckon, like orecchiette or ditalini – or wrapped in something burrito-adjacent; that being said I just kept sneaking more and more spoonfuls of it while standing up at the bench taking photos until there remained nothing more to photograph but the bowl and the spoon and a thin film of red-flecked oil. And of course, the oil itself can be used on literally anything! Even if I didn’t have a bag of gochugaru the size of my head to work through – a blessing, rather than a hardship! – I would definitely be making this again soon.

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Chilli Oil Beans

Fast, simple, delicious. So simple and delicious that I completely forgot to add fresh ginger and garlic and it still tasted amazing? Please consider adding a few chopped garlic cloves and sliced coins of fresh ginger; please don’t consider leaving out the aniseed flavourings, they’re important! Recipe by myself.

  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • a small handful of chives, snipped (around two tablespoons, it really doesn’t matter)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1-2 teaspoons gochugaru or regular chilli flakes (adjust to your tastes, of course)
  • a hearty shake of ground white pepper
  • 2 generous tablespoons rice bran oil or similarly neutral oil
  • 1/4 cup cashews, roughly chopped
  • 1 x 400g tin cannellini beans
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • dash sesame oil

1: Place everything up to and including the white pepper into a small, heatproof mixing bowl. Heat up the rice bran oil in a small saucepan until you can dip a wooden spoon into it and tiny bubbles start to gather – at this point, remove the pan from the heat and tip the oil into the bowl of spices. Add the cashews and let it sit for a minute.

2: Rinse the beans – and if you want them heated, you can take this opportunity to warm them through in the same pan that you heated the oil in. if you’re happy with room temperature beans, then hooray, one less dish to wash. Carefully remove the cinnamon stick and star anise from the mixing bowl, then tip in the beans and stir to coat them in the spiced oil. Stir in the soy sauce – adding more if you like – and a dash of sesame oil.

Serves 1, but depending on its application, (eg served on rice or stirred into pasta) this could serve more. If you are not a dolt like me and remember to include ginger and garlic I would leave the garlic in but fish out the bits of ginger. Obviously, you can use lentils, chickpeas, borlotti beans, anything you like, and you’re more than welcome to cook them from scratch rather than using canned. 

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music lately:

Spaceman by Babylon Zoo, I don’t know who greenlit this chaos but good for them, I still remember hearing it on the radio for the first time in 1996 and it felt like I was flying in a dream, the kind of song that makes a small-town youngster look out the window and say damn, this is living.

Caught Up In The Rapture by Anita Baker. Smooth, stunning, and it bears repeating: so smooth, so stunning!

Disappear by INXS – look, if you’re still within a strict lockdown level I don’t entirely recommend listening to this, it’s too exciting and too powerful. Cruelly, it’s on my mind – but then, it always is, lockdown or not.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Chilli Corn Macaroni [vegan]

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I’m not sure there’s a pasta shape in the world where the mere mention of its name immediately evokes and suggests its partner ingredient the way macaroni does with cheese. Yes, there’s spaghetti and its frequent dance partner bolognese. But spaghetti has broad-spectrum versatility, it’s culinarily non-monogamous, whereas – other than perhaps those spooky mid-century salads – what else would you do with macaroni but serve it as mac and cheese?

I say this to point out that while my recipe for Chilli Corn Macaroni isn’t supposed to be a vegan mac and cheese dupe, it still relies on the muscle memory of your taste buds to recognise the similar vibe – bright yellow, crunchy topping, creamy sauce, comfort food. In my earlier days of being vegan, I was more dedicated to coming up with sauces that could emulate and replace the macaroni cheese I’d grown up with, but the longer I stick with it the more I find myself making recipes that owe something to the blueprint but aren’t trying so hard, which – I think – makes them all the more interesting and delicious. I’m talking specifically about my Thai Yellow Curry Mac’n’Cheese or the Triple Pickle Macaroni that I made for my birthday last year; and now I’m adding this Chilli Corn Macaroni to the canon.

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And yes, you could make this sauce for linguine or bucatini or something more elegant but it fits best with the homely and unassuming macaroni elbow (or other small shape if that’s all you have) and till the day comes where a decent and affordable vegan cheese appears on New Zealand supermarket shelves – not crayon-waxy, not stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth gluey, but proper and sharp and able to melt into bubbling pools of golden promise – till that day comes, I’ll stick with these recipes.

That being said – would this taste amazing with non-vegan cheese melted on top? Probably! I’m not going to haunt your descendants from beyond the grave if you decide to do it.

Fortunately for the rest of us, this macaroni tastes excellent as is. The corn is pureed into sunshine-coloured velvet and becomes wonderfully buttery and sweet – if yellow had a flavour, this would surely be it. This sauce owes something to the Corn Butter Risotto recipe that I made a few years ago, but it’s significantly simpler to make – though nothing’s stopping you from straining this sauce through a sieve as well I imagine no one has the energy for that right now. While this is comfort food, it’s not entirely coddling you – the hit of chilli ties it all together, which is hardly a surprise when chilli and corn pair so well in numerous other established recipes. The garlic crumbs on top are my usual way of providing added texture and flavour in these circumstances, and rather than thinking of them as a cheese substitute, they are delicious, and indeed, necessary in their own right. In case this sounds like too much effort, rest assured that you don’t have to wash the blender or the pan between making the crumbs and the sauce – beyond that I can’t help you, but I certainly won’t judge you.

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Chilli Corn Macaroni

As long as you have some kind of blender this couldn’t be easier – or more comforting – just creamy, buttery pasta evocative of mac’n’cheese without actually trying to be it, blanketed in crunchy garlic crumbs. Recipe by myself.

  • 200g macaroni elbows
  • 2 pieces of bread (any kind is fine, although I’d lean towards white bread)
  • 2 fat garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 x 400g can of whole corn kernels
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (I used mushroom soy sauce)
  • a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha or chilli sauce of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal (optional)
  • a splash of pickle brine (optional, but very good)
  • salt and white pepper, to taste

1: First, bring a pan of water to the boil, generously salt it, then tip in the macaroni elbows and cook them for about twelve minutes or until tender.

2: While this is going on, toast the two slices of bread in the toaster – just to dry them out a little – then tear them into chunks and place in a blender or food processor with the garlic cloves and thyme leaves, and pulse till they form breadcrumbs. Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry these garlicky breadcrumbs till golden and a little crunchy – bearing in mind that they’ll crunch up more upon sitting – then remove them to a bowl and set aside. This makes a decent quantity of breadcrumbs, perhaps more than you really need, but naturally, I’ve allowed extra for you to swipe while making everything else.

3: In the same blender – no need to wash – puree the drained corn kernels along with the mustard, soy sauce, nutmeg, and sriracha along with about 1/2 a cup of water (I just eyeball the quantity from the tap into the empty tin of corn, swirl it around, and pour it in). A high-speed blender works best here to really puree the corn into velvety mush, a regular food processor may struggle to achieve the right texture, or at least, you’ll be blending it for a lot longer. Also, it goes without saying (but I’m saying it just in case) that you can add more or less chilli to suit your taste.

4: Heat the same pan that you cooked the breadcrumbs in – again, no need to clean it – and spatula the corn mixture into the hot pan, along with the cornmeal and pickle brine if you’re using them. The cornmeal helps to thicken it but it’s quite fine without; if you don’t have any just add a small splash of starchy pasta cooking water, the pickle brine is pretty self-explanatory flavour-wise but you could always use a little red wine vinegar instead. Stir over a high heat, letting this bright yellow mixture bubble away and thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste, and then – since the pasta should be cooked by this point – take off the heat and stir in the drained macaroni. Divide between two bowls and top each bowl with a generous quantity of garlic breadcrumbs.

Serves 2. You could get away with putting 300g of macaroni in this, but add a little extra pasta cooking water to the sauce as you stir it. Any more pasta than that and I’d add an extra can of corn (and instead of doubling the seasoning, you could consider instead throwing a vegan chicken stock cube into the blender with the second can of corn.)

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music lately:

Can You Get To That by Funkadelic. If the colour yellow had a sound it would be this song!

Evel Knievel by Lilys, it’s a big crunchy distorted beeping stop-start mess of a song but it’s just the kind of thing I want to listen to. For something more straightforwardly pleasant I recommend the delightfully effervescent Ginger – the opening song to Evel Knievel‘s closer on their 1994 album A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns.

Candy Store from the off-Broadway musical Heathers (based on the film, Heathers) performed by Jessica Keenan Wynn, Alice Lee and Elle McLemore; I listened to this cast recording and thought it was fine but then I couldn’t get this song out of my head so here we are – between that glam-rock stomp of a drum beat and the stunning harmonies it’s just very, very catchy! There’s also this one small part of the song Big Fun from the same musical which is forcibly lodged in my head and I can’t get it out, but to prevent you being similarly afflicted I won’t tell you which part.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!