Spaghetti with Olives, Nori, Pine Nuts and Chilli

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Not once in my thirteen years of writing hungryandfrozen.com has a recipe featured anchovies. I wasn’t against anchovies – I also clearly wasn’t going out of my way to court their flavour. Being vegan now would suggest that stance is unlikely to change, but then I re-read a Nigella Lawson cookbook, as smooth and eroded from my fingerprints as a statue of Mary in a particularly tourist-friendly French cathedral, and suddenly I was consumed with trying to capture the flavour of anchovies – minus the anchovies. You might shrewdly ask, where was this fervour over the last thirteen years? The thing is, I’ve already had my first Nigella-fuelled attempts at an anchovy phase back in 2006, just before I started my blog. It wasn’t successful – I don’t think I’d amassed the life experience needed to truly enjoy anchovies – and it had since lain dormant, waiting for the trigger: the fact that I really can’t eat them anymore, and so of course, strangely want them. Limitation being the mother of invention – and Nigella being the mother of the mother of my invention, which I guess would make me the mother of my own limitation, and my limitation a servant of two masters, and this paragraph complete nonsense – I made this spaghetti.

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As they say when they’re quoting The Wire, all the pieces matter – the olives give briny density, the nori sheets strongly suggest the ocean, the pine nuts are gently rich, the parsley is strident and a little astringent, and the prunes add darkly subtle balancing sweetness without any actual, you know, pruniness. I know prunes are deeply un-alluring but I insist that you humour me here! I’ve previously paired them with olives in my tapenade recipe – frankly I think they’re an ideal match for each other’s intensity. The chilli flakes were a reckless, “more is more” addition, but their heat grounds the sauce, stopping the flavour from skidding too wildly off-course.

The flavour of this sauce is A Lot, and it looks completely hideous – like hearty mud – but once you’ve made peace with both these factors, deliciousness awaits you. Because, A Lot of flavour is great! And the ugliness of the pasta can be carefully hidden under parsley and extra pine nuts, as you see in the photos. It would take someone more recently familiar with those tiny fish than I to assess for sure if this captures the flavour of anchovies, but it’s definitely got a vibe, you know? This is pasta that has known the sea.

Given that this was inspired by her numerous anchovy-pasta recipes I probably should’ve given it a Nigella-esque high kick of a name, but I find it more helpful for all involved to simply list the main star ingredients. (Pointedly, minus the prunes, since I don’t want to alienate people before they’ve even begun.) That style works for Nigella – no-one needs to read me calling something “Sprightly Spaghetti.”

(To be fair, it really is sprightly.)

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Spaghetti with Olives, Nori, Pine Nuts and Chilli

A recipe by myself

  • 1/2 cup pine nuts (70g)
  • 3/4 cup black olives, pitted
  • 1/2 cup parsley (more or less – just grab a handful)
  • 2 x 10cm nori sheets, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves or to taste
  • 2 prunes
  • chilli flakes, to taste
  • 100g spaghetti or pasta of your choice

1: Toast the pine nuts in a small pan over a medium heat till they’re lightly browned. Reserve a tablespoon or so for sprinkling over at the end, if you like, along with a little of the parsley.

2: Blend the pine nuts, olives, parsley, nori sheets, olive oil, prunes, and chilli flakes either using a stick blender in a small bowl (which is what I did) or in a small food processor, until it forms a thick paste. You will probably need to scrape down the sides once or twice. Taste to see if you think it needs more chilli, nori, etc.

3: Bring a pan of well-salted water to the boil (or, more efficiently, boil the jug and then pour that into the pan along with your salt) and cook the spaghetti for ten to twelve minutes, or however long it takes for them to be done.

4: This is a good opportunity to steal some of the pasta cooking water to stir into the olive paste to make it more saucy, if you like – around quarter of a cup should do it. The starch from the pasta makes the cooking water particularly great for this purpose, as opposed to plain tap water which will just make it watery.

5: Drain the pasta, stir through as much of the olive sauce as you like, and sprinkle over more parsley, chilli flakes, and the reserved pine nuts to serve.

Serves 1 generously, and the sauce would easily stretch to two people, just double the pasta obviously. If you don’t have a blending implement, you could chop all the sauce ingredients as finely as possible and mix them together – it will be a lot more textured as opposed to saucy, but this isn’t a bad thing!

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music lately:

All Through The Night, Cyndi Lauper – one of the most beautiful pop songs. My introduction to this was via a 2002 Idina Menzel concert bootleg at Ars Nova (if you know, you know!) but Lauper’s original is glorious, with those delicious twinkly keys and that reckless, triumphant, anything-is-possible chorus.

Suddenly Seymour by Ellen Greene and Rick Moranis, from Little Shop of Horrors. There is no one else on earth who should sing this but Ellen Greene – the way she goes from that feather-squeak speaking voice to a blood-freezing full belt is astonishing. I love the way the verses rush over each other in the middle section, I love the Kermit (as in, the Frog) earnestness of Moranis’ voice, and – Ellen Greene’s belting! So exhilarating.

Also, if you like the way I write about music and also like dogs, I made a playlist called 25 Great Songs For Dog Lovers and wrote a bit about each song for Tenderly, and you should definitely both read and listen to it.

Next time: I cooked some pulled jackfruit into which I may have put way too much chilli. I’ve been nervously avoiding returning to it to taste-test, but if it actually is good you’ll be the first to know.

PS: If you enjoy my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon.

c’mon everybody and rock with me, I am the one on the Christmas tree

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I love this time of year – no, not Christmas, I mean this precise moment, where I do my annual round up of recipes from this blog that I believe would make ideal potential edible gift ideas for the season ahead or indeed any time (which also coincides with my annual struggle to convey this concept in a concise manner.) It’s not just that it gives me a break from devising content, and it’s not just that it’s an opportunity to be self-congratulatory and self-serving in equal measure – actually, that’s more or less precisely it – but I also do love being useful, and I’d like to think this list is, in fact, of use to someone out there.

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Sake Pickled Radishes

Whether or not you subscribe to Christmas at any level there will still probably be an occasion throughout the year where a gift of some kind is required from you, and personally – second to flagrant quantities of money – there’s no better gift than something you can eat. By its very nature the space it takes up in the receiver’s home will be temporary and receding, it’s thoughtful, it’s fairly low-level as far as rampant consumerism goes, and you can completely personalise it. Giving food also lowers the fear of accidentally getting a person something they already have – as far as delicious food goes, more is more.

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chocolate-dipped pumpkin spice lemon pistachio cookies

This year I’m also going to be including some of the recipes I contributed to Tenderly, since the only thing I enjoy more than calling attention to myself is doubling down on calling attention to myself. They’re all separated out into helpful categories, and you should know that some of these recipes are from years ago, but while details and contexts and locations and motivations have changed, the deliciousness remains constant.

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salted vanilla brazil nut butter, coffee cinnamon hazelnut butter, cumin and paprika spiced pumpkin seed butter

The HungryandFrozen Inviolably Unimpeachable List of Edible Gift Ideas For Life, Not Just For Christmas, But Definitely Also For Christmas

Category One: Things In Jars

Seasons change, fickle trends come and go, but still jars abide. Put some stuff in a jar and you’ve instantly got a simple, elegantly rustic benefaction which no one can deny looks as though some considerable effort was made. It’s also what we in the business (that is, show business) call a twofer, because as well as getting something delightful to eat the receiver also gets a handy jar for their own future shoving of food into.

Savoury:

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Berry Chia Seed Jam

Sweet

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Vanilla Chocolate Macarons

Category Two: Baked Goods

Baked goods! It’s right there in the name! They’re good!

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Peppermint Schnapps and Coffee-Orange Liqueur

Category Three: From the Unbaked to the Unhinged

This is everything else, the kind of thing that comes from such lines of thought as “what if I dissolved candy canes in vodka?” The results are remarkably almost potable! Some of these items have a fairly low melting point, so use your judgment when it comes to packaging and storing them.

Oh yeah, and all these recipes are vegan.

title from: Master-Dik by Sonic Youth, a sprawling and loquacious song where the less of a point it makes the better it sounds.

music lately:

Do You Love Me Now by The Breeders, I just love this song so much, there’s something about it that evokes running through an airport frantically but also trying to wade through syrup, like it’s on fast-forward and in slow motion simultaneously.

The Look, Roxette. RIP Marie Fredriksson. This is just literally one of the best songs in the world – that chord progression in the chorus that almost makes me feel carsick with its urgency, the fantastic devil-may-care bizarreness of the lyrics, the drama of the synths, the muffled 80s production making it sound like you’re running down a corridor trying desperately to find the locked, padded room that it’s being recorded in.

Paradise By The Dashboard Light, originally by Meat Loaf, as performed on Glee. I realise that is an extremely cursed sentence right there but hear me out. I genuinely hate all of Meat Loaf’s music and by all accounts the man himself is a Republican; I also realise Glee covers of songs do not necessarily represent the highest form of art. Nevertheless, this performance is incredible and it makes my heart ache to watch it, because it was really the last time things were good on Glee, on and offscreen. The cast looks like they’re having a ball, and there’s so many little moments – I love Santana resting her head in Brittany’s hand at 1:25 – but it’s Lea Michele’s entrance at 1:40 that kills me, I swear my achilles tendons nearly snapped when she growled “I gotta know right now.” I genuinely can’t stop watching this video. On that note you should definitely read this piece I wrote about Glee and Rachel Berry (Lea Michele’s Glee character) for Tenderly – it’s one of my favourite things that I’ve written this year.

Next time: Back to business as usual! Like I don’t know what it will be specifically, but it will be business as usual.

PS: if you enjoy my writing and would like to support me directly, you can do so by joining my Patreon. It’s like a cordoned-off VIP area where you can access content written just for you: recipes, updates, a short story, the opening sentences of the novel I wrote.

cold comfort for change

I used to have a much, much sweeter tooth than I do currently. My idea of a good time tastebud-wise is generally on the savoury-salty-oily-sour side of things, but the me who used to have a thousand-dollar-a-day candy necklace habit (a moderate exaggeration) and think nothing of hooning through love hearts or boxes of Nerds as a modest snack, will apparently always be there below the surface. I say that because I recently found myself having actual dreams, as in while I was asleep, of tables laden with chocolate and cookies and caramelly things and cakes. Naturally, I would then wake up feeling kind of empty, because when you eat in a dream – whatever it signifies – it’s always blurred and hard to get a grip on and leaves you wanting. Because you’re not actually eating, you’re just thinking about it with your eyes closed, duh.

I also recently found myself strongly requiring some kind of soul-soothing comfort food, and so naturally turned to Nigella Lawson. Her book Simply Nigella yielded a recipe for these cookie dough pots – literally just chocolate-studded dough that you bake in ramekins instead of in cookie form, so you get a pleasing combination of slightly crisp top and gooey middle into which to greedily plunge your spoon.

They take about three minutes to throw together and twelve-ish minutes to bake so comfort is really not that far away, however I had like two spoonfuls of the finished product and immediately needed a lie down from the spike in blood sugar. However the second: the actual act of baking something for myself was actually pretty calming in itself, which I guess is worth keeping in mind – sometimes you just need to spend some time doing something that’s for you and you alone, to remind yourself that you are okay. Part of my immediate reaction was possibly also due to the fact that like, Nigella specifies that this makes six ramekins’ worth of cookie dough and I divided the entire mixture between two larger ramekins, so proportionately and with the curve of the earth and whatnot I’d probably actually eaten more than I thought I had. I don’t know, but what I do know is that I bravely soldiered on and consumed the rest of the first, plundered cookie dough pot (pouring some milk into the crevice left by the spoon) and was highly pleased with myself, and was even more pleased with myself when I returned from work many hours later to see the second cookie dough pot waiting for me beside my bed.

cookie dough pots

From Nigella Lawson’s book Simply Nigella, but changed to use cup measures because that’s all I’ve got and much as baking is all specific and stuff, it’s definitely easier this way.

  • 110g soft butter
  • half a cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • one egg
  • one teaspoon vanilla extract
  • one cup plain flour
  • half a teaspoon baking soda
  • one teaspoon sea salt flakes, or half a teaspoon table salt
  • as many and whatever kind of chocolate chips/chunks/pieces as you fancy, really, but like roughly 75g is a good place to start  

Set your oven to 180C/350F and prepare as many ramekins as suits you, but up to six of roughly 200ml capacity. Again, I used only two, so.  

Beat the butter and sugar together, then add the egg and the vanilla and give a further vigorous stirring. Fold in the flour, salt, baking soda, and chocolate, and divide the dough between your ramekins. Bake for 12-15 minutes, at which point the dough should be firm and cookie-like on top, but gooey not much further below. That’s all you have to do.

These are really delicious, which is hardly surprising considering the ingredients, but the just-cooked and barely-barely-cooked dough in tandem feels ludicrously gratuitous and gratuitously ludicrous at the same time, which, I assure you, is a very good thing. I used good milk chocolate because I’m the kind of heathen who can’t really handle just up and eating dark dark chocolate for like, joy and pleasure, but as with pretty much all recipes that I put on here, you do as you please.

Anyway I had a monumentally enormous weekend at work and so any brain capacity that I might have even had the ghost of a chance of possessing beforehand has hitherto been drained, but if comfort food is what your soul also needs right now, may I, by way of further reading, recommend these other hug-like recipes I’ve blogged about: Instant Coconut Custard Semolina (which is also vegan!), Nigella’s Butternut Pasta Soup (also also vegan) and something I that at the time of making I called Demi-lasagne. 

title from:  Pink Floyd’s song Wish You Were Here, I’m all galaxy-brain-meme on Pink Floyd in that I used to be desperately into them at about 18 and then felt like it was uncool to be into them and now I’m all, I think it’s…okay…..to enjoy….things….that I enjoy. Anyway, it’s a good song, you know it is, and a masterpiece in making you wait and wait and wait for the chorus before only playing it ONCE, you spry mavericks.   

music lately:

Speaking of enjoying things that I enjoy, I decided to branch out from just relentlessly thrashing various cast recordings of Les Miserables and also lean into the troubled and patchy musical Chess, which is a musical, about chess, like, how did they not realize this was going to be trouble. Anyway MATE the premise aside – and since when have musicals burdened themselves with worrying about the legitimacy of premise anyway – the music absolutely BANGS. You might know, so well, the song I Know Him So Well or One Night In Bangkok, but Nobody’s Side is the lost ABBA song that gets much less attention than it deserves: try my queen Idina Menzel’s rendition of it at the 2008 concert performance that I remember discussing on message boards and LiveJournal like it was yesterday.

The glassie at work put on Bad Karma by Axel Thesleff while we were closing the other night and I was like what IS this I LOVE it, it’s all hypnotic and mellow which, despite the previous breathless paragraph about no less than two bombastic musicals from the 80s, is a vibe that I really enjoy.

 Vul’Indlela by Brenda Fassie. Just do yourself a favour and listen to this soaring and upbeat and happy pop song.

next time: something aggressively savoury, I imagine  

it was ice cream headaches and sweet avalanche

On the one hand, I absolutely hate tough love and would much rather live in some kind of constructed reality where I’m relentlessly coddled and never need face up to hard truths, on the other hand if I was on top of my game at any given areas of my life, tough love and hard truths wouldn’t need to be a constant burden to be avoided, yeah? Anyway to my great aggrievement, I had to tough-love myself and acknowledge that there is just no feasible way that the ticket to Lana Del Rey’s concert in Melbourne at the end of this month that I bought for myself in a burst of hopefulness earlier this year is going to get used by me, not in this economy. (Although I have best friend and economy expert Kim to thank for getting me to this point, she was essentially like “have you decided what you’re doing” and I was like “I’ve decided to flail endlessly” and she was like “what are your incoming and outgoing funds” and I was like “lol as if I’m supposed to know that kind of thing” and then I kind of investigated and she was like “well there’s your answer.”)

Part of the reason that it was so hard to give up the idea that some eleventh-hour miracle might happen is that I haven’t left the country in six entire years, partly because of life getting in the way of life, mostly because of the old incoming-outgoing paradox, and while traveling for the purpose of pleasure in no way makes you a more interesting or worthy person, I was like, I’m an adult, aren’t I? Why can I not perform this small display of adulthood in the manner of so many other adults? But also being kind to myself in the face of defeat but also not pinning my entire hopes and worth upon one single star when there’s a whole galaxy out there waiting, is also something of a display of adulthood, I GUESS.  (Related: if someone wants to purchase one GA ticket to Lana Del Rey’s concert in Melbourne on 31 March kindly get in touch.)

Meanwhile, I made some ice cream. I would regard ice cream as easily one of my favourite foods; as I’ve said before there’s something about its creamy frozen-ness that is a perfect blank canvas upon which to paint flavour, I love its billowing softness, its glacial richness, its melting sweetness, its, um…I just really like ice cream. My love for ice cream possibly exceeds my ability to talk about ice cream reverently, and you know I store vast reserves of reverence within my brain, like a camel of overexcitement.

Initially when I started making ice cream, well over ten years ago now, I would either do the traditional method – gently cooking egg yolks and cream into a rich custard – or Nigella’s swift method, literally just sugared whipped cream – but my current favourite base recipe that I find it impossible to extricate myself from because it’s so easy and makes perfect ice cream every time, is a mixture of condensed milk and cream. So this time around my idea was tahini and honey – tahini is a thick, rich paste of ground sesame seeds, with a really wonderful toasty nutty flavour and the texture of peanut butter. Even if you’ve never bought any you’ve probably had it before as it’s an ingredient in hummus.

This makes for a really lovely, slightly unusual flavoured ice cream – there’s an almost savoury quality to all that sesame, but its toasty nuttiness, and I’m sorry to re-use adjectives but there’s only so many bloody ways to say it – is just wonderful against the thick, soft, creamy backdrop of the ice cream. The honey adds gentle sweetness and all in all it’s a very mellow, mild ice cream, the sort that would be ideal under lots of toppings – some toasted pine nuts or walnuts, a further drizzle of sticky, slow-moving honey, some dark, dark melted chocolate, or as I did, a scattering of sesame seeds, for obvious reasons.

tahini honey ice cream

  • 50g butter
  • three heaped tablespoons tahini
  • thre heaped tablespoons honey
  • one can sweetened condensed milk
  • 600ml cream  
  • sea salt  

Stir the butter, honey, and tahini together in a saucepan over a low heat until the butter is melted and it’s juuuust at the ghost of a simmer, like, remove it from the heat just when bubbles start to form on the surface. Stir in the condensed milk and a decent pinch of sea salt. Whisk the cream in a large bowl till it’s just thickened but not whipped – thick enough to be kind of billowy and bordering-on-solid but not actually in stiff peaks, you know? Mix the cream into the tahini honey mixture any way you like – I poured half the cream into the tahini and whisked it and then poured that into the remaining whisked cream and folded it together but honestly literally, whatever.  

Spatula all this into a container of roughly 1 litre and freeze overnight or until solid. 

For me the most difficult part making of ice cream is probably waiting around for it to freeze solid enough to be eaten, other than that hardship I assure you that this recipe, as I hope for all my ice cream recipes to be, is really pretty easy and requires nothing more than a spoon, a pan, and a freezer-safe container. Something about the density of the sweetened condensed milk (or it could be any other scientific reason beyond my comprehension, the point is, it works) prevents any ice crystals from forming, meaning all you have to do is bung the mixture in the freezer and leave it alone, without any stirring or blending or further agitation until the blissful moment of actually eating it.

Gloomily accepting my lot in life aside, I did have a high-achieving week: I flew up home to Waiuku to spend two nights with my parents, catch up with an awful lot of family all at once, be roundly ignored by the cats, and pick up some total clothing gems at the local op shop, before scooting briefly up to Auckland to see Fall Out Boy in concert, the result of a ticket I purchased a long time ago and completely forgot about until quite recently. It was lovely to go home and see everyone, and the concert itself was just wonderful, such naked earnestness (luckily the nudity remained metaphorical only), such whoa-oh-ohs, such specificity of lyrics that it’s like, how dare you.  Just in case you thought I was exaggerating about well, literally anything earlier, the only way I was able to spatula myself on a mere visit to Auckland was with financial assistance from my parents for the flights, but one out of two concerts in one month isn’t bad, I guess. And if nothing else there’s no better music to listen to when you’re feeling sad about Lana Del Rey than Lana Del Rey, she is to sad moods what like, salt is to tomatoes.

And if nothing else, I did manage to finally get my application for my passport sent off, including an injurously bad photo that I refuse to acknowledge is an accurate representation of me in the slightest, considering my current passport expired in 2014 (I’m literally grinning in the photo inside it, can’t do that anymore) I’m mildly proud of myself.

While we’re talking ice cream I have any number of other recipes to recommend to you if you’re interested, but instead I offer you some recipes with which to use the rest of the jar of tahini – such as Green Tea Soba Noodles with Tahini Satay Sauce; Ottolenghi’s Roasted Butternut with Lime, Yoghurt Tahini Sauce, and Chilli; or this truly incredible Halvah Shortbread.

title from: Carpal Tunnel of Love, by Fall Out Boy, as I am nothing if not topical.

music lately:

A nice thing about working at Laundry bar is that there’s regularly DJ sets to bop to, and the very last song on Saturday night just got me right in the heart, it was a remix of Beth Orton’s song Central Reservation and it just filled me with euphoria, which, at the tail end of a long shift is like, a cool feeling. I haven’t been able to find the exact version that I heard but this one will do in the meantime.

Another song that stopped me in my tracks at work was when one of the DJ’s just casually dared to drop Rez by Underworld, like, did they not realize that when this song is playing I am capable of naught but standing with my eyes closed and waving my arms around in what I hope is roughly a graceful fashion, interrupted only by some jumping up and down with little regard for objects or people around me? This song is just magical.

Deftones, My Own Summer. Respectfully, shove it.

next time: Well, I still have half a jar of tahini left.

cold as ice cream but still as sweet, dry your eyes sunday girl

My current response to “how are you” is that my one personality is being overheated and that’s how I’m doing, thanks very much (and honestly, how am I? What kind of a question is that in this economy?) As such, the only thing to do is make ice cream, put it in the freezer, and then eat it, in lieu of being able to stash myself in said freezer. Oh sure, one shouldn’t complain, this is Wellington, city of a thousand winters, but as a pale vampire nursing a thriving vitamin D deficiency living in a bedroom with a microclimate that’s increasingly not unlike a dense rainforest, it’s all a bit much! (An alternate response to “how are you” is to coolly inform them that you’re coming out of your cage and you’re doing just fine.)

This is not just any old ice cream – although it never is. I suppose we could generously concede that I have one other personality trait, that I’m a bartender, and as such concocting cocktails and imagining various combinations of x and y poison regularly occupy my thoughts. In this case, I thought it would be fun to take Fernet-Branca, the “bartender’s handshake”, an ancient and storied Italian bitters that we doggedly take pride in necking shots of at every opportunity, and incorporate it into my favourite food.

I first became aware of Fernet-Branca when it was mentioned in Jilly Cooper’s rollicking and bonk-heavy novel Rivals; (side note: it’s really the only book of hers I can stomach and it’s heavily problematic but on the whole I adore Declan and Caitlin and Taggie and Rupert and Lizzie like they’re old friends and basically she was never more winning than in this particular book and I like to reread it every summer.) The character Rupert Campbell-Black has had the memoirs of his ludicrously prolific sex life published in the local paper in an attempt to Campbell-Blacken his name ahead of a bid for a television franchise (idk, it’s the plot) and his friend Basil Baddingham (really) offers him a Fernet-Branca as fortification before he reads it. If it’s the sort of thing offered on that level of apocalyptic magnitude, you can see why it’s a bolstering shot for bartenders to drink at any occasion, like a wine match but for your emotions. All of them.

When I was at Motel bar we would have shots of it at midnight, as an oh-we’re-halfway-there-living-on-a-prayer type reinforcement. Like sailors with their rations of rum, we had our Fernet, and we kind of revelled in the romanticism of it all, from hosting a tasting with the (wonderful, lovely, raucously good fun) brand supplier to making a fidget spinner in the shape of the logo (never thought I’d use the words romanticism and fidget spinner together in a sentence, but it is 2018.) On the final night of Motel’s existence – New Year’s Eve – my contribution to the cocktail list naturally had Fernet Branca in it.

Not everyone likes it, and nor should they, but I am not particularly sorry for taking joy in the shared experience of it because honestly, bartending is a hard, often thankless, mop-bucket-water covered, underpaid, underslept occupation and you’ve got to derive joy from stuff where you can! Don’t get me wrong: the flavour is challenging. Some would say appalling. As my brand t-shirt says, it contains 27 herbs and all of them legal, and it’s literally medicinal (or so we insist), so if you get “mouthwash but harsher” or “jaeger but without the sugar” vibes then that’s, like, more or less accurate. But I figured that against a backdrop of soft, mellowly rich cream and sugar its aggressiveness would be mollified into gentle tones of mint, and I was delighted to be proven right. In all honesty sometimes I swear I taste actual dirt when I drink the stuff, but any rough edges are muffled and calmed by all that dairy. Before it gets all too easy though I also folded in paper-thin, irregularly shaped shards of dark, dark chocolate (made by melting it on a sheet of baking paper and then letting it set before breaking it up.) The bitterness of the chocolate is a natural pair for the Fernet and interrupts the smoothness of the ice cream with its fragile crunch.

It’s also, as is so often my aim, really easy to make. I’ve no capacity for making a yolk-heavy anglaise in this heat, so instead I just bung together some cream and some sweetened condensed milk, which come together to make an ice cream of rapturously soft velveteen-ness. Oh and you don’t need an ice cream machine to make this, or any of my ice cream recipes.

fernet-branca stracciatella ice cream

a recipe by myself

  • two shots (60ml or quarter of a cup) Fernet-Branca
  • one tin of sweetened condensed milk 
  • 800ml cream
  • 100g dark chocolate

Firstly sort out the chocolate: rip a large sheet of baking paper and lay it on the bench, then gently melt the chocolate (I do it in short bursts in the microwave, once the squares start to look like they’re about to collapse and lose their shape you can give it a stir and it should just turn into liquid.) Spatula it out in an even, thin layer onto the sheet of baking paper and leave to harden. If your house is super warm, pop it in the fridge instead. 

Whisk the cream with moderate enthusiasm until it’s thickened and lightly aerated but not whipped, which should only take thirty seconds or so. Tip in the tin of condensed milk, scraping out every last sticky vestige from inside, and add the Fernet. Whisk again to combine.

Tip it into a container of about 1.5L capacity and put it in the freezer for a few hours. At this point, crumble up the sheet of chocolate – the easiest way to do this is to just fold up and scrunch the baking paper so it all breaks up into uneven pieces – and fold it into the slightly-solidified ice cream. Return it to the freezer and leave until it’s, well, ice cream. 

 Yes, I did take home quite a bit of merch when the bar closed.  Yes, I did take home quite a bit of merch when the bar closed.

                  I considered calling it Mint Choc Chip for Grown Ups but that felt a bit elitist, although possibly it’s even more elitist to call it Stracciatella, which refers to the thin, shard style of chocolate stirred in. Since Fernet itself is Italian I figured, might as well go full immersion. But all you need to know is that it’s just extremely delicious stuff, an icy herbal minty kick blanketed in sweet frozen cream with the welcome interruption of chocolate, what’s not to love? Don’t be tempted to add more Fernet to the ice cream itself, or the alcohol content will act as aggressive anti-freeze, I suggest instead eating it affogato style with a further shot upended over a scoop of the stuff.   

Oh and speaking of conviviality and bartending and stuff I’m now working at Laundry Bar, and having an excellent time of it, thank you. It’s so good to be bartending again! There’s a bit in the aforementioned book Rivals where Cameron Cook is all “I only feel alive when I see my name in the credits of shows I’ve produced” and while I don’t want to be that codependent on my job I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being immensely fulfilled by something that also happens to pay your rent, and in my case making cocktails is what makes me super happy, it just is what it is.

Should all this talk of ice cream get your fancy tickled, I’d also like to recommend some other supremely easy recipes of mine that I’ve blogged about:  apple cinnamon ice cream; cocoa and olive oil sorbet; or grapefruit ripple ice cream are a fine place to start.

title from: Blondie’s upbeat yet wistful (best genre) song Sunday Girl. 

music lately:

I’ve been listening to a LOT of Teenage Fanclub. Their song Norman 3 is just like, so bloody nice, don’t let the suspiciously drab title fool you. The chorus is repeated so many times that you think your brain is short-circuiting but then you just never want it to end.

I have also been fiending Less Than Jake, to pluck one from the air, History of a Boring Town is v good.

Don’t even think for a second that I’m not still on my Les Miserables buzz. Let’s hear it for Philip Quast, whose surname sounds like a Harry Potter in-universe curse word, generally accepted to be the definitive Javert, just flawlessly delivering on his big number, Stars. I adore his enunciation (“this I swehhhhh by the stars”).

next time: I made some vegan coconut pikelets the other day but it was too hot to talk about anything but ice cream so this recipe took precedence. So; next time! 

came to my senses and i chilled for a bit

Well I for one went from being aggressively employed on December 31 2017 to aggressively unemployed on January 1 2018, giving the whole “New Year New Me” ethos an unsettling spin. There’s no such thing as long story short with me, but to bring you quickly up to speed in a “previously, on Laura’s Life” kind of fashion, the bar that I ran – Motel – closed for good and I, as such, am now a bartender without a bar. There’s this scene in an episode of Parks and Recreation where Leslie Knope has been suspended from work and nevertheless scurries in to grab folders with the aim of running the entire faculty from home; I myself am wary of the fact that I might break into my friends’ houses and start furiously polishing their glasses and attempting to sell their own cups of tea back to them at any minute. If a shark stops swimming it dies; and I don’t know how to stop swimming. However, unlike the shark, I’m going to be fine. I am blessed, dubiously, with idiotic serendipity – like I’ll get hit by a bus but I’ll find $2 on the ground as I lie there bleeding out, that kind of thing. As such I have faith that I’ll land on my feet, even if I bounce around for a bit first.

It’s hard though! The 11th hour number of the Broadway musical A Chorus Line is called Music and the MIrror, where the character Cassie is at her wits end because she just wants a part in the show, to be allowed to dance, and instead she keeps getting told that she’s overqualified, she’s too old, whatever. Her monologue is heartbreaking. “God I’m a dancer, a dancer dances” is where I’m at right now (and her insisting of “I’ll do you proud” makes me tear up every time) but also I’m trying really hard to actually genuinely relax since I know I need it. I’m not interested in playing Burn Out Olympics, but I definitely was running on empty for a while there and this enforced break surely must be good for me. Basically I’ve decided to see this whole thing as the universe handing me a new chapter, unasked for though it was, and to embrace the excitement of the fact that anything could happen. Anything at all!

In the meantime, there is no reason, other than the jet lag levels of lethargy I’ve been experiencing since halting production suddenly, why I can’t devote a whole lot more time to this blog. The weather has been just staggeringly sunny and warm and so cooking is not a massively come-hither activity, but I made myself a chilled soup for lunch and can envisage this recipe making several encores should the weather continue thusly. At this point I acknowledge that every time I talk about soup on this blog I always have a preamble about how boring soup is and none but THIS recipe has ever turned my head, maybe I need to come to terms with the fact that I do kind of like soup.

The recipe comes from the glorious 1954 Alice B Toklas cookbook. Probably best known as the partner of repetition-inclined poet Gertrude Stein (who wrote a poem for her called Tender Buttons, hello) Toklas is an engaging writer in her own right and collected a wonderful range of recipes with the most fabulous names. Sheharezade’s Melon. Pink Pompadour Bass. Chicken In Half Mourning. A Fine Fat Pullet. A Hen With Golden Eggs. Raspberry Flummery. Roast Beef For A Rainy Day. A hilariously un-coy recipe for “Haschich Fudge” (“It might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies’ Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the D.A.R”) (“two pieces are quite sufficient.”) The anecdotes are marvelously glamorous. Of soup itself, Toklas gets to this recipe by way of explaining the different regional soups that bear relation to each other – “surely the calle de las Sierpes, the liveliest, most seductive of streets, would produce the cookbook that would answer the burning consuming question of how to prepare a gazpacho.” Heavens!

Chilled soup though, what a revelation! In this weather any extraneous movements will overheat you, so free yourself from the punishing labour of chewing and instead just drink in this bowl of iced silk. Eggplant has a total lusciousness already, purée it and it somehow becomes even more satiny and lush. Thick Greek yoghurt adds body and tangy lightness, and I like to eat it with a river of olive oil gouging its way through the surface and plenty of sea salt. Plus, I admit, I added some toasted sunflower seeds for texture so there actually is some chewing involved, but for the most part you can consume this with your eyes closed. More importantly, you can make it in an equally closed-eyed fashion as well.

Tarata (chilled eggplant and Greek yoghurt soup)

Adapted from a recipe in the Alice B Toklas cookbook. 

  • one eggplant
  • one red or yellow capsicum
  • two tablespoons of olive oil
  • two garlic cloves (or more, I ain’t stopping you)
  • 250ml/one cup thick plain Greek yoghurt
  • sea salt
  • extra virgin olive oil, chopped fresh mint, etc (to serve, optional) 

Peel the eggplant (easiest to do this lengthwise) and remove the stem and core from the capsicum, roughly chop both. You could just bin the purple ribbons of eggplant skin, but I fried them till crunchy and ate them sprinkled with salt, it was pretty good. 

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and gently fry the eggplant, capsicum, and the garlic cloves (no need to chop them or anything) until all softened and just barely browned. 

Allow this to cool a little, then purée it in a blender. Add a fat pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil, plus the yoghurt, and blend again to combine. You could actually eat it now at room temperature and have a good time of it, but otherwise refrigerate it till it’s ice cold and then consume at your nearest convenience, adding more olive oil, salt, and anything else you fancy.

This makes enough for two servings. Alice B Toklas makes six times the amount of this, if that’s how much you fancy then by all means go ahead. I kept the garlic proportions the same as her original six-person recipe, but that’s just how I feel about garlic. If it thickens up too much from its time in the fridge just add more yoghurt.

So what am I going to do next? Continue with this relaxing lark while attempting to hustle a fresh new bartending job are my two main objectives. With any luck, I’ll be able to have the headspace to do more on this blog while I’m at it.

I just realised that the first thing I blogged about in January 2017 was cold soup too (cherry tomato gazpacho) which makes sense from a seasonal point of view, but like….cute. Looking back over that blog post I am just in SUCH a better place than I was. Case in point, this time last year I posted an article about my struggle with the NZ mental health system, and this year I published an impassioned essay about the film adaptation of the musical RENT. (It’s niche, but it’s really well written!) Oh sure, I’m still not entirely brilliant and the things I need to resolve within myself could melt steel beams but I’m still genuine light years ahead of this-time-last-year me, I feel more full of potential and capable of good things and aware of myself and I’ve learned so much, lots of which wasn’t fun to learn, but I’m…yeah. Potential is the word that I keep alighting upon. Anything could happen.

title from: Salt’n’Pepa, ShoopA classic! 

music lately:

I’ve been listening to a lot of Alice Coltrane, who was prolific and immensely talented. Spiritual Eternal from 1976 is so shamblingly joyous and uplifting, and then Om Rama, recorded in the early eighties but released just this year, is hypnotic, electrifying, stunning.

I cannot stop consuming Les Miserables. I’ve been jamming a lot of Who Am I – Colm Wilkinson, who created the role of Valjean, has the most chewy, rich voice, like his mouth is full of artisinal sourdough. The stirring build to that ludicrous note at the end of the song is just wonderful to have blasting when you’re walking down the street. I’m also obsessed with Kaho Shimada’s performance of On My Own on the Complete Symphonic Recording. Skip to 3 minutes in and just try to not faint.

Deadflowers, Might As Well Get Used To It. The power of suggestion…

next time: If the weather stays like this it’s gonna be a recipe for ice cubes, I swear.

oh i wish i had a pizza and a bottle of wine

There’s this movie called Wet Hot America Summer, released in the summer of 2001 to very little attention or acclaim. It’s become notable in the ensuing years for how immensely high profile most of the ensemble cast has gone on to become (Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Elizabeth Banks) and the deliciousness of seeing them in their career infancy. People also finally started to appreciate how stupidly funny it is, and it gathered a lot of steam in a cult-hit kind of way. Anyway, I really love it and it’s one of those movies where whatever is happening in your life, it feels like nothing bad can happen when you’re watching it. I have similar feelings about the One Direction movie.

There’s also this bit in the movie where one of the characters tells the girl that he has a crush on, “I’ve really grown up a lot since before dinner when we last talked”. Due to my live-life-ten-seconds-at-a-time haphazardly whimsical and exhausting persona I have always related to this moment since I first encountered it, but I am like, really feeling it currently.

 actual footage of me actual footage of me

As I said in my last blog post, I’ve started on some new medication for my anxiety and whatnot. It’s been a trip. My doctor was all, there might be some weird side effects, and I was all, ma’am, respectfully, my whole LIFE is a side effect, I’m just keen to try something new. There’s some massively positive stuff, the most of which is that I’m now so UNNERVINGLY calm in comparison to the spiky, nervous tumbleweed of buzzing wires and thorny branches and barbed wire that I was hitherto rolling along in the guise of. I mean, I’m still me, that can’t be helped, but I feel much more able to process information quietly, make decisions, and anticipate things without a constant sound of wasps in my ears and sirens in my stomach.  I feel more able to stand my ground whereas previously I would’ve just panicked. It’s not perfect, but it’s really something observing myself being this person. So yeah, I’ve really grown up a lot since before dinner when we last talked.

Bad side effects are some morning sluggishness and some nighttime head-spins, but in the middle I’m afforded at least a few hours of intense, clear-eyed activity. Which is how, on Monday morning, I found myself making this entire damn pizza from scratch and then eating it within the space of an hour and a half.

I’ve had potato pizza on my culinary to-do list after having it at brunch at Loretta with a friend a while back; theirs had darkly beautiful purple potato slices and I could only find, at best, red-skinned potatoes, but no harm done. On a whim I decided to use fresh yeast instead of the usual instant dried stuff, and I’m a fan! Having not tried this particular recipe, which I made up on the spot, with anything other than fresh yeast, I couldn’t tell you precisely how it’s different to the dried kind but you should know that it’s very little effort, requires barely any kneading or rising time and tastes magical.

Potatoes on pizza is a classic Italian combination, and there’s nothing quite so comforting as carb on carb. The dough is tender and puffy, the potatoes are sliced so thin that they’re almost translucent and so they crisp up quickly under the oven’s heat. I draped slices of nutty, sweet Emmentaler over the pizza, but you could definitely use Gruyere if you can stomach the price. A schmeer of rich, creamy mascarpone with mustard, chilli, and cider vinegar spikes the bland calmness of the other ingredients and the resiny pungency of thyme is just, I don’t know, I really love thyme and like putting it on everything.

Scared though you may be of tackling any kind of yeasted dough from scratch, this one comes together with a few brief stirs, prods, and a rise time so fast you don’t even have to have a TV show cued up to watch while you wait. I suppose there’s more olive oil in it than you might normally expect but I feel that it adds to the soft, puffy texture and the flavour. Plus, you make enough dough for some pizza now, and some pizza for future-you. Planning for the future? ME? Whomst even am I?

 yoink yoink

potato pizza

a recipe by myself

dough:

  • one heaped teaspoon fresh yeast
  • one tablespoon golden syrup (or honey, or maple syrup) 
  • 500ml (two cups) lukewarm water
  • 80ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
  • six cups high grade/strong/bread flour
  • two teaspoons sea salt

the on top stuff:

  • one medium red potato
  • 150g mascarpone
  • one tablespoon chilli oil
  • one teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • one teaspoon dijon, english, or similar mustard
  • 150g emmentaler, thinly sliced
  • fresh thyme leaves

Set your oven to 250C/480F and put an oven tray (or if you have it, a pizza stone) in to heat up. 

Place the yeast, golden syrup and warm water in a large bowl and leave it for fifteen minutes till it’s a little frothy on top. Tip in the salt, oil, and flour, and stir together till it forms a rough, sticky dough. Give it a really quick knead, adding just a little extra flour if you need to, till it’s a smoothish coherent ball. Cover with a tea towel and leave it for fifteen minutes till it’s puffy. 

While this is happening, mix the mascarpone, mustard, chilli oil, and cider vinegar in a small bowl. Use a vegetable peeler to make thin, thin slices out of the potato. You won’t need the whole thing, but just throw the remaining potato in with the pizza as it’s cooking and then eat it or something. Sit the potato slices in a bowl of cold water. This will bring out some of the starches and make it roast quicker. 

Cut the dough in half and place the remaining dough in an airtight container in the fridge to use another time. Place the dough on either a nonstick silicon baking mat or a sheet of baking paper and using your hands, gently push the dough out into a rough rectangle shape. If it seems like it won’t stretch as far as you want, let it rest for a few minutes and continue to shape it. 

Spread the mascarpone across the pizza base. Drain the potato slices and pat them dry with a clean tea towel. Layer the potato and cheese over the mascarpone and finally sprinkle with a little more sea salt. Leave to sit for ten minutes. 

Carefully lift the baking sheet or piece of paper and place it on the hot oven tray or pizza stone. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown and the edges are crisp. Scatter with thyme leaves before eating. 

Pizza is so unfathomable, in that if you cut this rectangle into eight large squares then you could give that to eight people, but you could also QUITE comfortably eat at least half of this yourself and then reheat the other half later, or share it between two people but still be kind of hungry? It’s this strange loaves-and-fishes alchemy that I’ll never understand. Unsurprisingly though, I was in the half-now-for-me, half-now-for-later category of consumers. However you slice it, this pizza is stupidly delicious.

If you’re on a DIY dough buzz, may I suggest some further reading from my archives, such as no-knead Challah, Fougasse Bread, or Nigella’s Maple Walnut Bread.

Till next time…I guess this is growing up.

title from: this surfy punky bratty band (I LOVE surfy punky bratty bands) called Girls, and their song Lust for Life. 

music lately:

SO another weird side effect of the medication is that I’m feeling music on a hellaciously deep level, like I was listening to Meadowlark as sung by Liz Calloway the other day while walking down the street and nearly threw up and fell over sideways from the intensity of it all. I’ve always had the proclivity to y’know, cry at songs and feel like they were written for me and me alone, but this is next level.

I’ve been hitting the Les Mis pretty hard and folks, I’ve never felt more pumped for 1800s Frenchy War Stuff in my life. To pluck but one example from the air, literally every time I watch this clip from the 2014 Tony awards I genuinely cry and get full body shivers (particularly at the revoltingly beautiful face of Ramin Karimloo and Kyle Scatliffe’s monumental voice and Will Swenson’s appealingly nasal Javert) and I’ve been watching it a LOT.

Also been seriously feeling the Meat Puppets lately. Lake of Fire, famously covered by Nirvana, is so sludgy and about to topple over with its own heaviness, but then you’ve got like, Up On The Sun or Aurora Borealis which are just really, really nice grunge.

next time: IT’S DECEMBER! What? Whomst? How? That’s all I have to say about THAT. 

my heart’s a tart your body’s rent

Don’t get me wrong, everything is DIFFICULT. Life is hard. A genuine slog. I’m not even talking about in a global bees-are-dying-ice-caps-are-melting-america-is-political-hell way, I’m talking very much in the personal, up here in my head kind of context. But I’m not going to focus on that today! Lol I’m ADHD, I can’t focus on anything! Kidding: I’m instead going to talk about some lovely things that have happened, because no matter what’s happening, if you don’t stop and acknowledge good things and hold onto them they might disappear, like a dream you can’t quite remember even though you can picture frames and fragments of it. (Side note though: last night I dreamed that I composed an incredible pop punk song, and in my dream I even wrote down, well, not the notes because I don’t know how to write them, but I drew a line that depicted which directions the melody went in, because I was like I’m going to want to remember this, and then I woke up and all I had left was a few flashes of the accompanying music video and like, there goes my definitely burgeoning and inevitable music career.)

But anyway? What’s good, you ask? Last week I found out I was a national finalist in a cocktail competition. Isn’t that amazing! I’ve been feeling a tiny bit shaky about my abilities of late but it was a shot (ha) of confidence that I needed and honestly just such a wonderful happy feeling, that a cocktail I created out of my own brain resonated with someone. I’m so excited and happy to be involved and cannot wait to present it to the judges because if there’s one thing in this life that gives me joy, it’s having an audience.

On Saturday I had the supreme joy of going to the wedding of two dear friends of mine. I’m gonna be straight up with you, one of said people getting married was Tim, who I used to talk about on this blog a lot on account of he was my partner for some time. It was such a wonderful thing to be there to witness and share the special day for him and his now-wife, and the whole time was so filled with happiness and love and good friends and literal puppies because they held it at the SPCA (thus setting the gold standard for any future weddings I shall attend: will there be puppies?) I’ve been to some fairly dull weddings, this one was pure nonstop goodness and a golden high point of my week.

Last week I also got to be squired to dinner at Shepherd, a fancy restaurant of the kind that I could only go if someone was indeed squiring me. My two best friends, Kim and Kate, and Kate’s mum (the one whomst squired us) drank champagne and ate amazing food and I left replete and happy. I don’t get to go out to dinner, well, honestly ever because I’m either broke or working, so this was a rare treat and to share it with my favourite people was just perfect. On that note, if anyone ELSE wants to squire me out to dinner, you need only but giz a yell.

I’m trying out a new medication in order to temper the wild grunty cantering boar that is my anxiety and the leaden-weighted lead weight that is my depression, and while it’s making me super sluggish I’m kind of excited to be doing something new and to have a doctor who listens to me and is trying to take practical steps to help me out. Thus far the sluggishness is a bit deadening but on the upside I’m too sleepy and gluey of brain to be truly anxious, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens when it starts to even out a bit.

And! The other night, in a CLASSIC me move, I thought up this recipe whilst unable to sleep. Ironically, I was so excited about it that all I wanted to do was go to sleep so that I could wake up and buy the ingredients to make it. As with most ideas, it appeared in a rush – a fig and feta tart with layers of spiced butter brushed on each sheet of filo pastry in the base. I figured it would be elegant, with the filling all tart and salty and darkly sweet, and that the delicate buttery bite of the filo pastry would be excellent against the grainy figs and creamy feta. As is so often the case, I was correct.

Even if the idea of just up and making a tart sounds like too much admin, this one is supremely easy – no one on earth will ever, nor should they, expect you to make your own filo but damn if it doesn’t look fancy once it’s all baked up. The rest is more or less literally just feta and figs, no actual real filling to worry about, and the spice-studded butter gives it immensely good depth of flavour and stops it being, you know, too uncomplicated.

feta, fig, and spiced butter filo tart

a recipe by myself

  • one package of filo pastry
  • 50g butter
  • one teaspoon ground cumin
  • half a teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • half a teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • 250g – 300g feta cheese (look for one that’s soft and creamy – happily, this is usually the cheapest one)
  • 100g figlets or dried figs, but ideally the uh, soft and damp kind, if that makes sense? Not those rock-solid crystallised ones. 
  • one tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • one tablespoon olive oil
  • one teaspoon Dijon mustard, or any mustard that you fancy
  • pink peppercorns and thyme leaves, to garnish

Set the oven to 200C/400F. Melt the butter and stir in the cumin, cinnamon, and chilli flakes. 

Using a pastry brush, paint the base and sides of a 20cm pie dish or fluted tart tin with the spiced butter. Place a sheet of filo pastry on top of it, pressing it gently into the inner rim of the dish. Paint it with butter and layer with another sheet of filo. Continue in this manner for roughly ten sheets of filo, pressing them snugly in to fit the tin as you go. It’s honestly up to you how many layers you do really but once you run out of butter that’s as good a time as any to stop, I guess. Trim any major overhang from around the ruffly, layered edges. 

Take 2/3 of the feta and mash it roughly with a fork along with the olive oil, vinegar, and mustard. Spatula all of this into the filo-layered pie dish, spreading it gently and evenly over the base. 

Slice the figlets in half and place them more or less evenly on top of the feta, then sprinkle over the remaining 1/3 block of feta. Drizzle with a little olive oil and then bake it for about 20 minutes, or until the edges of the pastry are a deep golden brown. Sprinkle with pink peppercorns and thyme leaves, and some more balsamic vinegar if you like. 

PS: if all you can find is really dry hard mean figs, try soaking them in some boiling water first to plump them up and soften them somewhat. 

The textures at play here are wonderful and even though it’s a modestly filled disc of pastry, the buttery richness and punchy flavours make it extremely satisfying. That said, I reckon two people could demolish this quite qualm-free. It would be easy enough to make it bigger – just use a bigger pie dish and more butter, feta, and figs. I feel like pistachios would be a wonderful addition here, not least because of their colour, but anything at all really. Filo pastry is so lovely – almost dissolving under the weight of your teeth, so fragile and crisp and delicate and butter-absorbing. If you’re feeling like a fancy person this would happily translate to individual tart tins for a dinner party or something too.

Guess what, something ELSE nice happened – I was interviewed by Re: about my ADHD (ADHD is an acronym that stands for “I Will Literally Never Let This Slide and Will Reference It At Every Given Opportunity”) and it was a really fun experience because as I said, I love attention! And also drawing attention to mental health issues! We ended up talking for about ninety minutes but it got sliced down to a snappy four minute clip that you can watch here if you like. Also I woke up about nine minutes before this interview was taken and got dressed in a panicked frenzy and was not happy with my outfit that I ended up choosing; please make any snap judgements with this context in mind.

Also, you’re on a total pie buzz may I also suggest the following for your consideration? Quince tarte tatin, Tomato and feta tart, Chorizo Wellingon, or Scone Pizza.

title from: Every Me Every You by Placebo. Deliciously whiney. Imagine getting to be the first person who wrote about this band for a magazine or whatever and getting to be the first to use the title “The Placebo Effect”. I wonder where that person is now. 

music lately: 

Marystaple, Labourer. I was obsessed with this song during its major rotation on Channel Z back in like….I wanna say 2000? 2001? Anyway if the lead singer still looks like that and is reading this, CALL ME. Either way, the song is still extremely good after all this time.

Alan Alda, You Are Not Real, from the 1966 musical The Apple Tree. Yeah, as in Hawkeye. He sings, too. This song is weird to listen to out of the context of the story that it’s telling but also so weirdly compelling in a romping, bawdy, kind of way that you could just have it come on shuffle and be quite happy to leave it on. I like it, is what I’m saying.  

Tricky, Evolution Revolution Love. This is another 2000-y song, and it’s like, really lovely. Even if old mate from the band Live who features feels toooo earnest. We were all so earnest back then!

next time: Here’s another nice thing, I have had TWO perfect avocados in the past week. So maybe I’ll tempt fate and get more. I mean, to make something with, I’m not saying the next blog post is going to just be a picture of an avocado. 

no postcode envy

My patriotism has never manifested itself in any particularly outrageous fashion. I treated rugby, our national sport, with all the disdain that someone who had panic attacks on athletics day and got picked last for teams can muster; leaving aside two brief dalliances: my thumping great crush on Doug Howlett during the world cup final of 2003 (there wasn’t much else to do at boarding school) and the appreciation of the sensually clashing thighs and men raising other men towards the sun using only their bare forearms that was all flagrantly on display, without any kind of PG 13 warning, during the last world cup final.  I’m not much into like, getting out there in the nature and stuff so our beautiful landscapes kind of leave me cold. I mean I’m not a total psychopath, we have those good mountains that everyone bangs on about but much like sports, I’m happy to let other people do it and leave me alone. The Lord of the Rings movies are really, really boring and someone should tell Peter Jackson “no” for once. Our national anthem is emphatically not a banger. 

So what gets me going? Lorde’s entire existence makes me jazzed to be a kiwi. Maori culture is unique and precious and should be both protected and elevated, especially since the whole awkward colonialism trampling of it and then half-assedly making vague stabs at acknowledging it aren’t exactly a stellar reflection on, well, anyone, and not much makes me feel quite so heart-swellingly of this place than anything that celebrates this crucial part of us. I’m one of those dinguses who gets really excited when we’re mentioned in pop culture, like that episode of Full House when they accidentally board a flight to Auckland, New Zealand, instead of Oakland, California (a ludicrously impossible premise but how thrilling to hear the actors say our country by name!) I heard yesterday that some rugby player is dating Hollywood actress Shailene Woodley and was genuinely like, “how exciting for us all!” So there’s that.

 mate 

mate 

And then there’s onion dip. And Marmite.

The former, a genius and oddly American-style combination of packaged onion soup powder, canned reduced cream, and vinegar, which produces the most face-punchingly compulsive thing you’ve ever dragged a crisp sheet of deep fried potato through. The latter, an oddly good and polarising inky-coloured salty paste that you spread thinly on your buttered toast to make sure the fine crust of sodium caked around your arteries isn’t in any danger of dissipating. 

I love them both. When I eat onion dip I come close to having the slightest understanding of why Americans are so obsessed with their flag. (I mean, I don’t really. It’s a bit of fabric. What’s the deal. Admittedly with a dope design, maybe if ours was less embarrassingly dull I’d care about it too.) If you were like “Laura you can have everlasting happiness but you have to sacrifice Marmite, what’s it going to be”, I’d be all “Marmite IS everlasting happiness, sicko” and drop-kick a piece of toasted Vogels at your head. 

Anyway. Over artisinal mimosas ($10 sauvignon blanc from the dairy and Just Juice bubbles) my friend Emily and I devised a mac and cheese so patriotic it would make Helen Clarke weep. I’m going to be honest, I think most of it actually was her idea, but no one else was there in the room where it happened so I’m taking at least partial credit. And I was the one that actually made it, so. Equally bringing stuff to the table. It started with the revelation that her grandmother used to crush up salt and vinegar chips on top of her mac and cheese. That alone nearly made me faint. Then somehow in a crescendo of overactive brains it all came out at once – what if we put onion dip in the sauce? WHAT IF WE ADD MARMITE? IT’S UMAMI! DARE WE? 

We dared. 

It might all sound kind of horrifying, and too much, and maybe even bordering on that clownish style of social-media friendly cooking where it’s all doughnuts stuffed with bacon wrapped in rainbow layer cake but guys. Guys. It tastes incredible. Upon eating it we were struck into sybaritic silence for a good twenty three minutes, which is astonishing for either of us given our tiny collective attention spans. 

Let me break it down for you: pasta and cheese sauce are both comfortingly gentle of texture and flavour. Soft, bland, creamy, blanket-y. Adding the packet of onion soup powder to the sauce gave it a depth of flavour without compromising these factors – onions themselves being one of those base-level ingredients that assist rather than steal thunder. Reduced cream gave it more richness and a pleasing note of almost-sourness. The marmite, slowly whisked in tentative spoonful by tentative spoonful with me frantically yelling “ANOTHER!” after every taste test, gives beefy, brothy saltiness and savouriness, in other words, old mate Umami. The salt and vinegar crisps crumbled up on top are charmingly crunchy and the hint of said vinegar, tingly on the mouth, stops it being all too throat-cloggingly rich.  

Upon tasting it, I finally understood why people care about rugby for reasons unrelated to thighs. I was like, my country did this and no other country could. 

So can you. 

 MATE. 

MATE. 

chip and dip mac and cheese, aka mac and sleazy

  • 500g macaroni elbows, pasta shells, or other small friendly pasta
  • one tablespoon chilli oil
  • 50g butter
  • four tablespoons plain flour
  • milk (I guess two cups/500ml?) 
  • one to two tablespoons of marmite
  • one package onion soup powder
  • one can reduced cream
  • one and a half cups grated cheese
  • one bag of salt and vinegar chips

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, and then tip in the pasta. Let it boil away for about ten minutes or until the pasta is tender,  then drain and toss with the chilli oil. Don’t be tempted to leave this out, it just gives the slightest hint of heat at the end of each mouthful. 

While this is happening, melt the butter in a large saucepan and stir in the flour, so that it forms a thick paste. Continue to stir this over a medium heat for a while, just to allow the flavours to develop, and then slowly, slowly add the milk, a splash at a time at first (it will absorb pretty instantly) and then continue adding more and stirring it into the butter and flour till it looks like thick pancake batter. If it looks lumpy, switch to a whisk. Tip in the onion soup powder and stir it in, then add the can of reduced cream. Continue to stir for another few minutes until you’re satistfied with the texture, then whisk in the marmite, small spoonful at a time, tasting it as you go, till you’re happy with the flavour. You’d be surprised at how much marmite it can take, and the pasta will soften the flavour, so don’t be shy. 

Stir in the drained pasta and half a cup of the grated cheese, and set your oven to 170C/330 F. Transfer the contents of the pan into a baking dish and pop it in the oven for about half an hour. Finally, crush up the salt and vinegar chips (just smash the bag around with your hands, should do the trick) and take the dish out of the oven. Sprinkle the pasta with a layer of cheese, then a thick, even layer of potato chip crumbs, and then top with one more layer of cheese. Return to the oven and change the setting to grill, turning up the temperature to 220C/450F. Let it sit there till the top is golden brown and scorched in places. And there you have it. 

 MAAAAAATE. 

MAAAAAATE. 

Bonus Marmite content: If you melt butter and mix it with a spoonful of marmite and then liberally apply this to chicken and roast it, you have yourself a truly good and delicious time. 

Speaking of patriotism! Had a tender moment of feeling like the country doesn’t suck when Jacinda Adern of Labour suddenly became prime minister this week (I’m not explaining the process to you, look it up, it happened is all you need to know), after two weeks of us sitting around under the impression that National had won the election. The last time National wasn’t in power was 2008 which was actually a million years ago in so many ways, and while I have reservations about a ton of things, it’s low-key thrilling to be here in a time of change. I honestly didn’t have faith in New Zealand this time around that the left would be able to take the lead, so it’s not only pleasantly surprising, it’s like…for the first time in ever so long, I’m excited as opposed to filled with dread to see what policies are enacted.  

Eat the rich!….tasty macaroni and cheese. 

title from: our Lorde! Her debut Royals is still pretty jaw-dropping no matter how over-exposed to it you may be. 

music lately: 

Fiona Apple, Across The Universe. You wanna sob self-indulgently? Of course you do. Better than the original, in my correct opinion. 

Her Space Holiday, Something To Do With My Hands. You wanna sob self-indulgently? Of course you do. 

Limp Bizkit, Faith. You wanna sob self- okay lol. It’s uh, not better than the original but it is an indelible part of my life. 

next time: I actually totally missed my blog’s tenth birthday by an entire week due to my inability to remember, well, anything, but I’m still determined to mark the occasion somehow.

and her pink skies will keep me warm

I was a very righteously-opinioned child. For example, I took the mathematics curriculum as a DIRECT PERSONAL SLIGHT against myself and would injuriously huff about it at any given opportunity (and especially in opportunities that weren’t given.) Like, in any schoolbook from my youth I’ll take jabs at it – not least in the actual maths workbook itself where I’d constantly write evaluations of my work complaining about how unfair and stupid maths is, and take great pleasure in defacing each and every possible blue-lined square with colours and stars and patterns. God help the defenceless teacher if there was an “about me” section in any piece of work – I’d be all, “I’m Laura Vincent and I hate war, people who don’t understand the genius of the Spice Girls, and the fact that I have to do pointless, irritating mathematics.”  

 the rose tint

the rose tint

That’s just one example. I was also vehemently against the colour pink, simply because I wanted to rebel against the generally held gender norms that pink was for girls and blue is for boys. I definitely went through a distinct Barbie doll phase (I was in it mostly for the fashion, but I do remember being with my cousins and pretending to burn a Shaving Ken at the stake while several other Barbies danced around him triumphantly as we sung Sacrifice by Elton John – “we’ve got a Shaving Ke-e-en, and he’s our sacrifice”) but after a point I truly felt like not seeking out pink things made me somehow more superior. Pink was obvious. Obviousness was weakness. 

Tiny jerkfaced me could never have predicted that in the year 2017, I would embrace the very shade that I so long derided (okay so from the years like, 1999 – 2014 I was honestly neither here nor there on it) in the form of Millennial Pink.

Millennial Pink is a real phenomenon (there’s a great article charting its rise to prominence) and I ADORE it. In these garbage times, this shade is soft, it’s kind, it’s calm AS HELL, it’s really, really pretty. And it’s increasingly charmingly genderless, which I feel lil no-wave feminism me might have appreciated. It’s the colour of soothing tumblr aesthetics, of Drake’s puffer jacket, of Rihanna wearing pyjamas in the club, of watching makeup tutorials till you fall asleep, of brutally plain late 90s slip dresses, of rose quartz crystals, of Jenny Holzer truisms, of the icing on top of cream buns and doughnuts, of peonies and rose petals, of bleached and coloured hair on Instagram, of sun-faded walls with bright green plants propped up against them, of fluffiness and softness and dreaminess. 

All of which possibly sounds stupid but like, I like what I like. 

Hence why I found myself starting with a colour as an inspiration point and working backwards from there, and ended up with this extremely delicious toffee.  

I had some almonds kicking around from making orgeat for work and in the spirit of sustainability or the illusion thereof, I decided to surround them with crunchy, buttery toffee and smother them in rose-tinted white chocolate. Anything caramelly just bloody does it for me, and I sheepishly prefer white chocolate over the other sorts, so this resulting slice was extremely 100% my idea of a good time. Making toffee from scratch does require some patience and a healthy fear of getting too close to the relentlessly boiling sugar. What you get though is the most glorious stuff – your teeth sliding effortlessly through the silky, vanilla-y white chocolate into hard, almond studded salty toffee which shatters as you bite down into chewy caramel crystals.  It’s intense and it’s wonderful.

millennial pink salted almond white chocolate toffee

a recipe by myself

  • 250g butter
  • one and a half cups caster sugar
  • a decent pinch of sea salt
  • one cup of toasted almonds, blitzed in a food processor so they’re rubbly and chopped
  • 250g white chocolate
  • one teaspoon vegetable oil
  • a few drops of pink food colouring

This recipe looks really really long but it’s just a convoluted way of saying boil stuff then chill it then cover it in chocolate, it’s all pretty straightforward I promise. 

Line a regular sized brownie pan with baking paper . In a large saucepan, heat up the butter, sugar and salt and allow it to come to the boil. Let it bubble away, stirring only occasionally (it might seem like the butter won’t absorb into the sugar but as it boils the sugar will take it in, give it a few gentle stirs though if it eases your mind.) After a while, take a spoonful of the boiling sugar and drop it in a glass of cold water. Let it sit for a few seconds and then taste it – the texture you’re after is a good hard toffee crunch. If it’s more fudge-like, then you need to let it carry on boiling. 

Once you’re at this point, remove it from the heat and dump in the almonds. Give it a quick stir and spatula it briskly into the waiting brownie pan. This is like, the hottest thing on earth and it will continue to bubble VERY disconcertingly in the pan so just let it settle down for a bit before you put it in the freezer or it will throw your entire ecosystem in there out of balance. 

Once the toffee is cooled and firm to the touch, melt the white chocolate gently with a teaspoon of vegetable oil and add the merest droplet or two of pink food colouring. Stir gently and add more colour if you desire but go slowly! I used literally like, three drops for this stuff. Spatula it evenly over the surface of the toffee, and gently bang the base of the tin against the bench to settle any lines in the chocolate. Return it to the freezer, and then when that is finally set, slice it however you like and eat the damn stuff. 

 pink is the flavour, solve the riddle

pink is the flavour, solve the riddle

To be honest almost every time I make something starting with aesthetic instead of flavour or texture as the inspiration point I end up screwing up the recipe completely, as though the universe is admonishing me for being driven by such base instincts, but this worked out perfectly. Proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that wanting things to be pretty is like, not the worst. I ended up taking it around town and dropping off tasters of it at various beloved establishments before bringing the rest to work for my team like some kind of actual heroic angel. I know there’s some still waiting for me tonight when I go to work and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Just one woman’s opinion, but go forth and embrace pink. Oh and maths really does suck, I was right about that one. 

title from:  Frank Ocean, Sierra Leone, from his extremely very perfect album Channel Orange. 

music lately: 

I am regrettably completely head over heels for this guy from the UK called Rat Boy, who was clearly bred in a lab with the express purpose of being to my personal taste. Sample song: Revolution. 

As well as being an absolute BOP, Charli XCX’s song Boys is like…Millennial Pink condensed into one explanatory video. 

next time: It’s (SOMEHOW, and I suspect HIGHLY ILLEGALLY) September now, so like, let’s shuck off the heavy winter food and get into spring (it’s honestly colder outside than it has been all year but a gal can remain optimistic!)