tell me what you saw, there was a crowd of seeds

Sometimes I’ll make a recipe and it seems so bordering-on-nothing-y that I’ll hesitate to put it on here, but the truth of the matter is that this week I made myself a gigantic quantity of dukkah and that’s what I’ve been eating, and what I’ve been eating goes on here, so here it is. I remember first having dukkah with my aunty who lived in Hamilton, which seemed extremely cosmopolitan in comparison to the small small small town I was from. She was like, you have your bread, your oil, and the dukkah – a mixture of seeds and nuts and spices – and that’s the meal. As someone for whom a meal was either a microwaved pie or meat, potatoes, and microwaved broccoli, this was a damn exciting revelation. There’s something so wonderfully leisurely about just slowly eating bread and some kind of unguent, and I’m super here for it, especially since my weird working hours (as a bartender) mean my eating habits can be reflectively weird as well, like I might not desire food till 4pm or I might be wanting a six course meal at 4am (and unfortunately, they’re mighty hard to come by at that hour) so food that drifts with me like this is ideal. And to circle back to my original point, honestly who am I to proclaim this old school Middle Eastern dish as nothing-y anyway? It’s substantial and substantially delicious.

I don’t do anything particularly revolutionary with my recipe, since in all honesty it doesn’t need any further flourish. The spices are earthy cumin, lemony-gingery coriander seed, and the warmth of cinnamon, and then it’s just loads of sesame seeds and some walnuts, which have a soft, buttery crunch under the tooth. Pistachios would be wonderful but they stay prohibitively expensive, and besides I had some walnuts leftover from the recipe I made last week. Feel free to play with proportions as you wish though – this makes a sesame-seed heavy mix but add more or less, muck around with spices, follow your dreams, live your truth, look inside your heart and find the answer there, etc.

dukkah 

  • two tablespoons cumin seeds
  • two tablespoons coriander seeds
  • one teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • one cup sesame seeds
  • one cup walnuts
  • salt and pepper
  • Bread and olive oil, to serve

Heat up a large pan and gently toast the cumin and coriander seeds, stirring often, till they’re fragrant but not browned. Tip them into a pestle and mortar and smash em up, then tip this into a large mixing bowl. Tip the sesame seeds into the same pan and stir them until the seeds are lightly browned. Transfer them to the mixing bowl with the spices, and finally, tip the walnuts into the pan and stir around till they’re lightly toasted. You can either bash up the walnuts in the pestle and mortar or roughly chop them, but either way stir them into the sesame seed mixture. Add the cinnamon and plenty of salt and pepper and stir to combine, and that’s it. Transfer to an airtight container or like, eat the lot. 

I completely acknowledge, by the way, that my photos this week might be kind of rubbish – I was extremely taken with the stark sunbeam across the table as I was eating but there is every chance that what I saw and the photos I took do not exactly match up. Nevertheless, it’s what you’re getting. Anyway frankly who cares, when the food is so delicious it can speak for itself. I’m huge on texture and absolutely love anything crunchy and so the juxtaposition of soft, soft bread dipped in oil and then in turn into the bitey, nutty, warmly spiced coating of dukkah is incredibly pleasing. I highly recommend it.

And, if you’re in the mood for other bread-and-stuff type recipes, may I recommend further reading in the form of  my recipe for hummus, or Tarator (a walnut dip), or Cambodian Wedding Day Dip (they’re also all vegan, if that’s of interest.)

title from: Gold Lion by Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I love the opening drum beat so much, it reminds me of that iconic Be My Baby opening even though it’s not actually anything like it. 

music lately:  

Okay so I watched the film Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping the other day and it was like, fine, and pretty amusing, and I have a lot of time for Andy Samberg because I have an inexplicable crush on him, but I found one song from it in particular got completely stuck in my head, and then because the internet is wonderful, someone has uploaded to YouTube precisely what I actually wanted to listen to: not the song itself but the background, which samples a song from the 60s by the Marcel’s called Heartache: basically it’s like incredibly obnoxious and I want ten hours of it on loop. So here it is: So Humble, the instrumental version, which I physically cannot stop playing.

Upon recommendation I’ve been listening to a band called Idles and! They’re so good! I love shouty punky stuff and if you do too I recommend starting with their song Mother.

Fenugreek by MF Doom always makes me feel so, SO happy, I extremely recommend it.

Finally: following some longterm strenuous recommendation I finally watched The Lost Boys, an 80s film which ticks all my boxes: 80s, ensemble cast, disaffected young men, banging soundtrack. Naturally, I cannot stop listening to its suuuuper dreamy theme song, Cry Little Sister. 

next time: I want to get into feijoas while they’re still in season! 

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  

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! 

we can make it if we try, for the sake of you and i

Me: new year, new me! Anything could happEn!!

Also me: sets my alarm really early in the morning to make a birthday cake for someone dear to me, goes and buys ingredients, makes a ton of buttercream, puts the cake layers in the oven, realises the oven is broken, because OF COURSE, eats a not insignificant quantity of the buttercream, accepts own fate of being inescapably unable to escape own fate.

Luckily the birthday person in question found this hugely amusing.

Despite largely failing without fail, one thing I did without failing this week was make myself a small, serene jar of pickled radishes. There’s something about preserving things that’s so soothing and self-care-y; I guess maybe because you’re literally investing in your own future? The world cannot end if you have to allow for some vinegar-soaked thing quietly maturing in the fridge for not-quite-yet consumption, yeah? It’s also an act of resourcefulness (would it be more resourceful to not spend my scarce money on radishes in the first place, probably, but whatever) which feels good, and things twinkling away in jars are pleasing to the eye, and therefore, the soul.

Plus, these pickled radishes taste completely fantastic. I used Nigella’s easy recipe for quick-pickled carrots in her book Simply Nigella as a starting point. Indeed, I used Nigella’s enthusiasm for pickling things altogether as even more of a starting point, even though the tone of Simply seems a little more muted and subdued compared to her previous entries, her delight in this particular area of cooking cannot help but be infectious. On the other hand, I’ve always been all “how high” to her “jump”, so who really knows, the point is: I made some pickled radishes and it was easy and good.

I decided it might be fun to replace the water in the pickling liquid with sake, as in, Japanese rice wine, feeling that its clean, granular flavour would complement the clean, icy-peppery flavour of the radishes. I used plain old apple cider vinegar because that’s what I had, but next time around – and there will be a next time – I reckon I’d also spring for rice vinegar. The sake itself is not expensive stuff, I literally just was like, which one is cheapest and good for cooking and got pointed in the direction of a modest bottle for a mere $9.

sake pickled radishes

a recipe by myself, inspired by a recipe of Nigella’s. 

  • Like…six? radishes? Enough to fill a small jar once sliced? How is anyone supposed to know this
  • 125ml/half a cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 125ml/half a cup of sake
  • two teaspoons sea salt flakes
  • two teaspoons honey
  • one bay leaf
  • a few coriander seeds

Thinly slice the radishes into coins, and pack them into a small, clean jar of about 300ml. Put the rest of the ingredients into a small pan and heat till just boiling. Remove the bay leaf from the pan and then carefully tip the liquid over the radishes in the jar, put the lid on, and refrigerate them till cold. 

The fuchsia-coloured skin of the radishes merges into their icy white flesh once they’ve been sitting in the jar for a while, giving you sour-sweet crunchy disks of breathtaking millennial pink. Use them to adorn sandwiches, salads, tacos, bowls of rice (my preference), as part of a cheeseboard or charcuterie platter, whatever you fancy. The bright pink pickling liquid is nice used in a dressing with some soy sauce and sesame oil, nothing need go to waste.

It’s obnoxiously humid currently in Wellington and honestly I wish I could submerge myself in liquid and store myself in the fridge; till the technology comes to make that viable I’m stuck eating cold things instead to try and regulate my soaring temperature, for which these pickles will do quite, quite nicely.

If you are feeling exceptionally pickled-minded (ha) then may I also interest you in some other blog posts I’ve done on this very subject: like this recipe for taco pickles, this recipe for pickled blueberries, and this recipe for lime pickle, that is, limes done in the same way as preserved lemons.

title from: a slight reach here with this…I want to say heteronym? But nevertheless I’m never sorry about drawing your attention to Don’t Let Go (Love), an absolutely impeccable song by En Vogue.

music lately:

Green Grow the Rushes O, an earnest English folk song that dates back at least to the mid-1800s, mentioned frequently, (and inspiration for the title of) Jilly Cooper’s novel Rivals. I first read this book well over ten years ago but only just decided to actually look up the song. My verdict: it’s a banger!

So Alive, a 1989 song by Love and Rockets that is far more sultry than it has any business to be.

Nobody Needs To Know, sung by Norbert Leo Butz from the cast recording for 2002 off-Broadway musical The Last Five Years, filed under “songs I can only listen to occasionally due to the ensuing feelings!” The slow build and the squalling violins (or whatever it is) and the mood of what I once read somewhere described as “regret bordering on horror” makes for intense listening, and Norbert and his hard “r” pronunciation are right there to carry you through it all.

next time: well I have a LOT of buttercream, still. 

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! 

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. 

we’re gift-wrapped kitty cats

I’ve talked a whole lot on here about how unskilled I am at sleeping. In a pink hardback baby book charting my first few months of existence, there’s a passage in my mother’s neat handwriting that tells – from my freshly birthed point of view – about how “I seem to require less sleep than everyone else” and “have already cried a lifetime’s worth of tears”. How completely prescient! Not that I have a ruthlessly raging case of colic as an excuse these days!

As I’ve also recounted here, my ADHD superpowers (having good ideas, absolutely sucking at every other aspect of life) came into play one night when I had trouble sleeping, and blessed me with this concept: what if I took thinly peeled slices of potato and wrapped them around other food and then roasted it so that the potato went all crisp and golden? (Thus neatly encapsulating three of the overarching themes of this blog: I never sleep, I was a small jerk of a child, with great mental health issues comes tiny, tiny kickbacks in the field of creativity.)

I figured this simply had to work, and wanted to try it with the new season’s asparagus. Being extremely pre-payday I had pretty much no money in my bank account, but after fossicking like a tenacious raccoon in all my pockets and the dark corners of my tote bag, I found enough coins to go down to the Cuba Street Fruit Mart. I purchased 1 (one) potato, and a handful of green beans, since asparagus isn’t actually out yet, handed over my pile of carefully counted out twenty cent coins, and went home to make my sleepless dreams a reality.

Guys, this was like...unreal. SO delicious. I could not be more enraptured with myself. Getting on a roll with achieving satisfactory lengths of peeled potato strips takes some work, but any extra bits can be roasted alongside the beans to be snacked upon leisurely (I recommend one of those peelers that’s kind of V shaped as opposed to a regular one.) What you end up with is slightly scorched beans, the oven’s heat giving them a kind of caramelised nutty juiciness (which is the worst thing I’ve ever written) encased in, essentially, a big kettle chip. The fried golden crunchiness of the potato against the beans is superb. I smashed some basil leaves into rock salt with a pestle and mortar just to point up the green taste of the beans, but just regular sea salt with chopped up basil or just salt on its own would be absolutely fine.

I feel like this would make an ideal starter for a dinner party, or you could make heaps and serve them with drinks. I guess they could also act as a fancy side for some kind of larger dish. They’re also vegan AF which is like, nice!

potato-wrapped green beans with basil salt

a recipe by myself

  • one floury potato
  • a handful of green beans
  • olive oil
  • one teaspoon of rock salt (or sea salt flakes)
  • three basil leaves

Set your oven to about as high as it will go – this is usually around 240C/480F. Pour some olive oil into a shallow roasting tray – the shallower the tray, the less oil you need to use, but whatever – so that it’s generously slicked. This is not a time to hold back. Place the tray in the oven so the oil heats up while you get on with preparing the ingredients themselves. 

Peel the skin from the potato (keep it to make vegetable stock or something if you’re virtuous) and then carefully peel long strips of potato from it. I found it easier to go lengthwise, and it took a few goes, but it gets easier, and any scraps can be thrown in with the beans and roasted till crisp for a delightful snack, so no harm done. Wrap the beans, in little bundles of three, with a long strip of potato (as per the picture) and sit them with the tail end tucked underneath. Generally potatoes have their own natural glueyness so you don’t have to worry about them unravelling wildly and flying about the room like a pulled out tape measure.

Place them carefully in the tray of hot oil, and roast for roughly twenty minutes, turning halfway through. However, you mostly want to go by eye here – when the beans look scorched and the potato wrapping is getting golden is when you want to turn them. At this point, add any other peelings and scraps of the remaining potato to the tray – seriously, they’ll turn into kettle chips and taste amazing, plus what else are you going to do with that remaining potato? 

In a pestle and mortar, bash the salt and basil leaves till they form a deeply green dust. If you don’t have this implement, just roughly chop the basil and sprinkle it and some salt over the finished beans. 

Remove the wrapped beans to a plate when you’re quite satisfied with their done-ness, sprinkle over some salt, and eat em. The remaining scraps are particularly good with some smoked paprika and the remaining basil salt.  

I roasted strips and scraps of the remaining potato and then sprinkled them with the remaining basil salt and some smoked paprika which was also ravishingly good. From one potato, sprang forth so much joy. I’m keen as to try this potato wrapped method on other foods – the asparagus of my initial intentions, halloumi, already-roasted beetroot, big red chiles stuffed with feta, maybe some kind of beef…thing…and I was even like, could I wrap potato in potato? Would that work? Am I the greatest genius whomst ever lived?

Well, no: another insomnia-idea was that I thought it’d be cool to roast pears stuffed with chocolate and then dip them in cake batter and bake them, so that they’d be encased in a layer of cake. The cake batter slid off and I ended up with two pears stuck in a large biscuit, which still tasted essentially fine, but was not something I’d recreate in a massive hurry. You can’t win em all, most of the time you can’t even win anything and in fact end up losing dramatically, so I’m quite content with this progression of events.

Back to the lack of sleep thing, before you all start a letter-writing campaign of great concern to your local government about my wellbeing or something, it’s not like I’m not working on it, and I do have naps during the day. I have a prescription for these amazing sleeping pills, I just keep forgetting to go get it filled out. I’ve got all the meditation and rain sounds in the world on YouTube, magnesium tablets, chamomile tea, yoga, you name it. Actually nothing makes me want to drop into a stupor like a gigantic meal of carbohydrates, so maybe potatoes are the way forward. Whether I’m sleepless and thinking about them or sleeping because of them: they are so good.

 any colour you like

any colour you like

A callback for the fans; in my last post I went on a rose-coloured rant about Millennial Pink, and I decided to make a cocktail embodying the colour as well. Plantation Barbados 2000 rum, Peychaud’s bitters, Aperol, thyme bitters, sugar and cream, makes for an alluringly-hued and impressively tasty drink. Just in case you thought I was anything less than totally exhaustingly all-or-nothing.

Finally, if you like Things With Potatoes, you might consider reading some of my other blog posts, including recipes for Halloumi and Hash Brown Potatoes; Potato Dominoes; or a Fried Potato Toastie.

title from: one of the greatest pop songs of all time, Love Machine by Girls Aloud. Also worth listening to is the ebullient Arctic Monkeys cover.

music lately:

Old mate Chelsea Jade released a woozily sweet video for her stonkingly good tune Ride or Cry. Yay!

City and Colour, Northern Wind. Feeeeheeeeelings.

Harry Styles, Sign of the Times. Feeeeeeeeee *sobs* eeeeeeee *literally throws up* eeelings!

next time: I made pulled jackfruit and I’m effing obsessed with it.