Chickpeas Diabolique

IMG_2900

We are truly working overtime down in the Just Gotta Get Through This Week salt mines this year (where we spend all day txting each other “just gotta get through this week”), though if the inexorable passage of time has taught me anything it’s that the universe or fate or whatever force is responsible for all this does not care that you’ve made it through this week/month/year! All of which is to say, the external stresses in my life are really externally stressing me this week, and so I’m reproducing a recipe some of you will have seen already last year in the small but mighty island nation that is my Patreon; but in this economy, I’m saying outfit repeating is not only cool, it’s the responsible choice.

P1200696

Joking about being a thesis replicant has rather backfired on me since upon reflection an actual replicant would be much better equipped to deal with trials and tribulations than I am; at the very least a replicant wouldn’t suffer pain in their thoracic spinal region from slumping over a laptop like a collapsed circus tent for eleven hours at a time in the library. But I can report one thing that is literally good: on Friday, I handed in my thesis (roughly 80k words all up, and on time!). Despite, if not because of everything else going on, I am very proud of myself, grateful to those who supported me along the way this year, and relieved to be typing again without the watchful chaperone of APA 7 referencing guidelines. This recipe for chickpeas diabolique is just the sort of barely-laborious cooking you can do when you’re half-conscious at best, and its rip-roaring red-orange hue reminiscent of molten red devil marbles, and surprisingly feisty cayenne heat will help make you feel full-awake.

IMG_2895

This is my reworking of a Belgian scampi recipe; the chickpeas are not in the slightest bit intended to be a 1:1 analogue for seafood, it’s more that I thought this sauce and preparation would suit the legumes keenly, and I was correct. In fact, this is possibly my favourite chickpea recipe ever β€” so far β€” as much for its speed and ease as its dramatically delicious results from such a simple list of ingredients. Something remarkable, flavour-wise, happens somewhere between the tomato paste sizzling and caramelising and the vermouth hitting the hot pan and rising up again like a magician’s puff of smoke, and it tastes like you’ve done an awful lot more than you really have. It’s sticky, it’s messy, it’s rich and decadent but rustic and unpretentious, and it tastes amazing.

@hungryandfrozen

chickpeas diabolique, probably my favourite chickpeas of all? recipe at hungryandfrozen dot com 🀠 #chickpeas #vegan #cookingvideo #fyp

♬ The Dark Of The MatinΓ©e – Franz Ferdinand

Serving the chickpeas with bread to swipe at the lurid, lycopene-rich sauce makes sense, as does serving the dish as part of a table of mezze or small plates, and it goes without saying β€” but nonetheless, for the record β€” this would be wonderful stirred through pasta. I’d choose a ridged shape, to catch the sauce; I do like the idea of pappardelle with this, like a playground slide for the chickpeas, but something with more structural integrity would probably be a better choice, like bucatini or fettuccini. Any leftovers (I ate about 75% of what was in the enamel dish in the photos and refrigerated the rest) are strangely good cold, but probably best kept as a solo snack unless reheating. I still very much just gotta get through this week, but this recipe is another tick in the somewhat lonely “literally good” column, and will long continue to be.

IMG_2906

Chickpeas Diabolique

Easy, fast, messily delicious, and with very few perishable ingredients you can keep the means to make it at any time safely in your pantry. Recipe by myself, but adapted from and inspired by the Belgian dish, Scampi Diabolique.

  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • olive oil, for frying β€” a couple tablespoons
  • 1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste, heaped is fine
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup dry white vermouth (or dry white wine or dry sherry)
  • 1-2 generously heaped tablespoons vegan aioli, plain vegan yoghurt, or anything else rich and creamy β€” even hummus or thick coconut cream
  • salt and pepper, to taste

1: Finely dice the onion and garlic cloves. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a wide frying pan and gently fry both alliums over a low heat till soft but not browned. Tip in the chickpeas, stirring to warm them through, along with the teaspoon of smoked paprika and pinch of cayenne.

2: Turn up the heat and stir in the 1/4 cup tomato paste, continuing to stir to let the tomato paste coat the chickpeas and get stickily caramelised in the heat.

3: After a minute or so of this, pour in the 1/2 cup dry vermouth, which will hit the pan with an enthusiastic hiss, and stir it in, along with the tablespoon or two (and I lean towards two), of aioli. Let this warm through, still stirring, then remove from the heat. Season and taste, add a splash of water to make it saucier if need be (or, indeed, more vermouth), and serve.

Serves one as a hearty snack, or two with accompaniments. Could stretch to three if stirred through pasta.

Notes:
I assume confidently that the “diabolique” part of the name refers to the heat of the cayenne. If you’re serving this to kids, perhaps leave it out, but up to you β€” the dish is more punchy than truly spicy, but cayenne gets exponentially hotter pretty quick so if whoever’s eating it is not spice-confident, add with caution.

IMG_2910

music lately:

Out Here On My Own by Irene Cara, another shining star extinguished by this cruel year. I can’t begin to describe what the film Fame means to me, nor shall I try, so instead let’s just celebrate her singular talent β€” that delicate yet raw, gorgeously emotive voice, that vivid, vulnerable screen presence β€” in this, one of the most beautiful and perfect ballads of all time. If you feel like wallowing then you might follow it up with I Sing The Body Electric, an unhinged and extraordinarily joyous song that never lets you guess its next move, and which is often unfairly left out of the rightful praise heaped upon this film’s soundtrack.

Dragnalus by Unwound, seems like only yesterday I was recommending my little brother music to blow his mind and now he recommends me music because I am old and set in my ways and only listen to the same seven tracks over and over. Fortunately, this is music recommendation catnip for me: it’s old enough to rent a car, it’s obscure enough that I missed it first time around, and it sounds like angry chickpea tin cans fighting in the bottom of a council skip.

Nobody by Keith Sweat feat. Athena Cage. Even when playing over the speakers of the Chemist Warehouse, with its fluorescent lighting and narrow aisles closing in on you, surely the least amenable and most incongruent environment to hear this song, still a seductive slow-dance air pervaded between those disorientingly jammed shelves.

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 every month. There’s no better time than right now β€” your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Vegan Chocolate-Nut Fudge Candies

P1200685

You can usually pinpoint the exact moment that I become cognisant of Christmas approaching because I’ll suddenly post an utterly frivolous recipe whose existence clearly serves to augment my annual edible Christmas gift round-up. Case in frivolous point, these Chocolate-Nut Fudge Candies, which you’ll see added to this year’s imminent list in a couple of weeks. I mean, I’m also aware that the Fideles are Adeste-ing because I’ve started having those dreams where I wake up on Christmas Day and haven’t organised any presents and everyone is deeply disappointed in me. But only one of these internal alarm clocks results in chocolate, and even though I am still largely in Thesis Replicant Mode (a mode which, admittedly, feeds on itself more than my thesis probably requires at this point) I still heeded the call.

IMG_2839

If you need to cook something giddy and impetuous there are few safer bets than a second-hand mid-century book of recipes compiled from women across America titled America’s Favourite Recipes, subheading: Desserts, sub-subheading: including party beverages. I love to read this book when in need of comfort, and they weren’t lying about the party beverages, such as Cranberry Eggnog, a “mock Tom Collins” with two cups of milk in it, and a punch that includes, but is not restricted to, maraschino cherries, pineapple juice, and peppermint extract. These chocolate candies β€” and I use the American word here since it makes sense, provenancially β€” are adapted from a recipe in the book by Mrs O.S. Dews, who was, at the time of publishing in 1968, the president of the Officers’ Wives’ Club in Ogden, Utah. Should Mrs Dews still be kicking about, I graciously thank her.

Though there’s a bit of boiling sugar involved here this recipe is remarkably easy and very delicious β€” admittedly, not a super complex flavour profile, it instead evokes solidified chocolate icing, but this is hardly a bad thing. Also, despite having not a lick of dairy, the combination of toffee shocked into submission by a pile of chocolate really does end up tasting like fudge, with its wet-sand, tooth-exfoliating soft melting grittiness.

IMG_2840

The dusting of dehydrated plum powder, scattering on the white baking paper like pohutukawa needles (or, I suppose, a Fargo-esque spray of blood) on fallen snow, is, I assure you, truly for aesthetic purposes only. You could consider sprinkling over edible glitter to give it the old razzle dazzle, lean into immaturity with rainbow sprinkles, or assume a soberly logical stance and simply press extra cashews into the surface of the cooling chocolate candies. Either way, these are delicious post-dinner fortifiers or, logically, edible gifts, and just be glad my eyes weren’t caught by the peanut brittle recipe at the bottom of the same page of this book, which lists 16 inches (!!) of paraffin wax in the ingredients; but then it did win a prize at the Tulsa State Fair…

IMG_2843

Chocolate-Nut Fudge Candies

You need to pay a little bit of attention here but these aren’t too arduous and they make, needless to say, an excellent edible gift. With their simple chocolate flavour they’re very kid-friendly, but maybe keep them out of the way while you’re boiling the sugar. Recipe adapted from the Favourite Recipes of America: Desserts book.

  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup golden syrup (or light corn syrup for the Americans)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • salt, for scattering over
  • dehydrated plum powder, to serve (very optional)

1: Roughly chop the 200g dark chocolate and set aside. Just leave it on the chopping board, no need to decant it into a separate bowl. You might as well rip off a couple sheets of baking paper and lay them on baking trays for later, too.

2: Place the two cups of sugar, cup of brown sugar, 1/4 cup golden syrup, 1/2 cup water and teaspoon of vinegar into a large heavy-based saucepan and cook over a low heat for about fifteen minutes, stirring constantly without letting it bubble up, until the sugar is entirely dissolved, or near enough. You’ll see it on the back of your spoon β€” it’ll look clear and shiny rather than gritty β€” and you should be able to feel it as you stir as well.

3: Once the sugar is dissolved, turn up the heat and let the sugar mixture boil, without stirring, for three minutes. The second three minutes are up, remove the pan from the heat, and once the bubbles have subsided, throw in the chopped chocolate and stir energetically.

4: Once the chocolate has entirely melted and incorporated and the mixture has thickened considerably, let it sit for ten minutes to cool a little. While this is happening, roughly chop the 1/2 cup of roasted salted cashews and boil the jug for the water. Stir the cashews into the saucepan along with the 1/4 cup boiling water β€” the chocolate mixture will go from quite dry and crumbly to shiny again β€” and drop tablespoons of the mixture onto baking trays lined with baking paper. Sprinkle over a little salt and, if you like, shake a little dehydrated plum powder (or any other red fruit, plum is just what I had in the cupboard) through a sieve over the chocolate candies.

Allow the candies to cool and firm up, then store them in an airtight container in the fridge. Makes around 30 – 35.

P1200694

music lately:

American Teen by Ethel Cain, a fitting song to go with this recipe. Whether its an indictment of my age or just the fact that I genuinely prefer very old music, I’ve hit a point where I struggle to care about or resonate with much of anything that hasn’t already existed for many years, but this song broke through my walls and defences. Possibly because it has a distinct 1994-ish energy, but probably because it’s wildly beautiful and exhilarating with the kind of lively guitar riffs that make you want to raise a can of Pepsi-cola up a flagpole and salute it.

The Nitty Gritty by Shirley Ellis, the way this song perambulates and syncopates is so immensely satisfying, as is Ellis’ gorgeous voice, though little is as satisfying as the ludicrously sincere dancing in the video with it, I highly recommend clicking through.

(Birds Fly) Whisper to a Scream by Icicle Works, just the song you want playing as you run through concrete back alleys in the rain wearing a scratchy wool jumper while charmingly and cinematically coming of age circa 1983. Those drums β€” those drums!!

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 every month. There’s no better time than right now β€” your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Vegan Pistachio Toffee Cookies

IMG_2174

Since losing half of October to Covid I have struggled to get a grip on time, space, concepts, activities, et cetera, it’s like I’m trying to run underwater, (or, honestly, given my running abilities, trying to run on land) or get to the airport on time in a dream, everything feels liminal and indistinct. And it’s nearly November! And, let’s face it, pre-Covid I was not exactly a paragon of organization and grip-getting. However, these cookies appeared to me in a piercing moment of lucidity and the rush of coming up with a recipe again reminded me that just because my brain is still a bit out of reach, it does want to come back to me.

IMG_2184

The cookies themselves are delicious enough, but when you add the bumpy, glassy toffee-coated pistachios like molten gold and emeralds poured over each cookie, it suddenly feels like an artisanal bakery has sprung up in your kitchen. I can’t even begin to impress upon you how excellent the texture is: crunchy, splintering toffee, firm and buttery pistachios, and dense cookie, all yielding to each other in every mouthful.

@hungryandfrozen

vegan pistachio toffee cookies β€’ full recipe at hungryandfrozen dot com β€’ #cookies #pistachio #toffee #foodblog #vegancookies

♬ Central Reservation (The Then Again Version) – Beth Orton

Pistachios aren’t cheap, I know, but I guess the upside of everything being stupidly expensive right now is that the price of pistachios isn’t so shocking, comparatively (and by “upside” I do not at all mean “I accept this current state of things”, to be clear), and this recipe makes a modest quantity go quite some distance. The cardamom and coffee flavours in the cookie dough below are subtle yet entirely essential, together they give a kind of mysterious, almost gingery flavour profile (and as I note in the recipe, if you don’t like cardamom you could use ginger instead) and lend a sophisticated note to balance all the rambunctious sweetness coating the cookies.

P1200653

And go big or go home, right? If anything, I’m touched that my brain thought I was capable of monitoring the caramelisation of sugar and then rapidly transferring spoonfuls of the aforementioned boiling sugar from a saucepan to a tray of cookies, and I, in turn, believe you can do it too. Yeah, it’s a bit of work, and mildly treacherous, but the result is undeniably charming.

P1200657

Pistachio Toffee Cookies

To make it easier you could just fold the chopped pistachios through the dough, but truly, it’s all about that crunch of pistachio-studded toffee giving way to spiced cookie below: worth the effort. Recipe by myself.

Cookie Dough:

  • 1/2 cup rice bran oil, or similar neutral oil
  • 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur (see notes)
  • 3 tablespoons oat milk, or similar

Toffee Topping:

  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
  • a pinch of salt

1: Set your oven to 180C/350F and line a cookie sheet/tray with baking paper.

2: Stir together the 1/2 cup oil, the cup of brown sugar, and the two tablespoons of golden syrup. Add the remaining cookie dough ingredients (and I tend to sieve in the baking soda because I live in fear of lumps of soda in my baked goods) and stir together to form a stiff dough. Add an extra splash of milk if it’s too floury still, but this should be just enough liquid to make it all come together.

3: Roll heaped tablespoons of cookie dough into balls and place about 2 inches apart on the paper-lined tray. Bake for 13 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack, carefully as they’ll be a little fragile while they’re still hot, and then repeat this step with any remaining dough.

4: Once all the cookies are cooling on the rack (and not a moment before), you can start on the toffee. First, briefly chop the pistachios, so that some are left whole and some are in pieces. Rest the rack of cookies back on top of the paper-lined tray β€” as per the picture above β€” so it can catch any toffee drips.

5: Slowly dissolve the 3/4 cup caster sugar and 3 tablespoons of water together in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring occasionally. Once the sugar is dissolved β€” and you can check by dipping your spoon into the syrup and seeing if there are visible gritty sugar crystals on it β€” turn up the heat and bring it to a boil. Let it bubble away without stirring at all, until it turns from clear, to light gold, to a deeper amber-honey colour. As soon as it hits that point, remove the pan from the heat and tip in the chopped pistachios. Don’t be tempted to move away from the stove at any point, as it can quickly go from underdone to burnt, and will carry on cooking even when the heat is turned off.

6: Using a dessert spoon, and working quickly but not frantically, spoon the toffeed pistachios over each cookie. Don’t worry too much about uniformity or whether each cookie has an equal number of nuts, the haphazard, dripping vibe is part of their charm. Once you’ve done this, sprinkle juuust a little salt over the cookies.

7: Let the toffee coating cool completely, then remove the cookies from the rack (happily eating any crunchy toffee-droplets that fell through the rack to the baking paper below) and store them in an airtight container.

Makes about 18 cookies.

Notes:

  • If you don’t have coffee liqueur or don’t wish to use it, dissolve 1 teaspoon of instant coffee in two tablespoons of water, and add a splash of vanilla extract.
  • Just in case it’s not clear, by “shelled pistachios” I mean pistachios with their shells removed. If you can only find pistachios with the shell still on you’ll probably need twice the amount to make up 1/2 a cup of shelled nuts.
  • If you hate cardamom or just can’t find it, replace it with the same quantity of ground ginger or cinnamon.
  • Though the saucepan of toffee might look scary to clean, just fill it with boiling water from the kettle and let it sit for a bit. Once it’s cooled down, cold running water should dissolve any remaining stubborn toffee.

P1200655

music lately:

I Never Know When by Elaine Stritch, from the 1958 Broadway musical Goldilocks. Not, as the name might suggest, a depiction of the fairy tale, but a musical comedy about the silent film era, also starring Don Ameche and Margaret Hamilton, aka the Wicked Witch of the West. I tend to associate Stritch with more brassy, acerbic numbers rather than torchy, wistful songs like this, but even when wistful she radiates weary steeliness instead of mere sentimentality, and it’s really quite beautiful.

Dig It, by The Coup, while rewinding repeatedly to the “how now brown cow” verse because it’s so satisfying is probably not the listening experience the group intended, I can’t help it! It’s so satisfying! The rest of the song obviously rules, too.

Up on the Sun by Meat Puppets. We all have those songs, where you look them up on youtube and scroll through the sincere, superlative, breathless comments below, and instead of sneering you’re like “yeah, I would absolutely say that unprompted about this song to a stranger on the street”. Cannot overstate the effect that the long moan leading into the discordant and downbeat yet oddly uplifting chorus has on me.

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 every month. There’s no better time than right now β€” your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Tomato, Bread, and Olive Hash

P1200639

Each bracketed stretch of 365 days is unusual and burdensome in their own uniquely spiced way, but 2022 really does have more infinitely nihilistic, all-bets-are-off flavour than most. What is it this time, you ask? Well, I finally got Covid, and for nine days was pinned to my bed with all the force of a brick hurled into a paddling pool. On the upside I retained my sense of smell and taste, on the downside β€” brain fog. I feel so stupid, and not in the usual administrative ways that I’m used to. Unfortunately I’ve tied my entire personality and sense of self and worth into various acts of writing and it’s no fun having that gigantic part of my life become an arduous struggle, and I apologise if this is evident in today’s blog post. On the whole I’m grateful I got Covid when I did (post-vaccinations), am very grateful that I was taken care of, and I know my experience is comparatively tame, but still: 0/5 stars, would not recommend.

IMG_1913

So it’ll be no surprise that I’m coming back with a purposefully simple recipe, this Tomato, Bread, and Olive Hash β€” I mean, just the word hash lets you know that there’s little visual or structural expectations at play here β€” three main ingredients, a little frying, that’s all there is to it. This recipe is more or less the same as Nigella Lawson’s in her book At My Table, but I’ve added olives coated in flour for a little extra encrispening (although you could skip this step if you’re impatient) and while I wouldn’t expect to pay forty dollars for a plate of this at a restaurant, its pastoral unfiddliness is reassuring, and a comfort both to regard and to eat.

@hungryandfrozen

Tomato, Bread, and Olive Hash, recipe at hungryandfrozen dot com 🀠 #vegan #recipes #cooking #olives #foodblog #foodblog

♬ It’s All Over Now Baby Blue – Marianne Faithfull

Simple it may be, but not bland: the tomatoes, just bursting and collapsing in the heat, soak into the oil-crisped cubes of bread, the almost meaty (almost, let’s not get carried away here) olives unite the tomatoes and bread with their briny salinity. I left out Nigella’s specified shallot and let the chives do the talking, allium-wise, and added the rosemary simply because I had some from Mum’s garden, but its earthy richness is always welcome. Something in the textural state of flux makes every mouthful of hash a thrill (specifically, will this piece of bread be crunchy or soggy?) and making, eating, and now writing about it makes me feel closer to being myself again.

P1200635

In happier news, hungryandfrozen.com is fifteen years old today! Having squandered all my brainpower on the preceding paragraphs I’ve got nothing clever to say about this momentous occasion, and wish I had the energy or resources to do something celebratory, but when it comes down to it I’m glad I started my blog and I’m glad it’s still here and to everyone who has ever taken time out of their day to read it: thank you.

IMG_1918

Tomato, Bread, and Olive Hash

Simple, comforting, easy, beautiful. Feel free to glance at the quantities specified and then just use as much of any ingredient as you want; if you add more tomatoes it will be more tomato-y, and so on: you really can’t go wrong. Adapted from a recipe in At My Table by Nigella Lawson.

  • 1/3 a crusty baguette, or one to two good-sized ciabatta or sourdough buns, depending on appetite
  • 70g pitted green olives
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chives, snipped
  • the leaves from one stem of rosemary
  • salt and pepper, to taste

1: Slice the bread into rough cubes and chunks (about an inch an a half in length, but it doesn’t matter) and set aside. Briefly chop the olives so that some are left whole and others are in bits, and toss with the two tablespoons of flour in a small bowl. Finally, dice your tomato into pieces about the same size as the bread cubes.

2: Heat the olive oil in a wide frying pan and once it’s good and warm, tip in the bread cubes and let them sizzle away until golden and crisp and crouton-y. This requires patience but vigilance, as the cubes will first appear to be doing nothing and then they’ll rapidly toast up all at once, so be ready with the tongs to remove them to a bowl (or to your eventual serving plate, if you want to save on dishes). There should be a little oil left in the pan, but if not, pour in another tablespoon or so and fry the olives until all dusty traces of flour on their surface has cooked and they’re a little browned and crisped in places. Leaving the olives in the pan, tip in your chopped tomatoes, and stir for another minute or two, until the pieces of tomato start to collapse.

3: Return the toasted bread cubes to the pan, give it a stir just to amalgamate and to allow the bread to start absorbing the tomatoes, and then remove from the heat.

4: Pile everything onto a serving plate, and scatter over your chives (you can finely chop them on a board but I prefer to hold a handful over the plate and snip them with scissors) and the rosemary leaves. See if it wants any seasoning β€” probably more likely pepper than salt, since the olives are already salty β€” and eat.

Serves 1.

Notes:

  • I got some green olives that had been marinated in garlic which, as you can imagine, was a fine addition to the dish. If you can only get olives with the stone in them, remember that they’ll add extra weight, so you might want to use 90g instead of 70g (but also, those quantities are really just a guideline, add as many olives as you want.)
  • I know you’re not supposed to fry with extra virgin olive oil but everything is so expensive these days and it’s easier just to have one kind of olive oil on the go. If you have regular olive oil then use that for sure, but the olive flavour is important, so I wouldn’t recommend replacing it here with any other kind of oil like sunflower or rice bran.
IMG_1923

music lately:

Beautiful Briny Sea by Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson, from Bedknobs and Broomsticks. And we’re back to bad news: After Stephen Sondheim, Angela Lansbury’s was the inevitable death I’ve most been dreading. She was a continual and immensely comforting presence in my life and someone with even a quarter of her astonishingly diverse career could consider themselves a high achiever. Any number of her songs matter to me but I was raised on Bedknobs and Broomsticks, taped off the TV onto a VHS and watched and rewound till I could practically act it out for you off-book. I’m still not sure if there’s a higher form of wit than cartoon and live action characters interacting, and I love that Lansbury was allowed to become a major musical star with such an off-kilter voice. I’m sorry she’s gone β€” I’m glad our lifetimes overlapped for a while.

Out on the Floor, by Dobie Gray. This song radiates happiness, no, elation, and with every “hey-hey-hey” it feels like sunbeams are shooting out of your outstretched palms.

Hail Holy Queen from Sister Act; while in bed with Covid I wasn’t up to watching anything challenging but even so I’d forgotten what a balm this film is, with every minute of its runtime swaddling you, telling you it’s all going to be okay. Whoopi Goldberg is so charismatic yet grounded, and Dame Maggie Smith could do generic disapproval in her sleep but you truly feel the searing rays of her vexation, and this song β€” with its fake out initial verse leading up to the beat drop, Sister Mary Roberts’ riffing, and the punchy Latin bridge, makes me wildly emotional. I sang this once with my primary school choir, and it’s every bit as exhilarating to perform as it is to watch, let me tell you.

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

Vegan Cardamom Thyme Chocolate Puddings

P1200621

Every time I think I’ve Done Something by adding a pinch of cardamom to a recipe I hear Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly saying “florals, for spring? Groundbreaking”, but as I favour known deliciousness over needless striving for innovation (or worse: striving for virality) I can calmly tell this fictional character onto whom I’m projecting that yes, cardamom is wonderful, and here’s more of it. Obviously people have been using cardamom for centuries β€” it’s referred to in ancient Sanskrit texts, was beloved of Hippocrates, part of the Song Dynasty economy β€” and it’s pleasing to know, as I tuck into this chocolate pudding from the comfort of my bed, that I’m participating in the noble continuation of a grand culinary tradition.

P1200617

Sometimes the right answer isn’t where you’re looking for it. This recipe started off as an ice cream, and very fine it was, but the wistfully cardamom-tinted richness of the unfrozen mixture stuck with me more, so I made it again and dialled it back a few steps. Both cardamom and thyme have a kind of resiny, oily fragrance that’s wobbling just on the precipice of lemon without actually being lemony; together they lift the chocolate’s heavy curtains while still emphasising its richness, adding an air of mystery without being intrusive. Now, the first time I made this I let the coconut cream sit with its bashed cardamom pods for six hours to infuse, the second time I was in more of a hurry and it only sat for half an hour; it was still good but the cardamom didn’t make itself so known. If you end up in this same position, put ground cardamom on your shopping list and add as much as you need to the chocolate mixture till the flavour pops.

IMG_1643

This recipe is, I grant you, kind of annoying: first I ask for cashew butter (what are we, squillionaires) and second it requires two separate saucepans, but at least you don’t have to use a blender? And after a certain point of streamlining and cutting corners we have to accept that cooking food does involve being in your kitchen. For your efforts and sink full of dishes, however, you get a chocolate pudding of astonishing lusciousness, so dense and dark that you half expect a curious hippo’s nostrils to emerge through its surface; wildly sophisticated thanks to the individual portions and fragrant cardamom (and my fairly low bar for what constitutes sophistication), and yet inner-childishly comforting with its yielding softness and vague evocation, as you drag your spoon through the chocolate, of being given a scraped-out bowl of cake batter to lick. (Also: no tiktok video this week, my phone has suddenly decided it has all the capacity and power of a 125mb thumb drive from 2006 and as such I was up till 3am last night trying to clear storage space so I could edit one single video of chocolate melting and was thwarted at every turn. I have about 1000 fewer photos on my phone but it’s still being all “no x” whenever I try to edit that one video. Can’t wait till I try this again next time!)

IMG_1646

Cardamom Thyme Chocolate Puddings

Velvet-rich chocolate kissed with cardamom and fresh thyme: it’s a little messy to make and requires some advance planning, but every spoonful is a reward. And if you don’t have time to let the coconut cream infuse, add 1/2 a teaspoon ground cardamom β€” or more to taste β€” as you’re mixing it into the chocolate. Recipe by myself.

  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 x 400ml tin full-fat coconut cream
  • 1 cup/250ml water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 3 heaped tablespoons smooth cashew butter
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • Extra thyme leaves, for serving

1: Split the cardamom pods with a knife to release the black seeds within, and place the seeds and pods along with the two sprigs of thyme and the tin of coconut cream in a small saucepan and gently heat it, stirring, till the coconut cream is just too hot to touch, with a couple small bubbles escaping to the surface, but nowhere near boiling. Remove it from the heat β€” if you have the time, let it sit for about six hours in the fridge to soak up all the cardamom and thyme flavour, if not, just set it aside while you get on with the rest of the recipe, and add some ground cardamom to taste when you mix it into the chocolate later.

2: Roughly chop the 200g dark chocolate and set aside. In another saucepan, stir together the cup of water, the 1/2 cup brown sugar, two tablespoons golden syrup and three heaped tablespoons smooth cashew butter. Bring to a boil, stirring regularly with a whisk β€” it’ll look very unlikely at this stage but with a little heat (and a lot of chocolate later) it will all come together. Once it’s reached the boil, by which point it should resemble caramel sauce, let it bubble away for two minutes, stirring constantly, and then remove from the heat.

3: Let the cashew syrup sit for a minute till it stops bubbling, then tip in the chopped dark chocolate and briskly stir till the chocolate has melted. Now, take your initial pan of coconut cream, and strain it into the chocolate mixture through a sieve, so it catches the leaves and bits of cardamom. Whisk the two mixtures together, adding ground cardamom at this point if you feel like it needs a boost, and divide this mixture between your chosen serving bowls. Refrigerate the puddings for about two hours (though they can happily sit in the fridge overnight if need be) and serve scattered with extra thyme leaves.

The number of servings depends on the size of your ramekins/bowls etc, but this makes roughly 700ml of pudding mixture, and I divided it between six different receptacles, which made for a comfortable serving of pudding: enough to feel like you’ve really eaten something, but not enough that you feel like you’ve overcommitted. It would look lovely in martini or other cocktail glasses, I also liked how they looked in the base of the capacious stemless wine glasses that you can see in some of the photos here. And you could always test how it will look by filling your glasses with the same amount of water first, eg if you have seven glasses then pour in 100ml water.

Notes:

  • I haven’t tested it either way so I couldn’t say for sure but if you can’t get cashew butter, I imagine you could replace it with smooth almond butter; you could possibly leave it out altogether, bearing in mind the effect this will have on the finished texture and richness. I periodically order cashew butter from Revive, it’s the best I’ve ever tasted, it keeps for ages, and they regularly put it on special.
  • If your cashew butter is unsalted, add a pinch of salt when you’re whisking the chocolate and coconut cream together; you could also sprinkle over some sea salt flakes to serve.
  • If you’re serving this to fusspots who don’t like cardamom and thyme, subtle though they are here, leave them out and add a couple teaspoons of vanilla extract when whisking everything together at the end.

P1200627

music lately:

Kid by Steve Lawrence (aka Mr Eydie GormΓ©) from the 1968 musical Golden Rainbow. Apropos of nothing I’ve decided to work my way through every Broadway flop mentioned in the song Monkeys and Playbills from [title of show]; Golden Rainbow is second on the list and there’s something charming about this song, about that cavernous late-60s sound, and about Lawrence’s throaty, Scott Walker-esque voice.

It’s Like That, by Run-DMC and Jason Nevins. Simply cannot overstate the effect that this music video had on me in 1997! I require an oral history of it right now!

Seagull by Ride, the sort of song that makes you feel like you could run vertically up a gust of wind onto the roof of a tall building, perhaps following it up by leaping from rooftop to rooftop as you run from one end of the city to the other without any danger of falling.

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!

Clove-fried Onion and Marinated Mushroom Sandwich

IMG_1441

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

P1200608

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

@hungryandfrozen

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

♬ Goodbye Horses – Q Lazzarus

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

P1200609

Clove-fried Onion and Marinated Mushroom Sandwich

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

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

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

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

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

Makes one substantial sandwich.

IMG_1448

music lately:

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

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

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

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

tomato couscous with cinnamon, peanuts, and coriander

IMG_1221

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.

P1200592

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 β€’ fast cheap and comfortingπŸ₯² β€’ recipe at hungryandfrozen dot com #vegan #recipes #comfortfood #foodblogger #nz

♬ Pure Shores – All Saints

Despite its humble ingredients β€” a can of tomatoes, a stock cube β€” 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 β€” if you’ll permit me one more alliteration β€” 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.

P1200597

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 β€” it’ll be more soft and porridgy than light and fluffy β€” 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.

P1200593

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 β€” like falling pieces of silver β€” 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

IMG_1026

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.

IMG_1027

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 β€” as per the ‘express’ of the cookbook title β€” 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 β€’ 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 β€” 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 β€” and importantly β€” it’s delicious either way, and once you taste the marinated mushrooms all thoughts of how it all looks will disappear from your head.

P1200573 (1)

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.

P1200579 (1)

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 β€” it really makes you feel like you can achieve anything, or even just one thing β€” 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

P1200550

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 β€” Rendezvous β€” 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.)

IMG_0523 copy

This is why I keep running lists everywhere β€” on my notes app, on various documents strewn across my laptop’s memory, in my journal, on any piece of paper β€” 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 β€” 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.

P1200540

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.

P1200545

Salt and Vinegar Beans

This is β€” unsurprisingly β€” 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.

P1200547

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 β€” the production done on most of them could almost be a genre in itself β€” and Kuhn’s crystal-clear voice and level-headed vibrato is perfect for interpreting this song.

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

Vegetables Γ  la Grecque

P1200527

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

P1200532

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

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

P1200523

Vegetables Γ  la Grecque

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note:

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

P1200524

music lately:

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

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

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

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