Vegan Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread

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Getting used to something and being enthusiastic about it are two different things, but the absence of hatred is a start – of course, I’m talking about margarine, which I’ve resigned myself to using in various cooked and baked goods to the point where it’s done without thinking, and certainly without self-flagellation. I’ve been vegan for long enough now that I no longer appreciate the concept of consuming large quantities of dairy – that milk is none of my business! – but…it would be nice if margarine companies at least tried to emulate butter’s undeniably good flavour. Humans are capable of untold scientific endeavour, where’s that energy in margarine? I understand there are great vegan butters out there – and by “out there” I mean selected pockets of America – but here in New Zealand it’s margarine or nothing, and, well, I refuse to have nothing, so the margarine has to work for me.

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In the case of shortbread, where butter is the main event, the star, the biscuit’s reason for getting up in the morning – you’d be forgiven for assuming that a margarine-based recipe would be a failure, tinged with that tongue-lingering nastiness that only strong flavours can mask. First of all, you have to find the margarine that’s least vexatious, the most tolerable – for me, that’s Olivani (not Nuttelex, as I initially assumed when embarking on this highly-committed whim). Second of all, you have to believe me when I say – and I’m genuinely astonished by it – that this shortbread doesn’t taste like margarine. It doesn’t! It tastes softly buttery and mildly sweet and very reassuringly shortbready. It does, however, lack that final convincing push of flavour that butter enjoys; hence the helping hand offered by the regionally unorthodox yet highly recommended chocolate dip over half of each shortbread.

As well as bringing the obvious to the table – delicious chocolate flavour! – the firm shell of chocolate, especially when fridge-cold, has this fantastic contrasting bite compared to the fine-grained shortbread below, which melts in your mouth like sand disappearing into seawater. You can leave these plain if you don’t have any chocolate or you’re severely disapproving of any variation on this traditionally Scottish biscuit, but if you’re up for it this chocolate step comes highly, if not strenuously, endorsed.

@hungryandfrozen

vegan chocolate dipped shortbread 🍫 recipe @ hungryandfrozen.com 🤠 #vegan #chocolate #veganbaking #recipe #nzfood #foodblogger #fyp #plantbased

♬ Working for the Knife – Mitski

I had intended for these to be adorable chocolate-dipped stars, but I realised moments before starting the recipe that I had lost my star-shaped cutter somewhere in the fifty million times I moved house in the last five years; all I could find was a set of Christmas-themed cookie cutters which curiously did not include a star but did have a vague and formless shape that I could only assume was Santa with his sack upon his back or perhaps a slightly wonky and unsure-of-foot partridge. My aesthetic loss is absolutely your gain – this method is significantly easier and faster, scored and baked all at once in a tin then prised apart into rustic rectangular fingers.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, we’re in the frenzied grips of my mother’s lockdown project where we celebrate a different country that one of us has been to each day, in alphabetical order; I will definitely be making the Fijian Tarkari and the Česnečka from the Czech Republic again; my attempt at a vegan haggis is probably best kept a memory not to be relived. These shortbreads, however, will definitely be back.

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Vegan Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread

This vegan shortbread is simple, delicious, and made all the more palatable with a dunk in some melted chocolate. I swear to you, the recipe really is straightforward and super easy – I just couldn’t work out how to explain any elements of it in a succinct manner.
Recipe by myself.

  • 200g vegan butter/margarine (I used – and recommend – Olivani)
  • 90g icing sugar
  • 300g flour
  • 3 tablespoons custard powder
  • 150g dark chocolate

1: Beat the butter and icing sugar together in a large mixing bowl until light and creamy – which should only take a minute or two – then tip in the flour and cornflour and carefully stir it all together (I say carefully because it’s very easy to shunt large clouds of flour everywhere at this point). Push the dough together into a ball with your hands, then cover the bowl with a clean tea towel or lid and put it in the fridge for about twenty minutes.

2: While this is happening, set your oven to 160C/320F and line a 28x18cm baking dish/brownie tin with a sheet of baking paper. Remove the chilled dough from the fridge and press it out evenly into the tin – you can lay another sheet of baking paper over the top and gently press down on it to make it more even, removing it before baking of course. Jab the dough several times with a fork, which helps steam escape and makes it rise neatly; and then use a knife to score it twice horizontally and vertically several times, so you have about 24 similarly-sized rectangles. Apologies if this description doesn’t make much sense – basically you’re just scoring the dough as if you were preparing to slice it up, which makes it easier to slice once it’s actually out of the oven.

3: Bake the shortbread dough for 35 minutes – checking often – or until it’s lightly golden and the surface is firm. Remove the cooked shortbread out of the dish by lifting the edges of the sheet of baking paper. Use a knife to slice through the lines you scored earlier, then carefully ferry each individual shortbread to a cooling rack.

4: Once the shortbreads have cooled, melt the chocolate however you normally do it (I used a small glass bowl and 20-second bursts in the microwave, but if you put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and then rest that bowl on a pan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water, that works too). Carefully dip each shortbread halfway – so half of it is coated in chocolate and half of it remains bare – and sit them on a tray lined with baking paper, then refrigerate till set. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Makes around 24.

Notes:

  • If you don’t have custard powder or are simply disinclined to use it, replace it with the same amount of cornflour (or cornstarch for the Americans) and add a generous splash of vanilla extract.
  • In my experience, Olivani is the best-behaved and most mellow-flavoured margarine – better than Nuttelex for sure – but you use whatever you’re comfortable with.

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music lately:

Minority by Green Day – I don’t know what it is about them but whenever I’m like “I’m a fan of Green Day” I say it in this reverent yet apologetic voice like I’m revealing some great shuddering truth about myself (it’s very similar to the voice I use when I own up that I’m a bigtime show tunes kind of guy.) Anyway, I’ve always been very fond of this song and its jauntiness and year-2000-ness and the impenetrable Mairzy Doats quality to the lyrics. I’m especially fond of this live version at Milton Keynes in 2005, since I was in that very audience.

Working For The Knife, by Mitski – new Mitski! New Mitski music in 2021! I feel like Ebenezer Scrooge throwing open his windows on Christmas Day. This is very important! Also, I was super nervous, and put off listening to it in case it wasn’t exactly what I’d hoped, and then got anxious in case I was somehow letting Mitski down, or in case people were like “oho, a fair-weather fan, are we” but of course none of those things happened (or was going to happen) and as soon as she sang “I cry at the start of every movie/I guess ’cause I wish I was making things too” I knew she was BACK.

Hello Dad…I’m In Jail by Was (Not Was). Like the Sideshow Bob stepping on a rake scene in The Simpsons – truly the opposite of diminishing returns.

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!

Vegan Chocolate Guinness Cake

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As a rule, an abiding principle, a personal boundary: I hate anything that suggests even the merest hint of “team-building exercise”, three words that make my shoulders immediately stoop earthwards in resigned anticipation of all the time I’ll never get back from my one wild and free life. That being said I also like to please and being in this endless (necessary! but endless) lockdown does strange things to all of us, in my case it’s that I’ve ended up kind of throwing myself wholeheartedly into Mum’s lockdown project of honouring a new theme each day. Which brings us to this Vegan Chocolate Guinness Cake.

You see, first we did a letter of the alphabet each day (for example on W day we listened to the Who and classical waltzes and I made a Woon Heng recipe for dinner) and when lockdown exceeded 26 days we hastily assembled the next ongoing theme: a new country each day, that at least one person in the family had been to, in – and bear with me here – alphabetical order, with music from that country and at least one regional dish or attempt thereof for dinner. We’re up to the letter I, which brings us to Ireland, which I visited in 2005, and The Cranberries/The Undertones/Thin Lizzy/My Bloody Valentine/Enya as the day’s soundtrack. I found a couple of cans of Guinness in my cupboard leftover from making last year’s Christmas Cake and before I knew it I was spontaneously and enthusiastically throwing together a vegan version of Nigella Lawson’s classic Chocolate Guinness Cake, like someone who enjoys activities and showing initiative. I don’t, but I do like hyperfocussing on a project and I love the opportunity for arbitrary culinarily decisions and in all honesty it has been a lot of fun – not a bit like team-building exercises, in fact.

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As I said, this recipe is inspired by Nigella Lawson’s cake from her book Feast, which I used to make all the time – because it was so incredibly delicious! – and while this version lacks that throat-coating full-cream dairy factor from the cream cheese icing, it’s a pretty fantastic tribute and I’m very pleased with myself. In case you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing this combination of chocolate and Guinness before, the bitter aggression of the Guinness provides an intense and dark backdrop to the cocoa and yet all its rough edges are entirely bevelled back and tempered by the cake batter and the sweetness in the icing. Curiously, despite the sugar in the cake exceeding that in the topping, the latter is much sweeter than the former, such is the black-hole abilities of Guinness to absorb everything that comes into its path. I’m not someone who can sit down and drink a Guinness with any conviction – it’s too blood-nosedly ferrous for me – but mixed with chocolate it’s quite spectacular, entirely palatable, and makes perfect sense – after all, dark coffee and chocolate are a go-to pairing, this just takes it one step further in the direction of bitterness.

Real hungryandfrozen-heads will notice that this recipe method doesn’t differ too much from my Incredibly Delicious Mocha Cake; that cake has never failed me and so I figured it would be a decent blueprint for this Guinness cake – and once more it came through. As well as being utterly delicious, dense yet light-crumbed, rich and celebratory yet unpretentious and comforting, this cake is a mere one-bowl situation and it leaves you plenty of Guinness leftover to drink from its tall can – if you have the palate for it – otherwise, I guess you’ll just have to make another cake.

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Vegan Chocolate Guinness Cake

A dense yet light-textured chocolate cake full of rich bitter Guinness – my vegan take on Nigella Lawson’s classic recipe. This is a one-bowl affair with a creamy, tangy frosting, and is just incredibly delicious. Recipe by myself.

  • 2 and 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 cup good dark cocoa (see notes)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain oil, eg rice bran
  • 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon malt vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup (or light corn syrup or treacle if you’re in the US)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 cup/250ml Guinness

1: Set your oven to 180C/350F and grease and line a 21cm springform or loose-based cake tin. Place the flour in a large mixing bowl, then sieve in the baking soda and cocoa and stir to combine. Make a well in the centre and add everything except the Guinness, and stir briefly – it will look thick and dry and unlikely at this point but we’ve still got the Guinness to go, so don’t you worry.

2: Pour in the Guinness and slowly stir everything together to form a thick cake batter, making sure there’s no lumps of flour caught in it. Spatula this mixture into your prepared cake tin and bake for forty minutes, covering with tin foil in the last ten minutes if need be. Allow to cool completely on a cake rack.

For the Icing:

This uses the sourness of citric acid and the fulsome saltiness of miso paste to emulate the vibe of the cream cheese icing that customarily goes with this cake; that being said if you can get hold of vegan cream cheese (or you’re happy to eat dairy) then feel free to use that instead in place of the coconut oil and coconut milk, leaving out the citric and miso and adjusting the lemon juice quantities as needed. I’ve included coconut milk here for its creaminess and because I figure you’ll have some leftover from the can you opened for the cake; you barely taste any coconut in the finished frosting. Finally, if you don’t have a food processor you can use a bowl and a wooden spoon to make this but it’ll take considerably more effort to get it thick and smooth. But, this is how people make icing for centuries so it’s not impossible.

  • 1 and 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • 3 tablespoons soft refined coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon citric acid
  • 1/2 teaspoon miso paste
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1-3 tablespoons full-fat coconut milk

1: Tip the icing sugar into the food processor and pulse a few times to get rid of any lumps. Add the coconut oil, citric acid, and miso paste, and process to combine. Add a teaspoon of lemon juice and the coconut milk, one tablespoon at a time, and process until you have a very thick, very smooth, bright white frosting. If it needs more liquid add it a little at a time. Set the icing aside in a cool place until needed. (I put it in the fridge, which made it entirely too solid, but sitting the bowl in a second bowl of hot water and stirring it helped.)

2: Spatula the icing onto the top of the cooled cake and spread it evenly over the top, leaving the sides bare. Store in an airtight container.

Notes:

  • When buying cocoa, look for a brand that has a minimum of 20g fat per 100g – I try not to be fussy with you about ingredients but anything less than 20g is not worth your while and will taste weak and is false economy.
  • I accidentally overcooked my cake – it was fine, but the edges were a little crisp, so I just prodded it with a skewer and brushed it with a quick syrup of a few spoons of brown sugar dissolved in an equal quantity of hot water before applying the icing with a pastry brush, and I pass this along in case you find yourself in the same predicament.
  • You could probably use soy milk or something similar instead of coconut milk in the cake and still have it turn out fine; but Nigella’s original recipe uses sour cream and I wanted something particularly creamy and fat to offset the bitter Guinness, so I do think it’s necessary – the finished cake doesn’t taste anything like coconut, I promise.
  • If you don’t have miso paste or just don’t have any confidence in my decision making – and it’s true, we do ask a lot of miso paste these days, perhaps too much even – then leave it out and add a pinch of salt.

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music lately:

I Wanna Be A Cowboy, Baby! by CMAT – who, coincidentally, is from Dublin. My friend Jordan recommended her music to me and in turn, I enthusiastically recommend her to you (I also recommend to you to recommend songs to me in general, as long as you’re prepared for my candid evaluation.)

For Good from the musical Wicked as performed by original cast members Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel at the Tony Awards this week. Now – this is not something I say lightly – I don’t necessarily love this song in and of itself, it’s not the most exciting or lyrically dexterous, to me, but I will always drop everything to watch a live performance of it because what it does give you is four and a half minutes of Acting and Emotion and Unbearable Momentousness. To see Chenoweth and Menzel reunited here – a very rare occurrence in the eighteen years since Wicked launched on Broadway – at the first Tony Awards since 2019, to see them hold hands and perform this song with all the sincerity of their long-ago characters but also as themselves, to hear those gentle but defined harmonies where she goes low and she goes high – well, you already know I cried.

You Mean The World To Me by Toni Braxton, simply a perfect song – obviously you could take Babyface’s back catalogue to a desert island and never run out of hits but he and Braxton together are a match made in heaven – that “oh baby baby, baby baby, babyyyy” bit at the end of the chorus has to be up there with the various pinnacles of human creative achievement.

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!

Vegan Hokey Pokey Ice Cream

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Hokey Pokey is what you might call an iconic ice cream flavour here in Aotearoa, and its beauty lies in its simplicity and that texture – crunch against cold creaminess – and I’ve done my best to honour it and the collective sentimental memories of our tastebuds here in my homemade version. I won’t pretend that you can’t taste the coconut cream, but that’s the vegan life for you – and it’s hardly a bad thing! Coconut is delicious! If anything, its mellow beachiness only serves to enhance the hauntingly sweet depths of the caramelised sugar.

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This should all be easy enough to write about – childhood reminiscing, recreating familiar foods in vegan form, yada yada yada, but I had to make the honeycomb thrice – threefold! – before I got it right and now I find myself losing valuable writing hours burrowing into lyrics websites looking for a stanza from a Limp Bizkit song that I can use as an allegory – is it that I really like Limp Bizkit (yes) or is it that I read the new Sally Rooney novel and I’m subconsciously bucking its high-minded walls of academic epistolography (possibly? how self-aware) or is it just some garden-variety ADHD hyperfocus on the wrong thing (let’s face it, probably) or is it that I’m five weeks into waiting out a lockdown, a lockdown that’s obviously the correct thing to do for the greater good and no real hardship to myself, but as such my imagination is growing wearier and wearier from over-use yet under-use simultaneously – yes, possibly that, too – but in fact, I think it’s really just that I’m still recovering from making three batches of honeycomb.

@hungryandfrozen

Vegan Hokey Pokey Ice Cream 🥲 I burnt so much honeycomb don’t let this flop besties #icecream #hokeypokey #vegan #nzfood #lockdownkitchen #nzlockdown

♬ Don’t Let Go (Love) – En Vogue

Every time I burnt that sugar it felt like part of my soul cauterised and fell off with it; but don’t let my rivers of hissing sugar and propensity for dramatics put you off: I suffered so that you don’t have to, and with a little patience this is genuinely quite straightforward, and you earn your heavenly reward in the form of a creamy tub of velvety-smooth ice cream with melting yet crunchy honeycomb and toffee dappled throughout. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend making this if you’re hungover or feeling fragile, or if you have small children rushing about, or indeed, if you are a small child yourself. This requires concentration (which is why it’s barely surprising I burnt the first two batches of sugar) and confidence, because you’re taking your boiling hot melted sugar and quickly, decisively, parting it two ways – into a sheet of clear, golden toffee (which will provide the requisite crunch that one seeks in all hokey pokey ice cream experiences) and into a billowing mushroom cloud of honeycomb (which slowly fades into the ice cream providing pockets of dissolving caramel.)

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Somewhere between frantically warning you of the dangers of handling hot sugar and reassuring you that there’s actually nothing to this, is my most important point: this vegan hokey pokey ice cream tastes SO GOOD, and as soon as you have that first mouthful you’ll not only be flush with nostalgia-flavoured serotonin you’ll also be absolutely reeling from the weight of your own competence – the most elusive flavour of all – and you’ll know it was all worth it (and maybe you’ll even hear Limp Bizkit singing this could be the one, I know I did.)

PS: if you really want to make life difficult for yourself, why not put on a double feature with my homemade vegan Jelly Tip ice cream recipe while you’re at it. Feel free to replace the vanilla ice cream mixture of that recipe with the coconut cream/coconut condensed milk of this recipe – for my money, it’s the superior method.

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Vegan Hokey Pokey Ice Cream

Lush, velvety vanilla ice cream with crunchy and melting honeycomb, the taste of your childhood and the promise of a brighter future, all at once. This takes some patience – specifically the double-sugar honeycomb and toffee aspect – and I recommend you read the recipe fully before embarking, although it’s a lot easier than the length of this makes it look – but obviously I wouldn’t lead you down this rocky path without good reason (that reason being: this ice cream is so delicious.) As always, my homemade ice cream recipes are and will forever be no-churn. Recipe by myself.

  • 1 x 320g tin sweetened condensed coconut milk
  • 2 x 400g tins full-fat coconut cream, refrigerated overnight
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 generous tablespoon golden syrup
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • a pinch of salt, or to taste

1: First, the ice cream mixture. If you forget to put the coconut cream in the fridge the night before, at least try to get it cold for a few hours. Scoop the chilled, thick coconut cream from the top of the tins into a bowl (reserving the remaining coconut water for now) and using either electric beaters or a whisk and some energy, beat the coconut cream until thick and whipped looking. Pour in the sweetened condensed milk and beat everything again on high speed (or with your whisk) to thoroughly combine, then pour in the remaining coconut water from the tins and the vanilla and beat again. Apologies for how convoluted this sounds! You’re essentially just mixing your coconut products together and doing it this way ensures a creamy texture later on.

2: Pour this coconut mixture into a 1.5 litre capacity container, fix on the lid, and pop it in the fridge to let the flavour develop/mellow out while you make the honeycomb and toffee.

3: Now for the sugar. Before you do anything else, find two roasting trays or shallow, lipped baking trays and line them both with a large sheet of baking paper, and also measure the baking soda into a small cup or bowl so it’s ready to go when the sugar is melted. Place the sugar and golden syrup into a heavy saucepan and slowly melt it over a low heat, stirring constantly, until it’s gone from sugar to a gritty paste almost resembling peanut butter, to a melted puddle of caramel that’s starting to simmer around the edges. I feel the need to tell you that this is unbelievably hot so please pay attention and don’t – as if by automatism – lick the spoon.

4: Once it’s melted and just starting to simmer, remove the pan from the heat and quickly ladle a small quantity of the molten sugar – about 3 tablespoons to 1/4 cup but for goodness sake don’t try to measure it – onto one of the waiting paper-lined roasting trays.

5: Tip the baking soda into the remaining sugar syrup in the saucepan and stir it in briskly – the mixture will turn pale and billow spookily yet intriguingly upwards – once it starts doing this, carefully scrape as much as possible of your pale honeycomb onto the second paper-lined roasting tray. Now – pick up the first tray, confidently but respectfully, and tilt it gently from side to side to let the toffee spread out. You can try to do this with the honeycomb as well, but once that stuff is in place it doesn’t really like to move. Let both trays cool completely – this may not take very long or it might take about an hour, it all kind of depends on the weather and the vibe of the thing etc.

6: Use a wooden spoon or other implement of your choice to bash the cooled honeycomb and toffee – a very gratifying exercise after all that frantic activity earlier – breaking them up into small pieces. You can draw the four corners of the paper together and scrunch the honeycomb around to break it up further, I don’t recommend doing this with the toffee however, as it’ll stick together. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over your honeycomb and toffee crumbs (I find the saltiness works best distributed this way rather than directly in the ice cream mixture but, to be honest, it’s up to you, just put some salt somewhere at some point.) Remove your ice cream mixture from the fridge, tip in the honeycomb and toffee pieces, stir gently, and then place the container in the freezer for about six hours or overnight.

As with most homemade ice creams, this benefits from sitting around on the. bench for five to ten minutes to soften up a little before serving. Makes around 1.25 litres, give or take.

Notes:

  • The brand of sweetened condensed coconut milk you’ll probably be using – since it’s the only one I’ve ever seen on the shelf – is called Nature’s Charm, if it’s not in the regular canned milk section it’ll probably be in that weird dark corner where the supermarkets shunt all the vegan stuff.
  • The coconut cream needs to be full fat and it needs to be coconut cream and ideally there shouldn’t be water listed on the ingredients. For some reason the best, most consistent brand I’ve found for ice cream has been Pam’s.
  • If you use caster sugar the caramel stage will probably happen a lot quicker, in fact, I really should’ve used it, but since I’m already being difficult asking you to find sweetened condensed coconut milk I didn’t also want you to have to go out of your way to buy non-regular sugar.

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music lately:

Våren by Grieg, sung by Jane Powell and Jeanette MacDonald in the 1948 film Three Daring Daughters – Jane Powell always radiated sheer delightfulness and she was a comfort to me both in her films and in her general existence as one of our last remaining threads from the Golden Age of Hollywood; I would often look up her Wikipedia page just to be cheered by knowing she was still here and was terribly sad to learn of her death today. She’s mostly known for Royal Wedding and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers but this song – where she sings with the legendary 1930s soprano MacDonald – is pure magic.

Meet Me At Our Spot by The Anxiety, the collaboration between Willow Smith and Tyler Cole – the studio recording is amazing but this live version is just…magnificent, it’s so simple and relaxed and yet it hit me like an untethered fridge flying off the back of a truck going 100 miles per hour. Willow’s voice and energy and that chorus is simply everything!

America by Simon and Garfunkel – sometimes their mannered and careful enunciation sets my teeth on edge but this song specifically makes me feel positively unhinged levels of emotion – the eerie humming at the start merging with the tail end of the previous song immediately puts me in a trance, and when they get to the “hitch-hike from Saginaw” part I lose it every time (I actually looked Saginaw up on Wikipedia out of curiosity and started crying while reading facts about its municipalities and average precipitation, that’s how powerful this song is) and if I haven’t started crying by then I absolutely will be on the ground howling and beating the earth with my ineffectual fists by the time they make it to the New Jersey Turnpike.

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!

Instant Gnocchi [vegan]

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It was somewhere in that indistinct and malleable stretch of the early nineties before the internet became accessible, let alone entrenched, and before every minute was documented – somewhere in that time, I sat down brimming with cheerful anticipation for the latest episode of Full House only to be confronted with a hideous replacement show – Mountain Dew on The Edge – a show whose title is opaque to the point of meaninglessness and yet is somehow entirely and nakedly threatening to be about sports. (To my disgust, it really was about sports.) It was on that sombre day I learned that TV shows have seasons that end, and they don’t just spit out new episodes forever, and you can’t rely on anything or anyone in this cold world but yourself, kid. It was somewhere in that same era that I once again faced disappointment when I turned on the television expecting a brand new episode of a particular sitcom and was met, instead, with a clip show, that budget-saving device TV shows lean on occasionally by cobbling together an episode from previously filmed segments – and I had no media literacy or access to Wikipedia or the TV Tropes website to understand what was happening or why I felt so let down. Who can you trust, if not your TV in the nineties?

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Today’s recipe is, I apologetically acknowledge, something of a clip show, taking components familiar to long-term readers of both this blog and my Patreon – although hopefully it’s a clip show in the mildly superior vein of The Simpsons “All Singing, All Dancing” episode which had the grace to grant us the timeless Paint Your Wagon parody before getting into the replays. Just as Homer takes comfort in the presence of Lee Marvin – “he’s always drunk and violent!” – we can take comfort in knowing my recipes are always good, even if you’ve seen them before. And I’m currently in week three (I think?) of a Level 4 lockdown without any promised end date in sight, so I hope you can allow me a short rest on these comfortable laurels.

I wouldn’t be repeating this recipe, first seen here in 2017, if it wasn’t for good reason – this gnocchi is literally instant, using mashed potato flakes instead of peeled, boiled, and mashed potatoes. Whether you’re in lockdown, or you’re depressed, or you don’t have actual potatoes, or the thought of peeling potatoes and waiting for water to boil and then waiting for said potatoes to cook till tender makes you want to sob – whatever’s going on, this gnocchi can be yours in fifteen minutes from start to finish, even quicker if you’re feeling sprightly. (If this sounds like a glib recommendation, please know that I have made this gnocchi in every last one of these states and am speaking from experience.) This recipe is even faster than it was the first time around since I’ve dispensed with the time-consuming fork-rolling step – no great sacrifice and it makes the gnocchi look like tiny little pillows, a benignly pleasing notion.

Obviously – and perhaps this is what I should be really apologetic for – this is not the traditional Italian way of making gnocchi, and I imagine it’s not just the Italians who would get het up at putting instant mashed potato flakes front and centre of a recipe. But these instant mashed potato flakes are singularly useful to have around – they’re cheap, they last forever, they really are instant, and they’re a lifesaver square meal during times when you don’t know how your next actual square meal is going to fit into your bank account. They also make truly delicious gnocchi – light, puffy, golden-crisp and genuinely quite elegant – a dish that feels like a treat at any time, but especially in the middle of lockdown.

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Instant Gnocchi

This gnocchi is not traditional – taking a huge shortcut with instant potato flakes – but it is very fast and very delicious, and that counts for something. Recipe, proudly, by myself.

  • 3/4 cup instant mashed potato flakes
  • 3/4 cup just-boiled water
  • a generous pinch of salt
  • 1 and 1/4 cups flour, and perhaps a little more
  • olive oil, for frying

1: Mix the mashed potato flakes, water, and salt together in a bowl – which will turn the flakes, suddenly, into something resembling mashed potato – then stir in the flour, switching to your hands (a little carefully, since it’ll still be hot from the boiling water) to briefly knead/push it into a ball of soft, pliant dough. If it’s too sticky, add a little more flour, if it’s too floury, add more water.

2: Using your hands, roll portions of the dough into long snakes, and cut off pieces at 1-inch intervals, continuing with all the remaining dough till you have a pile of 1-inch pieces of dough, looking like tiny pillows. Obviously, you don’t have to measure with a ruler here. Just cut the stuff up.

3: You can cook the gnocchi in boiling salted water at this point – for a couple of minutes until they start floating on the surface – but what I prefer is to just tumble them into a hot frying pan with a couple spoonfuls of olive oil, place a lid on for a minute or so to sort of steam-fry them, and then remove the lid and turn them over so they get brown and crisp. I realise my lengthy description makes it look like this is the harder method; it’s much easier and, I think, significantly more delicious.

Serves two, modestly, or one, very generously.

Notes:

To make the also-fairly-instant sauce that goes with the gnocchi in the photos – which is adapted from a recipe of Nigella Lawson’s in her Forever Summer book – take a whole lemon, slice off the ends, the zest and most of the pith, chop the remaining flesh into pieces and throw it into a food processor along with some of the zest (flicking out any seeds that you see with the tip of your knife) and a very large bunch of parsley, process this into a lemony-green gunge, then add a pinch of sugar, a tablespoon of mushroom soy sauce, and at least three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and process again. Pour over your cooked gnocchi. If you have the energy and means, a few finely chopped garlic cloves and a piece of bread roughly chopped into large crumbs fried in olive oil is an excellent topping for all this.

Also feel free to refer to my original version of this recipe, which is served with a fantastically good mixture of fried Brussels sprouts, rosemary and pine nuts and which – as you can see by the similar-but-different quantities in the recipe – will hopefully reassure you that this gnocchi method is very forgiving and hard to get wrong. So many times I’ve made this I accidentally add the flour in with the mashed potato and boiling water and it still turns out quite edible.

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music lately:

Take Me To The Other Side by Spacemen 3. Psychedelic and messy and delicious.

Here Comes The Hotstepper by Ini Kamoze. The way this used to fill the dancefloor with reliability at the school disco, a time that feels as distant and improbable as when I last occupied a dancefloor as an adult, to be honest.

Biology by Girls Aloud – this song is always on my mind anyway but after band member Sarah Harding died at age 39 on September 5 it’s been on my mind, well, even harder. Say what you will about Girls Aloud but when they were good they were incredible – their only peers of that jewel-tone cocktail dress era in terms of boundary-pushing yet utterly manufactured pop were the Sugababes (with producer Xenomania in the middle of that Venn diagram). Biology asks, what if a song was all choruses, featured adequate dancing, and was the best thing you’ve ever heard? (And my heart is about as heavy as it can get with the loss of actor Michael K Williams today; no more bad news like this, I beg.)

Losing My Mind, from Sondheim’s musical Follies, performed here by the late Marin Mazzie – oh, since we’re already crying – “you said you loved me – or were you just being kind?”

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!

Vegan Salted Caramel Ice Cream

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Why waste your breath chasing originality when you could instead obsess over one thing contingent only upon your getting sick of it, which does not seem likely anytime soon? I’m talking of course about salted caramel (but also I could be talking about, say, The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, a book that I loved as a kid and would re-read and re-read and every time I tried to get into literally any other book by CS Lewis it felt joyless and like hard work which, in the fullness of time, perhaps it really was, but anyway!)

Despite being, as a concept, utterly normal and unsurprising, salted caramel still manages to make eyes light up and taste buds limber up and for that – and its sheer deliciousness of course – I respect it. It’s truly the Saturday of foods, it’s switching the channel to find The Castle is on TV for the hundredth time and stopping to watch it for the hundredth time, it’s the culinary equivalent of the Grease megamix or Come On Eileen at the wedding dance floor, the food about which no one will ever say “oh god, not this again,” and even if they do try to front like they’re above it, a mere taste of whatever salted caramel confection is on offer will suddenly and stickily erase all attempts at snootiness.

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This salted caramel ice cream recipe is simple, has few ingredients, and does not require an ice cream machine – my personal vendetta against Big Ice Cream Machine guarantees you’ll never need one while I’m around – but, much like this blog post, there is a lengthy preamble to get through before you actually reach the gratifying part. By which I mean, you have to caramelise a can of condensed coconut milk by boiling it for several hours under a thick layer of water – while we fortunately live in a bountiful age where vegan condensed milk is a thing, we haven’t quite reached the convenience of ready-caramelised stuff yet (on the upside, it gives you something to complain about.) The process itself isn’t difficult or anything, but if you don’t have a crockpot you’ll need to situate yourself in or near the kitchen to make sure nothing burns or explodes, hence why I suggest making a double batch to give you maximum caramel output for your efforts.

@hungryandfrozen

vegan salted caramel ice cream🍦recipe at hungryandfrozen.com🍦SO GOOD🍦 #saltedcaramel #recipevideo #veganicecream #nochurn #icecream #pinkaesthetic

♬ Glory Box – Portishead

Once that step is complete it’s just a little mixing and freezing and you’ve got the creamiest, lushest ice cream rippled with waves of golden, burnished caramel. It tastes amazing, and the texture is glorious – chilling the coconut cream first and whipping it gives an airy denseness that I’ve been missing from my homemade ice creams; possibly the modest slosh of rum that I added helped the texture too, but you can leave the alcohol out and replace it with vanilla extract.

So no, this isn’t the first salted caramel recipe (or even the first vegan salted caramel ice cream recipe), nor will it be the last – and as long as salted caramel continues to taste this incredible, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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Vegan Salted Caramel Ice Cream

Vegan, four ingredients, no-churn – of course! I’ll never ask you to use an ice-cream maker – and I know I say this every time, but this really is my best ice cream recipe yet. It’s creamy and soft and rich and rippled with caramel – truly the stuff of dreams. The caramel step is 1000% worth the wait, and I swear the process is a lot simpler than my wordy method makes it appear. Recipe by myself.

  • 1 x 320g tin sweetened condensed coconut milk
  • 1 x 400ml tin full-fat coconut cream
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • salt, to taste

1: First, caramelise your condensed milk. A crockpot is ideal (and frankly, in my opinion, the best use for them) since all you have to do is cover the tin (with the label removed) in boiling water, cook on high for about four hours, then allow to cool completely, still in the crockpot. Otherwise, you can use the stovetop, bearing in mind that you’ll need to pay a lot more attention to it – place the tin, label removed, into a saucepan, cover completely with water, and boil for three hours, watching constantly to make sure nothing bad happens and that the water level doesn’t drop – my understanding is that if it evaporates enough so that the tin is no longer submerged, you could have a messy and dangerous explosion on your hands, so please consider yourself warned. While the condensed coconut milk is cooking, take this opportunity to place the can of coconut cream into the fridge to chill and firm up. Everything beyond this step is easy, I promise.

2: Once the can of caramelised condensed milk has cooled completely in whichever vessel of water it’s been bathing in, remove the tin and spoon about 3/4 of the now richly dark caramel into a mixing bowl. Take the coconut cream from the fridge and spoon the thickened coconut cream from the top into the mixing bowl. Using electric beaters (or a whisk and some exertion) beat the caramel and coconut cream together until thick and mousse-like, then tip in any remaining coconut water from the can of chilled coconut cream along with the rum if you’re using it and beat again to combine. Finally, beat in a good pinch of salt – bearing in mind that it’s always easier to add rather than subtract – and taste judiciously till you’re satisfied with the levels of salinity. (Also, you could consider stirring some salt into the condensed coconut milk before adding it to the coconut cream – or sprinkling more salt over the ice cream before freezing – or both! Your tastebuds will know what they want.)

3: Spatula this incredibly delicious mixture into a freezer-proof container and drizzle over the remaining 1/4 can of caramelised condensed coconut milk, using a skewer or something similar to ripple it throughout the cream. Cover the container and refrigerate for two hours – which I swear improves both the flavour and texture – and then, finally, freeze for around six hours or until solid. No need to tamper with it in any way during this time, although it’ll be easier to scoop if it sits on the bench for five or so minutes before serving.

Makes around 750ml. Since this is a fairly small quantity – about four servings – and since the caramel takes significant time to do its thing – I highly recommend making double quantities.

Notes:

  • There’s only one brand of condensed coconut milk on the shelves in New Zealand as far as I know, so that’s the one you’ll be getting. If you’re not vegan I guess there’s nothing stopping you from buying ready caramelised condensed non-vegan milk, but you know that already!
  • I said full-fat coconut cream and I meant it, if you choose low-fat or coconut milk then be it on your own head. I almost always get Pam’s, it’s inexpensive and does not appear to be watered down too much like some brands.
  • Instead of rum you can use bourbon, or brandy, or leave it out and add a teaspoon of vanilla instead.

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music lately:

Can I Help Me? (キャン・アイ・ヘルプ・ミー) by Plastics. Their 1980 debut album Welcome Plastics album is so good – I love the Apache-esque guitar lick and insouciant vibe of song in particular.

Rockin’ Back Inside My Heart by Julee Cruise. I’m re-watching Twin Peaks with my brother (who’s watching it for the first time) and, well, there’s never a wrong time to be reminded of this song, which is simply one of the best songs in the world!

Lot’s Wife from the Broadway musical Caroline, or Change performed by the supremely talented Sharon D. Clarke at the 2019 Olivier Awards; there’s this part in the middle where she just holds this huge note for what feels like hours, an absolute standing ovation of a performance.

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!

Homemade Mandarin Liqueur [vegan]

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Show a thousand people a Rorschach inkblot-rendered image of me and not one of them will say “that’s a patient person”. While patience is a virtue I’ve always considered myself to lack, I am good at making time disappear and jump forwards either through procrastinating or simply zoning out aimlessly – and what is zoning out if not patience’s weird goth cousin? Conversely, what is patience if not zoning out persevering?

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Whichever side of the coin you fall on, you’re gonna need at least one of these qualities to your name to endure the waiting time for this homemade liqueur to steep and come into bloom, and frankly, I suspect I have the rare edge over traditional patience here. Forgetting you have a large jar of homemade liqueur in the cupboard, only to remember it’s there waiting for you and ready to be consumed in the middle of a newly-announced nationwide lockdown? Now that’s a virtue.

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This recipe is a mid-winter take on the passionfruit liqueur I made back in April, but it’s so delicious and so versatile that it deserves a stand-alone place on the blog. The method is also slightly improved, as I found that dissolving the sugar completely before mixing it with the vodka makes for a much smoother finished product.

Our mandarin tree has been on the clock since 1984, producing season after season of hostile, tight-skinned, pip-studded little mandarins that you don’t so much peel as dig into, inevitably spraying juice hither and yon. What they lack in accessibility and friendliness they make up for in sprightly, acerbic flavour, the sort of unhesitating zing that the loose-skinned, pipless, baby’s-first-mandarins at the supermarkets could only muster a mere straining echo of. This liqueur makes use of both the fruit and the potent oils lurking in the peel, and the resulting liqueur is both delicate yet beautifully citrussy.

Triple sec (or Cointreau, or orange liqueur in general) is one of the most widely-used ingredients in cocktails after the base spirits, and while this liqueur has a more mellow and floral vibe it’s still vibrantly orange enough to slot into any classic you favour – the Margarita, the Sidecar, the Corpse Reviver No.2, the Cosmopolitan – a bottle of this in your cupboard gives you a wealth of potential (presuming you also have other bottles of cocktail-friendly liquor in your cupboard.) If cocktails are too much hard work, a splash of this in a glass of champagne (by which I mean, Lindauer) is an instant delight. Even easier than that is a nip of the liqueur, straight from the fridge, poured into a small glass for chic sipping pre- or post-dinner.

And if you want in on the fun but don’t have access to (or use for) alcohol? Try this lemon cordial recipe instead, which you can adapt to any other citrus fruit and, better yet, enjoy on the day it’s made.

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Homemade Mandarin Liqueur

Put some stuff in a jar, forget about it for a while, come back and you have delicious homemade liqueur for sipping or shaking into cocktails. Of course, you can use any other citrus fruit here – tangerines would be excellent. Recipe by myself.

  • 750ml bottle vodka – look for at least 40% alcohol/80 proof, nothing lower than that
  • 15 – 20 mandarins (no fewer than this, but more is fine)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon citric acid
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1: Thoroughly wash a 1-litre glass jar in hot soapy water and dry with a clean tea towel. Using a vegetable peeler, strip off as much clean, unblemished mandarin peel as you can and use a paring knife to slice off any pith (the white stuff) from the underside of the peel. Now, the mandarins on our tree were quite firm-skinned – not the kind that you can easily peel without making a mess – but if you have the kind with loose skin which falls off almost as you touch it, just remove as much pith as possible and you’re good to go.

2: Next, remove any remaining peel from your mandarins and do your best to remove as much of the white pith as possible clinging to each segment. This whole prep section is quite fiddly and messy but it’s worth the effort for the delicious results.

3: Pour the sugar into a bowl (or better yet, a measuring jug so it’s easier to pour into the jar later) followed by the mandarin segments. Stir with a wooden spoon, crushing the mandarin pieces to release their juice, and keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved into the mandarin juice and is no longer gritty when you do a little taste test. Add the citric acid to the bowl and stir again.

4: Carefully tip all this into the clean jar (perhaps using a spoon to ferry the solid mandarin pieces into the jar first before pouring the liquid in) along with the slices of mandarin peel, and then pour in the entire bottle of vodka. Screw on the lid and store the jar in a cupboard – ideally, one out of sight where you won’t be constantly reminded of its progress – and leave it for a month, occasionally giving the jar a careful swirl (I say ‘careful’ because I’m still haunted by the memory of dropping a jar of quince-infused brandy onto the ground back in 2010). If your vodka is particularly high-proof you can probably get away with considerably less waiting time than a month; obviously, the only way to know this for sure is by doing regular taste tests.

5: Once the month is up, strain the contents of the jar through a sieve into a measuring jug, pressing down on any pieces of fruit with the back of a spoon to extract their last gasps of flavour. Then stir in the vanilla and funnel the liquid into clean bottles. It should keep just fine in the cupboard but will taste particularly excellent if stored in the fridge or freezer.

Makes – depending on your mandarin quantity and quality – just over a litre.

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music lately:

Fast As You Can by Fiona Apple. The way she just – does – that!!

Say Hey by Branford Marsalis Quartet and Terrence Blanchard, from the Mo’ Better Blues soundtrack. The kind of jazz that makes you feel like the main character.

Could I Leave You from the Sondheim musical Follies, performed here by Dee Hoty for My Favourite Broadway: The Leading Ladies in 1998, a highly comforting yet exhilarating concert that I revisit frequently. This is such a good song in anyone’s hands, but Hoty has precisely the steel and elegance and control that makes it really shine.

Supervixens, by A.R Kane, the thing about this song is that I just never stop listening to 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!

Vegan Lemon Poppyseed Loaf Cake

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Just a simple one, this time. A simple, one-bowl vegan lemon loaf cake that deftly manages to be nothing special and utterly magnificent at the same time, the line that loaf cakes specifically are so good at balancing upon. We’re back in lockdown again, although for me it feels different to the first one in 2020 because we now have the benefit of hindsight. I was genuinely delighted when this lockdown was announced and welcome any extensions to its stay – a response less rigid than this would’ve been considerably more hellish and anxious to endure in both the short and long term.

I wasn’t even going to blog about this loaf cake – as you can probably tell by the very hasty and inelegant photos and lack of accompanying TikTok – it was a variation on an older lemon cake recipe, with some poppy seeds thrown in because I just think they’re neat. It tasted so good though, and was easy to make, and that’s reason enough to share it. And we’re in lockdown, what else am I going to do?

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This cake has a light, springy crumb and enjoys a triple dose of fresh lemon flavour – and there are few things so cleanly optimistic as the scent and flavour of lemon – in the batter, of course, in the icing, and in what I call The Brine, where you pour a mixture of lemon juice and salt over the cake while it’s still hot from the oven. I know that squeezing juice over an oven-hot cake is hardly a new proposition but in these trying times, you have to romanticise what you can – calling it a brine makes me feel like I’ve really Done Something. If you find that insufferable (a reasonable stance!) then absolutely feel free to ignore the name but please don’t ignore the step itself, which adds to the dense citrus presence and provides alluring contrast to the sugar in the icing.

It’s not that my thoughts turn to baking more while we’re in lockdown, since I’m always thinking about baking anyway – but if you’re in the market for something relaxed and delicious, indeed, if you’re simply in the market to think about baking more at all, this loaf cake could be the one.

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Vegan Lemon Poppyseed Loaf Cake

A simple, classic loaf cake mixed quickly in one bowl and positively levitating with lemon flavour. You can use oranges or limes or a mix instead, and of course, leave out the poppy seeds if you don’t have them. The icing is optional but also absolutely not optional – those are your options. Recipe by myself.

  • 1 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup rice bran oil (or similar flavourless oil)
  • Juice and zest of 2-3 lemons – enough to give you 1/3 cup juice
  • 1 cup/250ml full-fat coconut cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds

For the brine:

  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the icing:

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tablespoon coconut cream
  • zest and juice of one lemon – enough to give you around 3 tablespoons of juice
  • 1 and 1/2 cups icing sugar (though be prepared to add more)

1: Set your oven to 180C/350F and line a loaf tin with baking paper.

2: Stir the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl – I sieve in the baking soda and baking powder to prevent any lumps – then make a well in the centre and pour in the oil, lemon juice and zest, coconut cream, vanilla and poppy seeds. Fold everything together to form a thick pale batter, spatula it into the loaf tin, and bake for about 40 minutes – depending on your oven – or until the top is firm and springy without any liquidy wobble beneath. Also – shake the can of coconut cream first before opening it, as they tend to separate into thicker cream and watery liquid and you want a good mix of both.

3: For the brine, zest the lemon and set that aside for later use (either throw it into the icing or sprinkle it on top of the finished loaf cake) and then mix the juice of the lemon and the salt together in a small ramekin or measuring cup until the salt has more or less dissolved. Spoon this mixture evenly over the cake while it’s still hot from the oven, and then let the cake cool completely before icing.

4: For the icing, mix everything together in a bowl to form a thick frosting – you may need to add more icing sugar – and refrigerate until required. Spread the icing thickly over the cooled loaf cake and sprinkle over any remaining lemon zest (or just zest another lemon – or you could sprinkle over some more poppy seeds.)

Note: I’ve never made this with anything other than full-fat coconut cream. Logic would suggest you could replace this with any milk – but since I haven’t tried it, I can’t guarantee the cake will then turn out how it should. On the other hand, I used a little coconut cream in the icing since I had it leftover from the open can used for the cake batter; you can definitely just use soy milk etc here instead.

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music lately:

That Life by Unknown Mortal Orchestra. New music by UMO is always good news. When the music video employs dancing muppets, so much the better. I love the way their music goes down but up at the same time, you know?

Kiss Off by Violent Femmes, a shaggy, Modern Lovers-esque exercise in sincerity, the sort of song where every part that comes along makes you say “oh wait THIS is my favourite part”.

No Good Deed sung by Shoshana Bean, from the musical Wicked – in all my years of being a fan of this show I was never particularly occupied with Ms Bean – which is nothing whatsoever to do with her talent! – there are so many portrayals of this role and I only have so many hours in the day. But this rendition of Elphaba’s last big song of the second act – a grainy video from 2005 of a performance on the Martha Stewart show of all things – stopped me in my tracks. The power and control in her voice – the way she can make her voice leap a tall building and then bring it back into the palm of her hand – while still managing to do capital-A Acting – is astonishing. I’ve heard this song a zillion times, this felt like hearing it for the first time again.

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!

Vegan Gochujang Bokkeum

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I’ve been vegan for about three years now, and comfortably so, but I’m only human and despite my claims, it is not just white chocolate that makes me occasionally question my every last firmly-held conviction. It’s Folu’s Unsnackable newsletter, it’s the memory of a filet o’fish – not that I think it would be hard to make a vegan dupe but a recipe for those pillow-tender steamed buns as yet eludes me – and it’s all the Korean food creators that I follow on TikTok. This recipe for gochujang bokkeum – a fried gochujang sauce with onions and beef – by Johnny Kyung-Hwo Sheldrick algorithmed its way onto my phone, and it looked so delicious, and I was sure I could make it vegan easily enough without squandering the vibe of the original recipe. (More so than the person who commented “is it vegan” to which Johnny gamely and politely replied, “without the beef it is”, such is the state of critical thinking these days.)

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Far be it from me to suggest that the food of a cuisine that isn’t mine needs me to meddle in it but as it stands, I don’t eat beef but I wanted to eat this. I’m delighted with my variation and I’m delighted that I found the original recipes that inspired it; I wouldn’t have come up with this without them. Rather than use a fake meat as a replacement I decided a rubbly mixture of blended up peanuts and sun-dried tomatoes would be ideal, and they were – the peanuts give texture, protein and nutty mildness; the sun-dried tomatoes add concentrated, near-meaty dark red savoury flavour and stickiness.

So far this gochujang bokkeum has been delicious on cold noodles, on hot noodles, and mixed into stir-fried vegetables with fake chicken; I know in my near future there’ll be a big spoonful of this on a bowl of rice with fried mushrooms, and I feel like it would work beautifully with a creamy texture as well – like these coconut chilli tofu noodles.

@hungryandfrozen

vegan gochujang bokkeum 🌶 SO DELICIOUS thanks @johnnykyunghwo for the inspiration🌶 #vegankorean #recipe #gochujang #veganrecipes #foodblogger #fyp

♬ Rumble – Link Wray & His Ray Men

All the peanuts and tomatoes spread that chilli heat out a little, but eating this is still a vigorous experience, and the gochujang, a Korean fermented chilli paste, is definitely pretty fiery. But it’s not only hot. It’s got these shadowy layers of flavour and depth and, as Nigella Lawson said in her book Kitchen, an “almost liquorice intensity”, a description that dances in my mind whenever I eat it. Besides, heat tolerance is a moving target and the only way to get used to it is to eat more. I don’t consider myself even close to being able to handle a lot of chilli heat and yet I keep sneaking spoonfuls of this; after a while your tastebuds do adjust – eventually you’ll be spooning it onto your breakfast cereal.

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Vegan Gochujang Bokkeum

This Korean fried chilli sauce is seriously delicious and versatile. I’ve replaced the usual meat with peanuts and sun-dried tomatoes, but the star ingredient is, of course, gochujang, a Korean fermented chilli paste. My vegan version is both inspired by and based on this recipe at Racheerachh Eats and this TikTok by Johnny Kyung-Hwo Sheldrick.

  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 and 1/2 cups raw peanuts
  • 10 sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used rice bran)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mushroom soy sauce (or regular soy sauce)
  • 1/2 cup gochujang
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1: Finely dice the onion and roughly chop the garlic. Place the peanuts and tomatoes in a food processor and blend them into a chunky paste; the peanuts should be in small pieces but not in any danger of turning into peanut butter.

2: Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy frying pan and gently fry the onions and garlic till they’re softened. Spatula in your peanut and tomato mixture and fry for another five minutes, stirring often – don’t expect it to brown or change appearance considerably – then stir in the sugar and soy sauce and keep stirring till the sugar has melted into everything.

3: Add the gochujang to the pan and continue to fry and stir for another couple of minutes, it will be a fantastic dark red shade and quite thick. Remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil and sesame seeds, and transfer to an airtight container or clean jar. Store in the fridge.

Makes around 2 cups.

  • Gochujang is more readily available in chain supermarkets these days but since most of my favourite ingredients come from Asian supermarkets anyway I tend to just get it there; either way, I’m afraid to say I go for the one labelled “mild”.

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music lately:

Mijn Droom [I Dreamed a Dream] by Pia Douwes from the 1991 original Dutch production of Les Miserables. I love finding the people in non-English speaking countries who are the go-to for theatre roles (like German powerhouse Willemijn Verkaik) and though I’ve heard of Pia Douwes I’ve never investigated her singing before, it was after watching a TikTok by BroadwayBob that I simply had to. She has this gutsy yet vulnerable voice that is made for the stage; I also highly recommend her Sally Bowles in the Dutch language Cabaret, it is, as you can imagine, quite powerful.

Legend of a Cowgirl by Imani Coppola, it’s the most 1997 sound imaginable and yet still so fresh and arresting and irrepressible and she should’ve been a megastar off the back of it.

It Hurts Me Too by Karen Dalton, one of those songs and voices that just makes you tearful the second you hear it. Good crying, not crying-crying, but after a while who can even tell!

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!