call my name through the cream

You know when someone puts something so succinctly and you’re like yes, this articulates something I didn’t even know I needed articulating but I feel so seen having absorbed these words? Yes? Well, yesterday I read a tweet that said “this year I kept feeling like ‘sorry I wasn’t the successful mental health recovery story you wanted'” and I was like…yes. Me. Earlier this year when I got my ADHD diagnosis I was all, my problems are solved! Ritalin helps everything! I’m great now! But in fact, to the surprise of absolutely no one except my wilfully naive self, one success does not equal a nonstop upwards trajectory. By which I mean, I’m in a weird place currently where all my resources are exhausted – my brain is tired, my body is tired, I’m pretty sure my skull is still tired from my wisdom tooth operation even though it was like, a week ago, and the hamster running in the treadmill of my mental health faculties is very, very tired. 

All I want to do is sleep for a thousand years, but also all I can do is sleep and it’s the most frustrating thing ever because I can’t get out of my own way – or bed – and get anything done that would help myself – like tidy my room or do yoga or whatever other vague self-care things you’re supposed to tick off on the road to wellbeing. As well as feeling hellaciously lethargic, my anxiety is scratching a sharp, bitten fingernail down the back of my spine more than ever. I’m really hoping I can bust out of this feeling of being suspended in a bowl of jelly, unable to claw my way through and find myself, because being tired is so tiring. 

As such I haven’t really cooked for myself in a while – I’m eating regularly, I just don’t have the energy to stand up and put one ingredient inside another. Fortunately my disinclination towards progress has its own shady rewards, as in, here’s one I prepared earlier! But totally missed the boat on blogging about because, like so many small tasks, I just didn’tFor all that I am coming across as TOTALLY MISERABLE the fact that I’m actually here writing this blog post and putting one foot in front of the other and one letter of the alphabet in front of the other is a definite achievement, so – dubiously – yay me. 

So let’s get to the less uncomfortable content! Panna cotta is an Italian dessert, comprised more or less of cream heated and set with gelatine – silky, yielding yet firm, immensely ploughable to the spoon, rich yet light, rather fancy yet childishly reminiscent of packet-born pudding. I had this idea that turmeric – as in the whole turmeric root, not the vivid yellow powdered stuff – would go well with vanilla – as in the excoriated black dust from an entire bean, not the essence in a bottle. I was pleasingly correct. It’s all very simple – just heat the vanilla and turmeric with the cream and throw in some sugar and gelatine – but has glorious results. The turmeric tints the cream a pale primrose colour and gives it a slight lemony-carroty freshness (I don’t know if that sounds awful but I promise you it’s good) and the vanilla seeds have a soft, almost chocolatey richness which makes it taste incredibly luxuriant and scented-candle-y. If you can’t get hold of whole turmeric root I imagine a small teaspoon of powdered stuff would work okay but it might be a bit intense and earthy – maybe change tack completely and instead use the grated zest of a lemon or grapefruit. 

Generally panna cotta is set in small moulds and then turned out but I was happy to cut out any additional stress by instead pouring it into cute receptacles and eating it straight from them. I recommend you do the same. 

turmeric and vanilla panna cotta

a recipe by myself

  • 300ml cream
  • three leaves of gelatine
  • three tablespoons of caster sugar
  • one vanilla bean
  • one knob/root (lol) of turmeric

Peel the turmeric roughly (I just use a sharp knife to slice the skin off) and roughly chop into pieces. Place it in a saucepan with the cream and then slide a knifepoint down the length of the vanilla bean and scrape, as best you can, the seeds of it into the cream, then just chuck the bean itself into the cream as well. 

Heat the cream gently till it’s juuuust starting to wobble on the surface. Meanwhile, soak the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water – they’ll turn translucent and soft after a minute or two. 

Remove the cream from the heat, and either strain it into a bowl or scoop out the vanilla bean and bits of turmeric. I prefer the latter because…less dishes. Scoop up the soft gelatine leaves – which will feel pretty delightful – and give them a squeeze to remove any clinging water before dropping them into the cream. Add the sugar and give it a stir to dissolve everything. 

Pour this mixture carefully between two waiting vessels of around 150ml each. Refrigerate them for a couple of hours and then they’re all yours to eat. 

Serves two. I ate both at once. 

Leaf gelatine is generally available in supermarkets these days and is much more fun to use than the traditional powdered stuff – it comes in sheets that look like old fashioned glass windows, which soften in cold water and then dissolve in the hot cream. As a result, the texture of this is incredible – so pillowy and satiny, like the feeling of raking your fingers through cool water as it slides across your tongue. 

Seriously though, I’m sorry to be so damn glum, it’s like, I’m fine, honestly, I’m just really really really tired in every possible way but also totally fine and don’t worry about me but also someone please pick me up and lay me down on a soft, warm loaf of bread and let me sleep until I finally feel rested, while taking care of all my responsibilities and maybe rewiring my brain while you’re at it, but also I’m fine? I mean, I wouldn’t say I’ve never been better, but I’ve definitely been worse! And I’ve written this blog post, which is absolutely something. And now to try and work on more somethings. 

 Something!

Something!

title from: Soundgarden, Black Hole Sun. The unbelievable sadness about Chris Cornell aside, this song is magnificent and huge and was the first music video to truly terrify me. Like, for real, I’ve linked to a lyrics video here rather than the original one because I honestly still can’t watch it. 

music lately: 

Sky Ferreira, Everything Is Embarrassing. I mean! 

Kesha, Praying. I’m happy she’s back. 

next time: well I finally read some of a book about coping with ADHD that has been under my bed, untouched, since February. And I’ve been reading the food blogs and cookbooks that spur on my hunger for cooking the most. It’s something! 

hard to be soft, tough to be tender

Ever feel like you’ve lost a part of yourself? Well, I went to sleep on Monday morning in a dentist chair and woke up having lost three wisdom teeth, to be specific. Two of which were total normies, straight up and down and toothy looking, and one massively challenging one (according to the dentist who was extremely proud of themselves for getting through it and I was like yeah, great, for you) whose roots appeared to be doing a leg pop like you see in romantic comedies where a man kisses a woman. Trust me to have a whimsical damn wisdom tooth.

Fittingly, when I got there I didn’t realise that I had to arrive half an hour early if I wanted to be sedated. Yes, there was a form that I signed, but I didn’t like, read it or anything. When it became clear that I was about to get hysterical, they just gave me the sedative anyway. Afterwards Kate heroically came and shuffled a dribbling and confused me out into the street, and Matt picked us up and drove us to her house. I was strapped into the backseat and immediately fell asleep, and next time they turned around to check on me I was keeled over sideways but still strapped in, my head lolling with every slight bump on the road and a trail of blood running out of my mouth. When I fiiiiinally came to, I found this story extremely amusing. Me, the zombie in the backseat, they in the front pretending everything is normal to anyone else passing by and indeed, to each other. 

Anyway, to the shock of no one, it’s been nonstop soft food since then. I was taken extremely good care of at Kate and Jason’s house – Matt bought me a jumbo pack of mini popsicles, I was made the most beautiful nourishing vegetable soup, I was given a gigantic tub of KFC potato and gravy all for myself, Ariel the cat repeatedly curled up on the bed with me while I worked my way through the ludicrous-even-for-PLL final season of Pretty Little Liars and Ghost the dog provided extremely good snugs, once he worked out that I was not going to be able to play our usual game of “I’ll chase you and then you chase me” and got over his subsequent passive-aggressive ennui. 

I’m back at work now, which is good because I missed it so much – however I’m still eating in a very tentative manner. And I’ve been literally having lucid dreams about crunchy, chewy food. So I was like, what can I make myself that will be so damn seductively delicious and wonderful that I won’t even care that the texture is aggressively uniform and uninterrupted by the slightest bit of, well, texture. 

Enter burrata: a cheese that’s extremely exciting even by cheese itself’s standards. I would describe it as a parcel, made of stretched out soft mozzarella, encasing fresh cream and cheese curd off-cuts. It’s a way of using up leftover bits and pieces during the cheese-making process but is entirely wonderful in its own right. I read the words “burrata mousse” briefly a few days back in some companion book to a blender (it’s a boring story, but I feel like giving credit where it’s due) and was like, whatever that is, I NEED TO MAKE IT. For contrast and vitamin content I decided to pair it with some bright orange butternut squash mash – you could of course use kumara or pumpkin instead but I love how easily butternut turns soft in the oven, and its gentle sweetness of flavour. 

You don’t have to have these things together by the way – if my tender mouth was more up for it I’d definitely serve the burrata mousse sprinkled with za’atar (a stunning mix of sumac, toasted sesame seeds and dried thyme) or red chilli flakes or some kind of toasted nut situation, and I’d spread it thickly on chewy flatbreads or crunchy sourdough or…anyway, I’ll stop there before I get too flustered. The mashed butternut of course can also be served as a side alongside literally anything. But as is, and considering my limited options, it was an immensely delicious time – the impossibly creamy, silky, ever-so-slightly tangy burrata mousse against the plush, mellow butternut. I would’ve licked the plate clean if it didn’t hurt to open my mouth that wide. 

And of course, both components are very, very easy to make.  

butternut mash, nutmeg, burrata mousse, olive oil

a recipe by myself. Makes enough for one with solid leftovers. 

  • half a good sized butternut squash
  • butter (or extra virgin olive oil)
  • sea salt
  • whole nutmeg
  • one tub of burrata
  • 200g mascarpone
  • one lime
  • extra virgin olive oil

Set your oven to 240C/450F. Wrap the butternut snugly in tinfoil and place it, cut side up, in the oven and just leave it there for about 40 minutes, or until you can stick a knife in through the tinfoil and it just slides right in without the slightest bit of resistance. 

Meanwhile, drain the burrata and pop it in a high speed blender, or a food processor (just be prepared to blend it a bit longer if you’re using the latter.) Spoon in the mascarpone and squeeze in the juice of the lime. Blitz the heck out of it until it’s a smooth, smooth, creamy and thick mixture. Add plenty of sea salt, and spatula into a container or whatever and refrigerate till you need it. 

Carefully lift the tinfoil from the cut side of the butternut and scoop out the waiting orange flesh – I just spooned it directly into a container so that I could store anything I wasn’t going to be eating right away – and mash in as much butter as you like with the back of a fork. Or, if you want to make it dairy free, use extra virgin olive oil. Grate over a smattering of fresh nutmeg. I didn’t want to waste any of the butternut so scooped up all the stuff clinging to the seeds and pushed them through a sieve, which created some extra cleaning up but – minimal waste. Once you’re quite sure you’ve fleeced the butternut of its goods, just wrap up the remaining shell and seeds in the tinfoil and bin the lot. Easy! No dishes. 

Spread as much butternut as you fancy and as much mousse as you fancy onto a plate, or spoon them into a bowl, or WHATEVER, and sprinkle over more sea salt. Drizzle olive oil across the mousse, and then tuck in.  

By the way, if you can’t find burrata – it’s usually at Moore Wilson but otherwise hard to come by – try a block of soft feta or some buffalo mozzarella for a similar effect. Similarly, feel free to use lemon juice instead of lime in the mousse – I just wanted that extreme acid sharpness puncturing the luscious richness of the mascarpone and cheese. Oh, and! I took the leftover butternut squash to work and thinned it down with a little stock and cream in a saucepan and it made an excellent, near-instant, soup. Which is of course, one of the other three things I can eat. 

My teeth were not all I lost this week! In a series of events extremely typical of me, I broke the SD card for my camera. So on the day that I made this recipe – literally while the butternut was in the oven – I dashed out and bought myself a new card. I took nice photos. I then put the SD card in my pocket and took my laptop out to go blog at a cafe somewhere. The SD card had disappeared. Luckily I’d taken some photos on my phone, which are what you see here, but like, agh. This is so extremely par for the course for me – pick something up, it disappears into thin air – when I was a teenager and still kept a diary I had a running list of things that I’d misplaced/made disappear somehow, because that’s how often it happened. Unfortunately doctors can’t prescribe antibiotics for that affliction. 

So in lieu of further photos of my food, please enjoy instead this photo of Ariel the cat being a total Vermeer babe in the sunlight, shortly before sitting directly on top of my laptop keyboard in the middle of the penultimate episode of Pretty Little Liars and acting extremely confused as to why I wanted her to move.

 the girl with the purrrrl earring

the girl with the purrrrl earring

title from: Metric, with their me_IRL-as-hell titled song, Help I’m Alive.

music lately: 

The Mojo Brothers, Killing FloorNot as far as I can tell, a cover of the Howlin’ Wolf song, although their vibes are not dissimilar. Anyway this song was playing during a scene in Pretty Little Liars which took place in a diner and was so weird and awesomely Twin Peaksy and no matter how stupid this show became and how many harmful tropes it doubled down on instead of skewering, I can’t deny that it’s been a huge part of my life for the last few years since I first discovered it. Also, good song. 

Underworld, Rez. If ten million fireflies were at ten million typewriters there’s a good chance they’d end up writing this song. 

next time: I really hope I’ll be able to have more of a variety of textures by the next time I post. At this point I’m craving crunchy food so much that it’ll probably just be like, here’s a recipe for a bowl of gravel for you. 

yes in a dream all my teeth fell out

I have this weird half-memory of a story on cassette tape that my teacher would sometimes play to the class when I was like, eight years old, about some kids who were cursed or something and they forgot how to sing Happy Birthday and when they tried to it came out as this disturbing, discordant mumble. (I tried googling the premise and can’t find anything about it but I swear I didn’t make this up.) Anyway, that’s kind of how I feel about blogging right now. I’ve apparently forgotten how. All I’ve been doing, and I mean all, is just working and sleeping and working and sleeping and obsessively binge-watching Frasier, and every time I’ve been like “right you idiot time to do some goddamn blogging, that thing that you love” I just sit there and stare at the screen and everything that comes out is all stilted and mumbly.  

AND THEN. On Monday night I hauled myself out of bed and forced myself to write, and managed about half of this very blog post, before a WISDOM TOOTH of all things decided to roundhouse kick its way through the left side of my mouth, causing indescribable pain (and like, my idea of fun is describing stuff) not to mention a deeply vanity-denting swelling of the left cheek and an enormous sense of helpless neediness. 

Seriously, I did not expect this at all. Firstly, my teeth are so well behaved, and secondly, wisdom teeth were supposed to be an issue like, a decade ago. All I can surmise is that my extreme young-at-heart nature also extends to being young-at-mouth, either way it’s monumentally inconvenient and painful and horrible. I ended up going to hospital at 4am on Tuesday night because I was deranged from the pain, followed by a dentist visit where the dentist was astounded at the speed with which my wisdom tooth barged in unannounced (and I was like “this is so Aries of me.) It’s very likely I’ll have to have the unwelcome guest to my mouth ripped out and I’m extremely nervous about it, but till then I’m hepped up on a grunty cocktail of antibiotics and Tramadol, and have been a charming mixture of intensely dozy and high as a kite all day. I decided that while I’m vaguely lucid I might as well try to finish this stupid blog post, since the stiltedness of my creativity has been a major cause of anxiety to me and if I can both distract my brain from the pain with writing and also tick something off my to-do list I might feel slightly better about how much time this vexatious tooth is wasting. 

So uh, last week I made this granola stuff, and it is really good and I’m going to attempt to talk about it here in the manner of, you know, a food blog. (Imagine several elaborate air quote gestures inserted at various points in that sentence.) 

By “granola” I really mean a collection of toasted grains and seeds and whatnot masquerading as breakfast cereal. It’s crunchy and nutty and puffy and really weirdly delicious and filling but also extremely light-textured, with not a single oat in sight: instead I round it out with toasted buckwheat which is super nutty and crunchy, and puffed amaranth, which is just devastatingly adorable – when you put the granules of it over a high heat it puffs up like the tiniest popcorn, like popcorn for bees, like, I don’t know why the sight of tiny miniature stuff doing its best makes me emotional, it’s not even the Tramadol that’s making me get worked up about this, but all we can do, collectively across humankind, is try to accept it. Maple syrup glues it together – an expensive ingredient, hence the “lux” of the granola’s name – and makes it pleasingly clumpy and sweet, and the almonds and sesame seeds give further nutty toasty flavour and crunch. Plus simply knowing about all the superfood-on-superfood action happening in the ingredients is extremely good for the soul, and presumably the bod also. 

Also please note that while the recipe looks complicated you’re honestly just toasting all the individual ingredients in a pan over a high heat, that’s like, it, I just for some reason cannot explain it in any kind of succinct manner. 

lux maple granola

a recipe by myself

  • one cup amaranth
  • one cup quinoa
  • one cup buckwheat
  • one cup sesame seeds
  • one cup almonds
  • four tablespoons maple syrup
  • pinch of sea salt

Get yourself a large, ideally nonstick frying pan, and a large bowl. Put the pan on a high heat, and then pour in a few tablespoons of the amaranth. After a few seconds it should start popping and puffing up. Keep it moving so it doesn’t burn, and don’t worry if all of it doesn’t puff up – as long as most of it does, you’re all good. Tip it into the bowl and carry on with the rest of the amaranth. Then, tip in some of the quinoa – some of the grains might pop a bit but your aim here is just to gently toast the grains. Once they’re sufficiently browned, tip them into the bowl with the amaranth and continue to toast the rest. Then, toast the buckwheat grains until they smell nutty and are lightly browned, followed by the sesame seeds – which should brown really quickly – and finally the almonds. Roughly chop up the toasted almonds before tipping them into the bowl as well. Finally, add the salt and pour in the maple syrup, give it a good stir and then transfer into an airtight jar or container.  

I ate it, as you can see from the pictures, layered up with really thick natural yoghurt and freeze-dried raspberry powder, which was a spectacularly good way to enjoy it. I’m just someone who happens to have a lot of freeze-dried powdered fruits around for some reason, but it would be also wonderful in a bowl drenched in your preferred kind of milk, or just served alongside a heaping spoonful of yoghurt with whatever fruit and accoutrements you fancy. You could also layer it up all cute like I did but use IRL fruit or something – jarred passionfruit syrup or tinned peaches would also be delightful here. You’ve got options, is what I’m saying. 

 bed granola

bed granola

All I’ve done today, aside from thrashing about in pain and having extremely dribbly naps, is watch Nigella Lawson re-runs, possibly the most comforting TV I can imagine in these difficult-of-tooth times. At one point I literally dreamed that she put her cool hand on my hot forehead and it was honestly almost worth the entire ordeal just for that dream; but also watching her cooking reminds me that this is what I love to do and it’s something I can do and will do. I’m really hoping that once this useless fang heals up that I’ll be all It’s A Wonderful Life and be completely reinvigorated to write, like, vigorously, but even just feeling something other than nonstop pain would be a real kick right now. 

Anyway, I’m feeling the Tramadol pulling me downwards which means it’s time for me to snooze and dribble lavishly on my pillowcase again, but I’m glad I got this done and also I can’t wait for my stupid face to get better so that I can eat the rest of this delicious granola. Currently the simple act of chewing causes black-out levels of pain! Good times. 

title from: The Knife, Silent Shout. I love the hook in this song, it’s like the sensation of lemonade bubbles rising and falling in musical form. 

music lately:

Anthems for a Seventeen-Year Old Girl, Broken Social Scene. I CANNOT STOP LISTENING TO THIS SONG. The repetitiveness, especially about halfway through when it really kicks in, is so hypnotic and melancholy. I love it. 

Animal Nitrate, Suede. I really like this song. 

The Avalanche, Sufjan Stevens. This is the only song of this that I like and it’s not on Spotify and it’s ruining my life! I also have not listened to any other songs by him. 

next time: let us hope that I have my ability to write back and also my ability to have teeth in my mouth in a chill manner. 

workworkworkworkwork

Generally my ideas come all at once, fully formed, or not at all. Like I’ll stare at my wardrobe for a literal forty minutes, paralysed with the inability to choose a simple garment to prevent my public nudity (admittedly, ritalin has helped alleviate these vibes) or I’ll wake up being like “I’m going to channel Victor Garber playing Jesus in the 1973 film adaptation of the musical Godspell and this is exactly how I’m going to do it!” I submitted a cocktail to Wellington on a Plate this year for work and I came up with it, concept, recipe, title and all, in precisely five seconds, but on the very last day that submissions were open. There’s other examples, just imagine I’ve given them to you (I’m very tired right now.) All of which leads us to this pomegranate cheesecake that I made on Tuesday night, simply because the words “pomegranate cheesecake” plus the entire recipe appeared in my head suddenly, and I was like…guess I better act upon this. Who am I to ignore the voice telling me to make a cheesecake that no one was asking for nor needing in their life? Who am I to not act upon every damn whim that occurs to me, no matter what it is? Who indeed?

Luckily the cheesecake was as delicious as my odd little brain promised.  

This is an extremely easy cheesecake to knock together, and in fact the only difficult part is sourcing the one key ingredient: not actual pomegranate, because I am a heathen who decided to forge ahead with this despite the fruit in question being wildly out of season, but instead: Monin Pomegranate Syrup. I’ll be honest with you, some of their fruit syrups are spectacular and some of them are…less so…but the pomegranate stuff is pretty magical: lip-smackingly, butt-smackingly sour, zestily sweet, and appealingly pink in colour. If you live in Wellington it’s easily available at Moore Wilson’s, otherwise I would try buying it online, or using something like Six Barrel Soda’s Cherry Pomegranate Soda syrup, or perhaps scout your local bars for who has it in stock and ask nicely if you can borrow a small quantity in a takeaway cup in return for a slice of cheesecake. Or you could change tack completely and look for a good-quality raspberry syrup, the kind which real fruit was harmed in the making of; you’ll still get that appealingly sour red fruit flavour. OR you could go archly artisinal and use pomegranate molasses while upping the sugar content: in fact I’m now extremely curious about this variation and want to try it.  

But back to the actual cheesecake that I actually made, actually. (Cheesecake…actually…is all around.) 

I went into work on Tuesday night to knuckle down and overhaul the till to add and remove and shuffle a zillion buttons to make it more useable (it’s one of those ancient systems that’s about on the level a Brick Game or even, for those of you in the audience from the previous generation, an Atari, but also like, it’s MY system that I know how to USE and if anyone changes it I’ll be mad because I can’t be BOTHERED learning new THINGS.) I also had an ulterior motive: I was going to make this cheesecake, and then feed the troops with it the following evening once it had chilled sufficiently overnight. Yes, it’s a refrigerated cheesecake, not a baked one, and I honestly kind of prefer them. I’m down if you are to engage in a lively debate about this. 

All of which means it’s fantastically easy to make. The filling itself is just cream cheese and whipped cream which somehow holds together and I do not question it, the lack of effort involved is enough for me. This concept is based on a Nigella Lawson recipe, so you know you can trust it. I made the base before starting on the till, refrigerated it while I got stuck in on said till, made the filling when I needed a break after realising I’d been programming everything completely wrong and was about to cry, and then put that in the refrigerator and ploughed ahead until some progress was actually made on the damn till. The next day, I came in and photographed the cheesecake, and then left it there to be consumed by whomsoever happened to be around and desiring surprise treats. 

So that’s how I got there, but what in the heck did it taste like? Absolutely amazing. I didn’t actually eat the finished product as a whole but I can tell you I ate an alarming amount of the biscuit base as I was pressing it into the cake tin, and also a near-on hilarious amount of the filling as I was making it, so I can confidently say, with my hand on my heart and one hand in my pocket and the other one flicking a peace sign, that it’s a really, really good cheesecake. The tartness of the cream cheese echoes the tartness of the pomegranate syrup but it’s in such a sherbety kind of way – not truly sour, just fizzy and fruity, softened by the billowing cream. The biscuit base tastes good because of course it does, it’s smashed up biscuits and lots of butter, I don’t have to explain that to you. The colour, a merest blush of rosy pink, is really pretty, and that is also important. 

While I’m being extremely heathenish and cavalier with regards to the seasonality of produce, I did buy a package of pomegranate seeds to put on top and they kind of tasted like nail polish remover but they looked so nice that my love of aesthetic won in the end. Besides, as I reasoned, you can always flick them off before you eat your slice of cheesecake. If this horrifies you too much or you just can’t access pre-packaged pomegranate seeds, simply drizzle the cheesecake with more syrup, or leave it as a plain expanse of pale, pale pink. 

pomegranate cheesecake

a recipe by myself

  • one packet of plain biscuits, the boring kind that are only useful for cheesecake bases
  • 100g butter
  • 250g cream cheese, full fat (I’m not trying to be cute, low-fat has a weird texture)
  • 300ml cream
  • half a cup of icing sugar (just spoon it in, don’t pack it down, you can always add more)
  • 60ml Monin pomegranate syrup
  • Pomegranate seeds to decorate (optional)

Get yourself a 20cm springform cake tin and line the base with a sheet of baking paper. Then, get those biscuits crushed. Either put them in a food processor and blitz them into dust, or put them in a plastic bag and bash them with something heavy (in my case, it was a muddler that I usually use for making, like, caipirinhas.)  Apply some heat to the butter till it’s anywhere from extremely soft to totally melted, it really doesn’t matter, and mix it into the biscuit crumbs. Tip all this into the cake tin and use the back of a spoon to press it fairly evenly across the base (I find if you run the spoon under water it helps the crumbs to not stick.) Pop this into the refrigerator while you get on with the filling, which is a matter of moments.

Make sure your cream cheese is at room temperature otherwise you’ll never get anywhere, in cheesecake or life. Mix it, the icing sugar, and the pomegranate syrup together briskly. Taste to see if it needs either more sugar or pomegranate. Then, whip the cream until it’s softly bulky but not like, super stiff, and fold it into the cream cheese. By the way, you can do this in a food processor or blender, mixing up the cream cheese first, removing it, and then blitzing the cream, but just be really careful to not overwhip the cream. Spatula all this on top of the biscuit base, smooth out the top, and refrigerate it for at least three hours, but ideally overnight.

When you’re ready to go, run a knife around the inside of the caketin and carefully unclip the springy bit to remove the sides. Transfer it to a cute serving plate, and either scatter with pomegranate seeds or drizzle over more syrup, but basically just do something aesthetic, okay?  

I came into work later the next night: the cheesecake was all but gone, a slender wedge remained. Obviously overtired largely-broke hospo people will eat a pile of dirt if someone implies that it’s free food (just me?) but I took that as a sign that yes, it was delicious, and yes, it was a good idea, even if I have no idea why it appeared or whether I truly needed to follow through on it. 

On the other hand, I am also considering making it a weekly thing now, so, thanks brain. That good idea was a good idea. 

title from: Barbados gave us rum and it gave us Rihanna, both of which are true blessings. Rihanna’s song Work is as glorious as she is. Please enjoy both versions of the video, don’t deprive yourself. 

music lately: 

Mint Chicks, Bad Buzz. This song is not on spotify and it hurts my feelings because I can’t put it on a work playlist till it is!! It’s so good!

Lorde, Liability. It’s so inconsiderate of her to release music in my lifetime when it affects my heart so much? But here she is anyway. Well Lorde, I don’t respect it, but damn it: I respect it. 

next time: The weather is getting colder rapidly so I’m keen to respond in a culinary way. Something slow-cooked and extremely comforting. Either that or I’ll wait until an idea hits my brain with a bang. 

get a little bit of bourbon in ya, get a little bit suburban

I’ve lived in my current apartment for just over a year now. On Sunday, for the first time since moving in, I went to the vege market which happens weekly and is located exactly one block away. Thank you, Ritalin! I’ve spent a whole year full of good intentions about being a vege market person who gathers up bushels of seasonal produce to nourish my hot bod, but it’s never once happened. Either I cannot spatula myself out of bed with any conviction, or I make it there and am overwhelmed and panicky and can’t make a decision and forget how to breathe and have to leave immediately. 

Not this Sunday though! Instead I strode, with unprecedented purpose, the short distance of one literal block from my apartment to the carpark filled with people and vegetables. And then went on a brief tangent where I saw this tiny, silky dachshund and a voice in my head said Follow That Dog, They Will Lead You To The Vegetable-Related Inspiration You Seek. In a dog-induced fugue state I trailed it, my low-bellied small-snouted muse, until it went and stood by….some cucumbers. I was jolted out of the trance, all like, wow I don’t feel like cucumbers and maybe this dog isn’t my spiritual vegetable guide but in fact just following its owner. 

  *clenches fist* so     damn     rustic

*clenches fist* so     damn     rustic

Luckily a more reliable voice said the words “maple bourbon roasted shallots” and suddenly I was inspired anew. This idea expanded out to include radishes (plus some beetroot that I bought for good measure for a later time) and with a bag full of pink-tinged vegetables, I left the market unflustered and happy.

Maple and bourbon are highly compatible bedfellows – the sweetness of both overlapping but also being tempered by the woodsy, smoky autumnal elements of the syrup. I figured that with shallots – mellow and onion-y – and the peppery, crisp radishes, it would make for an extremely delicious addition to say, some couscous or a salad. 

Unfortunately – or not – we’ll never know how these damn things taste in that capacity because, after having let them cool somewhat and idly tasting a few to see how the combination worked…I lifted the roasting dish to my face and somehow – in my second fugue state of the day – demolished the entire lot, frantic forkful by frantic forkful, in about twelve seconds flat. 

So, well, at least you know they’re really good. The shallots get all soft and caramelised and sticky, and the bourbon gives this rich depth. Shallots are a total pain to peel, but they look so, so pretty – like bunches of dried dusky pink roses, delicate and papery. If you’ve only ever had radishes raw before, they’re a revelation once some heat is applied, with their peppery bite softened into something quite luscious.

Should you have more restraint than me; here’s some suggestions for what to do with these things other than merely hoofing them in a daze. You could stir them through couscous with some rocket and toasted walnuts to respectively echo that peppery-smoky vibe; you could make a ton more and serve it alongside roast chicken (and consider using a marinade of maple, bourbon and olive oil for the chicken itself); you could boil some lil new potatoes and slice them up and stir the shallots and radishes into them with maybe like, some chives and a vinegary dressing to make a charming potato salad; you could put them in a bowl as part of a tapas-type spread with hummus and chargrilled peppers and flatbreads and whatnot, and finally, you could serve them as a component of a very zen rice bowl. 

maple bourbon roasted shallots and radishes

a (vague) recipe by myself

  • many shallots, like at least nineteen
  • a bunch of radishes, like…five? 
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • a couple of teaspoons of real maple syrup
  • a couple of teaspoons of bourbon
  • sea salt or a similarly fancy sodium

Set your oven to 170C/330F. 

Peel the shallots, which is fiddly and annoying I grant you, but if you press down on them with the flat side of a large knife the skins should split making it easier to slide them out. Chop the radishes into wedges. Place them all in a roasting dish in which they fit snugly. Drizzle over plenty of olive oil, the maple syrup, the bourbon, and a good sized pinch of salt. Give it a stir if you like or just hope for the best. 

Place in the oven and leave for around an hour till everything is lightly browned and tender and looking, y’know, cooked. Use however you like. 

Or you could, honestly, just hoof them in a daze in their entirety, it’s 100% a good time. 

As you can see, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged, despite my insistence upon returning to form as quickly as possible. But this is me trying, and I’m pretty pleased with the results. I will absolutely be cooking more and more and more – the other day I made myself GRANOLA – and the fact that I can go to a vege market without having a meltdown is definitely a good sign, even if I get waylaid by an occasional mysterious dachshund voyage. And honestly it’s nice to write a fairly straightforward blog post free of deep confessional angst (even if it’s always there ready to go.) There’s this bit in the Simpsons where Moe is telling Homer that he’s better than dirt, but not that fancy dirt with all the nutrients, and that’s how I’m feeling right now – just a tiny dirt grub, slowly getting better and better.

 An good boy, and a dog called Ghost 

An good boy, and a dog called Ghost 

PS: It’s Valentine’s Day today, and if that means something to you then I’m happy for you and not going to rain on your parade. I spent the morning with my work family at an adorable high tea put on by our bosses followed by some intensely loved up messages with my two best friends Kim and Kate and I cannot think of a more lovely way to celebrate the day. And during that high tea I had the most amazing cucumber sandwiches with minty cream cheese and I was like, oh my god, that dachshund was actually trying to tell me something…But whatever you’re doing – whether it’s wallowing in hearts-for-eyes-ness or studiously ignoring it, I hope it’s fun. 

title from: my ultimate valentine Lana Del Rey and her incredible song Cruel World which, ugh, I love so much. 

music lately: 

Calexico, Alone Again Or. So I have been loving the original version of this song, by the band Love, for a long-ass time now, but this cover was recently brought to my attention and it’s so bouncy and ebullient and good and honestly, a very worthy take on a truly brilliant song. Listen. 

Beyonce’s performance at the Grammy Awards. It’s SO IMPORTANT. I”M SOBBING. WATCH IT. 

Blink 182, Always: exposure therapy. 

Next time: whatever I make I’ll like, wait to use it before I eat it mid-process. Or will I?  

 

so this is the new year and I don’t feel any different

At ten seconds to midnight on the last day of December I led the countdown from behind the bar where I was working. At midnight we yelled Happy New Year and hugged and clinked our glasses of house sparkling wine. Then I yelled an expletive in the direction of 2016. And then, I immediately blasted Careless Whisper over the loudspeaker. (That’s right, “an expletive.” I’ve never sworn before on this blog and for some reason cannot bring myself to do it now after all these years out of some vague fear of being sent to the principal’s office or something even though swearing is harmless and a pretty delightful way to add texture and colour – or is that off-colour – to your words, generally? Why am I so hung up on this?) Anyway there’s no great conclusion to this anecdote, but the crowd went wild and no matter what happens this year I shall at least treasure the memory of standing in front of a lot of people – one of my favourite activities! – and seeing their faces as the glorious and iconic sax riff started playing. Started with a banger, if not a bang. 

Earlier that same day I made myself gazpacho, acting upon a strong craving. I never crave soup. I have barely been feeling passionate about any kind of food lately in fact. But, not wanting to let these rare positive thoughts about liquidised vegetables get skittish and run away, I decided I might as well try and do something about it.

This soup is really, really simple. The only difficult thing is that it’s best made in a blender, if you don’t have one then like…I don’t know. Make something else. You could use a food processor, but a blender is better, something about the centrifugal motion and slicey knifey stuff. The point is, it’s really delicious, which, thank goodness, since I hardly ever have massive soup-adjacent desires in the first place. Soup always has to do everything backwards and in heels in order to impress me at the same level that other food does dancing forward in regular shoes (that’s a Fred and Ginger reference in case I briefly lost you there.) I use cherry tomatoes which, with their youthful sweetness, give a slightly bouncier tomato flavour but very ripe regular tomatoes would be absolutely fine. I also use only red capsicum instead of the usually prescribed red and green, because green ones tend to be unluscious and bitter, whereas the red ones, mellow and riper, echo the sweetness of the little tomatoes. The only other way in which I stray from the traditional is adding a pinch of cumin to lend a little earthy depth. 

  aw man, just realised that drizzle of olive oil kind of looks like a dick

aw man, just realised that drizzle of olive oil kind of looks like a dick

This really does get better the next day so if you can forward-plan your cravings, so much the better, but immediately poured from the blender it’s wonderful, all thick and cold and tasting of sunshine, of soft grass under your bare feet, of cloudless skies, endless and blue, of other summer-adjacent imagery designed to inspire a vague sense of nostalgia and longing within you. 

cherry tomato gazpacho

a recipe by myself

  • two punnets of ripe cherry tomatoes
  • one red capsicum (or pepper, if you’re American)
  • one small, soft white bread roll
  • two tablespoons of red wine vinegar, or sherry vinegar if you have it
  • three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, or more to taste (I did more) 
  • a decent pinch of ground cumin
  • salt (ideally sea salt or something fancy) and freshly ground pepper to taste

Tumble the cherry tomatoes into the blender, reserving a couple for garnish if you like, and a couple to just eat for fun because they’re so delicious. Remove the core from the pepper and slice into rough chunks (in all honesty, I just tore it up with my bare hands). Run the bread roll under a cold tap – an unusual and counterintuitive-feeling activity, I grant you – and rip it into soggy pieces, and put all of this in the blender with the tomatoes. Tip two cups of cold water in, followed by the vinegar, olive oil, and cumin. Blend thoroughly till it forms a thickish, uniform looking puree. Taste for salt, and indeed, whether or not you think it needs more cumin, olive oil, vinegar, whatever – and blend again. Let it sit for an hour if you can, which will thicken it up, but you could just eat it right away.

I served it drizzled with more olive oil, scattered with freshly ground black pepper, and strewn with chunks of very ripe avocado and fresh thyme, since it’s what I had and I figured I might as well lean into the untraditional nature of it. I also halved one of the reserved cherry tomatoes and floated them on top, cutely. This makes enough for two servings. 

The weather is actually resolutely unsummery at the moment but this soup nevertheless does its best to make you feel like its sunny, and is an ideal way to use seasonal produce if that’s what you’re into. 

I have no doubt that you absolutely noticed, amongst the hustle and bustle of Christmas, New Years, public holidays, disrupted routines, taking stock of the year’s happenings and mourning celebrity deaths, that it’s been a while since I’ve blogged. This was because my laptop sulkily kept turning off mid-use, eventually giving up on the whole being-a-laptop thing altogether. I’ve also been monstrously depressed and anxious and unable to muster up the slightest inclination to cook for myself. Luckily, it’s all fixed now!

The laptop that is. Haha. 

While I was waiting for it to be fixed, Kate very very kindly lent me hers. And rapidly, I decided to write about some things that were going on inside and outside of my head. The words came easily, pressing publish did not, but well, I’ve gone and bloody done it now. I’m not going to say too much more about it since you might as well read it – if you want. My whole thing was not wanting so much to be like, making a dramatic point about how I’m – gasp – going through some stuff, but more to highlight how sucky the system in New Zealand is if you’re trying to ask for help, while also just being like, I’m a human going through some stuff and the more people who talk about it the more it is normalised and I feel like I can do that, I can take a chance on talking about it where maybe other people can’t since I appear to not worry ever about the consequences of what will happen if I write about things going on in my life. On the other hand, it’s something I’d hidden with varying degrees of success for a few months now, so, sometimes acts of what could be called bravery take time to get into.

With all that in mind, my wanting to make myself something, and for that something to be vegetable-based soup, feels like a small victory. Super small, I mean. I still haven’t put sheets on my bed. I got drunk last night and lost my phone and then found it and then immediately lost it again and was like well, fair enough, I guess I’ve lost it. (I was at work, so I’m going to go pick it up, although it occurs to me today that being in a familiar place does not necessarily mean I didn’t somehow drop it in the bin or lose it inside a large glass of water or something.) 

 What he said. 

What he said. 

But I’m trying. Well, I’m trying to try. Which is legit another victory.

Happy New Year. Fuck 2016. 

title from: Death Cab For Cutie, The New Year. I am a sucker for an achy-breaky song about this time of year. Amongst other things.  

music lately:

Breezeblocks, alt-j. Wowwwwwwww I like this song a lot. Also wowwww I am late to the party on alt-j. 

Zayn Malik/Taylor Swift, I Don’t Wanna Live Forever. PREDICTABLY GOOD, WHOM COULD HAVE PREDICTED THIS, I FEEL LIKE I SHOULD SAY A VARIATION ON THE WORD PREDICTABLE AGAIN NOW 

next time: well hopefully I want to cook for myself more. So I’ll see you in June. JK, I’ll get there somehow. It helps when there are other people to cook for, and luckily there’s a lot of love-to-cook-for-them type people in my life. 

to fill a whole, to shake the sky in two

You know that Mozart banger, Symphony No. 40, First Movement, Allegro? If you sing “carb! on carb! on carb on carb on carb!” in your head along to the tune of it while making yourself a fried potato toastie, it’s kind of a fun thing to do.

It’s easy to say that 2016 has been a garbage year. I’ve said it myself. It has been an exceptionally hard year for me in ways I didn’t even think would be possible – at least the difficulties have been keeping it fresh and interesting, I guess? – and I’m just one small struggling drop in a bucket in which we’re all lil droplets having our own difficult times magnified in concave through our personal water droplet perspectives (I imagine being a droplet is like viewing everything through a fish eye lens, the kind they used in 90s hip hop videos.)

But consider this: has any year ever been good? Can you name one good year? It’s impossible. They all sucked. And if you think they didn’t, just look at the Wikipedia entry for any given 365 days in history and rest assured that there were atrocities abounding.

All we can really hold onto is moments. Small times. A perfect afternoon. Finishing a task and not failing. A really nice enveloping hug. Realising someone was thinking about you at the exact moment you were thinking about them. A nap where you had a beautiful dream. Catching yourself in the act of existing for one weightless minute of no anxiety. Laughter. The usual stuff.

Last weekend I was up the coast in Raumati South with my two best friends. A long time ago we organised a little getaway in the face of 2016 being so intense – little did we know how much more 2016 would happen between us booking the holiday and us actually getting there. And how much more was to come. On the first night, we were woken just after midnight – full of nachos and red wine and mere minutes into a deliciously early night’s sleep – by a fairly enormous earthquake. The kind that really does damage. And then aftershock upon aftershock upon aftershock. Now I’ve been truly terrified of earthquakes ever since doing a school project on disasters in 1997; yet somehow I was calm and almost managerial throughout the quake itself, comforting my friends and holding them tight and repeating logical things.

As soon as the shaking stopped I threw up three times and then slept a total of about six hours over the next three days that we remained out there. My cool leadership was nice while it lasted I guess. On the other hand being around your best friends in a little wooden bach up a hill is about as safe as you can be against any kind of trouble.

So now all of a sudden we’re in this post-quake time; what were we even doing before it? I’m immensely, immensely lucky that no damage was done at my apartment or workplace, but I’m constantly on edge and anxious and can’t stop myself. LUCKILY, she says self-deprecatingly, I’m always anxious and so this is at least nothing out of the ordinary for me. You’ve gotta keep on keeping on, I tell people, while refusing to leave my bed.

As such I have cooked myself 1 (one) thing in the last week, and it was this: a fried potato toastie. Comfort food, how obvious of me!  But who cares, this is something you can make for yourself which requires very little in the way of gathering ingredients, and there is something about carb on carb that brings some kind of calm to the soul; who am I to fight it.

It’s very simple. Small cubes of potato fried in olive oil till crisp – which doesn’t take that long. Sandwich them in two thick slices of bread spread with something, sit that in the pan till its golden, eat it in bed. There’s something about the salty crunch of potato against fluffy, soft white bread, sinking into the cool sour cream, that makes one feel like the world is a less scary place.

fried potato toastie

recipe by myself. It looks long but I just kind of over-explain everything, it’s really easy I promise. 

  • one large potato, the kind that is ideal for roasting (eg, not a new potato) 
  • olive oil
  • two thick slices of white bread
  • sour cream (or mayonnaise, I just had sour cream and liked the potato salad vibes it gave) or use some kind of vegan mayo or hummus or whatnot to make it vegan. 
  • mustard of some kind

Heat about three tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy pan. Dice the potato quite small, into rough cubes and chunks of one or two centimetres. Once the oil is hot, tip the potato into the pan, with the aim being to get all the potato in one single layer. Add a little more oil if you like. Leave the potato to fry for five to ten minutes and then once they’re golden on one side, turn each piece over to allow it to fry on the other side. This is possibly slightly tedious but it’s also calmingly methodical, and a regular spoon is the easiest way to turn over all the little pieces. Once the potato is all cooked through and crisply golden on both sides, remove them to a plate.

Fry one of the slices of bread on one side, then set it aside. Thickly spread the un-fried side with sour cream and mustard, and spread the same on one side of the other piece of bread. Put the unfried piece of bread in the pan, pile all the potato on top of it, top with the other piece of bread (sour cream side down…) and continue to fry for a little bit longer till the bottom slice appears toasted. Remove to a plate and eat in bed. 

After eating this I immediately fell into a thick, heavy nap, which I believe speaks to the toastie’s inherent power. I didn’t have any cheese to hand and have no doubt that it would improve everything, but the sandwich was perfect on its own – oily, salty, crispy, soft, all the good things.

So now what? I mean, you have to keep on keeping on, (she says, refusing to leave her bed) and making yourself a self-indulgent toastie is definitely one way of doing that. Just do what you can. And if you’re not up to feeding yourself, you know what you should do? Go out. Support your local hospitality scene, because they need you. What are you going to do with your money anyway, put it in a museum and look at it? No! Be with your friends, have a drink, come together, help businesses to keep going. In all honesty the best thing about Wellington is the places to eat and drink, and without them what have we got? In the last couple of days I’ve taken myself out to breakfast at Loretta, coffee at Customs, drinks at Library, shotgunned beers in the backyard with my friends in the sun like nothing was the matter at all; and I barely have any money or free time. I’m also, despite my nerves, doing my best to show everyone at my home-away-from-home Motel the best time possible, because anyone who comes through that door has made the effort to leave the house and connect with people and support us. (I mean I always try to show people a good time but damn it, this earthquake has made me sentimental as heck and suddenly the smallest things feel momentous.) I’m not saying I’m a hero by like, buying a coffee. I’d go with “icon,” personally.

Anyway – just keep looking for the nice moments, and creating as many as you can muster, they are there somewhere.

Also: If carb, on carb, on carb-on-carb-on-carb is your idea of comforting, may I also direct you to my recipes for Halloumi and Hash Brown Burgers; Fried Potato Burghal Wheat with Walnuts and Rocket; and Marmite and Chip Sandwiches.

title from: Blink 182’s sad as song All of This, featuring that sadness maven Robert Smith. 

music lately:

Amy Shark, Adore. I can’t stop listening to this song!

Dead Flowers, Might As Well Get Used To It. Might as well, huh. This song from this NZ band from 1998 is gloomily beautiful and sounds like a cross between that Radiohead song from the Romeo and Juliet soundtrack and that Gorillaz song Tomorrow Comes Today but is also very much its own, sadly charming thing.

Sharon Jones, Got A Thing On My Mind. In yet another thing that makes this year suck, she died the other day, at just 60. I was so lucky to see her live with the Dap Kings when they came to Wellington a few years ago, but it’s ugh, so horrible, she was so young and her music is the most alive thing ever.

next time: hopefully my nerves will subside a bit and allow me to move on from AGGRESSIVELY PRIMAL type cooking but if I’m stuck eating nothing but fried carbs for a while I’m chill with it.