you wanna play, let’s run away, we won’t be back before it’s christmas day

Tis the season to flop dramatically facedown onto your pie-crumb scattered bed, yeah?

Every year around this time I do a blog post rounding up links back to my own blog posts of recipes that make ideal edible Christmas presents, or indeed edible presents to be consumed for any occasion. This year I am making a small concession towards my own medication-induced exhaustion and simply linking to last year’s blog post rather than doing a whole ‘nother one. This is also due to the fact that I re-read last year’s post and was like…wow. this is so well-written and I’m not sure I could manage to be more entertaining about the same content than I was at that precise moment? Could anyone else be this damnably self-congratulatory while admitting extreme shortcomings?

It’s true though, as I covered in my last blog post my new medication is making life a lot easier but the mental wading-through-treacle vibes are still yet to level out and as such it’s been a lot harder to sit and write without genuinely needing a lie down. I’m annoyed that I can’t quiiite rise above the fog yet, but I am amused in a small way at linking to a blog post that is itself a list of links to my own blog posts, like an artisinal mille-feuille of self-absorption (putting the “me” in mille-feuille, amiright?)

I’m not leaving you entirely in the lurch you didn’t even know that you were in, though, as I’ve got another recipe to add to the list: a wonderfully easy one, at that. For me it’s just not Christmas without consuming a vast quantity of Nigella Lawson content (I mean, it’s also not like, a Tuesday without consuming a vast quantity of Nigella Lawson content either, but your experiences may vary.)

Putting some stuff in a jar is the universe’s gift to gift-giving. It’s simple, it looks pretty, it’s practical. I’m not talking about the modern nightmarish extrapolation-via-pinterest of overnight doughnut paleo ramen in a M*son J*r. All I’m saying here is like, if you’re in the mood to cook stuff in the first place anyway, making some easy jam or a simple chutney or sauce or Pickled Thing makes a lovely heartfelt gift that’s just as applicable to give to a colleage whom you had a frosty yet professional working relationship with as it is to give to your crush, your kindly neighbour, or your grandma. You can talk it down – oh, I made five kilos of this chutney and thought you might like a jar, it’s great with turkey – or you can talk it up, like, I heard you liked cherries so I macerated them in this liqueur which evokes the perfume you were wearing on the night that we first met – and here you reeeeally wanna make sure you read the room before launching into such talk or indeed, actions – OR you can just keep it all for yourself and have twinkling jars of pastes and emulsions ready to enliven your leftovers, embiggen your sandwiches, and en-sauce your un-sauced.

 please note we did not eat the cactus  please note we did not eat the cactus

I, myself, brought the peaches to the table for a Christmas Dinner (which was actually consumed as a late lunch but for some reason no matter what time of day Christmas-related food is eaten I call it dinner) with my two very best friends and twin lights of my life, Kim and Kate. We ate roasted chicken with herbed Greek yoghurt, cornbread and cranberry stuffing, potato-wrapped roasted asparagus, Potato Dish (you know the one) and roasted beetroot and feta spiced filo tart. We watched Imagine Me And You (“you’re a wanker number niiiiiiiine!”) and drank wine and negronis and just had a really beautiful lovely day. The peaches in all honesty would not have been missed if I hadn’t brought them along, but because the day itself was so wonderful they are inextricably associated in my head now with Good Times.

nigella lawson’s spiced peaches

a recipe by myself. Lol no it’s from her book Nigella Express. It’s my wording of her recipe though? Let’s just back away from this whole hornet’s nest and proceed with the recipe. 

  • 800g canned peach halves in syrup
  • one tablespoon rice wine vinegar, or similar
  • two cinnamon sticks
  • an inch or so of fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced into coins
  • half a teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • half a teaspoon sea salt flakes
  • half a teaspoon black peppercorns
  • three whole cloves

Get a couple of jars ready to store the peaches in, and sterilise them using your chosen method (which may or may not include “giving them a quick rinse and hoping for the best”.) 

Empty the peaches and their syrup into a saucepan with the rest of the ingredients. Bring to the boil, let simmer for a few minutes, remove from the heat, and tip into the jars. Refrigerate till you need them. That’s IT. 

These peaches are excellent, truly excellent, with cold meat and/or cheese, and they look absolutely super on the table with all your other dishes. I also have a suspicion that the spiced syrup would be amazing as a shot alongside a shot of nice tequila, like a kind of peachy pickleback.

Oh yeah, and here’s the link to last year’s blog post.  It’s quite frankly a really good read even if you have no reason nor intention of making gifts for any single human being now or at any time.

title from: RENT is the musical from which this entire blog gets its name, and the whole musical is actually extreeemely christmassy (especially the original stage version, damn you Christopher Columbus, movie director, for removing the Christmas Bells number from the film adaptation.) It’s the song Out Tonight by the scrunchy-throaty voiced Daphne Rubin-Vega from said original version from whence we get our title (I adore Rosario Dawson as Mimi in the movie adaptation but the lyrics are changed to “New Year’s Day”). 

music lately: 

I’ve been aggressively feeling 80s indie lately. Whisper to a Scream by Icicle Works is so, so good, like, makes you want to run down the street in a directionless yet purposefully-coming-of-age-film type way. The massive drums and “we are, we are, we are” refrain give it a kind of early pop-punk vibe which is naturally very pleasing. Listen to it!

I have a personal tradition whereby every year I make myself wait until December 1 to rewatch the spine-chillingly ludicrous performance of Turkey Lurkey Time from the musical Promises, Promises, at the 1969 Tony Awards. It’s SO STUPID and yet a geniuine feat of physical engineering and the perfect marriage of choreographer and medium, the medium being Donna McKechnie’s illegally rubber-jointed limbs. If none of this makes any sense, watching the video is really…not going to enlighten you any further, but you either get it or you don’t.

Not Empty, Garageland. This song always gets to me just the tiniest bit!

next time: IDK but here’s the link to last year’s blog post round up again just! in case! you missed it! 

good year for hunters and christmas parties

It’s suddenly December which is really interesting because this year has actually been twelve years long instead of twelve months long! Please don’t try to argue with me on this, there’s literally no evidence to the contrary that you can present me to make me think otherwise. Anyway, so I made some majorly delicious vegan pasta on Sunday night but then on Monday night I was incredibly nauseous and throw-uppy and blamed it, with rather horribly specific evidence, on the leftovers of said pasta that I’d eaten that day. Unable to face thinking about the pasta any time soon and rather desperately running out of cute metaphors for my life; I suddenly remembered! Every year I do a round up of my own blog posts featuring recipes which I think would make good edible Christmas presents. Or indeed, presents for any time or persuasion; I certainly don’t expect all of you to be celebrating or even acknowledging Christmas but nevertheless, tis the season for presents to be in season and I shall not be left behind.

 these honey thyme roasted peaches will make you merry OR bright, but not both I'm afraid these honey thyme roasted peaches will make you merry OR bright, but not both I’m afraid

There’s this video on youtube where it’s Bee Movie but it speeds up every time someone says “Bee” and honestly that’s what Christmas is like every year (okay I guess I have some cute metaphors left up my stylish yet affordable sleeves.) I don’t intend for this list of stuff to put any pressure on anyone – just do what you can, if Christmas makes you feel all meaningful and stuff then act on it or don’t; it’s just another day but if there’s someone you feel like you want to do something for then gosh, there’s not much nicer than presenting them with something they can eat. Yes, capitalism is everything and greed is good but a small, homemade item, that you took time and effort to create with your own two hands (look at them! Those two hands!) is rather unbeatable. That said, if you were already planning to give me personally like, a crate of champagne or the princely sum of forty dollars, don’t let my starry-eyed pronouncements change your mind.

Cookies: you simply can’t go wrong with them even if it’s only you that eats them and no one gets any and you pretend you weren’t “doing” presents this year

So! With that whiplashingly mixed-messagey preamble out of the way, let’s get festive! Festoon your bod with tinsel! Wear a garland of cranberries! Bathe in eggnog! Snort some snow! Wait…not that last one.

The HungryandFrozen Highly UnDefinitive List Of Stuff You Can Make for Presents for Literally Any Occasion but Wow It’s Nearly Christmas oh My God Where Has The Year Gone

Category One: Stuff in Jars!  

The stalwart backbone of edible giving. Jars look all twinkly and pretty and like you’re the most accomplished so-and-so ever but just quietly, it’s all rather low-effort.

Subsection A: Saucy stuff

  1. Cranberry sauce (this is stupidly easy and you should make it to go with your main meal anyway) (vegan, gluten free)
  2. Bacon jam (Best made at the last minute, because it needs refrigerating) (gluten free)
  3. Cashew butter (vegan, gluten free)
  4. Red chilli nahm jim (gluten free)
  5. Cranberry (or any-berry) curd (it involves a lot of effort but it’s so pretty. Just like me.) (gluten free)
  6. Rhubarb-fig jam (gluten free)
  7. Salted caramel sauce (gluten free, has a vegan variant) (you can prise salted caramel from my cold dead hands where it shall be clamped forevermore, regardless of trend or whim)
  8. Peach balsamic barbecue sauce (vegan, gluten free)
  9. Berry chia seed jam (vegan, gluten free)
  10. Matcha mayonnaise (vegetarian, gluten free)
  11. Honeycomb Sauce (the new salted caramel, get out of here salted caramel) (gluten free)

Subsection B: Stuff stuff

  1. Orange confit (This is basically just slices of orange in syrup, but is surprisingly applicable to a variety of cake surfaces. And it’s so pretty. And so cheap.) (vegan, gluten free)
  2. Apple cinnamon granola (vegan)
  3. Strawberry jam granola (vegan) 
  4. Buckwheat, cranberry and cinnamon granola (vegan, gluten free)
  5. Marinated Tamarillos (vegan, gluten free)
  6. Taco pickles (vegan, gluten free)
  7. Pickled blueberries (vegan, gluten free)
  8. Honey thyme roasted peaches (gluten free)

 I'm just really proud that I made up a Christmas cake recipe okay  I’m just really proud that I made up a Christmas cake recipe okay

Category Two: Baked Goods.

One for you, seventeen for me. I can’t impress upon you enough how much buying some plain brown butcher paper and plain-ass string will embiggen your baked goods without you really having to try at all. If you’re not into the wilfully rustic aesthetic, either buy a cute plate or box and use its transporting properties as part of the gift, or heck, just use plastic take out containers and wrap a ribbon around them. Either way I’m pretty sure all of the following will be rapturously received.

  1.  My Christmas Cake is amazing. It just is, deal with my lack of coyness. Even if you decide at the last minute to make it on Christmas Day itself, it will still taste so great.
  2. Christmas-spiced chocolate cake (Also a good xmas-day pudding) (gluten free)
  3. Chocolate orange loaf cake
  4. Vegan chocolate cake (vegan, duhhh, gluten free)
  5. Chocolate chunk oatmeal cookies
  6. Cheese stars (make twelve times the amount you think you need)
  7. Coconut macaroons (gluten free)
  8. Chocolate macaroons (gluten free)
  9. Gingerbread cut-out cookies (vegan)
  10. Coconut condensed milk brownies
  11. Salted caramel slice (hello again Salted Caramel! Your persistence is as admirable as your deliciousness!)
  12. Fancy tea cookies
  13. Chocolate olive oil cake
  14. Cinnamon white chocolate banana loaf
  15. Cinnamon bars
  16. Coffee caramel slice
  17. Everyday chocolate brownies
  18. Cornbread cookie squares with maple buttercream
  19. Cranberry white chocolate cookies
  20. Peanut butter cookies
  21. Secret centre mini-pavlovas (gluten free, potentially dairy free)
  22. Avocado chocolate brownies (gluten free, dairy free)
  23. Bobby dazzler cake
  24. Chocolate-dipped brown sugar cookies
  25. Flourless double chocolate cookies (gluten free, dairy free) 
  26. Salted chocolate cashew butter slice (vegan, gluten free)
  27. Smoky triple chocolate buckwheat cookies (gluten free)
  28. White chocolate gingerbread brownies

 Homemade Schnapps: two words that need no longer strike fear into your heart Homemade Schnapps: two words that need no longer strike fear into your heart

Category Three: Novelty!

This is mostly either homemade recreations of things you can buy from the corner dairy for fifty cents, or sticky-sweet things where you melt one ready-made thing into another. It’s frankly the best category and you know it.

  1. Moonshine biffs (like homemade Milk Bottles!) (gluten free)
  2. Raw vegan chocolate cookie dough truffles (vegan, gluten free)
  3. Classic lolly cake
  4. Homemade peppermint schnapps (vegan, gluten free) (this is some harsh moonshine but also SO FUN. Weirdly, more fun the more you drink of it?)
  5. Forty-Four (Homemade Coffee Orange Liqueur) (as above) (vegan, gluten free)
  6. Candy cane chocolate bark (No effort, vegan – well, I think candy canes are vegan – gluten free, amazingly delicious, just store it carefully so it doesn’t melt)
  7. White chocolate coco pops slice (gluten free) 
  8. Homemade cherry ripe (gluten free) 
  9. Mars bar cornflake slice
  10. Chocolate cookie dough pretzel things
  11. Brown sugar malteaser cardamom fudge
  12. Peanut butter chocolate caramel nut slice (gluten free)
  13. Crunchie Bar Slice
  14. Homemade bounty bars (vegan, gluten free)

Delightful Bonus Category: Stuff to bring!

At this time of year there’s a lot of suddenly needing to provide, whether your flat is having an end of year dinner or you’ve been invited to some kind of celebrational potluck or indeed, you’re hosting or attending some kind of group Christmas Day thing. It’s all very overwhelming and there’s nothing I like more than holding your hand throughout it all and assuring you it’s going to be chill and fine and as long as your banter is good and your personality isn’t entirely awful people really won’t remember or mind about the food. On the other hand, they definitely will remember the food like, in the moment, as they’re eating it, so to ensure a good good time may I suggest some of the following – these recipes all look like a big deal and are super delicious and crowd-pleaser-y but won’t be immensely taxing upon your time, wallet, or eggnog-covered bod. Okay some of the recipes require a lot of slow cooking. But they reward you richly, promise.

there’s no “I” in hummus

Savoury Stuff

  1. Roasted kumara with feta, walnuts, thyme and breadcrumbs (vegetarian)
  2. Hummus with avocado, pine nuts, and pomegranate (vegan, gluten free)
  3. Root vegetable stew with saffron, cinnamon and turmeric (vegan, gluten free)
  4. Barley, lentil and eggplant salad with pomegranate and mint (vegan, gluten free)
  5. Rice, charred corn, avocado, watercress and almond salad (vegan, gluten free)
  6. Miso-poached potatoes with butter (vegetarian, gluten free)
  7. Tomato and pomegranate salad (vegan, gluten free)
  8. Wasabi cauliflower cheese (vegetarian)
  9. Peach mozzarella panzanella (vegetarian)
  10. Cinnamon-golden syrup roasted butternut squash (gluten-free)
  11. Chorizo wellingtons
  12. Slow cooked beef cheeks with cinnamon (gluten-free)
  13. Demi-lasagne
  14. Slow-roasted garlic and lemon chicken (gluten-free)
  15. Half-coq au vin
  16. My pulled pork recipe (gluten free)
  17. My Christmas pulled pork (gluten free)

Sweeeeeeeeet

  1. Blackberry fool (gluten free)
  2. Gin and Tonic ice cream (gluten free)
  3. Girdlebuster Pie
  4. Caramel pretzel ice cream
  5. Cranberry curd and white chocolate ripple ice cream (gluten free)
  6. Billy Crudup’s grandmother’s chocolate fudge pie (forreal)
  7. S’mores pie (dairy-free)
  8. Blackberry Chocolate Chunk Custard Cookie Pie (vegan!)
  9. Strawberry Ice Cream Cake
  10. Water chocolate mousse (depending on your stance on honey, vegan-adjacent, gluten free)
  11. Lindt chocolate puddings
  12. Peaches in muscat (vegan, gluten free)

 did you know that you can eat one of these after a meal instead of brushing your teeth?  did you know that you can eat one of these after a meal instead of brushing your teeth?

I hope this list is of some use to you, or if nothing else, moderately entertaining to read (seriously at this rate I’m counting “moderate” as a total win.) Because I changed over my blog platform this year all the links I’d previously copy-pasted were broken and it took me foreverrrrr to painstakingly look up each recipe and copy-paste it back, and please be aware that if you’re clicking through to a way older recipe from this blog’s lifetime there might be some formatting issues or I’m talking like it’s 2009 or whatever. The recipes hold up though and honestly, we could all do worse than to be inspired by me this Christmas (I, for one, am going to try to be.)

title from: Tori Amos, Little Earthquakes, aka the musical form of the expression “waaaaaaaghhhhhhh”, so listen with caution

music lately:

Mariah Carey, All I Want For Christmas Is You. I am but human.

The performance of Turkey Lurkey Time, from the musical Promises, Promises, at the 1969 Tony Awards. It’s my small tradition to watch this every year but only once December 1st hits; it’s the most ludicrous song but something about the adorably deranged and yet technically ferocious dancing and Donna McKechnie’s rubber-limbed movements, like she has no regard for her bones whatsoever, and Baayork Lee being a total delight, and the third woman who is also great, and the way the ending comes together somehow makes me COMPLETELY emotional.

Peach Kelli Castle, Sailor Moon. Surfy music plus TV is very my sweet spot, I’m afraid to say.

next time: probably back to normal-times food like this never happened, I know it’s December but I’ve still got to eat, but after making this list all I want to do is like, pickle things and dissolve things into yet further things.