tomato couscous with cinnamon, peanuts, and coriander

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Another day, another “x ingredient global shortage” or “why is x so expensive” google search, and although being unable to find bulgur wheat is hardly cause for sympathy, the increasingly combative nature of supermarkets has become, little by little, folded into my cooking process. Make a shopping list, search for missing items on the shelves, weigh up your commitment to the audaciously priced cabbage or garlic or whatever mundane ingredient you dared to hope for this week, regroup your plans, and so on and so forth. Not that I’m much of a planner, mind you, it’s more that I leap from fixation to fixation on a single recipe, in this case a bulgur wheat pilaff from Deborah Madison’s book Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and I’m damned if I can find any bulgur wheat. But I also can’t shake this fixation. So I regrouped.

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Couscous lacks the granular heft of bulgur wheat but it does have the advantage of literally existing in my supermarket. As a last-minute understudy in the recipe it worked, deliciously so, although you have to bear in mind that this is a very soft, almost porridge-like rendering of couscous, each grain waterlogged with stock-infused tomato juice, but I see that softness as an asset rather than something to apologise for (at least, I don’t have any other option since that’s just how the texture is.)

@hungryandfrozen

tomato couscous • fast cheap and comforting🥲 • recipe at hungryandfrozen dot com #vegan #recipes #comfortfood #foodblogger #nz

♬ Pure Shores – All Saints

Despite its humble ingredients — a can of tomatoes, a stock cube — the finished dish is somehow rich and layered in flavour, aided by a garnishy flourish of coriander and crunchy toasted peanuts. The peanut and the tomato are an underrated couple, with the former’s uncomplicated nuttiness and the latter’s acid sweetness blending beautifully. Coriander adds a lively pop of freshness, but for the inevitable haters a scattering of basil or parsley would work fine instead. This dish is soft, speedy, satisfying and — if you’ll permit me one more alliteration — a swiftly soothing balm, the kind of food that you want to eat from a knotted up position on the couch when it’s raining outside (or in your heart). But then to me, anything with cinnamon is instantly comforting.

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Tomato Couscous with Cinnamon, Peanuts, and Coriander

Fast, comforting, cheap, delicious. I adapted this from a recipe in Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone by Deborah Madison.

  • 1 red onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1 mushroom stock cube, or flavour of your choice
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 x 400g tin diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 cup/250ml water
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons raw peanuts
  • small bunch coriander

1: Peel and roughly dice the red onion. Heat the two tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan, and saute the onions, and the crumbled stock cube, over a low heat. (The first time I made this I added the stock cube with the water, but I find it’s easier to disperse it this way.) Keep stirring until the onions have softened but not browned, which shouldn’t take more than five minutes.

2: Tip in the couscous, stirring it into the onions, then add the can of tomatoes, 250ml water, and the teaspoon of cinnamon. Give it a stir, let it come to the boil, and once it does, clamp on the lid, turn off the heat, and let it sit undisturbed for five minutes, in which time the couscous grains will absorb all the liquid.

3: Meanwhile, roughly chop the peanuts and toast them in a dry pan until they’re just golden brown and fragrant. You could also chop or tear up the coriander and have that ready for serving. Once your five minutes is up, remove the lid from the pan, carefully stir the couscous with a fork — it’ll be more soft and porridgy than light and fluffy — then divide it between two bowls, pour over more olive oil, and scatter over the peanuts and coriander.

Serves two, although I made it just for myself, and can report that it reheats well in the microwave and tastes oddly great cold from the fridge.

Notes: If you can get hold of bulgur wheat, instead of turning the heat off when the liquid comes the the boil, lower the temperature and let it simmer for ten to fifteen minutes with the lid on. You can also use a regular onion instead of a red one.

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music lately:

Cowboys by Sad Lovers and Giants, love post-punk, love the way those guitars tumble and scatter at the start of the song like grains of couscous cascading into a pan of sauteed onions!

Licking Cream by Sevendust featuring Skin, extremely a time capsule but still so timelessly sublime, their voices are riveting together and apart, just the power of her verse alone makes me want to lie down with a cold compress draped over my eyes.

Could We Start Again Please, by Margaret Urlich and Tim Beveridge, from the 1994 New Zealand cast recording of Jesus Christ Superstar. I was heartbroken to learn of Margaret Urlich’s death last week, her voice is so beautiful — like falling pieces of silver — and I have no words to express how much her performance of Mary Magdalene meant to me, and affected me, as a kid. RIP.

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!

pasta with lemon, garlic and thyme mushrooms

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The first recipe you make from a new cookbook comes heavy with a certain ceremonial reverence; something about it suggests divining your own fortune, the shape of things to come, starting as you mean to go on, et cetera, or at least, that’s the needlessly strenuous way I approach things. This pasta with lemon, garlic and thyme mushrooms was the first recipe I made from Nigella Express back in January 2008 and I don’t know (or at least, can’t remember) what portent it held but I loved it then and I’ve been enthusiastic about it ever since, and what better fortune can you hope for than having a good pasta recipe in your life? Despite all this zeal I’ve never properly blogged about this pasta, outside of mentioning it briefly back in ’08, so here we finally are, slightly adapted for my current-day dairy-avoiding vibes.

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The success of this recipe hinges on how you feel about raw mushrooms (assuming that’s a stance you can immediately call to mind a lengthy opinion on) but these aren’t merely raw, in case you’re already backing away slowly. You thinly slice the mushrooms, then steep them in olive oil, lemon, garlic, thyme and plenty of salt. While the pasta cooks, the mushrooms absorb every good thing from those ingredients, their texture relaxing from squeaky to silky and ready to go — as per the ‘express’ of the cookbook title — before you can say al dente, the culinary equivalent of one of those astonishing Broadway quick-changes where a character is whisked out of one costume and into another in a matter of moments, appearing cool and unruffled to perform their next song.

@hungryandfrozen

pasta with lemon, garlic and thyme mushrooms from Nigella Express • recipe at hungryandfrozen dot com #pasta #mushrooms #food #vegan #nigella #foodblogger

♬ Our Day Will Come – Remastered – Nancy Wilson

In fact the mushrooms taste so amazing that when I make this for myself I barely scale them down to dress 100g of pasta, and nor should you. Button mushrooms aren’t the coolest of the funghi brotherhood but this lemon-and-oil process turns them elegant, chic, something you’ll long for again and again, in fact. Just don’t forget the parsley, as I did, if you’re serving this to people — not to be overly wedded to aesthetics but when it comes down to it, wet raw button mushrooms are kind of ugly, and benefit from a distracting flounce of green. I did my best for these photos with the toasted almonds and as many thyme leaves as I could rip from each stem, but fortunately — and importantly — it’s delicious either way, and once you taste the marinated mushrooms all thoughts of how it all looks will disappear from your head.

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Pasta with Lemon, Thyme and Garlic Mushrooms

One of my favourite Nigella recipes, it’s simple and stunning and you may just want a bowl of the mushrooms on their own, they’re that good. My only change is replacing the parmesan with toasted nuts, but you do what you like. Recipe from Nigella Lawson’s book Nigella Express.

  • 250g button mushrooms (or chestnut mushrooms, if you can find them)
  • 80ml (1/3 cup) extra virgin olive oil
  • juice and zest of one lemon
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, or one teaspoon table salt (plus more for the pasta water)
  • leaves from four sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 500g spaghetti, linguine, or other long pasta
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped
  • pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons slivered almonds

1: Wipe the mushrooms if they need it, thinly slice them, and place them in a bowl with the 80ml olive oil, the zest and juice of the lemon, the salt, and the thyme leaves. Crush or very finely chop the garlic clove and add it to the mushrooms.

2: Bring a large pan of water to the boil, salt abundantly, and cook the pasta in it till tender, which should take ten to twelve minutes. While the pasta is cooking, toast the almonds in a dry pan till just golden and fragrant, then set aside.

3: Drain the pasta, stir into the mushrooms (or stir the mushrooms into it, whichever is more practical) along with the parsley and almonds. If serving this in a way where visuals are a priority, save some almonds and parsley for scattering over each plate of pasta.

Serves four, though in making this for myself I only scale down the pasta, leave the marinade quantities as is, and maybe knock 100g off the mushrooms. It works. Also, I’ve included the parsley in the ingredients even though I forgot to buy it for myself.

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music lately:

Something’s Coming by Oscar Peterson, from his 1962 jazz reworking of the West Side Story score, somehow bringing languidness and fleet-footed urgency to an already urgent song. I’m also partial to Cal Tjader’s 1960 jazz stylings on West Side Story, that feline, rabble-rousing refrain in the Prologue/Jet Song lends itself wonderfully to noodly jazz interpretation.

Stairway to Paradise by Liza Minnelli. I’m not good at choosing favourites, but this is one of the Gershwin songs I love the most — it really makes you feel like you can achieve anything, or even just one thing — and Liza is on my mind (I mean, she’s a regular on my mind anyway, but) because I saw a screening of Cabaret on Friday night, speaking of favourites, and the big screen made every frame of it new and more stunning than ever.

Sabotage by the Beastie Boys. That build up to a scream at the start? Perfection. Never bettered. Never could be.

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!

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!

Lemon Rosemary Fettuccine [vegan]

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It has been, as the band Staind once said, a while. I’d like to offer up the fact that I moved house yesterday as a defence, but as for the weeks prior to that all I can say is that sometimes not doing stuff begets not doing stuff and that’s about all there is to it. But I’m back, I’m here, and importantly, I’ve got pasta for you.

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Something about a new beginning always puts me in mind of old beginnings: Lemon Linguine was the first recipe I ever made from Nigella Lawson’s seminal text How To Eat, and it then became the first recipe I blogged about on here back in 2007. Mum sent me off to my new digs yesterday with a bag of lemons and herbs from the garden as a kind of offering, and immediately I pictured this Lemon Rosemary Fettuccine, the first recipe to sanctify the new space with — not the same method as Nigella’s linguine but an echo of that memory for sure. Better yet, I made it, better still, it tasted excellent.

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Fettuccine is very comforting to me, probably because it was one of about four pasta shapes you could buy when I was a kid and it seemed to be by far the fanciest, and therefore fancified whatever it was served with. Now its fanciness is kind of outdated, but that makes it even more comforting, a taste of the world idealised rather than how it is. On a less fanciful note, its generous width suits the delicate sauce, but if you’ve only got spaghetti this will still taste good.

There’s hardly anything to this, and once you’ve stirred the near-instant sauce into the pasta it may look like nothing’s happening at all, but the flavours slide briskly down each broad strand of pasta like a kid at a waterpark: the optimistic freshness of the lemons, the creamy tang of the yoghurt, the rich pepperiness of the olive oil, and the herbs, which even in their small quantities make themselves known. Especially the strident rosemary, hence her place in the recipe title. I know in my heart of hearts that this would be perfect with a scattering of chilli flakes — Aleppo pepper, gochugaru, whatever — and I almost added them, but in the end I wanted a more subtle, diaphanous effect. It was delicious without them, but keep in mind that it would be delicious with them, and add or subtract them according to however you feel in the moment.

And if you’re really in the mood for pasta, you could consider my recipes for Bucatini with Chilli Oil Pumpkin Seeds; Thai Yellow Curry Mac’n’Cheese; or Spaghetti with Horseradish Butter.

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Lemon Rosemary Fettuccine

Simple, fresh, absolutely pinging with lemon. Ever since finding an affordable yoghurty yoghurt I’ve been using it in everything, and this is my latest effort: it forms the base of a sauce that’s so fast you barely need to start making it till the pasta is al dente. Recipe by myself.

  • 100g fettuccine
  • salt for the pasta water, and to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
  • 3 heaped tablespoons dairy-free yoghurt of your choice, ideally an oat/rice blend

1: Bring a good-sized pan of water to the boil on the stove (sometimes I’ll boil the kettle first and pour that into the pan if I’m impatient) and then add several pinches of salt and the fettuccine. Let it return to the boil and cook until the pasta is tender, which should take about ten minutes.

2: While the pasta is cooking, roughly chop the tablespoon of rosemary leaves and stir them together with the tablespoon of thyme leaves, the zest and juice of the lemon, the tablespoon of olive oil, the three heaped tablespoons of yoghurt, and salt to taste.

3: Drain the pasta, transfer it into a serving bowl, and stir in the lemon-yoghurt sauce. That’s it, you’re done. Pour over more olive oil if you like (and I did.)

Serves 1.

Note:
The Collective vegan oat/rice/coconut yoghurt is the one for me, it’s cheaper than any other brand on the shelf and it really tastes like yoghurt. I love regular coconut yoghurt but I can never afford it and it does mean whatever you cook will taste like coconut. This is never a bad thing but sometimes you want other options!

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music lately:

Oceanic Beloved by Alice Coltrane. Those harps! Like the aural equivalent of someone running their fingers through your hair. This entire album (A Monastic Trio) is a masterpiece.

Voices Carry by ‘Til Tuesday. When new wave is good it’s SO good, engulfs your sinuses and makes you question if there’s any other music you could possibly listen to. This is one of those songs, feather-light and airy and yet crushes your heart like 5000 tons of atmospheric pressure is bearing down upon you.

Polish by Fugazi. “We’ll take the package/let the contents remain.” So energetic yet so weary, I love it.

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!

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!

Bucatini with Chilli Oil Pumpkin Seeds [vegan]

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Okay, so there was the Chilli Oil Beans, and then the Sushi Rice with Chilli Oil Nuts, and now we’ve got Bucatini with Chilli Oil Pumpkin Seeds. I’m not trying to pretend like this recipe is a brand new thing! We’re day 85 into the Neverending Lockdown and I am frantically uncreative, and where my creative faculties once lived now sits a reluctant brick wall, covered in fast-moving moss, forgotten by mankind, perhaps to be discovered a hundred years hence by a plucky main character, but it’s looking dubious, and it’s only barely metaphorical. So – a little more repetition! In fairness, lockdown or not I am prone to fervently latching onto particular foods like they’re the new girl at school who needs a makeover, or a favoured mistress in the court of the Sun King. As I said in the prior iterations, and in the recipe, Lao Gan Ma chilli in oil was the initial impetus for this recipe, helped by watching numerous TikToks (eg Chef Priyanka and TiffyCooks) of people pouring hot oil over chilli and spices. My loyalty to Lao Gan Ma goes unchallenged, but also I can’t see myself getting sick of this chilli oil recipe any time soon, or running out of ways to use it. Above all, the most relevant justification for repeating it so often is – it’s really delicious!

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So yes, this is incredibly delicious, and it’s very easy – not exactly one-bowl, but there’s not too much in the way of dishes, and toasting nuts and heating oil is not so much a victimless crime as an act of charity, since you’re basically seasoning your pan in the process – I put mine away unwashed, but for a brief swipe using a paper towel, with a clear conscience. Because I ordered three packets of bucatini online back in September as a lockdown treat, I’ve used that here where you might expect to see noodles – and you could use spaghetti or any other long pasta or, of course, actual noodles. It’s not that these long hollow tubes are superior to any other kind of pasta or noodle, but the rarity of it feels fun and opulent. As you can see in the photos I also recently ordered myself a pretty, irregularly-speckled pink plate, as another treat. Getting little packages in the mail is not quite the same as interacting with my loved ones in the outside world and enjoying my one wild and free life but receiving a package is an undeniable rush, and a reminder that there is still much and many to be grateful for.

Well, what is left to say about this chilli oil? Last time I described “the jovial heat of the gochugaru, the aromatic fennel…the allium savoury vibes from the chives and garlic, the soft oil-pastel crunch and sweetness of the cashews and walnuts and the half-hearted yet welcome kick from the ground white pepper.” I’m not sure I can come up with anything new that’s better – just replace the cashews with pumpkin seeds and add the sweet warmth of a broken up cinnamon stick, the softened forbidden-woodchips of which I happily eat as I find them in the pasta, and that sums up this recipe. The bucatini is a perfect backdrop for these lively flavours, twirling them up in a merry vortex around your fork (best not to wear white while eating this) and it makes a stunning contemplative lunch or a casually elegant dinner, and is very easily doubled or trebled to feed more.

It would appear that the more simple and straightforwardly delicious the recipe, the more unhinged and long-winded the blog post must be, let this be a comfort, I guess, and confirmation of how truly good this recipe is.

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Bucatini with Chilli Oil Pumpkin Seeds

The chilli oil is back – it never left – and this variation is just as delicious as the others. An easy, fast, luxurious but chill vegan meal for one, I need you to know I didn’t actually measure any of these ingredients and it’s not something to stress about. As you can tell by how often I return to it, this chilli oil can be applied to numerous foods successfully, and I have Lao Gan Ma chilli in oil, and my devotion to it (plus several TikTok videos) to thank for the inspiration that led me to each recipe, including this one. Of course, you can use whatever nuts and seeds you have, and of course you can use spaghetti or noodles or whatever here instead of bucatini.

  • 90g bucatini
  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons gochugaru or chilli flakes of your choice
  • 2 tablespoons snipped chives
  • 1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped
  • a hearty shake of salt and ground white pepper
  • 4 tablespoons neutral oil, such as rice bran

1: Bring a large pot of water to the boil, salt it generously, and then cook your bucatini in it until it’s tender.

2: While this is happening, toast your pumpkin and sunflower seeds in a small pan until they just start to colour. Tip them into a heatproof bowl. Break the cinnamon stick into small shards, and add this to the bowl of seeds along with the fennel seeds, gochugaru – or your chilli flakes of choice – chives, the chopped garlic, and the salt and pepper.

3: Heat the oil – might as well use the same pan you toasted the seeds in – until it’s very hot. You can check by sticking the tip of a handle of a wooden spoon into it, and if small bubbles cling to the surface, it’s ready. Carefully pour this hot oil into the bowl of seeds and spices. It’ll sizzle and bubble but it should settle down quickly. Set aside.

4: Drain the cooked pasta and stir it into the bowl of chilli oil pumpkin seeds. Serve immediately.

Serves 1.

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music lately:

Carpe Diem by The Fugs. This is just – so cool!

Don’t Change by Limp Bizkit – a new album from Limp Bizkit in 2021? And they’re covering one of my very favourite INXS songs? Could this be good news at last? Yes! Despite the vaseline-lens softening of nostalgia and the constant mining of the past by both those who both lived through it and those who were conceived in it; time has not exactly been kind to Limp Bizkit, and to still be doing their whole thing in the vastly different climate of 2021 takes some chutzpah. Sure, a gentle acoustic cover is an easy win, and I was always going to listen with generous ears, but this song makes me very happy. (And while it’s low-key, it’s a significantly better decision than their 2003 cover of Behind Blue Eyes, which we simply won’t talk about. Of course, the best cover, and best example of Durst’s underappreciated vocalising, is always going to be Faith.)

I’m Here, from the Broadway musical The Color Purple, sung by Cynthia Erivo, who recently won the role of Elphaba in the film adaptation of Wicked, alongside Ariana Grande as Glinda. Wicked is so dear to my heart that nothing short of a pro-shot of the original cast could satisfy me, and musical film adaptations have been sharply diminishing returns since 2002’s stellar Chicago, but – Erivo has a voice like liquidised satin and she only needs one more letter to claim that EGOT. This could well be it.

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!

Sushi Rice with Chilli Oil Nuts [vegan]

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This is quite obviously a gently reworked version of my Chilli Oil Beans recipe but we’re seventy days into lockdown and my concept of “my life” in general has been reduced to much the same level of control and robustness as the plight of the titular corpse in The Trouble With Harry, and my brain cells and general morale have all given up and lain on the floor howling, so you’ll forgive me for lacking flair. But! To say this does an unnecessary disservice to this recipe for Sushi Rice with Chilli Oil Nuts, which is wonderful and would be so in any context – even this one. (And here’s my disclaimer that I’m immensely pro-lockdown and pro-vaccination, I’m just massively frustrated and exhausted by our current frustrating and exhausting situation.) While this recipe’s origins are clear it also was tangentially inspired by one of my go-to struggle meals in Wellington when I was funnelling all my earnings into the particular unearned rent prices that city boasts, usually eaten in the dark at 4 or 5am after a shift – a hefty pile of toasted sunflower seeds mixed with olive oil, salt, and ground white pepper.

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The chilli oil already tasted amazing in its original format, but when I tutu’d with the proportions to make it more nut-forward (and I apologise for how weird that phrase looks on the page) as if the nuts were in fact replacing the beans as opposed to simply adding texture – well, it became even more delicious somehow. I had to march myself out of the kitchen to stop myself from eating all the waiting chilli oil nuts spoonful by spoonful as the rice cooked – and I realise this sounds like standard-issue blogger exaggeration but if there’s one thing you need to know about me it’s that I literally never exaggerate! And why would I exaggerate about food when it tastes good enough to simply describe it as it is?

The balance of flavours in these chilli oil nuts is quite exquisite – the jovial heat of the gochugaru, the aromatic fennel and star anise, the allium savoury vibes from the chives and garlic, the soft oil-pastel crunch and sweetness of the cashews and walnuts and the half-hearted yet welcome kick from the ground white pepper. You might think that all this, the sticky sushi rice and the taste detonation of kimchi would be enough, that you don’t need the richness of avocado along with the oil and the cashews and so on, but! Somehow even in these trying times an avocado still feels like a little treat, a surprise, like, surely it’s going to be a good day if there’s an avocado involved. Don’t leave out the avocado. That being said rice and the chilli oil nuts on their own would still be a great meal – and it can just be regular rice, not sushi rice.

In lieu of anything else going right, there’s one thing you can rely on to soothe and offer a brief, sanguine feeling of sanity: a perfectly composed bowl of rice.

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Sushi Rice with Chilli Oil Nuts

A very simple and utterly delicious solo meal (it is genuinely simple, the recipe just looks long because I like to talk!) – and despite its simplicity it also feels like you’ve really Done Something. Recipe by myself, with thanks to JustOneCookbook for their highly detailed instructions on how to cook sushi rice on the stove top, which I used as a reference.

  • 3/4 cup (or one rice cooker cup) sushi rice
  • 1/3 cup cashews
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons gochugaru (or whatever chilli flakes you’ve got)
  • 2 tablespoons snipped chives (I did not actually measure this and nor should you)
  • 1 fat garlic clove
  • hearty shake of salt and ground white pepper
  • 3 tablespoons neutral oil, such as rice bran
  • a tablespoon or so of sushi vinegar, if you have it, or a splash of apple cider vinegar and caster sugar mixed
  • together with a little salt
  • Kimchi and sliced avocado, to serve

1: Place your rice into a medium-sized saucepan and partially fill the pan with cold water. Briskly rinse the rice, swishing it around with your fingers and tilting the pan to drain the water out, without letting the water sit too much between rinsing. Repeat twice more. Once this is done, fill the cup measure you used for the rice with water and add it to the pan, and then repeat – perhaps placing your finger on top of the rice and checking that the water reaches your first knuckle, which means you’ve got the correct quantity of water – and then place the lid on top and set it aside for 30 minutes.

2: While the rice is waiting, get started on the chilli oil nuts. Roughly chop the cashews and walnuts and tip them into a small heatproof bowl. Add the star anise, fennel seeds, gochugaru or whichever chilli flakes you’re using, and the chives, then grate in the garlic clove (or slice it finely, up to you) and shake in the salt and pepper.

3: Heat the oil in a small saucepan until it seems hot – you can check by sticking the tip of a handle of a wooden spoon into it, and if small bubbles cling to the surface, it’s ready – and then carefully pour this hot oil into the bowl of nuts and spices. It’ll sizzle and bubble but it should settle down quickly. Set aside.

4: Place the pan of rice over a high heat, until the water comes to the boil (a pan with a see-through lid is obviously ideal here) and as soon as it does, turn the heat as low as it’ll go and cook for ten to twelve minutes. Then, remove it from the heat – with the lid still on – and let it sit for ten minutes. It’s best to not remove the lid at all during this entire proceeding but every time I’ve cooked sushi rice I’ve very quickly lifted the lid to swipe a small spoonful to test for done-ness and nothing bad has ever happened – make sure you’re quick about it, though.

5: Use a rice paddle or spoon to carefully stir the sushi vinegar (or ACV/sugar mixture) through the rice. Spoon your desired quantity of rice into a serving bowl, top with sliced avocado and kimchi, and then spoon over the chilli oil nuts.

Serves 1, but this makes enough rice for two – if you’re making this for two you could probably get away with just adding half as much of the chilli oil ingredients again rather than doubling it but I, personally, would want more.

Also – I especially like cashews here, but you can obviously use other nuts and/or seeds – peanuts, pecans, pistachios and pumpkin seeds would be great in particular. And if you really, really aren’t into fennel-y/aniseed-y flavours then leave out the fennel and star anise but for what it’s worth, liquorice is one of the few sweets I cannot face – it is the personal enemy of my palate – and yet I love the hint of it here. It’s not overpowering at all, and just adds a little ping of complexity.

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music lately:

Rave On by Buddy Holly, maybe it’s because I have only left the house twice in the last seventy days and both times was to get vaccinated but this song, my god! There’s something so wildly subversive lurking beneath its vaguely square surface – if not hiding in plain sight – every now and then you get hit by a wave, for just a second, of what it must’ve been like to hear a song for the first time, and as soon as he sings “we-he-he-he-hell” that wave crashes down upon me.

Venus In Furs by the Velvet Underground, this is definitely more of the subversion hiding in plain sight variety of song, from the moment it drops you headfirst into the molten hot wax of those opening violins to the laugh in Lou Reed’s voice on “bleed for me”. This is probably my favourite VU song – not an easy selection, nor a necessary one, really – and I was charmed to hear it right at the start of Todd Hayne’s elegant new documentary about the band.

I’d Love To Fall Asleep by Muriel Smith – you know what, considering this was sung in the post-Hayes-code era of films showing married couples in separate beds, this song is kind of subversive in its own way, too. Smith’s contralto is gorgeous and rich and the fuzzy crackle of the vinyl this song is playing on only adds to the comfort.

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!

Washed Flour Seitan [vegan]

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It’s never my intention for long stretches of time to take up residence between blog posts but – and there’s no way to say this in an original fashion – we’re roughly nine weeks into lockdown now and I am feeling flat. And here I need to vehemently reiterate that I’m pro-lockdown and pro-vaccination (and am delighted that all of us under our roof are doubly protected) but because I contain multitudes I’m also not happy with a lot of the decisions being made, and am doing my best not to spiral, and am constantly muttering “must I become prime minister” like it’s a protective mantra; perhaps it is. This is not a great environment in which to be creative, it’s not really a great environment to do much of anything except stew persistently like a slow-cooked Welsh cawl.

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Dredging up the energy to try out this washed flour seitan recipe – something I’ve been wanting to make for ages! – was a massive effort at every step of the way, but thank goodness I did, because it’s delicious and all said effort was immediately forgotten upon consumption. Not that you need me, specifically, to tell you about it! The recipe is not only well-documented online – I gratefully followed the detailed method on The Viet Vegan – it’s also one of the oldest methods on record of making seitan, something China has had a head start on over me by several centuries. But if I can be an extra voice of enthusiasm encouraging you to try it, then that will be enough.

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This recipe is very simple, but there are two things to get used to: it uses a lot of water, and it loses a lot of volume in the process of washing away all the starch from the dough. This doesn’t mean it’s inherently wasteful per se – there are ways to use less water and to re-use it – but it’s probably best avoided during high summer when the water tanks are low. All the effort in washing and kneading – and it’s not that much effort, really, it just requires concentration – rewards you with an incredibly versatile, delicious, and fantastically-textured protein. Its nearest analogue is chicken, though with a little commitment you could take it in whatever direction you want.

It’s hard to describe the appeal of this washed flour seitan without sounding like an alien in a trench coat trying to fit in with the humans – it’s an exemplary protein! It has a multifaceted mellowness! It has the cadence of chicken without being too unsettlingly similar to that which it imitates! But truly, as your fellow literal human, let me assure you: it’s so good!

As you can see there’s no salt or anything in the recipe itself, so – much like any protein, any food in fact – you need to have some kind of seasoning in mind. To test the prowess of this stuff I took two separate paths – first, shredded seitan, straight from the fridge, marinated in lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper and olive oil and stirred together with avocado and torn flat-leaf parsley. Secondly, I thinly sliced the remaining seitan and marinated it in a bentonite-thick mixture of glutinous rice flour, cornflour, sugar, soy sauce, and water, and then fried these strips until crisp and browned. Both variations were delicious, outstandingly so, especially when considering their humble origins: just flour, and water.

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Washed Flour Seitan

Flour + water = chicken? Yes! I’ve done very little to this recipe on The Viet Vegan and I recommend you cross-reference with hers which has plenty of pictures and information. Where we differ is that I steamed my seitan rather than simmering it – it’s my preferred method for its resulting texture and speed – but other than that I have her to thank for this. This is a simple recipe but it does take some patience, and the results are worth it.

  • 400g flour
  • 250ml/1 cup water

1: Stir the water into the flour, then start kneading until it’s a cohesive ball that springs back confidently when you prod it. [This took me quite a while, somewhere between five and ten minutes of kneading – and there were points where I was like “this is probably fine” but I’m glad my conscience kicked in and I kept kneading some more.]

2: Cover the dough with water, place a plate on top (not a tea towel, as I found out, because it will immediately fall in the water) and set the dough aside for two hours – in the fridge if it’s a warm day.

3: Drain the water from the dough, fill the bowl with clean water, and knead/rinse the dough in the water, which will quickly turn an opaque white.

4: Repeat this step until you can see through the cloudy – and if you take your time kneading it, rather than changing the water the second it turns opaque, you can use a lot less. You can also save this water for your garden if you have one, or you can use it to make noodles or vegan bacon (I haven’t tried either of these recipes but next time I make this I’ll give them a go.) Drain the dough – which will have changed texture and shrunk somewhat – in a colander, letting it rest for about half an hour.

5: Stretch the dough out and knot it several times or split it in three and braid it – either way, you want to get some layers in it so that it will create that, well, chicken-y texture later on. At this stage, you’re welcome to simmer it for two hours in broth as per the original recipe, but instead I steamed it for about 25 minutes – if you don’t have a steamer, you can rest a metal colander on top of a pan of water and then cover it with the closest-fitting pot lid you have, sitting the seitan on a square of baking paper to make clean-up easier.

The seitan is now ready to eat, or you can store it in an airtight container in the fridge, where it will last for at least four days. Seitan is usually better for a rest before cooking anyway – even just a couple hours – and after all that kneading, you probably are too.

This – despite how much flour you start out with – makes one medium-sized ball of seitan, about the size of a chicken breast. Depending on how you use it this could stretch over two meals for sure. I significantly scaled down the quantities of the original recipe, just to see how it would work – to make more, simply double or triple the flour and water.

Notes: As you can see the seitan in the photos has had something done to it – the first is just shredded and marinated in lemon juice, wholegrain mustard, salt, pepper and olive oil, then served with sliced avocado and torn flat-leaf parsley. The second lot was thinly sliced and marinated in a mixture of glutinous rice flour, cornflour, soy sauce, sugar and water, then fried till crisp, in a sort of hastily thrown-together take on mochiko chicken. Both were extremely delicious!

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music lately:

Aslında, Galiba by Palmiyeler – as I mentioned in my last blog post we’ve been celebrating a different country that we’ve been to every day and when Turkey day came around I had to admit I wasn’t au fait with any of its music; I found this band by chance on Spotify and have been deeply enchanted with them ever since. It’s sunny, vaguely psychedelic beach-pop and while it all sort of blurs into one saltwater blur sonically, believe me when I say that I listened to their entire discography in one afternoon and every song is wonderful. This song is great but picked entirely at random because I just couldn’t decide between them all.

Penguins and Polar Bears by Millencolin – naturally, Sweden Day would’ve been nothing without these guys and this absolute classic!

Ladies Who Lunch from the 1995 revival of the 1970 Stephen Sondheim musical Company, performed here by Debra Monk. Of course, Elaine Stritch’s original is the alpha and omega but Debra Monk’s version does not receive nearly enough attention – yes, it’s perhaps arranged half a sluggish beat too slow, but the way she sings “aren’t they a geeeeem, I’ll drink tooOOO theeeeeeem” – I think about it so often! It is on my mind frequently!

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