lost your love of life, too much apple pie

vegan apple tart

You might be the sort of morally upright person who enjoys a job well done, but I personally subscribe to the singular pleasure of the illusion of a job well done, where you’ve put in hardly any effort and yet the results yielded appear to be drawn from a time of great toil. This recipe is one such exemplary example of this genre, there’s just nothing to it, but fresh from the oven it precisely resembles the kind of confection that the lead in a romantic comedy, perhaps played by Kristin Wiig or Mila Kunis, would make in her job as a very part-time pastry chef who lives in an spacious, light-filled loft apartment in Manhattan.

Admittedly, I made this and then immediately ate the entire thing myself so the window of impressing other people with my no-effort-effort was quickly slammed shut but I’m going to assume that all of you are impressed while reading this at least.

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I’m in Wellington for a few more days, and have reached the point of my itinerary where I’m still staying at Kate and Jason’s house but they’ve gone away on a trip for a while, which is how I found myself looking at an apple that had hitherto belonged to them and being like, “I’d really better put this to use.” I don’t know if you get like this when you’re staying in someone’s house while they’re not there but it’s like a strange lawless urgency, like, should I drink all their shampoo and conditioner before it expires? Will they expect to have flour when they get home? Do all their cushions now belong to me?

In case your respectful awe at my apple tart making has turned to concern, like, I’ve literally only used this one apple, everyone’s belongings are intact, I’m just being farcical. (Although I do also literally think this every time I step foot into someone’s property.) (I just don’t generally act upon it.)

vegan apple tart

I already had some pastry sheets in the freezer from making some olive and almond pinwheels for book group last week and so it seemed prudent to put the remainder to use. My recipe takes direct inspiration from one of Nigella’s in her 2007 book Nigella Express, and it’s as delicious as it is un-stressful to make, as is to be expected from something of her provenance. It’s somehow sturdily old-fashioned yet daintily elegant at the same time, and there’s a pleasing delicacy to the whole proceeding, from the light, fluttery pastry to the gently sweetened, almost translucently thin apples, which retain both their shape and just the slightest, merest hint of sour bite. If you wish to emphasise this you could strew over some finely milled lemon zest, if you want to make it sweeter by all means add more sugar, but I like it just as it is.

vegan apple tart

Easy Apple Tart

Based loosely on a recipe of Nigella Lawson’s from her book Nigella Express

  • 1 sheet ready-rolled flaky puff pastry (check the ingredients to make sure it’s vegan, if you want to make sure it’s vegan)
  • 1 large red apple (or green or whatever, the one I found was red, is all)
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup (or maple syrup, or similar)
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  • 1 teaspoon cold water
  • small pinch of salt

Set your oven to 200C/400F and take your sheet of pastry out of the freezer to thaw a little if that’s where you’ve been keeping it.

Slice two cheeks off the sides of the apple and then, as thinly as you can, slice them into half moons. Continue with the rest of the apple.

Using the point of your knife, score a border one inch or so in from the edges of the sheet of pastry, by which I mean, run the knife along the pastry so there’s a partial incision but don’t cut all the way through. This will allow the border to puff up, and no, I have no idea how it works.

Arrange the slices of apple in overlapping layers in the centre square of the pastry, avoiding crossing the border that you’ve cut in. Mix the golden syrup, cornflour, water and salt in a small bowl and drizzle it over the apple slices.

Carefully slide this onto a baking tray lined with a sheet of baking paper – or better yet, move the pastry to the baking tray before you arrange the apples on it.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the apples are golden and the border of the pastry sheet is puffed and risen. Allow to sit for five or so minutes then cut into squares.

vegan apple tart

I feel duty-bound to draw your attention to the serendipitous vegan-ness of a lot of frozen puff pastry, but also wearily acknowledge that it often substitutes palm oil for butter, and like, on the one hand there’s only so many things you can be self-flagellating about at once in regards to late capitalism (believe me, I’ve tried), but on the other hand…actually I don’t think I have a counterpoint, but I do think I’ll be googling homemade vegan puff pastry recipes.

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It’s Ariel’s time to shine! (By which I mean, studiously ignore me, but it’s a gentle disregard unlike my parents’ cats who sit in the corner looking like cartoon villains plotting dragon-related revenge against any number of perceived slights, and so, it feels like love.)

My Patreon patrons will have known this for a minute now, but let me tell those of you who aren’t yet aware: an exciting opportunity has befallen me. In July, a new online vegan magazine will be launching from the US, via Medium.com, called Tenderly, and I will be a regular contributor to them! Do you know how specifically wild it is to have a paid writing opportunity at all and to have that writing be about a subject I am genuinely into? It’s wild!

So, you better believe there are going to be some changes around here! The quantity of content I’ll be writing for Tenderly means I will be gently receding my content on here, just like, super slightly, so that my brain doesn’t dissolve into a nourishing yet highly un-vegan broth. But then, once a month, I will be putting a blog post very much like this one on my Patreon for subscribers only to read. The good news is that if you want in, this will be available for just a dollar per month, and if you don’t want in, there will still be other blog posts for you here on hungryandfrozen.com, and the really good news is that if you want to spend more than that, well I can totally accommodate you there too.

You know that scene in The Simpsons when the teachers are on strike and Vice Superintendent Leopold busts into Bart’s classroom and he’s like “all right, you listen up, you little freaks! The fun stops here, you’re going to shut your stinking traps and behave, damn it! This is one substitute you’re not going to screw with!” and then Marge Simpson comes in radiating absolute niceness? That’s kind of my vibe with all this. It may sound like a wild door-kicking change but I’ll still just be right here, being nice. I’ll just also be writing more for Patreon (probably with appalling titles like “all in all you’re just another brick in the paywall,” some things never change.)

title from: Kennedy by The Wedding Present, a rollicking song with fabulous drums and vocals that suggest peevish gargling, by which I mean, I like it a lot.

music lately:

Sunshine On A Rainy Day by Naomi Campbell, who released an album in 1994, because why not, who would possibly stand in her way? It’s majorly patchy, and yet so endearing as a whole, it just sounds exactly how it should, it sounds how all albums like this wish they could. This song, a cover of Zoe’s 1990 hit, is a massive standout, with Campbell’s vocals so amazingly present and confident, and there’s something incredibly comforting about that 90s sound, combining gospel choirs and shuffling trip-hop beats and broad yet vague spirituality.

Whatever Lola Wants by Gwen Verdon from the musical Damn Yankees. The song itself is very old-fashioned – though oddly appealing – but she just completely embodies her husband and longtime collaborator Bob Fosse’s choreography in this. Even though the number is ostensibly a striptease, her character is a seductress for the devil who traded her soul for eternal youth so it’s supposed to be funny and disarming and Verdon, whose body moves like liquid, seems more like a cartoon than a real person – her movements are so precise yet so disjointed and so weird yet so purposeful – and notice how much of this is done in one take.

Next time: I’m in Wellington a bit longer but will be back at my parents’ place by the end of the week, so it’s anyone’s guess as to whether it will be town cat or country cat in the background of the photos.

maybe if i knew french i could tell you more than i shall do

halloumi for my roomie
 
First blog post from my new home! Despite being stridently anti-suburb my entire life, including when I grew up in a tiny rural village – I knew at the age of like, two months that I was destined to live in the city – I’ve adjusted faster than a bra strap to my new life in Newtown.
(My New Life In Newtown: the spin-off TV show from the TV show I already imagine my life to be.)
I live with my best friend Kate and her also-rad husband Jason, I am practically neighbours with another best friend, I’ve made friends with the guy who works at the corner dairy already – I actually nearly cried when he said “welcome to the neighbourhood, I hope you’re very happy here” but it had been a long day of moving house and I desperately needed an ice cream, so that may have had something to do with it. I live with Ariel the beautiful peach of a cat who I am slowly befriending, and my heart feels so full from simply having a cat around all the time. And I now have a super cool kitchen with a gas burner oven and natural light and a ton of general aesthetic cuteness going on! Yesterday I had my first go in the kitchen, by making halloumi and apple French Toast for Kate and myself.
fried cheese for my main squeeze

Microwaved Cheese and X sandwiches were a mainstay of my childhood eating (them, golden syrup sandwiches, canned spaghetti and two minute noodles) the most prominent being microwaved cheese and marmite, followed by microwaved cheese and tomato sauce (I know. But: pizza vibes!) One day after reading an American cookbook I’d got out of the library, I discovered the magical combination of cheese and apple together, and the sandwich-related part of my life was changed irrevocably. Something in the sweet, nuclear-waves-softened apple slices and the melting, nutty cheese tasted impossibly good to me, and while this isn’t surprising now – I mean, cheeseboards always come with some kind of fruit accoutrement, whether it’s fruit paste or crisp slices or just something fruity – at the time it was a pretty radical concept to my unsophisticated rural tastebuds.

So yeah, it was nostalgic thoughts of those sandwiches that inspired this brunch. Brunch is my favourite (well, breakfast eaten at a slightly later hour, basically) (that said I love breakfast any time of day, especially night) (I’m so fascinating!) and so it seemed a good way to break into the kitchen.

french toast for my mensch host (I am nothing if not committed to this bit) (and also apologetic)

 

My nostalgia was totally correct – this was completely delicious. I mean, halloumi is boundlessly astounding, and the buttery meltingness of it went quite perfectly with the soft, caramelised sweetness of the apples and the squishily fried bread. Cool hits of mint livened it up a bit and made it look better in the photos, and as well as being a pleasure to eat, it was really quite straightforward to make. I mean, I felt a bit nervous promising a lush brunch, it being my first time in this new kitchen and a recipe I’d made up on the spot, but it emphatically worked. Cheese and apple! Together at last, again.

halloumi and apple french toast

a recipe by myself/serves two

this will be easier and everything will stay hot if you make the French toast in one pan and the apple/halloumi in another, but it still worked fine all done quickly in the one pan. Up to you/your resources/ability to deal with doing more dishes. 

four thick slices from a loaf of white bread – slightly stale is good
three eggs
half a cup of milk
a pinch of ground nutmeg
four slices of halloumi
one apple
butter
mint leaves

Mix the egg, milk and nutmeg together until you can’t tell where the egg starts and the milk ends. Heat a pleasingly-sized slice of butter in a large pan until it’s sizzling, and then carefully dip the first two pieces of bread into the egg and milk, allowing both sides to soak up plenty of liquid. Transfer these to the hot pan and fry on both sides till very brown (I use a spatula/flipper thing to lift them up slightly to have a look underneath, it always takes longer to brown than you think it will. 

Finely slice the apple while the toast is cooking – you don’t have to use the whole thing but more is better. I cut off one side and then slice that into semicircles, and then carry on all round the apple till it’s all used up. In case you needed to know that.

Remove the cooked French toast to a plate and repeat with the remaining bread. You may need to add a tiny bit more milk to the egg mixture if there’s not enough – that bread is absorbent stuff. 

Fry the apple slices in more butter until softened, then scatter them over the two plates of French toast. Finally, briskly fry the halloumi slices on both sides till golden brown, put them on top of the apple-topped French toast, scatter with mint leaves, and placidly eat. 

fresh outta rhymes, to your relief
 
Other cool things about the ‘burbs: I mean, first of all for all my righteous posturing, Newtown is so close to Wellington city, the two neighbourhoods are clasping hands with fingers lovingly intertwined. Also, there are local cats.
this is moustache cat, whose detectable personality traits thus far appear to be “lurks” and “poses obligingly”
I think I’m going to be very happy living here.
Oh, and: despite having too many projects and commitments for my laughably small hands to carry, I’ve decided to start a little web series. Emphasis on little. A few years ago I tried doing some youtube videos and I never really liked them, but did them anyway, but this feels a bit more fun and chill and low-key and me? Anyway, if you like eating food in bed then you might want to watch because that’s all that really happens. Normally I’m quite upfront about telling you if I think something I’ve done is amazing, so this isn’t false self-deprecation for the sake of it, but the video is really not that great. But it’s something! And that’s something.
title from: First Aid Kit’s quietly twinkly little tune Valse
music lately:
 
Emily Edrosa’s self-titled EP. It’s all rumbly and moody and I love it so much and can’t stop listening.
Banks, Goddess. You shoulda crowned her, cuz she’s a goddess, you never got this. Really feeling Banks at the moment.
Mya, My Love is Like…Wo. Bedroom dance party perfection. And she TAP DANCES in the music video.
next time: omg I don’t even know but you can look forward to more photos with new interesting backgrounds and also me borrowing all of Kate and Jason’s super cool plates to put my food on!

eating soft ice cream, coney island queen

photographed this ice cream with an antique ice cream scoop but then used a regular spoon to actually scoop ice cream into my bowl because the antique one is cute but a pain to use and also I now have zero morals when it comes to photographing things as props but not actually using them.

I’m not going to sugar coat it for you, there are a lot of things in my life right now that range from “this kinda sucks” to “oh wow this majorly sucks”. But now that I’ve said that I’m going to hand you a snug coat made of pure cane sugar, because I’m keeping things on a rare need-to-know basis at the moment, and anyone who needs to know what’s happening already knows. I might as well not burden you all with it too if I don’t have to. Also: I have a recipe for apple cinnamon ice cream, so am kind of literally sugar-coating things here too.

So instead, some good things right now are:

I have amazing friends who are so very there for me // despite these last couple of weeks being very tiring, I still love my job. Although I do realise I’m not the first person in the world to ever do hospo so no it’s not actually a revelation to a lot of people that there is some arduous work involved. I didn’t realise I was so entitled! // I knitted a hot water bottle cosy for my nanna and it involved doing cabling for the first time and while it’s a tiny bit wonky it turned out rather beautiful // I drank an entire pot of tea today from a teapot shaped like an elephant // I recently discovered that my queen Lucy Liu has an instagram // I started a fun project called bathroomselfiehunter.tumblr.com // my tarot card for August is amazing and promises creative vision and being powerful and great and so I am determined to make that all come true // I saw a beautiful film called Reaching For The Moon at the film festival // I have seen a LOT of cute cats and dogs recently // I have a lot of parties to go to this month // I discovered the truly good Ask Andrew WK column for the Village Voice // I have a lot of homemade ice cream in the freezer.

Ice cream and pasta are probably my two favourite foods, but while I eat pasta all the time it has been a shamefully forever-long time since I’ve made ice cream. I’m on a massive cinnamon kick at the moment and am determined to scent my life with it (can tell you for free that putting cinnamon sticks in your oil burner does absolutely nothing apart from make your oil burner look like a very small dumpster) and like the idea of the cosy, warm flavour of said cinnamon being trapped in such a chilly context. I know it’s winter in New Zealand right now and ice cream is probably one of the last things you want to eat, but consider this: ice cream is really, really delicious. Also, apples are one of the few fruits that seem to be happily in season right now, as opposed to gasping for mere existence, and the method couldn’t be simpler – some stirring, some whisking, some waiting, and then you have ice cream.

An excellent thing about ice cream is that the frozen-ness somehow mutes any overload of sweetness, so while it may seem like there’s a lot of sugar in this, it’s all necessary and good. Something about the sticky texture of the sweetened condensed milk and the light, airy cream comes together to make something amazingly creamy and dense yet soft and spoonable. The simmered apples provide chewy bursts of sweet-sharp fragrant juiciness, and it’s altogether just pretty wonderful.

apple cinnamon ice cream

a recipe by myself

two apples, Granny Smith are good for this one
three tablespoons brown sugar
one can sweetened condensed milk
500ml cream
plenty of ground cinnamon

Finely dice the apples, but don’t worry about peeling them. Simmer them in a pan over a low heat with the brown sugar, until the sugar is bubbling and sticky and the apple pieces are very soft. 

Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little, then stir in the condensed milk. In another bowl, whisk the cream till thickened to roughly the texture of a good thickshake – you want it solid, but not actually whipped. Fold in the apple and condensed milk, then shake in plenty of cinnamon and stir again. Spatula this mixture into a freezer-proof container (I like loaf tins for this, hence…why I did that) and freeze for a bunch of hours or overnight. 

 

I just went and ate some more now from the freezer to see if anything new to say about it sprang to mind, and all I can say is wow it’s amazing, go me for making up such a great recipe. If you’ve ever felt like ice cream is something you want to tackle but it seems way too nervous-making, this simple, caramel-tinged winter wonderland of a thing is for you.

One thing I will tell you is that for reasons bewilderingly out of my control, I am in the market for a new place to live. My dealbreakers are: it has to be right in the city, an apartment, a big bedroom, lots of good light for food photography, and have an elevator. As you can imagine, finding such a place has been a total breeze. Truth is, I’ve got nothing, so if you are a Wellingtonianite and know of such a place that fits my needs, please let me know!

In the meantime, there’s not many things that ice cream can’t make slightly-to-very-much better.

PS I lost my camera’s SD card so took all this week’s photos on my phone, apologies for any drop in quality, but also I take back those apologies, because isn’t it amazing how my mere cellphone takes better photos than a lot of digital cameras did, say, four years ago? We’re living in the future!

title from: Lana Del Rey’s song Carmen. I ❤ her so much. 

music lately:

Dark Dark Dark, Hear Me. I hadn’t listened to this band in a while and now cannot stop, not sure how I forgot how dreamy and moody and perfect they are.

Drake feat Lil Wayne, Miss Me, his verse about Nicki Minaj is like…wonderful.

Speaking of: Nicki Minaj and Beyonce’s Flawless remix is So Important. Shivers every time I hear it.

next time: I don’t knowwww as I may not have a kitchen to call my own by the time I get round to the next blog post. We’ll see!  

one more dawn, one more day, one day more

I don’t know who even has time to read blogs at the moment (indeed, I hardly have time to write this) with Christmas insisting on being closer and closer every minute. And it’s not just Christmas – there are other festive high days and holy days, people have birthdays, people have work, things still need to happen. So I’ll keep this as succinct as I can manage, which for me means a quick nine paragraph dissertation on my feelings followed by another six paragraphs on my feelings for today’s recipe, followed by an essay on why a particular song I’ve been listening to this week accurately and devastatingly reflects all this. Brevity! It’s the soul of wit. Or the lowest form of wit? Whatever, I guess it’s too late to carry on pretending I’m gonna provide it for you, but I honestly am trying, for what it’s worth. 
So, I’ve mentioned a few times on here about my steady diet of two-minute noodles, microwaved pies, and microwaved marmite and cheese sandwiches as I grew up. But, after getting out a thrillingly American cookbook from the library at the age of, oh, nine or so, I was struck by a rather chic and unusual sandiwich combination: apple and cheese, which it turned out, I loved. So, if I really felt like putting in some effort, like making myself a baller snack, like putting the glam in glamwich (which also puts the glam in sandwich. Portmanteaux! Talk about classy) youthful me would forego the marmite and instead make an apple and cheese microwaved sandwich. I know. You can see how I got a cookbook deal.
(PS: I’ve never actually said the word “glamwich” before and my christmas gift to you is that I’m never going to say it again.)

Nigella, that moon of my life, has an excellently fast recipe in her book Kitchen for something she calls Crustless Pizza. It’s kind of a cross between a yorkshire pudding and cheese on toast, hence its enormous appeal to me. While the original recipe of Nigella’s is perfectly brilliant, I suspected that an apple and cheese variation, spattered with mouth-heating mustard so you know for sure it’s not pudding, would be…equally brilliant.

Apple and cheese together have this bizarrely pleasing salty-sweet, crunchy-melting symbiosis, which isn’t so odd really. I mean, fruit appears in all forms on cheeseboards, and there’s something lovely about the clean, crisp, delicate freshness of the apple slices subverted by the golden, buttery, bubbling cheese. Oh wait, I was supposed to be succinct. It’s just really good, okay?

apple, cheese and mustard pie

Adapted from a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s important book Kitchen. Serves two. Or four, I guess, but I am terribly whiny and reluctant about sharing anything with melted cheese on it. 

1 cup flour
1 egg
1 cup milk
pinch salt
150g cheese, something cheddar-esque, grated
1 apple, I liked Granny Smith here
Dijon mustard

This is very simple. Set your oven to 200 C. Butter a 21cm pie plate or similarly shaped dish. Mix together the flour, egg, milk, salt, and about half the grated cheese. Bake for ten minutes. Meanwhile, slice the apple thinly. Remove the pie from the oven, arrange the apple slices howsoever you please on top, and sprinkle over the remaining cheese. Bake for another ten or so minutes, then drizzle over the mustard. Slice into four, and use a spatula or something to wiggle the slices out – they’ve never stuck once for me, so hopefully they don’t for you either.

And that’s it, really. It would be quite nice with a kind of peppery, crunchy salad of rocket and stuff like that, but there’s no need to play up the sophisticated side of this. It’s just as good eaten with your hands while staring glaze-eyed into space because you’re very tired and just want to deliver carbs to the outstretched, clasping hands of your blood cells with zero distraction.

So, Christmas, huh? It has arrived. Considering it’s Christmas Eve today, I really shouldn’t be too surprised about this. Were I much more flush with cash than I currently am, I would shower myself with the following gifts:

Vogue Knitting magazine
A deposit on another tattoo
At least one really pretty, out-of-my-reach sundress from twenty-seven names
A copy of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Nigella’s book Nigellisima
A supermarket pallet of San Pellegrino Limonata (when I get famous, this is going to be on all my riders. It’s tooth-zappingly lemony and my best friend while mildly hungover. But also I like to drink it other times.)
A bottle of Campari
An intense hand and nail cream
Candles, for lighting and feeling deep and purposeful (and flatteringly lit)
More Devon Smith artwork
A meadowlark trinket of some kind. So out of my reach currently that I’m not even at the stage of choosing one or two to sigh over.
A landlord who will let me have a pet cat. (I don’t know quite how, but I figure being rich makes everything simple.)
A pet cat.

What about you?

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas (even “celebrate” might be a little too enthusiastic, occasionally my mood is more like… “accept stoically” or “admit defeat in the face of”) I of course hope that times are good and people are nice and social situations are fairly stress-free and that your tables are laden with good food. Because stuff like that should be for life, not just for Christmas. (Like a pet cat. Hmph.) I’m flying home today to my parents’ house, and I can’t wait to see them, and the rest of my family, and the cats, who are of course family, but oh man I should really stop talking about cats. I’m planning on knitting myself a beanie, reading books, and taking lots of selfies with the cats.

Also, uh, I suppose it behooves me one last time to remind you that my cookbook Hungry and Frozen is super amazing and makes a majorly excellent present idea. Also if you already have it, there’s a fairly simple Christmas Cake recipe in there which you can make quite last minute and still feel good about.

May the rest of your December be dreamy.
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title from: facing the season with bared teeth and dizzyingly contrapuntal arrangement, One Day More from Les Miserables. The version I’ve linked to is the 25th anniversary concert. Featuring the bafflingly handsome Ramin Karimloo as Enjolras (look him up on Google images if you’re so inclined, I thoroughly recommend it.) I also like Key and Peele’s highly apt take on it
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Music lately:

I know I’ve linked to it twelve million times, but this is the only time of year I watch Turkey Lurkey Time from Promises Promises, and marvel at Donna McKechnie’s loose-limbed perfection and the sublimely bonkers choreography leading to a rather shivers-making ending.

Speaking of people worth looking up on google images to marvel at, Zooey Deschanel’s band She and Him made a thoroughly endearing Christmas album. As if Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree wasn’t already massively endearing to begin with, too.

Sleater-Kinney, One Beat. It’s not allllll carols round here.
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Next time: I might be reunited with this blog before the year is out, and then it really just depends on what I can excavate from my fridge….

i’ve got caviar for breakfast, champagne every night

I was never excited by breakfast as a kid. Breakfast meant having to go to school, inevitably sitting round all day with wet shoes because there was this puddle right by the steps to my first classroom which never dried up, not even in the middle of summer (as far as my dramatic memory goes, anyway.) Later at boarding school, it meant not knowing where to sit, day after day of dry loveless cereals dampened with milk and choked down or eyeing up masses of pale, bulky margarine to be spread over pale, barely warmed toast. But: I appreciate that I’ve been lucky that whatever the financial situation was around me, not one single day has gone by that I haven’t been assured breakfast. Even when Tim and I were first living together there was always bread for toast (a diabetic needs their carbs! And hey, thank goodness Tim isn’t kept alive by like, caviar or truffle oil. Just simple, cheap carbs.)

There’s good memories of breakfast too. Dad suggesting and then making canned corn on toast on a Saturday morning. Nana guiding me from the white sugar to over to the more thrillingly caramelly brown sugar to pour over my porridge when I was staying with her. And now I love it – going out for brunch with Tim (well, we have to as cafe reviewers, so bully for us) or slouching round together in the kitchen in the early hours with a cup of tea or coffee pretending for a while we don’t actually have to leave the house and earn money. With this in mind, if you’ve got some time handy, nothing makes breakfast nicer than – of course – actually having something good to eat. Granola is an elegant solution. Robust and filling, but importantly delicious – depending on what you put in it – and the recipe’s flexible. And best of all, once you’ve made it, you’ve got breakfast in five seconds, and all you have to wash up is a bowl and a spoon. No dishes at all if you just curl up with the jar and eat it by the handful till you’re ready to carry on with your day.

I’d been meaning to make granola literally forever. Okay, just a month or two, but whatever, sometimes I find it fun to use words that make people huffy about correct usage. I don’t mean harmful words that you say while also yelling “PC gone mad! PC gone mad!” as if it’s some kind of shield that lets you be an awful person…I just mean acting the fool. Also contributing to this might be the Parks and Recreation character Chris Traegar who reminded me how satisfyingly useless the word “literally” is.

That said, this might not literally be granola. It’s more muesli with granola aspirations. But aren’t we all? Allegories aside, what I mean is: it’s a little more free-flowing and not quite as tooth-challengingly clumpy as proper granola, but on the other hand it’s nicer and cheaper than the stuff at the supermarket. If your cupboard is bare you’ll need to spend a bit of money to get the ingredients, but fortunately most of them are fairly cheap and this batch will last you for ages.

This one has a one-two punch of grated apple and apple juice to impart crisp juicy flavour, cinnamon to make you feel warm and safe inside with every mouthful, and cashew butter for a bit of much-needed lusciousness. Ugh, I know, who has cashew butter? Well, I do – a Christmas present from my brother – and I wanted to use it in something specific. If you’re given to making your own granola maybe it’s not so difficult a pantry item after all, but if you don’t have it within reach, you could use tahini of course, or even peanut butter, which will affect the flavour a little but only in a “made on a production line that also processes peanuts” kind of way, I presume. Or just leave it out!

Apple Cinnamon Granola

This makes HEAPS. Initially I just had to leave it in the roasting dish until I’d eaten some, because we didn’t have a container big enough for it. Even now, several meals down, it’s divided between two big containers.

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups wholegrain or “whole” oats
  • 1 cup quinoa flakes
  • 1 cup linseeds
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups dessicated coconut
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large apples, grated (including skin)
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon (to taste)
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 heaped tablespoons cashew butter
  • 2 heaped tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1/2 cup apple juice

Set your oven to 100 C. Line your biggest roasting dish with a big sheet of baking paper. Mix together all the ingredients from rolled oats to salt directly in the mixing bowl itself, then place in the oven, stopping to stir about every ten minutes or so, for thirty to forty minutes.

Then, just when you think you’ve got away with not having to do any dishes, mix together the cashew butter, golden syrup, and apple juice till relatively smooth, and drizzle it over the roasting dish of oats. Don’t worry about covering it all – just mix it through. This is going to create some cluster action. Return to the oven for ten minutes, then turn the oven off and leave it in there to cool. If this isn’t an option – flatmate wants to roast a chicken or something – then just carrying on baking for another ten minutes after stirring it again.

The apple flavour is surprisingly subtle after all that, but the harmonious pairing with cinnamon brings it out further than it would be on its own. This has crunch and warmth and sweetness and is generally a beautiful way to start the day. Or have it for dinner. And use what you can find – add sesame seeds or pumpkin seeds if you have them, use demerara or white sugar, leave out the quinoa and add wheatgerm, whatever. It won’t fail. It’ll give you sunshine on a cloudy day.

We had a charming weekend away in Greytown, which I won’t tell you much about since I’m going to be writing about it for the newspaper, but for now – just look at this kokako. All I knew about these glossy birds was gleaned from educational videos in school, where the main take-home message was: they are monumentally endangered. So to actually be able to see one at Pukaha Mt Bruce was pretty wonderful. We’re gazing at this rare, precious bird quietly and respectfully through the mesh fence that protected it from the outside world, taking in the moment. Then it starts flirting with Tim. Yes. Tim got openly hit on by an endangered native bird. It shadowed him as he walked the perimeter of the enclosure, continually jumping up to cling onto the mesh by Tim’s face and squawk at him plaintively. I was ignored entirely apart from this brief moment of eye contact between us in the photo above. Recognising a rival? Can’t blame the kokako, really.

Oh yeah, and if you’ve got it, enjoy the Easter break! May I non-coyly recommend these Hot Cross Buns if you’re in the market for making them this year?

Title via: Aretha Franklin’s Evil Gal Blues, a cautionary tale where she not only belts it out, but also accompanies herself on piano. Formidable.

Music lately:

Under by Watercolours. Warming and chilling at the same time. Beautiful.

Sherie Rene Scott, the Broadway star who is on my list of “people who have made me cry even though they’re only on a grainy YouTube video”. One of my favourites is of her singing I Miss The Mountains in a very early workshop of what would become the musical Next To Normal. Maybe quite specifically because of her vibrato on “mountains” at 1:54 and the way she says “meeeeeeh-iss” at 2:25.

I’ve also been listening to a TON of podcasts (yeah, those things, I know, I only just got into Google Reader this year too) lately, if anyone has any they can recommend me then please go right ahead.

Next time: I am right in the middle of making pulled pork for the first time, and if it tastes even one tenth as good as it smells, I’ll be one happy person. And therefore more likely to blog about it. 

your shoulders are frozen, cold as the night

It’s been a long time, shouldn’t have left you, without another ice cream recipe. Although this isn’t ice cream at all but its tangy cousin, Frozen Yoghurt. I did that thing where I dream up a cool ice cream flavour, but then I went and forgot it and tried to retrace my steps mentally to work out exactly what it was that I thought was so good – a bit like that Sweet Valley Twins book where Jessica accidentally made those amazing cookies then pretended that it wasn’t an accident and she had to recreate them for the TV show Lifestyles of the French and Famous and they stay up all night trying to work out what the flavour was and then they retrace their steps and get the flavour just in time and also the make up artist makes it look like they had a great night’s sleep. And Jessica does not acknowledge that serendipity played a part in her success. Just. Like. That. Fun fact: I didn’t Google any of this, I just knew it. 
Lucky for me, while trying to work out what it was that entranced me in the first place I managed to come up with something else entirely: Applemint and Fresh Tumeric Frozen Yoghurt. Yep, the very same tumeric that you normally put in curries, and yep, Applemint is just the words Apple and Mint squished together because it pleases me. Also pleasing is this combination of flavourants – crisp apple, cool mint and the golden presence of tumeric. Whatever the original idea was, this one wins – for one thing, it actually exists, unlike the other idea which continued to fade further and hazily-er out of reach the harder I searched for it. 

I’m not fussy about all things in life but I am about yoghurt. Clearwater’s Organic is the kind that I used for this recipe – it’s heavy and rich and topped with cream and you can buy it in a two litre bucket which I find truly exciting. Otherwise I’d look out for Collective Dairy or Zany Zeus, two other NZ brands that are outstanding in the field of excellent yoghurt. If you want to make this vegan, you could replace the yoghurt with a couple of cans of coconut milk and even call it Froconut if you like. Coconut milk makes awesome ice cream, so no need for fear here.

Please notice the beautiful parfait glasses, unexpectedly given to me on a trip to Petone by magnificent ladies Jo and Kim. Having these parfait glasses did motivate me to make some more ice cream to put in them, but that’s not saying much really because I could look at a shrub, a sofa cushion, a small badger, and still suddenly want to make ice cream.

Applemint and Fresh Tumeric Frozen Yoghurt

Note – if you don’t have access to fresh tumeric, leave it out and add in a teaspoon of ground ginger instead. If you don’t have palm sugar, use plain brown sugar or any sugar at all, to be honest. And finally, if you don’t have a food processor, just grate up the apple, and finely chop everything else and stir it in. This is just my lazy way.

2 1/2 cups lovely thick plain yoghurt
3 tablespoons palm sugar, roughly chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, roughly chopped (skin on)
About 1 centimetre segment of fresh tumeric, peeled and roughly chopped.
1/4 cup mint leaves – or as much as you like really – washed.


Blitz the apple, sugar and tumeric with a couple of tablespoons of the yoghurt in a food processor, until everything has become tiny and the green skin of the apple is as small as confetti. Add in the mint and the rest of the yoghurt, process for another ten or so seconds to mix everything in, then scrape into a 1-litre container and freeze, stirring occasionally.


Allow to sit out of the freezer for 20 minutes before serving so it’s not rock-solid.

To be straight up with you, this will be a lot more luscious if you blast it in the food processor halfway through the freezing process. I couldn’t be bothered, and this achieved me a frozen yoghurt full of ice crystals, which I soldiered through and ate anyway. It’s still delicious, but keep this in mind. The delicate and fragrant yet juicy apple is perfect with mint’s almost-spicy freshness, and the tumeric isn’t overtly present but hints at flavours of carrot, ginger and lemon, and it sounds quite cool in the title so don’t go leaving it out if you don’t have to. It’s all very light and refreshing but with plenty of flavour.
To remain straight up with you: frozen yoghurt doesn’t necessarily make the most effective ice cream soda. Its icy texture doesn’t really amalgamate in with the fizzy drink, instead busting into large particles floating round. It all looks unbelievably undrinkable, but it’s all good, as long as you don’t look too closely. I thought this flavour would be cool with ginger beer and I was so very correct – just avert your eyes and drink up. And yes, occasionally I succumb to pretty things and these stripy straws were one such instance of that. Just to convince myself that they weren’t just bought out of  aesthetic aimlessness, I made myself drink the entire glassful through them.

Sometimes pretty > useful.

Speaking of, we had a big clean-out of our closet and found heaps of things that hadn’t seen the light of day since we moved in two and a half years ago – including my old pointe shoes. And because instead of tidying, I tend to just wear as much of the clutter as possible…I tried them on.

That on the far left is a bloodstain, in case you’re wondering. This pair is actually one of my cleanest – Grischkos, still with the same ribbons I would’ve sewn on and burnt the edges of so they didn’t fray. While there came a point where it was very clear I wasn’t going to be a professional of any kind, nothing gave me as much happiness as dancing – I guess not till cooking came along. Best believe I’ve been prancing round in these more than once since, in fact attempting a pirouette ill-advisedly on our wooden kitchen floor this very evening. Put a stop to that quick though, no need to add more blood stains to these shoes!
Can’t believe I forgot to mention this but amongst all the hubbub of last week maybe it’s not surprising. A couple of weeks ago Tim and I attended the excellent launch of Fast Fresh Tasty, a new, local food app filled with seasonal and beautiful recipes. It’s best described over at the Wellingtonista – but if you’re into food apps and have a smartphone I definitely recommend it. 
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Title via: The Arctic Monkeys’ exciting 2005 debut, I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor. I wrote a probably terrible essay in uni on how The Internet was changing the music industry because these guys had a fanbase on Myspace or something. It all makes me feel very old and very young at the same time.
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Music lately:
The opening of The Crystals’ Da Doo Ron Ron has got to be one of the best there is, with those blaring horns and galloping handclaps. We used to sing this song in primary school, but it wasn’t nearly as cool as the original itself. 
Heavy D and The Boyz, We Got Our Own Thing. RIP, Heavy D.
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Next time: No kidding, I thought up another ice cream recipe idea almost immediately, but I might put that on hold and serve you up an awesome Christmas Cake recipe – you can’t ignore that it’s rapidly approaching, and Christmas Cakes need plenty of planning ahead!

i want to be the girl with the most cake

I’m sure if someone made a perfume based on the feijoas, it’d sell heaps. Right? But then I’d happily wear perfume that smelled like bread baking, if only such a necessary thing existed. So far the only way I can scope that you could recreate that incredible scent is to tie a fresh-baked loaf to your head (or to any bit of you, really) and that’s not a particularly practical option (no matter which bit of yourself you tie it to).

When Mum came down to Wellington last weekend, she brought with her a large box of feijoas, from my Nana’s tree. (Thanks Nana!) At first it was enough just to let them be. Feijoas, like avocados, are objectionably expensive here in the capital, and so just having the option of grabbing one, slicing its thick green skin open and winkling out the contents with a teaspoon to be swallowed happily, was a pleasingly luxuriant act.


But being myself, I was looking for something to bake them into. Two people I work with helped me out, one by emailing me a recipe she thought I might like (thanks Alex!) and one by supplying a first-come-first-served bag of Granny Smith apples from his tree in Gisborne (cheers Tane!) which the intriguing recipe for cake required. From the East Coast, Waiuku and the desk across the office, many people have made it possible for this cake to exist.
So, it’s a good thing it tastes extremely amazing.


The apples sort of dissolve into the mixture, while small chunks of hot, sugary crystalised ginger and grainy feijoa flesh give it texture and intense fruitiness. The sticky, buttery, chewy coconutty topping works better than any icing could (that said, I’m imagining a cream cheese icing with extra chopped crystallised ginger on top…)


Feijoa, Apple and Ginger Cake

Recipe from this site.

1 cup feijoa pulp
1 cup finely chopped apple (depending on size this may be one or two apples)
1/4 cup chopped crystallised ginger
1 tsp baking soda
125 mls (1/2 cup) boiling water
125g soft butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour

Topping:

50g melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup thread coconut (or dessicated, if it’s what you’ve got)

Set your oven to 180 C/350 F. Butter and paper a 20-22cm springform caketin.

Combine the feijoa, apple, ginger, baking soda and boiling water in a bowl, and set aside while you make the cake batter.

In a good sized bowl, cream the butter and sugar till fluffy, then beat in the egg, and stir in the flour. The mixture will be quite thick at this point – almost like scone dough. Fear not! Fold in the fruit mixture, stirring well, then tip this now significantly liquid-er mixture into your prepared caketin.

Bake for 40 minutes or until golden and not wobbling in the centre. Meanwhile, combine your topping ingredients and spread carefully over the cooked cake, returning to the oven for about 8-10 minutes till the coconut is golden.


I suspect it would be very difficult to overcook this cake, which adds to its appeal, and everything going on – the coconut topping, the ginger – are a fitting showcase for this seasonal and gorgeous fruit. However, I reckon you could very easily substitute the same amount of mashed banana when feijoa is out of season or unavailable (like if you live overseas). Or soft, ripe pears…or a drained can of apricots…so much potential for deliciousness.
Thanks for all the kindness on my last post in regards to Rupert the ex-cat. I guess it won’t properly sink in till I next go home.
I’m sure Rupert would be entirely indifferent if he could know that he is remembered extremely solemnly round here…
Me: *wistful face*
Tim: Are you imagining a montage of the good times you and Rupert had together?
Me: Actually…..yes.
Tim: I’m sorry.
Me: (singing quietly) thankyou for the music, the songs we’re singing, thanks for all the joy– (at this point a straight face could no longer be maintained, extreme laughter ensued.)
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Title via: the excellent Doll Parts by Hole. I love the contrast between the gentle strumming and pretty harmonies against the sad lyrics.
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Music lately:
Happy Birthday, by Altered Images. Maybe it has been done already, but the light, twinkly intro would be really good sampled in something. I think so, anyway.

(Version) For The Love Of It by Salmonella Dub, back in their Tiki-fronted days. A really, really good song. Something about the methodical rhythm and drawn-out chorus…I was happily reminded of it while reading this article from the archives on DubDotDash.
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Next time: Don’t know! Should possibly do something veering away from the puddingy side of things, just for a bit of contrast or something…

and if you don’t want to be down with me, you don’t want to pick from my apple tree

I made these Apple and Cinnamon muffins ages ago – they were the second thing I tried from Nigella Lawson’s book Kitchen after the Spaghetti with Marmite (which got slated in a column in the local paper – any Dominion Post readers out there, don’t disregard its deliciousness! I guess that was one opinion, and mine is merely another, but still.) I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to blog about them, but…here they are.
I do agree with Nigella’s emphatic and continued suspicion of the muffins you run into in many cafes and supermarkets. What they lack in tenderness and flavour, they make up for in height and overpricedness. It could be easy to dislike the concept of muffins altogether if your main experience of them is handing over $4.50 for a mountain of foam mattress sprinkled in chocolate chips, somehow dry and oily simulataneously. Maybe you like this, or your experience of shop muffins is better than mine. All good.
However home-made muffins, while less uniform in shape, are very easy to make and as long as you don’t over-mix them, pretty well guaranteed to be extremely delicious. I realise apple and cinnamon muffins might sound like the obvious-est of the obvious but this recipe of Nigella’s is incredibly good – dense and sweet with honey and yoghurt and textured with chunks of apple and almonds. And it probably costs less to make a whole dozen than it would to buy just one from the supermarket.
Nigella uses spelt flour in this recipe instead of regular flour, which makes them more acceptable for some people who eat wheat-free, but not necessarily those who are gluten-free – it’s a little complicated but go with what you know is best for you, I guess. I bought a bag of spelt flour a year ago and never ended up using it so it was nice to have the opportunity to try it out. These muffins are so full of flavour that I couldn’t say they were distinctively spelt-ish, they just came out looking and tasting like muffins should. You could definitely just use regular plain flour rather than rushing out to find spelt.
Apple and Cinnamon Muffins

From Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen

2 apples
250g spelt flour (or just plain flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
125g brown sugar
125ml honey (1/2 a cup)
60ml (1/4 cup) natural yoghurt
125 ml oil (1/2 a cup – and I use Rice Bran oil)
2 eggs
75g natural almonds, roughly chopped.

Set your oven to 200 C and line your muffin tin with papers.

Chop the apples into small dice, leaving out the core of course, and put to one side. Whisk together the brown sugar, honey, yoghurt, oil and eggs in a bowl.

Tip in the apples, flour, baking powder, half the almonds, and one teaspoon of the cinnamon into this and gently fold it together with a spatula. Try not to overmix – I tend to lift and shift the batter rather than do a full on stirring motion, if that makes any sense at all.

Spoon evenly amongst the muffin tin, and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon and almonds, plus a little more brown sugar if you like. Bake for 20 minutes. Let them stand 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.
While the comfort-food element of cinnamon and apple obviously works, the almonds, growing smokily nutty under the oven’s heat, and honey, complementing the diced apple’s clean but layered sweetness, keep these muffins from being predictable. They take minutes to throw together but stay good for ages in a sealed container, if anything becoming even more delicious with time (although that could be a product of imagination and anticipation, waking up thinking “OHBOY a delicious muffin for a mid-morning snack.”)
In fact, one of the excellent things about muffins is that they’re really just cake, but you can eat them any time of day including breakfast, without getting strange looks – in the sort of way that a pavlova or ice cream might. Not that avoiding strange looks should be your main motivation in life, not at all! It’s just a nice thought…breakfast cake.
Tim and I went out to Petone yesterday and at the record shop partway down Jackson Street, I found the original Broadway cast recording of Company on vinyl. I didn’t even think it existed in New Zealand – considering the juggernaut that is Amazon.com only has about 6 copies, one for US$90…and now for relative pennies I’ve got Elaine Stritch barking “she’s tall enough to be your mother” as people originally heard her the first time round in 1970. I had to keep taking it out of the bag and looking at it on the bus back into the city in case I’d just done a really good job of imagining it. But it exists. It’s damn exciting.

Speaking of, I am seriously anticipational about Tiger Translate on the 26th of November, if you’re in Wellington around this time you should most definitely give it your time of day. Even though I feel like I don’t quite have a grip on what it is, there’s a whole lot of creativity that’ll go down and there will be some amazing locals performing. We’ve been lucky to witness many of them in action already over the last year or so, with their powers combined who knows what kind of fresh mayhem will occur. TrinityRoots’ stunner drummer Riki Gooch, Julien Dyne and Parks who we saw just last week onstage with Ladi6, Homebrew, whose lyric-memorising male fans still astound months after we saw them with David Dallas at Watusi, Adi Dick who despite being in a squillion different music projects we’ve never actually seen live, the mighty intriguing Orchestra of Spheres, the amazing Electric Wire Hustle who we saw back in February and have since been galloping round the globe, Tommy Ill, Alphabethead whose happy style we love, Scratch 22, Fried Chicken Sound System, The Jewel School plus particularly special guest DJ Zooloo from Mongolia. Tim and I are going to be there and if you get a move on the first 500 people to register online get free tickets – not sure if this has filled up but either way check out their website for more info.
While I’m talking to Wellington, can anyone tell me where to get decent garlic? It seems like even the expensive stuff from the supermarket, with the pretty purple-tinged papery casing is all chomped and denty, gets green shoots quickly, and burns the tongue like raw onion. I guess people selling garlic have no way of knowing what’s underneath the stuff you peel off, but I’m also guessing you can’t return a bulb once you’ve bought it. Sure, there’s the mulched up stuff in jars, but for those times you want whole cloves…?
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Title via: Erykah Badu and her song Appletree from the beautiful album Baduizm. Such an amazing woman – I wish she’d tour on down to New Zealand.
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Music lately:
I Learned The Hard Way, by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, from the album of the same title. Now there’s an amazing woman who is coming to New Zealand, and luckily for us we were able to buy tickets. Can’t wait.
Obviously, have got Company doing many revolutions right now. Can’t get enough no.
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Next time: I am on a prawn high right now, watch out.

puttin’ on the grits

Straightforward question: what’s your favourite food?


Me: ice cream and cornbread.

A while back if you’d asked this I would have frozen up and said “ummm chocolate?” but today I was sitting around daydreaming about how I might answer various questions on the offchance that some cool magazine wanted to interview me, and I managed to narrow it down to those two. Like Kenneth Parcell (“There are only two things I love in this world. Everybody and television”) I am a throw-my-arms-around-the-world kind of foodlover, but where “most edible things” is an adequate answer, cornbread and ice cream is more specific. That said, I’m also happy to call Nigella’s Chocolate Guinness Cake one of my favourite things to make. You would be too.



All this daydreaming about cornbread made me crave a slice of it like crazy. It’s just another cold, dark, early winter Wellington evening and I’ve got a sore throat. Who ya gonna call? Nigella, fool!

On Sunday night I bought a healthy, happy Waitoa Free Range chicken and roasted her up with white wine, lemons, butter and breadcrumbs. The cold leftovers in the fridge got turned into pasta last night with the roasting pan juices and golden sultanas soaked in sherry. Tonight I’m finishing off the chicken by going vaguely Mexican, inspired by a salad recipe from Nigella Express, with her cornbread on the side. Just saying it almost makes my sore throat better.



Mexican Chicken Salad

Adapted from Nigella Express

Dressing:

1 ripe avocado
1/2 cup sour cream (or good mayonnaise, to make this dairy-free)
juice of a lime
1 garlic clove, crushed
salt and pepper to taste

Either whisk the dressing ingredients together or blitz them in a food processor.

Salad:

300g shredded, cooked chicken
1 crisp apple, diced
2 spring onions, chopped
handful chopped coriander
125g shredded cos lettuce (I used cabbage)

Put all the salad ingredients in a bowl, spoon the dressing over the top.



Like a warm, buttery yellow mattress. I could actually lie down on top of it and fall asleep quite happily. Tim and I sat on either side of this, slicing off pieces and buttering them. What remains is kind of a wonky Z shaped bit of cornbread

Cornbread

175g cornmeal (or polenta, same diff so look for either)
125g plain flour
45g caster sugar
2 t baking powder
250ml full fat milk
1 egg
45g butter, melted
Set oven to 200 C. Grease whatever you’re using – a muffin tin, a 20cm-ish brownie tin, etc. Melt the butter. Stir in the milk and egg with a fork. Then tip in all the dry ingredients, mix till just combined – don’t worry about lumps – then pour into your tin and bake, for 20-25 minutes. I have made this with superfine cornmeal and the more granular stuff, and a mix of the two, anything is fine really although the granular stuff gives slightly more bite to your finished product.

It was such a good dinner. Even with all the crispness and coolness of the salad it worked in this colder weather, fresh flavours to wake you up on a dark evening. It’s amazingly rewarding to eat for the little effort you need to put in. You could replace the chicken with anything else – beef, tofu, chickpeas…you could leave the sour cream out of the dressing, use mayonnaise or yoghurt, double the quantities and drink it like a savoury green smoothie, whatever, really. The sour cream suits the avocado, their tanginess and richness going head to head like it’s Tekken 2 but instead of a nubile catsuited woman and the panda bear (my favourite character) engaging in combat, the flavours skip off hand in hand towards the sunset, singing in perfect harmony. I have a feeling, having just re-read that, that I gotta lay off the cough syrup before trying to blog, as it messes with my ability to throw down a decent metaphor.

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Title coming atcha via: Puttin’ On The Ritz, a song that I did a choreographed and performed a tap dance to at the 1997 (1996?) Combined Schools Choir Festival. While I may not have been up to the great Fred Astaire I’m sure in my own mind, at the time, I was well on my way.
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Music lately:

What You Know About Baltimore by Ogun feat Phathead from The Wire: “…and all the pieces matter” What do I know about Baltimore? Not much more than I know about, say, Fielding I guess. This song is awesome, the delivery of the titular interrogative somehow both menacing and blase at the same time. First time I heard this song I kept swivelling my head to look out the window – I swear it sounds like someone’s yelling “Laura!” in the background of the song at various points.

Buffalo Gals by the recently late Malcolm McLaren. A prosaic choice, but to be fair, I was never exactly a walking catalogue of his work. This song is sprinkled with all kinds of good things laid over a minimalist beat that was ahead of its time – thinking about how in the mid 2000s there was that trend for songs that were almost not even there at all. It must have been an exciting life he led, and while I can’t say I thought about him on a daily basis, it was sad news – he was in many ways a drop of bright red food colouring in the plain white icing of recent music history.

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Next time: I have some tofu in the fridge that needs using…although if this sore throat doesn’t sort itself out it might be a steady diet of chicken soup and Canadiol expectorant. Hopefully I get better soon because it’s my birthday on Saturday. Any suggestions about what I could do? As always, April appears suddenly and I’m caught short without any cool ideas. I’ll be 24. Hopefully still young enough to be interesting, goodness knows there is probably some seven year old out there who’s writing a blog about making cupcakes while interweaving Clay Davis quotes and referencing some obscure early draft of Evita…any suggestions about how a good birthday is spent are more than welcome.

like a vegan (hey!)

Firstly: HOORAY for Easter. It’s one of my favourite times of year. Four no-strings days off, plenty of chocolate, a little religious reflection if that’s your thing, lots of opportunities to bake, and it’s not long till my birthday. I’ve definitely got hot cross buns on the brain, but before that there’s this seriously good vegan apple cake recipe which I want to share. By the way, I hope it doesn’t annoy any people who genuinely shun meat, eggs and dairy when I go into vegan mode and semi-patronisingly claim, like I’m the first person to ever work it out, how good a particular recipe is. I couldn’t go full vegan any more than I could commit to eating nothing but hot buttered toast. I just like finding fun new recipes. Like this one.

I discovered this recipe on Palachinka’s blog. Her version uses grated quince, which sounds mighty alluring, but I decided to go with apples instead to make it an option all year round. It’s the work of minutes (although grating stuff is never fun) and makes a small-ish but really, really good cake.

Apple Cake

Adapted from Palachinka’s Old Fashioned Quince Cake

200g grated unpeeled apple (roughly 2 medium apples)
90mls rice bran oil (or other similar plain oil)
50g sugar
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract or cinnamon
220mls apple juice or similar
200g flour
2 tsps baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder

Set your oven to 180 C/350 F. Oil a bundt caketin, sprinkle flour over it, shake it round to coat the inside and then tap out the excess. Mix together the grated apple, oil, sugar, juice and vanilla or cinnamon. Sift in the baking powder, soda and baking powder, mix everything together. Spread into the caketin and bake for about 40 minutes.

That’s all there is to it really – a bit of grating, a bit of stirring, a bit of waiting. I have a pretty large bundt cake tin so the cake was only the size of the top bit of it (as you might be able to see from the photos) but it still worked totally fine. Make sure the baking soda is really well sifted, as it gives the cake the push it needs to rise and you don’t want nasty lumps of it amongst the finished product.

This cake is seriously beautiful – soft, superlight, and keeps for days. The grated apple kind of dissolves once it’s baked but still provides a bit of body and texture. I first made this cake using water instead of juice as the liquid component but trust me, trust me, you need the juice – the cake is okay but a bit weirdly bland without it. The second time, with juice, it was perfect – fragrant and deeply apple-y without being the slightest bit too sweet. I added a spoonful of vanilla paste to add even more flavour but the obvious addition of cinnamon would also be just right. Next time I make this – because there will definitely be a next time – I’m going to try adding a handful of shredded coconut for a bit more texture and flavour. I also have a feeling that grated carrot instead of – or indeed, with – the apple could be really cool. In the meantime, it’s gorgeous just as it is, great with a cup of tea and full of enough good stuff that you could probably eat it for breakfast.

I don’t have much of an agenda this Easter – which is actually really nice – it just feels so ridiculously good having four days to relax. Especially since, O Easter Miracle, Tim got three of the four days off. We’ve watched lots of DVDs and have nearly finished Season 5 of The Wire, which, without wanting to sound like our lives are pitifully narrow, is a pretty momentous occasion. We bussed out to Lyall Bay today and attempted to walk along the beach, getting exfoliated by the sand whipped along by the brutal wind. That said, the feeling of sand underfoot and the sight of giant seagulls flying sideways is never wrong. We had an amazing late lunch (Tim: salami, cheese, tomato and gherkin sandwich, Me: brocolli, blue cheese and walnut pie) at Queen Sally’s Diamond Deli, and bought cut-price yoghurt from the Reduced to Clear shop. Finished up back on Cuba Street sharing a hokey-pokey flavoured thickshake and playing Go Fish at Offbeat Originals. Tonight I’m making hot cross buns, which will rise overnight in the fridge and go into the oven first thing tomorrow morning. I wish it could be Easter every weekend!
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Title brought to you by: Madonna’s Like A Virgin from her album of the same name, and while there’s nothing wrong with this bouncy classic my favourite version involves Jim Broadbent and Richard Roxburgh getting vampy and campy in Moulin Rougecan’t be unseen.
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Music lately:

On and On by Erykah Badu from Baduism. Her youthful, liquidy voice and spirituality-infused lyrics make anything she does a total joy but if you’ve never heard anything before this beautiful song is a fine place to start.

Rocky Racoon from The Beatles’ White Album, which is my favourite of theirs…one of my favourites, anyway. It was playing in some shop today and I couldn’t seem to shake it out of my mind (mostly because Tim wouldn’t stop whistling it.) I like how it’s so bizarre yet so old-fashioned sounding, like something you might have heard as a Sunday morning kids’ radio show and yet also rather sinister. And I like songs where animals are the main character.

I just watched an amazing film called The Wrestler – that is, I was blogging while Tim was watching, I don’t know that I could really deal with this film without having something else to look at while the violent stuff is happening – and Guns N’Roses’ Sweet Child Of Mine plays during a fairly pivotal scene. I hadn’t heard this song in a while and it was refreshing to hear it in a new context, removed from its usual setting, straight after Living On A Prayer on the Music to Binge Drink To compilation. Is there a more joyful opening guitar riff than that which this song possesses?
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Next time: Hot cross buns, friend. That said, by the time I get round to blogging about them, Easter will likely have passed, the need the recipe will have gone, and you’ll probably be sick of the sight of them on every single food blog. Well I, for one, am excited.