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. 


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. 

and when i hit that dip get your camera

Do you ever get all like, this superfood is going to solve all the problems in my life? Well that’s how I feel about this pomegranate-laden hummus that I made. This is not a new thing for me; in fact I’ve probably discussed it before on here where I place enormous pressure on, say, goji berries or chia seeds or something to have some kind of ripple effect on the rest of my life, rather than actually doing anything about the rest of my life.

  super  super

Let me tell you a story to illustrate this. I swear I must’ve told it here before because it’s one I wheel out often to elaborately self-deprecate, but it bears repeating. So: I attended a girls boarding school for a couple of years in the early 2000s. This was peak time for two fads: the Atkins diet, and hating your own body. What can I say, we were all just humans with human bodies crammed together in a boarding house with not much to do, it’s going to happen. It’s going to happen outside of that context too. It just…is a thing. Anyway, not having any disposable income to buy the trappings of the Atkins diet – of which our interpretation was eating a lot of blueberries and unsweetened whipped cream – I was DELIGHTED to discover a grapefruit tree round the back of the boarding house. The grapefruit diet was even more hardcore and old-school than the Atkins one and I smugly lined up four plump, pale grapefruit on the windowsill, ready to be eaten for my breakfast.

After all that lead up, herein lies the kicker: I was boasting about my cunning ruse to someone. Grapefruit! For free! What larks!

There’s no grapefruit tree here, they told me. That’s an orange tree. You’ve been eating unripe oranges for the last four days.

Well that explains my sore stomach, said I.

So yeah, I’ve had idiotic ideas about food and the effect it will have upon me since way back; however I can’t deny that there really is something oddly calming about making yourself a vast quantity of hummus – allowing the dried chickpeas to swell up and grow plump in a bowl of water; slowly cooking them in an enormous pan till they’re completely tender; blitzing them to a soft, pillowy mass in the food processor, adding oil and lemon and salt and spice to reflect your own instinctive tastes; absentmindedly pouring tahini into your mouth and then nearly choking on it because it’s like actual glue in food form; spreading the nubbly hummus into a large bowl and tumbling over jewel-like pomegranate seeds, sliding a knife into a perfect avocado, eating the lot in one go; somehow finding yourself hooning the tahini again because it’s so delicious in spite of the quicksand perils of its texture.

There is literally nothing stopping you just buying a tub of hummus from the supermarket and having, y’know, hummus right then and there, but this is a food blog and as such I’m afraid I’m going to occasionally expose you to, y’know, cooking.

Making your own hummus from scratch aside, is it weird that I just ate a whole bowl of the stuff? As is? I’m going to say no, but there is absolutely nothing stopping you from serving this as it usually comes, as a dip to be plundered by lots of crackers and breads and such. I’m not going to call this a Hummus Bowl or Loaded Hummus or anything like that, it was just…this delicious stuff that I ate a lot of. As with the unripe grapefruit story, sure there’s some context there but it’s also not that deep: this hummus just tastes amazing.

Final caveat: I just started making it without following a recipe or anything and there will be truly about one billion recipes online already for this stuff, but if you’re lacking one you could do worse than to follow mine. It’s neither traditional nor perfect, but it’s mine. No wait, one more caveat: you OF COURSE don’t have to soak dried chickpeas and then simmer them in unsalted water for an hour and then drain them, you could just use canned, but they cost hardly anything and since you’re already making your own hummus you might as well go all out, yeah?

hummus with avocado, pomegranate, pine nuts and pumpkin seeds

  • four cups of dried, soaked, cooked chickpeas.
  • five tablespoons tahini
  • around four tablespoons of olive oil plus more for drizzling
  • one heaped tablespoon ground cumin, plus more if you like
  • two tablespoons lemon juice, plus more if you like  
  • plenty of sea salt or similarly “nice” salt, but use regular if it’s what you’ve got
  • up to one cup of water
  • the seeds from half a pomegranate
  • one small avocado
  • a few tablespoons each pine nuts and pumpkin seeds

Place the chickpeas in a food processor and blend the heck out of them, till they form a kind of nubbly, sandy rubble. Add the tahini, the olive oil, the lemon juice, the cumin, and a good pinch of salt, and process the actual heck out of it some more, while slowly pouring water down the feed tube till it appears to be a pleasing consistency. It will thicken up once it’s sat for a bit, so don’t worry toooo much if it looks too soupy. The important thing is the taste – is there enough salt? Enough cumin? Enough lemon? Add more and keep tasting till you’re happy. 

Transfer the lot – this makes around a litre – into a sealed container. Spoon some into a bowl, cover lavishly in pomegranate seeds, pumpkin seeds, slices of avocado, pine nuts, more salt, and a drizzle of olive oil. Eat. 

I probably over-emphasise this with every recipe I make but also I feel the need to tell you that of course you don’t have to use the specific things on top of the hummus that I did, or indeed use anything at all. It’s just really nice with this specific combination. Put coffee grounds and Lego on top of it for all I care. (Damn it, no, I care too much: please don’t do this.)

Pomegranates are getting cheaper and cheaper at the supermarket right now though and avocados are slowly becoming more reasonable and more likely to be ripe and perfect. Together – the silky bite of avocado as your teeth slide effortlessly through them paired with the sour crunch of the pomegranate seeds against the creamy, soft hummus – they’re rather wonderful and it all makes for a very satisfying snack-thing. And it’s so serene, like I couldn’t emphasise the serenity of this more if I was running through the streets yelling “Serenity!” through a megaphone while also crashing some cymbals together.

 Look at these damn calming pomegranates.  Look at these damn calming pomegranates.

If you’re vibing making your own dips, may I suggest also: Nigella’s Peanut Butter Hummus; this incredible Turkish dip called Tarator which is almost literally just bread and water but tastes like a thousand things more; and this honestly INCREDIBLE Cambodian Wedding Day Dip which is, as I explain in the blog post, all the more delightful because it’s a recipe that also sounds like a dance.

title from: Azealia Banks’ perennial hit for the ages, 212. Say what you will about her, but we are blessed to have this song.  

music lately: 

Slow Ride, by Foghat. I’ve been watching a LOT of NewsRadio lately and there’s an episode that features this rather quintessential 70s rock song and well, now it’s in my head.

About A Girl, Nirvana. I saw Montage of Heck, the melodramatic but amazing and incredibly sad Kurt Cobain documentary last night, and now I obviously need to listen to a lot of Nirvana. Wasn’t their MTV Unplugged album just perfect, though?

next time: Possibly 12,000 uses for hummus since I made around a litre of the damn stuff. 

i wish i had a river, that i could skate away on, but it don’t snow here, it stays pretty green

Avocados are like a metaphor for life, right? You have all this hope and anticipation that it’s going to be perfect and it’s really expensive but you do it anyway because it’s an avocado and you’d give up everything for this avocado and you feel, gently, from the outside that it’s going to be a good one this time! You’ve been burned before but damn it, you just know this avocado is the one. And you carry it home, imagining all the good times you’re going to have together – will you spread it on toast? Eat it in its entirety with a teaspoon, sprinkled with salt? Roughly mash it into guacamole? You could do anything! The taste is almost in your mouth, your teeth can almost feel that sensation of crushing through its soft, soft flesh. And then you finally slice into it and it turns out that despite your very best efforts, it was not ready to be cut open and exposed to the world; it was underripe and cold at its core. Or it had been left for too long and could not be saved no matter how you try to disguise it – greying and sulphuric and with no way to make you happy. Even though you wanted it so, so bad and you paid so much for it. 

Or sometimes you just randomly buy an avocado because it’s on special and like, slice into it and it’s perfect and you’re like “phewf, don’t know what I would’ve done for lunch otherwise” and that’s kind of that. 

 pretty, green 

pretty, green 

I was not particularly in the mood for metaphors when I made myself lunch the other day: the avocado was green and unblemished and yielding and that was enough for me. I used it in a simple, beautiful pea, mint and avocado salad from Nigella Lawson’s seminal text How To Eat. A book I turn to again and again when I forget how to eat: it’s the most trustworthy manual I know. Her tone is gently bossy yet undone and dishevelled at the same time and it’s ever so comforting. 

Yeah, it’s Spring, so eating sprightly green stuff feels obvious, but no matter what time of year it is this salad is gorgeously delicious. Especially because all you really need to worry about is the state of your avocado – the peas can be frozen and the salad leaves are highly interchangeable for whatever’s seasonal. You can basically make the entire thing in the bowl you’re planning to serve it in, which appeals to my utter laziness, and while it’s meant to be a side salad it makes a thoroughly satisfying meal all on its own, depending on your appetite I suppose. It’s also vegan, which is nice. 

 oh wow, here's the salad from this angle 

oh wow, here’s the salad from this angle 

The flavours here are so wonderful – the green-green-greenness (yes) of the peas, the bitterness of the leaves, the sweet, ice cold mint, the buttery avocado. Then you’ve got crunch and softness and oiliness and saltiness and honestly, all I want is a whole bowlful of this and nothing else. I do think it would be a good vehicle for some roasted asparagus if you’ve got the inclination – I mean, it is Spring! – and you could always add some chopped nuts to add further crunch. But it’s truly perfect just as Nigella stipulates it. As per usual though I have given lots of alternatives and notes because I get helpfully nervous about being too specific in case people feel like they can’t make something because they don’t have the exact right thing. 

pea, mint, and avocado salad

recipe by nigella lawson from her important book How To Eat, below is the vague quantitiy I made though which doesn’t quite match her specs

  • three quarters of a cup of frozen peas, or thereabouts
  • half a bag of baby spinach
  • one perfect, beautiful avocado
  • one whitloof, radicchio, or other bitter lettuce, or just something else crunchy – heck, half a regular iceberg lettuce would be chill here
  • several tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, at least three but definitely more
  • a pinch of sugar
  • one tablespoon of white wine vinegar; you could always use apple cider vinegar though
  • a handful of mint leaves, plus more to serve
  • sea salt

Briefly cook the peas in a pan of boiling water and then strain under cold running water.  If you’ve just bought them from the supermarket and they’re not super frozen you can probably get away with just letting them defrost in a bowl, maybe filled with warm water to hasten the process. Basically: get your frozen peas to be unfrozen, please. 

Put the olive oil, vinegar and sugar in the bowl you’re planning to serve the salad in. You can always add more oil later. Rip up some mint leaves and stir them in. Tip in the drained peas and the baby spinach. Tear in the whitloof leaves, or whichever crunchy leaves you’re adding in, and then halve your avocado and scoop out rough spoonfuls, letting them fall into the same bowl. Use a large spoon to carefully mix all this together, adding a little sea salt and more oil if you like. Throw over a few more mint leaves. You’re done. 

 oh wow here's the salad from THIS angle now

oh wow here’s the salad from THIS angle now

As I said, this recipe is given by Nigella as a side dish, but I quite contentedly polished off the entire thing by myself and didn’t feel inclined to need anything else for a long time after; avocados and olive oil are good like that, making you all shiny-haired and full. 

 stock image #58639 woman laughing with salad

stock image #58639 woman laughing with salad

And it’s surprisingly practical when eaten lying down: I honestly didn’t expect that. 

title from: Joni Mitchell, River. Lol…………………….this song is so sad. 

music lately: 

The Damned, New Rose. I made a kind of surfy punky playlist for work and it turns out I am a sucker for pretty much anything with big drums, this song included. 

New Editions, Something About YouIf you haven’t heard this song from 1996 do yourself an enormous favour, it’s so great. 

next time: more acknowledgements of Spring, I guess? I haven’t actually eaten any asparagus since last year so should get on to that, what with uh, being a food blogger and all. 

i want blood, guts and chocolate cake

It’s really something huh, how you can simultaneously absorb constantly unfurling news of how monumentally disastrous and rubbish the world is right now, and yet have your own relatively small, inconsequential issues selfishly jostle for position at the forefront of things you have to try and process…yeah? Author Roxane Gay said “I have never considered compassion a finite resource” and important singer Lana Del Rey once tweeted “um, I like it tha best when you’re nice to me” and I think they’re both good thoughts to keep in mind. No one needs my hot take on world events, especially not on a damn food blog, but man, stuff is happening so hard, right? And it’s just going to keep happening and keep happening and keep happening and all we can do is try to be human beings and be compassionate. And nice. In our own small ways and to our own capacities. That’s all I’ve got.

In what I’d like to emphasise is unrelated news, It feels like utterly forever since I’ve updated this blog. I also suspect I’m the only one exuding major stress over it, so I’ll just get to talking about what it is I’ve finally got around to cooking and deeming blog-worthy. And that thing is: avocado brownies. I’m not usually prone to faffing around with replacing the butter content of anything (indeed, I usually replace the existing butter specified in a recipe with even more butter) but I’m also easily seduced by a novelty ingredient. Moreover, I wanted to make something nice to take to work for a very lovely manager’s final shift, and this requires accommodating some gluten and dairy-related issues. A bit of excavation online brought this recipe for avocado-based chocolate brownies to the surface, and as I’ve had an abundance of said fruits lately anyway, all signs pointed to yes.

These whole process is reassuringly normal; the avocado is mixed in with the sugar and eggs at the start and it all looks and tastes very much like regular brownie batter (not as good, but on the other hand it does stop me eating my usual half to three quarters of the uncooked batter followed by some sustained writhing on the floor in sugar-related agony.) They get better and better the longer they’re left in the fridge, becoming more dense and richly fudge-ish with almost swampy levels of dark chocolatey depth. Like, believe me, these brownies are real and stand their ground and are delicious at a level bordering on magical. Make ’em out of curiosity, whether or not the gluten/dairy-free thing applies to you, because they’re just that good.

avocado chocolate brownies

recipe pretty well unchanged from this recipe on Sprouted Fig

two large, perfectly ripe avocados
one cup of brown sugar
two eggs
one cup of cocoa
150g dark chocolate
half a teaspoon baking soda
one tablespoon water

Set your oven to 170 C/350 F. Scoop the avocado flesh into a bowl, and use a whisk to whip it till it’s all smooth. Add the eggs and the sugar and continue to whisk briskly, then carefully whisk in the cocoa – cocoa tends to fly everywhere in clouds at the slightest agitation, hence why you need to slow down for this bit. Chop the chocolate roughly but finely, so that it’s all rubbly and in shards, and fold it into the batter. Finally, mix the baking soda and water together in a small measuring cup or similar, and vigorously stir it into the chocolate mixture. Spatula the lot into a paper-lined brownie pan, and bake for about 25 minutes – as soon as it’s firm on top it’s ready to be taken out. Refrigerate the brownie for at least an hour but really the longer the better – it just gets more dense and fudgy the longer it sits. Slice it into smallish squares and fling at your face. 

I liked these so much that I immediately made another batch for my flatmates, although I concede that this was partly if not mostly motivated by the fact that I never actually got any photos of the original brownies that I took to work. And this blog’s needs are important!

Honestly not much else exciting has happened to me lately; I dyed my hair a darker shade of red, I hooned through the excellent TV series Master of None (and I recommend it so hard), I finally tidied my room up after being a stressfully messy slattern for, well, my entire life, and during so I inexplicably found my notecards from a speech I gave in primary school in 1997 about the Spice Girls.

“practically every girl’s fantasy” 

That’s…all I’ve got. Stay nice if you can.
title from: that magical woman Marina and the Diamonds and her song Teen Idle. 
music lately: 

Uffie, Hot Chick so bratty! So 2006! 

Robbie Williams, Freedom so good! So 1996! I don’t even care!

Misterwives, Hurricane. Perfect pop perfection.
next time: I promise I will neither take this damn long to update! I will make a thing more than once a week! 

no more flipping burgers putting on my silly hat you know I don’t want that no more

Sunday morning saw a hitherto unprecedented event: I willingly went to watch the rugby world cup finals*. I have spent my whole life hating rugby as some kind of praxis and indeed pretty much all sports except rhythmic gymnastics (so many cool flips! My brief childhood obsession with Nadia Comaneci!) This stemmed from two things: being forced to do sport all the time throughout my school years, and also it’s boring to me and I suck at it and don’t want anything to do with it. As my school days grew further into the distance behind me I softened my righteous stance and basically settled upon the attitude of, well, sports is fine for other people and I’m happy for them to do it, I just don’t want to have it rubbed in my face. Anyway, all of this is to say that I ended up willingly watching the rugby with a billion people from work and it was SO FUN and we WON and I don’t really fancy being in front of sports again for a good long time but I’m glad I went. My smart girlfriend explained it to me in a way that made me finally care: that people feel about sports teams the way I feel about will-they-won’t-they couples on TV. Will they achieve the thing? Oh my god the delicious tension! Oh no here comes an interloper to ruin everything! Wait, last minute scramble, victory just out of reach! And then it’s either all, oh my gosh they finally kissed I’m so elated; or oh my gosh we lost the game and now we are the noble underdogs until the next episode. 
It was fun because I was surrounded by lots of people whom I love and bouncing off their energy; because there was lots of running and leaping and getting-of-tries during the game as opposed to those ones where they just constantly regroup and blow the whistle and stand around looking agitated; because it was fun to objectify all these burly men lifting each other towards the sun and leaping on top of each other; because it was 5am and I was slightly delirious; and because it was just so nice that we won. The opposing team was Australia, and I feel as a nation Australia is so breezily good at so many things whereas we really only have rugby in terms of things deemed important, so they can totally take this on the chin. So yes, I freely admit that I’ve gone from Rugby: Not Even Once, to Rugby: Once, Even. 
All of which is to bury the lede; because obviously the most important thing here is that I made myself an avocado-stuffed burger today. I found the recipe on some website for paleo or something and was like, this seems outlandish and unnecessary, and therefore I must make it. Having ordered and received a bountiful influx of avocados from I found myself in the unusual situation of having more than I know what to do with – normally a ripe avocado is a precious jewel to be hyperventilated over before finally opening it up and realising that you’ve left it too long and it’s now overripe and you are destined for misery, only misery. 

I miraculously had more or less enough ingredients to cobble together a respectable burger (aside from the fact that I had to use a bagel instead of an actual bun, but I welcome any opportunity to remind myself of Sandy Cohen’s greatness.) It was all marvelously easy and fast to throw together, although in the spirit of rigorous honesty: I feel like putting the remaining avocado mix on top of the burger kind of defeated the purpose of hiding it inside the burger as well, I mean, it was delicious, but it was also just layers of meat and avocado everywhere. Also, I’d throw some more stuff in: I’m thinking a smattering of cinnamon and salt in the meat, and maybe a spoonful of pesto or something in the avocado mix – it can certainly handle a lot of flavours and textures being thrown at it. But as is, it was very wonderful, with juicy, craggily seared meat giving way to soft, creamy avocado. 

avocado stuffed burgers

a recipe adapted from this recipe

one charmingly ripe avocado
about one teaspoon of lemon juice
a little hot sauce of some persuasion
any other condiments that you fancy
around 250g – 300g minced beef
liquid smoke (optional)
butter for frying
burger buns and other fillings – mayo, lettuce, cheese, etc

Scoop the avocado flesh into a bowl and mash it with a fork, adding the salt, lemon juice, and a dash of hot sauce. Add a little liquid smoke to the mince if you like, and then divide the mince into four equal balls. Using your hands, shape two of them into circles, a little flatter than you normally would for burgers, as you’re going to be clamping them together as one soon. Spoon some avocado mixture into the centre of one, and lay the second circle over the top. Gently pinch the edges together – it should all sort of wodge into itself easily enough. Repeat with the remaining mince.

Heat some butter – 20g or so – in a small pan. I like to put the burger in the pan as it’s warming up, just to let it gently cook through a bit, and then flip it over once it’s sizzling so it gets a seared, browned crust, and then finally flip it over again to further brown the first side. But like, just fry them till they look done, okay. 

Layer them up on your burger buns with lettuce, cheese, mayo, more avocado, and whatever other sauces and spreads and bits and pieces you fancy. 

I uh, also feel like I’ve said the word avocado so many times now that it has lost all meaning and substance. Especially because I can’t help but pronounce them like Kristin Wiig does in The Californians sketch from SNL (it’s like…”ava-kya-duhs”.) But it’s worth taking a minute to collect yourself and then make this recipe because it is, like all recipes I put forth to you, so so super good.

*I uh, also acknowledge that in 2003 I was infatuated with Doug Howlett (first of all, it was 2003, what else was there to do? Also, he was beautiful) however the All Blacks really didn’t do very well and didn’t end up making it to the finals, which I subsequently did not watch.
title from: Reel Big Fish, Sell Out. Oh what, like you didn’t have a ska phase? 
music lately: 

Kate Nash, We Get On. The whole Made of Bricks album is bonkers and spectacular and this song always makes me the very, very flailiest.

Justin Bieber, Sorry. Okay first of all this song is amazing, and if you refuse to listen to it simply because it’s by Bieber then you’re so boring. But also he released a dance video choreographed and directed by Parris Goebel from New Zealand and while the team of girls dancing all carefree and happy would be cool enough on its own, it adds a certain piquancy – maybe even patriotism – knowing that they’re all from here. And honestly the song is so good.

Drake, Hotline Bling. I mean, obviously the video is incredibly special. But I’ve heard this easily seven thousand times since it was released and still it calls to me. Oh, Drake!
next time: I mean, I still have a zillion avocados. Ava-kya-duh. Oh no. 

i am the definite feast delight

Apropos of nothing: If – although let’s go with when – I get famous, I should like to do many things. I’d like to start a trend for not having to wear a bra if you don’t want to. Not that I can necessarily “get away” without one, but sometimes on a humid day they just feel so punishing and unfair. And really, if someone pulls you aside and says “look, you’re not wearing a bra and it’s making me really uncomfortable”, I’d wager it says more about them than you, right? Second order of business: try and wangle an OPI HungryandFrozen nailpolish range. Am thinking matte rainbow-coloured dots which look like hundreds and thousands sprinkles, a rich yellow butter colour, perhaps a sophisticated, buff-tinted “Cake Batter”, and something else which still hasn’t fully formed in my brain yet. Nigella-Cardigan-Pink? The colour of those heavy velvet curtains that sweep across a stage before and after a show? Something Claudia Kishi-inspired? The third thing I’ve been thinking about is just buying a huge warehouse somewhere with a huge speaker system, so anytime you want to dance around a room like this, you can hire it for an hour from me. Apart from the high likelihood that my dancing moves and I are occupying it already, that is.

Apropos of nothing, I really enjoy saying apropos of nothing! Indubitably!

Anyway here I am. Can’t hurt to daydream about everything in such minute detail that it can never possibly happen the way I want it to and I end up disillusioned and sad when it doesn’t, right? Right!

In the meantime I am rich in friends and famous in my brain, which is a good start. You know friends are good friends when you see them practically every day but it still feels like something exciting’s going to happen every time you do. As a few of us were coincidentally all going to see the band Bon Iver on the same night I suggested that I cook us all dinner beforehand. Which was perhaps an even more exciting prospect than the concert itself at the time. I just love orchestrating situations where I get to cook for people I like. The finished menu was a logical middle point between maximising on what I had on hand already, what recipes I liked the look of, and what would actually be delicious to eat.

It somehow, despite being entirely created in the space of an hour and a half, all came together to form a spectacular vegan feast. Which I liked so much that I’m going to share with you. All three of these recipes are very loosely based on actual recipes – the first two from the Meat-free Mondays book and the third from Katrina Meynink’s gorgeous Kitchen Coquette book. It’s not that the original recipes didn’t sound perfect as they were, it was all about minimising time taken and money spent. And yes, I did just happen to have pomegranate seeds lying round. In a container in the freezer no less. But if it’s any consolation they were over a year old. So I can be smug, but not that smug.

Lentils are just alright with me, but this is lifted from its admittedly beige earnestness by the juicy pomegranate seeds and smoky, tender eggplant.

Barley, Lentil, and Eggplant with Pomegranate and Mint

1/2 cup brown lentils
1/2 cup barley
1 eggplant
1 onion
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tomato, chopped roughly
2 tablespoons chopped preserved lemon or hot lemon pickle (or just some lemon juice)
Seeds of a pomegranate and a handful of mint leaves

Optional – and I did – 1 can cannellini beans or chickpeas to beef (heh) it out. 

Soaking the barley and lentils at least a few hours before you get started will make the cooking process quicker. Boil them together in a pan with plenty of water till tender. Drain, set aside. Slice up the eggplant into chunks, fry in a little oil  – in batches is easier – till browned and softened. Tip them into the lentils and barley. Slice the onion up and in the same frying pan brown it with the garlic. Add the tomato, chilli sauce and lemon, and continue to cook for a little longer. Return the eggplant, lentil and barley to the pan, stir to warm through and season to taste. Serve scattered with pomegranate seeds and shredded mint leaves.

Feel free to just use barley OR lentils. But this is a great way to use up those stupid tail-end packets of things which inevitably sit round for guilty years in your pantry. Free your lentils, and your mind will follow. Actually the whole thing with these recipes is that since I’ve already messed around with them to suit my needs, feel free to do the same. They are very low stress. No watercress? Use rocket. No almonds? Use any other nut. No pomegranate? Sprinkle over feta or just use more mint or something!

Something about blackening the corn and partnering it with toasty-sweet almonds and peppery watercress in this salad is surprisingly spectacular.

Rice, Charred Corn, Avocado, Watercress and Almond Salad

1 cup rice – I used basmati but brown rice would be really good here.
1 cup frozen corn kernels (or you know, however YOU get hold of them)
1/2 cup rice bran oil plus extra for frying
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons chili sauce
1/2 cup whole almonds
1 tablespoon icing sugar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
A handful of watercress leaves, rinsed and chopped
1 avocado, diced

Cook the rice as you usually would, and allow to cool a little. Stir the 1/2 cup oil, the cinnamon and the chili sauce through it, plus plenty of salt. Taste to see if you think it needs any more of anything in particular. Set aside and heat up a frying pan. Mix together the almonds, sugar and cumin and then heat them in the pan till fragrant and toasted. Set aside. Rinse the pan – or don’t – and heat up a tablespoon or two of oil. Throw in the corn kernels and let them fry till some are slightly darkened and scorched in places. They might start to ‘pop’ and jump around a little so watch out. Stir occasionally. Tip them into the rice along with the watercress, almonds, and avocado and mix thoroughly. 

These are just edamame beans and regular green beans cooked in boiling water and stirred through a dressing made of 1 tablespoon shiro miso paste, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 teaspoon honey and a little chopped fresh ginger and garlic. Miso’s intense, fermented flavour is strangely addictive and even more strangely versatile. Here it’s nutted up with sesame and used to coat creamy edamame and crunchy green beans.

Cheers to Kate and Jason and Ange and Ricky for indulging me. And cheers to Bon Iver for putting on a seriously good show.

I was almost as happy with my dress as I was with anything else. If only there was an Instagram filter called “Cheekbone Finder” or something. But yes, the show, wow. From listening to Bon Iver’s music, I was expecting one guy, one microphone, and maybe a mandolin and a few handkerchiefs. But there was a many-peopled band all outstanding in the field of excellence, a glittering light show, and the singer, Justin, seemed so happy to be here! Which is always an endearing trait in someone you’ve paid a lot of money to see. This might sound weird, but I think my favourite bit was an unsettlingly brilliant saxophone solo, which brought to mind the eeriness of the dinosaur sequence in Fantasia.

And…apropos of something, recently Tim and I were in line for another gig, in front of three guys. From their clothes and piercings and so on, they looked like interesting-enough, open-minded people. And then they started talking. And Tim and I wanted to vomit. I wanted to say something – especially since several of my friends have felt able to speak up to people to tell them what they think recently – but it was late, and there were three of them and two of us, all those kinds of reasons. Tim and I just had to stand there in line and listen. And while I wasn’t up to doing anything that night, I’m able to pass on to you my convictions instead. Please. If you ever hear people saying things so casually like “they aren’t saying yes but they weren’t saying no” and “if they’re that drunk they’re asking for it” or worse – please understand how terrible this is. How it builds. Keeps a particular victim-blaming attitude accepted. I’m not saying this very well but I feel really strongly about it so I’m going to let some other people say it better than I can. If you like pithy analogies, this one might help open your eyes a little. This might make you think about the conflicting messages women are constantly given, and this is the flipside which is told all too little. And this is Derailment Bingo. Many thanks to the Wellington Young Feminists Collective site for resources. If I was more confident in the results I could’ve talked to those people, if I was Veronica Mars I could’ve somehow sassed the bouncer into not letting them in, but all I can do is pass on some excellent links to people who, I would guess, might know all this already. I know it’s not usually the direction I go in on here, but this blog is where I write about what’s important to me…
Title via: Sugarhill Gang, Rappers Delight. The song is 14 minutes long so I don’t really feel the need to add anything further to the conversation.
Music lately:

Eileen Jewell, Shaking All Over. Her voice is deliciously mellow and relaxed and after hearing Wanda Jackson’s version so many times, I like the calmer but still dirty arrangement of this classic.

Christine Ebersole’s voice goes from crystal-clear to shrieky in a matter of seconds while she’s acting her face off in Grey Gardens the musical. Will You is one of the more crystalline moments in the show, and while the song was only written a few years ago it sounds like a lost track from the forties. Beautiful.

This is probably a decent Bon Iver song to listen to if you’ve never heard them before. It was way souped up live!

Next time: It’s nearly midnight and I feel like chocolate. And I don’t see any reason why that want would be inconsistent when I’m next in the kitchen cooking something…

girls would turn the color of the avocado when he would drive down their street in his el dorado

Magical things, avocados.

But first a BIG thank you, as big as the words Thank You made out of colourful rubber and inflated to the size of a forty-foot building, with a noble capybara balancing on top of it looking thoughtfully into the distance, for all the nice comments and emails about my last blog post. From the bottom of my chocolate-iced heart.

Back to avocados; aren’t they exciting? Like nature’s version of rich creamery butter, kept in an endearingly curvaceous, bumpy casing. Nutty and smooth and yes, buttery, I love it mashed into guacamole to be scooped up with corn chips, spread on toast for a breakfast treat anytime of day, or sliced into a bowl of salad so that you can try and surreptitiously dig for it all with the spoons when serving yourself.

But to turn them into pudding? Inconceivable!

Conceive of this. I know I go on about Hannah at Wayfaring Chocolate a fair bit, so I’ll try and squash down the enthusiasm a little here so I don’t sound like some kind of creepy person who waits outside your window and cries “the hunter has become the hunted!” No, it’s not like that. It’s just that she’s got one of my favourite food blogs in the world, is all. And while I’ve heard of using avocados in non-savoury recipes, it was she who prised open my eyes to how delicious and non-threatening it could be. Through the medium of raw vegan brownies. Regular baked brownies have their place (and that place is a table marked “DELICIOUS THINGS HERE, PLEASE”) but it’s fun to push the limits of creativity in the kitchen sometimes by restricting your parameters. Which is what Hannah did with this amazingly delicious recipe.

Yes, those are useless-ish stripy novelty straws: they make my heart soar, and what price soaring? Occasionally I buy into pretty things, and occasionally…I literally buy them. Treat yo’self.
A daring mixture of dates and nuts are whizzed up in a food processor with cocoa to form the base, and then the power of a whole avocado is harnessed to create the icing. It’s amazing – you add golden syrup and cocoa and suddenly it turns into this creamy, darkly chocolatey, shiny ganache-like substance.
Unfortunately when I busted anticipationally into the avocado it wasn’t entirely usable – instead of two bowl-like halves offering up smooth, unbroken greenness, there were significant portions that were bruised and horribly stringy. I scooped out what was salvageable, and this is why the layer of icing on my brownies is sadly thin. But another time, another avocado. 
Raw Vegan Chocolate Brownies with Spectacular Avocado Icing

Adapted slightly, and respectfully, from Hannah’s recipe which she adapted from another recipe of her own anyway: inception! Feel free however to just click through to hers.

2 cups nuts: I used a mixture of almonds and pecans, but near-on anything would suit. 
2 cups dates, roughly sliced
1/3 cup cocoa powder

Blend the living heck out of these ingredients in a food processor. It may take some time to come together. Eventually it will be a fine-ish, crumbly mixture of tiny ingredient particles. Turn it out into a baking dish, roughly 20cm square or a little bigger or smaller. Press down on it with a spoon, freeze while you make the icing.

1 ripe, perfect avocado
2 tablespoons golden syrup 
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (optional, by which I mean I forgot)
Small pinch of salt

Thoroughly clean out your food processor, then blend all of the above till smooth and shiny and amazing. Add more of anything to taste, then spread evenly across the base. Return to the freezer, slice once ‘set’.

I admit: I had issues making this. I increased the base quantities a bit from Hannah’s recipe and I don’t know if it was because of that, but the food processor just Would. Not. Break. Them. Down. Rather than being sliced up, it was like the blades were some kind of carnival ride for the dates and nuts to scoot round on. I’d be processing the heck out of it, take the lid off, look in: perfect, whole almonds and dates. Stir it round, repeat. Look in: perfect, unblemished nuts and dates. So confusing. I’m not sure if I should’ve soaked the dates first or something but eventually, eventually, they started to break down. This is why I recommend you chop them first.

But despite that, as long as you own a food processor these are a complete breeze to make, and even though I’ve only eaten a few pieces I know I’m going to make this again, and often. For one thing, to get a better quantity of icing. For another thing, to try out all the different flavours (except carob, I can’t go for that) like having maple syrup in the icing or walnuts in the base. This is incredibly delicious stuff – a little crumbly, although I suspect that’s my own fault – but caramelly and dark and biscuity and cold and wonderful. Something about the texture of the dates and the intensity of the cocoa makes it taste and feel almost like solid chocolate. And the icing – oh my. Even with the mean scraping of it across the top it’s almost aggressively luscious, showing how avocados in sweet things makes total sense – the buttery flavour, its yielding texture, and whipped-cream body. And they’re vegan and gluten-free! (Well I’m not sure if golden syrup is strictly vegan, but it seems to be…if not, just use maple syrup as per her recipe.)

Thanks Hannah – and I urge you to run, not walk, to her blog and read through all the other good things she’s come up with.

What have we been up to lately, apart from eating all this brownie? Went to the SPCA to drop off some newspapers but also to hang out with the beautiful cats and dogs there for a bit – seriously, I want them all. Baddddd. Words can only hint at how cool the cats were and at the depths of love in the dogs’ eyes. I just wish we had the space! We were a little slow-moving that day though because what started off as a spontaneous BYO dinner to toast Jo’s job success on the previous night had escalated into a spontaneous-er wingding at our place. On Sunday I went with Tim to the Wellington Phoenix’s first football game of the season (The Pheen, as I call them, but it doesn’t seem to be catching on). It almost didn’t happen – the internet cafe I usually go to was inexplicably full, then when I finally found another one my e-ticket refused to print for ages. The upshot of it was that arriving late to the stadium meant I didn’t suffer that mid-point slump – as I really don’t like sports in the first place, my attention span is not cut out for ninety minutes of people running round kicking a ball. Anyway, they won, which was super pleasant. Hooray for weekends.
Title via: The laconic and shambling but nonetheless exciting Pablo Picasso, by the Modern Lovers. LOVE this band. Not least for the fact that they use the word avocado in this song.

Music lately: 

Shout, Isley Brothers. I know I say this about so many songs, but this has just got to be one of the best songs in the world. It’s beautiful.

Badd Energy, Third Eye – am a huge Coco Solid (she who makes up part of this act) fan so clicked through the moment I saw a link to this. While it stands up easily on its own, if you can watch the video you’re in for some fun times. Fun cats-wearing-robes-and-shooting-at-you times.
Next time: I tried making quinoa balls tonight, kinda like meatballs, and while they predictably fell to bits what was there tasted SO SO good and so that’ll likely be my next blog post.

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


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.


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


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.


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.

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.


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.

riding on the avo-lanche


Gotta admit, I wasn’t feeling entirely joyful about it being the 1st of December today. At all. But after watching the 30 Rock season 3 Christmas special with Elaine Stritch and Alec Baldwin singing together I’m starting to feel a bit more welcoming towards this whole yuletide thing. I get a little panicky every year about things like presents, and finding time to buy them, but on the whole I like Christmas – how could I not? So much eating and cooking, so many songs to sing lustily, and a good time to connect with the whanau or whoever has come to represent family in your life.

This Sunday the official traditional flat Christmas Dinner will be happening once more – it’s something I’ve put on at my flat every year for whoever lives there and any plus-ones since 2006, and as I said in the invitation, just because we’ve moved into a nicer place with a better kitchen there’s no reason it can’t happen again. I’m really excited about getting all the food organised, not so much about the logistics…It’s partly an excuse for me to feed a lot of people but also for everyone we like to get together and enjoy each other’s company before everyone takes off home. Not that I’m going home any time soon – I’m working up until noon on the 23rd. That said I’m very glad to have a job at all these days, unlike Tim who isn’t exactly rolling in shifts at Starbucks. If there’s any Wellington-based media-type folk out there reading this, give him a job! I like him, so he must be worth taking on. Isn’t that reference enough?

Anyway, with all the intense food pending, I’m trying to keep the dinners a little light and chilled out here this week. Hence this quick, vegan-as-anything but also seriously flavoursome and hearty Thai salad of rice stick noodles, tofu and green vegetables. It’s not perfect (tahini is eye-wideningly fat-laden, like, avoid reading the nutritional information if you don’t want to cry) and I’m not even sure if it’s actually Thai at all, more like “a dish with fish sauce in it” but let’s not get hung up on semantics. What would Nigella say? “It’s authentically good.” There is a lot of avocado in this which makes it much sexier than it would be otherwise, so don’t be tempted to leave it out. Avocados are getting cheaper and cheaper here in New Zealand which is a mitzvah as you can buy lots of them and luxuriate in spreading it on toast, adding them to salads, placing slices alongside dinner, or simply sprinkling a cut half with good salt and maybe a little vinegar and eating the lot with a teaspoon.

Thai Rice Stick, Tofu and Green Vegetable Salad

From a little cookbook I like to call “Laura’s Mind”.

100g rice stick noodles
2 ‘fillets’ of firm tofu, diced (those 8cm-ish square blocks that come in packs of four at the vege market is what I’m talking about)
1/3 cup natural peanuts
8-10 spears asparagus, chopped into 2cm lengths
Small bunch bok choi, washed and chopped roughly
1-2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons tahini
Handful sugar snap peas
1 perfectly ripe avocado
Small bunch fresh mint

Boil the rice stick noodles in salted water till they’re opaque and slippery. I’m not sure if this is the accurate way to get them cooked, please let me know if you have a better method. While they’re cooking away, heat a nonstick pan to good and sizzling, and add the tofu, stirring with a spatula to let it turn golden but not burn. Next tip in the peanuts and asparagus, stirring as you go. Sprinkle over the fish sauce and drizzle over the tahini, mixing thoroughly. Add the bok choi and a tiny splash of water, allowing it to quickly wilt in the heat. Turn off the heat – it doesn’t matter if the asparagus isn’t totally cooked, some crunch is good here.

When the noodles are done, drain them under running cold water for about 10 seconds. Finally, chop up the avocado, sugar snap peas and mint. Divide the lukewarm noodles between two plates, top with the tofu-asparagus-peanut-bokchoi mix and finally cover them with green chunks of avocado and crisp sugar snaps, adding a sprinkling of mint to each plate.

The mix of textures makes this salad amazingly enjoyable to tuck into, plus the creaminess of the avocado with the protein-rich peanuts and densely grained tofu means you’re hardly going to go hungry. The fresh, cool mint and the pungent saltiness of the fish sauce see off any over-richness that all that texture could cause when partying together on the plate. As you can see it’s pretty seasonal in nature, but as long as you keep the avocado in you could substitute other green vegetables – brocolli, beans, edamame – and you could of course use cashews or sesame seeds instead of the peanuts and peanut butter instead of tahini. As this is a little something I’ve made up, I’d completely love to know if anyone has actually tried it themselves. Let me know what you think!

So, another reason to be thankful that it’s December already, instead of going into shock because your mind still secretly thinks it’s mid-August, is that Tim and I are going to see Mr Jarvis Cocker on Thursday night, supported by lovely lovely Wellingtonians The Phoenix Foundation. If you don’t know who Jarvis Cocker is, he’s the erstwhile frontman of the band Pulp, maker of pop songs that sound amazingly upbeat but are actually yearningly painful, and rather gorgeous in his own elbowy way. I’m really excited. I love his solo work which is good as I don’t think he’s known for performing songs from his Pulp heyday. Not that I was overly caught up in the whole 90s thing, being a year or so too young and deeply occupied being solemnly and obstinately passionate about the Spice Girls. But for what it’s worth I do remember disdainfully ignoring all boy bands and having an unrequited crush on Blur’s Damon Albarn, writing in my diary that I hated his then girlfriend Justine Frischman of Elastica even though I really had no idea who she was. Rock’n’Roll!


Title of this show brought to you by: Sufjan Stevens’ ridiculously pretty, light-as-a-macaron song Avalanche. Listen and love, even if you think you don’t like modern music. Fun facts: 1) I actually kinda hate when people call avocados “avos” but what can you do? and 2) For about a year I genuinely thought Sufjan’s name was ‘Surfjan’.

On Shuffle these days:

No Intention by Dirty Projectors from their album Bitte Orca. This song winkles its way into your consciousness so gently that if it hadn’t been completely thrashed on one of the radio stations I occasionally stream I almost could have missed it altogether. Unusual and entirely engaging stuff.

Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time from Jarvis Cocker’s eponymous solo album, a song featuring horns pleasantly reminiscent of that other Cocker from Sheffield and typically fantastic lyrics. Fingers crossed he sings this one on Thursday.

I had a fantastic weekend going up north for Tim’s cousin’s wedding, but after many hours in a van with non-stop inoffensive crowd-pleasing music, I’ve had the urge to listen to something slightly more – although relatively – polarising. Therefore plenty of Richard Hell, Tourettes, early White Stripes, and, um, Alice Ripley (whose solo stuff is near-impossible to find on youtube, that’s how underground she is) have also been featuring heavily on my iPod this week. Also memorable was the discussion Tim and I had in the van on the way home about how we should buy a bouncy castle and put it on the roof, although I think I can pinpoint the epicentre of my overtiredness to the conversation we had about whether you could domesticate a calf and get it to fetch things and curl up at your feet while you watch TV. I said yes, Tim wasn’t so sure. I was all, “Tim, I grew up next door to a farm. I think I’d know.”

Next time: this week will be largely given over to preparing for the mighty Christmas Dinner. Menu to be confirmed along with a progress report next time and you can bet that with our biggest guest list yet, it’s going to be a feast of health-compromising proportions. Bring it on!