if you want a banana republic that much why don’t you go move to one

Before I get further into anything I extremely invite you to read Protect Ihumātao’s website to learn about the incredibly important occupation of the land happening right now; if you are feeling unfamiliar, this story by Leonie Hayden from 2017 for NZ Geographic is excellent for further background and context to this ongoing journey. There is also an ActionStation page where you can donate to the cause. Ngā mihi nui!


Nigella Lawson often, when questioned, says that greed is her chief inspiration for recipe creation. I’m sure I must’ve been asked this at some point around the time my first cookbook came out, but these days I’m more at the daydreaming-potential-answers-to-future-interviews stage of renown, which is like, literally fine, although I wish I could apply my perpetual preparedness to be interviewed to being prepared in even one other aspect of my life. Anyway, if someone were to ask me, I completely agree with Nigella on the greed front, I just think of what I want to eat and then I make that a recipe. My secondary inspiration is probably that if someone on a TV show or movie that I’m watching mentions a food enough times I will get it in my head that I want to make it; but also significantly, I often derive inspiration from seeing people I am friendly with tweeting about food and being like “this is my BUSINESS,” such as the vegan carne adovada that I made earlier this year after seeing such a tweet.


A few days ago my good friend Jen tweeted asking what the best vegan banana bread recipe was and I was like wow, I don’t know how to answer that, and I feel like I should, so I’m going to do something about it. (I’m only just realising now that I didn’t actually look at any of the recipes linked in other replies to her tweet, I instead just assumed I was the person to provide the definitive recipe and in turn response to her question. Upon reflection I guess I remain unchanged on that opinion?) The difference between a banana cake and banana bread is pretty much lost on me – aside from banana bread being made in a loaf tin – but if pressed for an answer – in an interview situation, perhaps – I would assert that it’s generally a little denser than the cake version and I wouldn’t expect it to be iced.


This recipe has a fairly traditional-baked-good vibe to it, which is what I wanted – no dates masquerading as sugar content here, just actual sugar. No disrespect, but sometimes vegan baking recipes feel like they’re being blackmailed by a company that sells dates, you know what I mean? It’s light and moist but also firm with a springy crumb, and easily sliced into thick slabs – which are perfect alongside a cup of tea. You could consider folding in a couple of handfuls of walnuts or dark chocolate pieces, or the zest of a lemon, but I love it just as it is, with the sweetness of the bananas offset by the warmth of cinnamon.


Banana Bread

A recipe by myself

  • 3 medium bananas (roughly 1 1/2 cups chopped banana)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons soy milk
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons rice bran oil or similar plain oil
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup (or maple syrup, or similar)
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt

Set your oven to 180C/350F and line a loaf tin with baking paper. By which I mean just shove a large rectangle of baking paper in there as best you can.

Place the bananas in a large mixing bowl and mash them thoroughly with a fork or wooden spoon or whatever. Mix in the sugar, milk, vinegar, vanilla, oil, and golden syrup. Sieve the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into the bowl, and then gently fold it all together. Spatula all this into the loaf tin, and bake for around 50 minutes, or until a knife or skewer inserted in comes out clean.

Note: the first time I made this I only used 1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon, the second time round I put in heaps more and I think it tasted better for it but obviously your own feelings around cinnamon are perfectly welcome to override mine if you make this yourself.

I guess only future history books will tell us if this is indeed a definitive banana bread recipe but till then I am definitively delighted with it, which is hopefully enough of a push for you to make it too. It’s very easy, just a one-bowl affair, and it keeps well. If you don’t like bananas I can’t help you there but you should know that this isn’t overwhelmingly banana-y, just comfortingly delicious.


Speaking of comfortingly delicious, if you wish to support me and my writing directly it’s very easy and minimal-exertion-y to do so through my Patreon account, where your assiduousness will be rewarded with content written just for you.

title from: Stars and Stripes of Corruption by Dead Kennedys, this is an uncharacteristically long but nevertheless excellent song of theirs which ducks and dives through time signatures with lyrics which – sorry for being super obvious – are still timely.

music lately:

You Don’t Have to Cry by Emma Ruth Rundle, from her album On Dark Horses. I actually started listening to her music because Minka, who also inspired the vegan carne adovada, tweeted about it, and I am the highly suggestible type! I’m so happy I am though, this album is stunning, intense and metallic and hard and soft all at the same time, I love it. You Don’t Have to Cry is the final song on the album and it’s just lush, the sort of song you should hear while lying on the floor of a barn or in a car as the sun sets right in your eyes.

Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man, by Oscar-winning actress and singer Miyoshi Umeki. This is from her 1956 album Miyoshi Sings to Arthur Godfrey which features American standards and torch songs, sung in a mixture of Japanese and English in her gorgeous warm voice, including this truly beautiful interpretation of the Kern/Hammerstein classic.

Next time: I ordered myself Rachel Ama’s cookbook as a present to myself for reasons I will work out later – perhaps if asked during an interview context – and can’t wait to explore it. I imagine you’ll be seeing recipes from it on here before very long.

death by chocolate is a myth, this I know because I lived


I recently was re-reading Nigella Lawson’s seminal text How To Eat, a book I turn to in times of crisis, happiness, fragility, anxiety, normality, national sporting-related success to which I’m entirely indifferent, pre or post-jeans shopping – there’s literally no mood this book can’t augment. I got my copy of this book in 2006 and it’s really something reading the little notes that I wrote by recipes in the first blush of ownership – so earnest, so youthful! “Didn’t have red wine but used leftover sangria and it worked a treat” was scribbled beside a slow-braised lamb and bean dish, a troubling phrase that raises more questions than its supposedly helpful inclusion answers (Did it really work a treat? Was it really sangria or was it just corner dairy red wine mixed with orange juice? Why, nevertheless, did we have leftovers?)

What cracked me up was the amount of times I’d put a tick beside a title with a modifying note stating what part of the recipe I actually had been able to afford to make. Lamb and chickpeas (tick – just made the chickpeas.) Cod and mushy peas (tick – just made the peas.) Who could have predicted that twelve years later I’d be equally as broke and meatless: tick and double tick.


All this was in mind as I went shopping for ingredients for this week’s recipe, these Chocolate, Coconut and Almond Cookie Bars. It was precisely the moment where I considered abandoning the recipe altogether because nuts are so whole-assedly expensive; but then I shrewdly deduced that buying dark chocolate with almonds in it ($5-ish) would be markedly cheaper than buying dark chocolate ($5-ish) plus a bag of almonds ($9,000,000.) I already was darkly resigned to the fact that maple-flavoured syrup is monumentally cheaper than the real stuff.

This recipe is based pretty tightly on one that I found online. I was taken with the simplicity of the concept of blending up bananas to essentially use as glue, holding the coconut, chocolate and almonds to the base. Strangely, but appealingly, it barely tastes of banana – just kind of gently sweet and caramelly. I was a bit panicked because at first, straight from the fridge, the slice honestly didn’t taste like much of anything. But the more it gets towards room temperature the more all the flavours reassuringly make themselves known. I made some slight adjustments to the recipe – I nearly doubled the oaty base because the measurements given seemed to make hardly anything; I fiddled with the quantities of what went on top, I added more maple syrup and I added plenty of salt, which I think was the most important addition – it just makes everything taste so much more confidently of itself, so don’t be afraid to scatter a decent amount across the top. The oat base gets super hard over time so you definitely want to consume this within the next day or so; if you can’t get through it then might I suggest microwaving it or adding an oat-moistening scoop of ice cream to your plate.


With this low-stakes rollercoaster of establishing whether or not it tasted good out of the way, I can assure you that this slice is in fact, really very delicious – the toasty, nutty oats, the flutter of maple sweetness from the fake but gamely hardworking syrup, the bitter, cocoa-rich dark chocolate for your teeth to slice through, the damply chewy shards of coconut, and barely a whisper of intrusive banana. Sorry banana, but sometimes what you bring to the table is what you don’t bring to the table, you know?

Chocolate, Coconut and Almond Cookie Bars

based on this recipe from feastingonfruit.com

2 and a half cups rolled oats
7 tablespoons maple syrup or golden syrup
3 bananas
200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped (or 200g dark chocolate with almonds) 
3/4 cup shredded coconut
Sea salt

Set your oven to 180C/350F and line a standard brownie tin (you know, one of those standard ones…rectangular…not too big) with baking paper.

Process the rolled oats in a blender till they’ve turned into fine dust, then pour in five tablespoons of the maple syrup and a pinch of salt and pulse briefly till it’s all clumpy. Spatula it into your brownie tin and carefully press it down evenly (use the back of a wet spoon and be prepared for it to take some patience) and bake for ten to fifteen minutes, until it’s firm and golden around the edges.

Meanwhile, rinse out the blender, and throw the bananas in with the remaining maple syrup, blitzing them to an airy yellow puree. Spread this evenly over the oat base, and then evenly sprinkle over the chocolate, almonds, and coconut. Sprinkle over another good pinch of salt. Return the tray to the oven for another forty minutes, although check after 30, and cover with tinfoil if it’s browning too much. Allow to cool, then refrigerate overnight, and slice into bars. Taste to see if it needs some more salt sprinkled over – these ingredients really benefit from it.


Should you wish to use different nuts (walnuts would be excellent here I think) or different chocolate or add other textural elements altogether – perhaps chopped dried apricots, or smashed up pretzels, or dried cranberries, or chopped crystalised ginger – you just go with precisely the amount of creativity that the intersection between what you want and what you can afford allows you to act upon, too.

And if you’re on a specific chocolate buzz, may I also recommend such recipes as Salted Chocolate Cashew Butter Slice, or Homemade Bounty Bars.

title from: Death by Chocolate from Sia’s fourth album Some People Have Real Problems, absolute years before her mainstream breakthrough. This song is just gorgeous, melancholy with these occasional major key bursts, with real classic torch song vibes to it and a stunning coda that I almost wish was its own song, it’s so lovely.

music lately:

Nina Simone, Children Go Where I Send You. This style of song is known as cumulative and there’s something so weirdly thrilling about the way it builds and expands with each verse. Obviously Ms Simone is an absolute master of interpreting a song and making it the best, most joyful thing you’ve ever heard in your life. However! I also strenuously recommend Johnny Cash’s version with June Carter Cash (and the casually fulsome snarl in her vocals) and family, Carl Perkins, and the Statler Brothers on backing, it’s so earnestly rollicking and you’re like how does it keep going up a notch each verse? Was there ever even a more exciting song than this to be sung? I’ve literally listened to both versions of this song every day for the last week and would be happy to continue on in this manner for the actual rest of my life.

The Pharcyde, Drop. The incredible video has this almost queasy surreal vibe from the backwards-forwards Spike Jonze direction but even without the slightest hint of visuals this song is so so good, mellow and soft but just slightly sinister with amazing lyricism. You should definitely watch the video though.

Next time: I genuinely just want to make absolute bathtubs full of the corn butter from last time, but will attempt to look further afield for all of our sakes.

PS: If you wish to receive this blog newletter-style into your inbox every Sunday before the generic public, kindly consider signing up here and indeed, encouraging friends and strangers to do the same.

all i wanna do is cook your bread, just to make sure you’re well fed

literal banana bread 

Me oh my, guess who has been busy lately? Me of course, who else do I talk about on here. I mean, this blog post opens with two sentences both starting with the word “me”. And then a sentence beginning with “I”. Well, that’s why it’s called “a blog” and not “a Place of Altruistic Humility”, I guess. Pop psychology aside, I have been one busy kitten recently, and happily, it’s all stuff that I enjoy doing. Like freelance writing and starting a small yet successful chocolate cookie dough pretzel thing delivery business. The latter of which was a clever idea by my clever friend Kate, which I kind of dismissed at first – not because I thought it was a bad idea, but because I thought no-one would care. Turns out people care hard about my cookie dough pretzel things. I have been striding all over town, getting way more exercise than I care for, dropping off parcels of chocolatey salty-sugary glory to both suspecting and unsuspecting people. The unsuspecting ones are fun – when people order them as a surprise for a friend, and then I get to appear at their work saying “hello, you don’t know me, but I’m Laura and I started a small cookie delivery business and your friend ordered some for you.” Cookie dough is sweet, but so is being the recipient of a human being’s surprised joy, I’ve come to learn.

I’m still drifting around in a “what am I doing with my life what’s to become of me I’m still not a famous cookbook empire-wielding squillionaire with many tumblr fansites dedicated to me yet I have clearly failed wait chill out Laura it’s only Tuesday” kind of haze, but am definitely feeling more productive now that I’m making it rain cookie dough. And it also means that this week I’m paying my rent with money that exists, instead of doing it with my credit card!

Speaking of being super-unemployed, I am feeling very reproachful towards myself for not using the time I had being all jobless to make like, make falling-to-pieces-tender casseroles and brisket and hummus from scratch using soaked dried chickpeas and brioche and rich broth and so on and such. Time flies when you’re not making the most of it to make exquisite slow-cooked food, I tell you. However, I did make one thing that befits the time on my hands: literal banana bread, from my cookbook. My underground, rare collector’s item, soon-to-be-out-of-print, definitely-have-come-to-terms-with-this-lololol cookbook.

This is the photo that appears in my cookbook. Kim and Jason did all the beauteous photos for it, but neither could remember who took this one, so I’m going to praise them both just to be diplomatic. All I know for sure is that my nails were painted this way because I dressed up as a Gold Lion for a party the previous night. 

This is a really easy recipe, because you don’t have to do any kneading. Just stir and wait and bake. It’s charmingly simple. The bananas take the place of any fat and sugar that you might add normally, not because I don’t adore both those things, but because I wanted to see if bananas had it in them to be used in a yeasted bread recipe as the major source of flavour and sweetness. Also I really like the idea of using the word “literal” in a recipe title. Y’know, because banana cake baked in a loaf tin is called banana bread, but this is actual bread made with bananas, so the title is literally justified.

literal banana bread

a recipe by myself, from my soon-to-be rare cult hit collector’s item cookbook Hungry and Frozen. Makes one large loaf.

500g flour
one sachet dried instant yeast
one teaspoon salt
two ripe bananas
300ml warm water
two tablespoons raw sugar

Mix the flour, yeast and salt together in a large bowl. Mash the bananas, and mix them into the flour with the water. It’ll look a bit gross. 

Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave in a gently warmish place for two hours.

At this point it should be risen and puffy and frankly even more gross looking – a bit greyish and unpromising. Scrape it into a well greased (or baking paper lined) loaf tin, and leave to sit for twenty minutes while you heat the oven to 180 C. 

Sprinkle over the sugar, and bake for 45 minutes. Allow to sit for a minute or two before tipping it out of the tin. You might need to run a knife around the sides to loosen it. 

You end up with this piping hot loaf of gently banana-scented bread, crusty and doughy and really wonderful when thickly sliced and spread with butter and honey, or even better, butter and cream cheese and brown sugar. It’s a good one to try if you’re unsure about breadmaking, since all you need is a little time, a bowl, and a spoon. And all the ingredients I listed. And, um, an oven. And I’ll stop there, because you probably don’t need me to elaborate further (although I always am concerned that people do, and never quite know when to stop over-explaining things.) I actually don’t love bananas just on their own – something about the texture and the sickly scent and the freakish little nubbin bits at each end of the fruit put me off, but they suddenly become appealing again when they’re baked into something. The banana flavour isn’t overwhelming here – just a sweet, promising hint of it with every bite.

literally delicious
So if you’re in Wellington CBD and you want chocolate cookie dough pretzel things delivered to your door with what will most likely be a smile, giz a yell. If you’re not in Wellington CBD, here’s what you’re missing, sorry.
dark chocolate, white chocolate, bounty thing. I eat a lot of cookie dough, I am highly authorised to assure you these are majorly delicious.
just a reminder that I’m literally cute. Hey, I said this is a blog, not a Place of Altruistic Humility!

title from: the truly excellent Etta James singing I Just Wanna Make Love To You. 
music lately:

the aquadolls. I really love all their music, it’s kind of foul-mouthed surfy pop and it’s so much fun.

Dillon, Texture of My Blood. Dreamy and feelingsy.

FKA Twigs, Two Weeks. Almost too dreamy to bear, tbh.

Jesse Thomas, Say Hello. Lovely, happy, country-ish music, so naturally it makes me feel sad.
next time: not sure, yeah? something delicious written about in a charming manner, no doubt. 

banana by the bunch, a box of captain crunch would taste so good

While there are large-scale diseases with varying degrees of manageability, on the day-to-day level the human body can still be pretty unfair to its inhabitant. I say this with full acknowledgement of my privilege – that is, I am sound enough of body. I mean your intentions going one way and your body going another. Like when I wet my pants on the first day of school. My teacher didn’t exactly give off kindly, benign vibes, and while I’d asked where the toilet was, I didn’t understand the answer. Also didn’t have the life skills at five years old to ask her to clarify her response, so…yeah. On the upside, I’d like to think I showed an early propensity for quick-wittedness when I offhandedly advised that it had been raining the night before, hence the puddle.
But what’s got me thinking about this, is that it’s currently 5.30am. Not that shocking an hour really. But I’ve been absolutely, no-turning-back awake since 3.45am. Not for want of trying to sleep. My brain started getting stupid anyway. Like I’d be imagining rain on the roof and being all nice and calm, drifting away on a floating bed – suddenly my brain would insert into this lovely scene an enormous insect, a particular insect that terrifies the heck out of me and whose name I’m not even going to utter on this page. My brain did this about five times while I lay there in cold-then-hot discomfort, my normally reliable pillow becoming flat and concrete-like…when I checked my phone and over an hour had passed, I accepted there was not much I could do about it. So here I am. 

Alas, this is quite typical. I’m not the best sleeper. Normally it manifests in my taking hours to fall asleep after turning off the light, but this time I had sleeplessness working its way to the middle from both ends of the night. As I sit here typing in the dark, Tim, the minxy hellion, is sleeping like he always does, deeply, unflappably, and with enviable briskness. Meanwhile I’ve been lying thinking “I’m going to be so fragile tomorrow. Does thinking I’m going to be fragile mean I’m going to be more fragile? Aagh, it’s that insect that I hate!”

Luckily I had the foresight yesterday to bake some banana bread, a warm pillowy slice of which I am confident will provide untold comfort. 

Especially when that banana bread was spontaneously studded with the roughly chopped remainder of a vanilla-fluttery, buttery block of Whittaker’s white chocolate. (Please scuse the pink stains on my chopping board. Either everything is stained permanently or you never eat beetroot, there is no middle ground in life.)

Banana bread always seems like a rather lovely thing to me, perhaps because I associate it with the banana bread that shy, lonely Charlotte Johanssen brought over for her the Ramsey family in Babysitters Club #13: Hello Mallory, while the majority of Stoneybrook ignored the newcomers, quite racistly. While I didn’t exactly know what banana bread was at the time – we would’ve likely called it loaf cake in New Zealand – something about its compact, sliceable practicality all wrapped in tinfoil and carried over by Charlotte conveyed the sense of neighbourly friendliness better than any other food could’ve.

This is, kinda bafflingly, the FOURTH time I’ve blogged about Banana bread (Nigella’s beautiful recipe in 2008, and then in 2010 a vegan recipe and a highly recommendable Banana-lime Palm Sugar Loaf) and yet this new recipe still has its rightful place. Oh and I say ‘bafflingly’ because I can’t believe I’ve only just now brought up the Babysitters Club connection. Four banana bread recipes itself is not baffling. What’s this one bringing to the table though? It’s simple, it’s strewn with white chocolate, and it has the snuggly scent of cinnamon. It’s also gluten-free, if you want it to be.

Cinnamon White Chocolate Banana Cake

Adapted somewhatish from a recipe in Meat-free Mondays. That book just won’t quit!

125g soft butter
125g sugar (optional – half brown, half white sugar)
2 eggs
3 medium, ripe bananas (or 2 large)
50g roughly chopped white chocolate
170g rice flour, or plain flour 
50g cornflour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch salt

Set your oven to 180 C/350 F and beat the butter and sugar together till creamy and light. Beat in the eggs, then fold in the bananas and white chocolate. Finally, sift in all the dry ingredients and fold them in gently. Tip the batter into a paper-lined loaf tin, and bake for about 1 1/4 hours.

Something about the magical properties of cornflour make this light, puffy, and with a crisp yet mouth-meltingly tender crust. There might be more to it than that, but I’m pretty sure it’s the cornflour. While I’ll stand up for white chocolate’s deliciousness any day, sometimes being paired with a spice only makes it more delightful, and this is verily the case with the cinnamon. Its warm mellow fragranced-ness against the shards of creamy sweetness is brilliant, and makes me want to pair white chocolate and cinnamon together again in other baking. And soon.

Um, yes, that is a glass bottle with a stripey straw in it. Guess what’s in the bottle? Iced coffee. Part of me is all “but it’s so pretty” and the other half is saying “Ugghh this is so blogger-y”. As always, to prove to myself that form over function could still provide a function, and I wasn’t just using props in my photos for the sake of it, I drank that coffee through the straw. It gave the already fruity, complex brew distinct notes of warm cardboard. But, as Leslie Knope said when she married off two male penguins to each other at the zoo: “I firmly believed it would be cute”.  I think I need to stop guilting myself out over this.

Speaking of cute, no sooner had I expressed a stunted desire to start drawing again in a recent blog post, than did appear a 31-day drawing challenge on the internet. Yay for the internet! Specifically I saw it on Instagram, the photo-sharing app, and so that’s where I’m posting all my daily drawings. You’re welcome to check them out here (just look for the photos that are of drawings), but to lure you in, here’s my keenly sensitive and profoundly artistic rendering of Day 3’s challenge – an internal organ.

Speaking of bodies turning on you… (that’d be a diabetic pancreas, if you’re new here.)

And look, here I am at 6.45am! A blog post under my belt, and the day’s hardly begun. I think I’d still take the sleep though. Fingers crossed for tonight. Which is feeling a long, long way away – oh, did I mention it’s Monday? Cruel, cold Monday? Thank goodness for banana bread, hey?
Title via: I feel like there should be like, an airhorn going off or a balloon drop every time I use a song from RENT (which this blog’s named for) in the title of a blog post too. If I keep making banana bread I’m going to run out of title options, but for now kindly revel in the unspeakably glorious joy that is Angel’s big number, Today 4 U, performed with alacrity by Wilson Jermaine Heredia. 
Music lately:

My capacity for being obsessed with songs is boundless. Boundless, I tell you. So the fact that I listened to Marina and the Diamonds’ Shampain almost literally a million times this week shouldn’t surprise you.

Monkees, Last Train to Clarksville. RIP Davy Jones, heartthrob.
Next time: whatever it is, let’s hope I’m telling you about it on more than three hours of sleep.

i dug right down to the bottom of my soul, to see how an ice cream felt

I emerged from the weekend at home with my family looking like I’d got caught up in a knife fight. Luckily this wasn’t the case. It’s just that of the three things that bring Mum and Dad’s new kitten Poppy earthly joy, two of them are clawing and biting. The third is steadily ignoring the heavy disdain of the other cat Roger by chasing after him whenever possible.

So yeah, I’m pretty scraped up. I described Poppy on Twitter as being part Jessica Wakefield, part Bart Simpson, and part baby raptor, and I stand by it. Just when you think you need a tetanus shot and want to swear off small animals altogether, she’ll do something like this:

And then I forget what I was so mad about. The sting of her needle-claws fades away as I gaze into those inquisitive eyes.

It was hard to say goodbye to her, knowing I hardly ever get to go up home (you too, Mum and Dad) but on the other hand, there was Banana Pudding Ice Cream waiting in the freezer for me back in Wellington. The latest in a long, chilly line of ice cream recipes that I love, this takes a bit of work but is worth every single moment of your time, and rewards you tenfold with every spoonful.

Before I get into the recipe though…As I make a lot of ice cream, I thought it’d be nice to mentally spatula my brain for a list of ideas and helpful thoughts in the hopes of converting you all into the level of ice cream love that I have. And if you have any of your own to add, feel free to do so in the comments section.

7 Habits of Highly Effective People Who Make Ice Cream (these aren’t even habits, but I don’t like the word ‘tips’ and “Ice Cream Policy and Guidelines” sounded way harsh.)

1) You don’t need an ice cream maker. That’s just what ice cream maker manufacturers want you to think. It would be really cool to have one, but really, just freeze the stuff in a container, stir it occasionally, and you’ll be sweet as.

2) You do still need equipment. A food processor is essential if you want to make Instant Berry Coconut Ice Cream, otherwise all you need to find is: an average wide saucepan, a spatula, a whisk, and some good-sized tupperware or empty takeaway containers.

3) Don’t feel held back by what you can or can’t eat. From cream and butter (see below) to the cleanest of vegan ice creams, there are so many options. Coconut milk or cream is an amazingly versatile substitute for cream, both on its own and in custard-based recipes. Unless you’re adding a pre-prepared ingredient (like a particular chocolate bar) all ice cream should be gluten-free. Check out my recipe index if you’re not convinced, as somehow most of my ice cream recipes have ended up being vegan or dairy-free.

4) Imagine all the ice creams. Once you’ve got a good ‘base’ vanilla ice cream recipe, you can stir any number of cool things into it to make a spectacular pudding for yourself or a crowd. For example: chopped up dark chocolate and/or fudge; walnuts toasted in a little butter and brown sugar; whole raspberries; bashed up chocolate chip cookies; a whole bag of smarties/m’n’ms; it goes on. Your four options in order of most to least easy are: a couple of cans of coconut milk mixed with sugar (for a vegan base); about 500mls/2 cups cream whipped softly with 1/2 cup icing sugar; egg yolks and sugar beaten together with whipped cream then folded in; and finally a full-on homemade custard, which you’ll see in the recipe below. If your own mind is fleeced, be inspired by other people – searching “ice cream” on Tastespotting would be a good start.

5) Keep stirring. If you’re making a custard based ice cream, it may feel like the mixture is taking forever to thicken but the moment you leave it to check Twitter/etc it’ll overheat and you’ll have weird scrambled eggs on your hands. A spatula ensures that all the mixture gets lifted off the wide surface area of the pan and moved around. This also applies to rule 4. Keep stirring…stuff into your ice cream.

6) Accept the differences. The texture of homemade ice cream isn’t going to be exactly the same as the stuff in two litre tubs from the supermarket. The main difference is it’ll likely freeze harder, meaning you just have to let it soften a little on the bench for 15 minutes before you serve it. But you’ll be able to control exactly what goes into yours – no emulsifiers or stabilisers or soya lecithin (what even), it’s very likely to be cheaper than bought stuff, and you can get as creative as you like with the flavouring.

7) Don’t be scared. There’s a lot involved in homemade custard – from separating the eggs to heating the cream to carefully and slowly cooking the two together. However. As long as you keep stirring with your spatula and have a low heat, you will be just fine. Nigella Lawson recommends having a sink filled with ice cold water to sit the pan in quickly if you get nervous, I’ve never had to do that but it might give you peace of mind. I cannot overstate how clumsy I am, and not once in my entire life have I screwed up ice cream. Neither will you. And if you do, just step back a bit and try the more simple methods first.

And then try this. Bananas aren’t my first choice of fruit but this recipe capitalises on all that they have to offer – the quick-to-caramelise sweetness, the creamy texture, and the light, almost lemony flavour. It is SO good.

Banana Pudding Ice Cream

From The Lee Brothers Southern Cookbook.

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup (tightly packed) brown or muscovado sugar
2 bananas, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons dark rum (I used Gunpowder Rum)
2 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups full fat milk
2 cups cream

(note: I also used 1 cup buttermilk and 2 1/2 cups cream, because that’s what I had. Was fine.)

In a pan over medium heat, melt the butter till it’s frothy, and stir in the brown sugar. This will become a delicious, bubbling caramel in a minute or so, and at this point, stir in the banana and cook till softened. Pour over the rum, allowing it to sizzle and bubble away for a minute or so. Remove from the heat, and spatula everything into a food processor bowl.

In a bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly then add the 1/3 cup sugar. Continue beating til mixture is thick and light. In the same saucepan you cooked the bananas in, gently heat up the milk. Don’t let it boil, but let it get good and hot.

Remove the pan from the heat and take half a cup of milk from it, pouring it into the food processor with the bananas and blending the lot till very smooth.

Pour the rest of the milk carefully over the egg yolks, whisking while you do so. Now spatula all this back into the pan that the milk was just in, and heat very, very gently over a low heat, stirring all the time. It will take a while, but it’ll thicken up into a light custard. At this point, take it off the heat (still stirring) and tip in the contents of the food processor, mixing it all together. Refrigerate till cool. And try not to eat it all at this point, rummy banana custard on its own is extremely delicious.

Finally: whisk the cream till it’s nice and thick, fold it into the banana custard, tip the lot into a container and freeze, stirring occasionally.

According to the Lee Brothers cookbook, banana pudding itself is a bit of a die-hard American thing, but for all that, it’s not necessarily particularly delicious. This ice cream is their take on it – for some reason I do love puddings that are variations on other puddings – and it’s luscious stuff. I really like that there aren’t huge quantities of everything, unlike other ice cream recipes which might ask you coolly for 9 egg yolks. The butter, brown sugar and rum elevate it above the ordinary, their dark caramel flavours not entirely muted by the freezing process. The result is a magnificently flavoured, velvet-textured, pale yellow ice cream. A very good idea would be to make a caramel sauce and add some of the rum in it, or even just do as we did and pile the ice cream into a glass and tip a capful of rum over the top. As you’ll see in a couple of the photos, I dusted it with cocoa – the bitter plain chocolatiness of which was an excellent match.

Here’s where I poured more rum over – the ice cream slowly and saucily melts into the alcohol. The spicy rum gives your mouth a hard-liquor kick which is then cooled by the ice cream. Meant to be.

As well as finally meeting the kitten over the weekend, Tim (who flew up to meet me) and I also caught up with heaps of my family and had a huge number of gifts pressed upon us – a jar of homemade lemon curd, a cake tin, socks, duck and hen eggs, bowls, and mugs. On Saturday night at my request Mum made corned beef, which she does with a level of amazingness I can only attempt to reach. I left feeling very happy and loved, and also nervous about the eggs, but miraculously they didn’t break on the journey back to Wellington.

Thanks heaps to Jason who helped me with the html stuff on this blog. Explaining html difficulties is like explaining dreams, in that they’re both boring to other people and it’s really hard to properly convey the fear and drama. But I assure you, whether or not you find it interesting, he’s the reason that you’re seeing a new font here.

Title via: One of my favourite musicals, A Chorus Line, and its charmingly conversational and surprisingly twisty song Nothing. I don’t really like the movie (it cut the important Music and The Mirror??) but it luckily doesn’t mess with this song in any way.

Music lately:

While endlessly gazing at Poppy I realised she was almost identical to the kitten in David Dallas’ very cool new video for Take A Picture (ka-chiiiik! Can’t help it.) The eye colour is a little different, but apart from that…totally twins.

The Real McCoy, Come and Get Your Love. I know the whole omgilovethe90s! thing has lost all impact, but this is unquestionably (in my mind) one of the best songs of the last 20 years.

Next time: Could be this delicious baked oatmeal recipe I found, or maybe this pea soup recipe which is basically just peas and water. It’s not only extremely financially friendly, it’s also surprisingly fantastic to eat, too.

just slip on a banana peel, the world’s at your feet…


I said this recently to someone on Twitter which is roughly as public as it gets – as recent international political situations might attest – so I think I can repeat it without shame here: whenever I can’t sleep because I’m feeling nervous about something, (and there is a lot to be nervous about in life and I’m not the best sleeper), I imagine cakes. Pies. Ice cream. Not just sitting in front of me waiting to be eaten, and not muffins jumping sheep-like over a fence to be counted, but things that I could make in future, new flavours to combine. Recipes I haven’t tried before, or new recipes made up on the spot.

It, ah, does require a certain predilection towards baking in the first place, but you’re welcome to try it. It’s surprising how well “would nutmeg and coconut go together in icecream” can squash thoughts like “was that the beginning of an earthquake or just the muscles in my leg twitching”. On that note…hope everyone in Christchurch is holding it down right now, after yesterday’s aftershocks of unfair size and frequency.

This banana cake is one such recipe, invented in the night and fortunately remembered in the morning, and even more fortunately, pretty delicious. Yes, banana cake is one of the more common cakes you might learn to make, and so you may not feel the need to pay much attention to this one…but I’d like to think it’s a sidestep to the left of your usual recipe.

Also, I appreciate that it’s a pain to weigh out bananas like I’ve asked, but a cake recipe calls for accuracy. This isn’t a bowl of cereal we’re making here. That said, it’s roughly three small bananas or two and a half good-sized bananas (oo-er) (sorry.)

Banana Cake with Golden Syrup Icing

250g ripe bananas
3 tablespoons oil (I use rice bran)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste/extract
200g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Set your oven to 180 C/350 F and line a 20cm springform caketin with baking paper.

In a large bowl, mash the bananas with a fork till they’re good and smooth. If you like, you can switch to a whisk to mash them up – it’s okay if there’s lumps of bananas, but a decent liquidy texture is what you’re after here.

Whisk in the oil, sugar and vanilla, and then sift in the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Carefully fold together with a spatula, then scrape into the prepared caketin.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, and allow to cool.


Mix 1 tablespoon of golden syrup, about 1/2 cup icing sugar, and a tablespoon of water together. Add a tiny pinch of salt. If you’re using a whisk you might be able to get out all the lumps, otherwise it’d probably pay to sift your icing sugar. If you need more icing sugar, add more. Pour over the cake.
I had to have a slice before I committed to icing it and taking photos and writing about how nice it is – just in case my cake was delicious in the mind alone – so it’s lucky that it actually does taste gratifyingly good.
It’s tender and light, with a slightly chewy crust and a fresh banana flavour. There’s also a soft fluttering hint of vanilla, like someone’s eyelashes brushing against your cheek. The golden syrup, with its dark stickiness, and its buddy the pinch of salt, manage to temper the aggressively bland sweetness of the icing sugar. Altogether, it’s a bit of a masterpiece for something thought up in the middle of the night to ward off other bad thoughts.
Title via: Donald O’Conner’s Make ‘Em Laugh, from one of the best films on this earth, Singing In The Rain.
Music lately:

Tiny Ruins, Little Notes. It’s pretty, but not just pretty.

Neil Patrick Harris’ opening song from the Tony Awards yesterday. I love a good song and dance number as it is, but this is particularly excellent. I’m slowly working my way through this show on youtube.

Next time: possibly (finally) those snickerdoodles, however I also have found the most amazing tofu recipe. Hopefully, whatever it is, there won’t be such a huge gap inbetween posts like there has been this month.

ba-na-na (nanana!)

I just ate a giant dinner largely composed of…roast potatoes. I feel so sleepy as a result that I can’t even describe how sleepy I feel, only repeat ineffectually that I feel so sleepy. Apologies if the following bloggery isn’t all that flash.

As I write there’s only a handful of hours left till the All Whites will play Paraguay at the FIFA world cup, oh my. The game’s at 2am and I’m hoping those potatoes will let me get some decent sleep beforehand. There’s this swirling uprising of coverage in the media in New Zealand at the moment and I just hope that, in the likely situation of us losing, there’s no “Black Friday” type headlines tomorrow. Because seriously. Let’s keep sight of things. It’s exciting that we’re there at all, we managed to stop the reigning champions from winning, and we’ve never, ever got this far before in football. I don’t even really like sports AT ALL and this is really exciting.

Speaking of really exciting…cake!

My aunty Lynn gave me Alyson Gofton’s book Flavours as a birthday present a few years back. I’m not sure where I stand on Alyson Gofton but this book would swing anyone in her favour – it’s packed full of innovative but not terrifying recipes, most of which sound incredibly delicious and are a good call to action to rifle through your spice rack and get to grips with how a particular flavouring agent can perk up a meal. The last time I made this recipe for Palm Sugar and Lime Banana Loaf was in 2004 (specifically, for Mum’s high school reunion lunch, if I remember right…?) and I can’t understand why it has taken me so long to return to it, since it’s really, really good. If you think banana cakes are the most obvious thing in the history of obvious things that are cakes, well, think again.

You know how sometimes you make those “cleaning out the fridge” kind of dinners that can never really be replicated because they use up all the bits and half-eaten pieces sitting round on your shelves hoping to be asked to dance? This cake, strangely enough, ended up being a similar exercise. Browning, speckled bananas in the fruit bowl, palm sugar I overenthusiastically bought by the bucketload, that large boxful of limes.

Palm Sugar and Lime Banana Loaf

Bear in mind there is no harder substance on earth than palm sugar. I’m pretty sure palm sugar could penetrate diamonds. The only way I can deal with it is by using a serrated Victorinox knife and scraping/shaving away at it till it’s a pile of gritty golden rubble.

150g soft butter
1/2 cup crushed palm sugar (roughly one circular lump)
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed, ripe banana
Grated rind of 2 limes
2 and 1/4 cups self-raising flour
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons lime juice

Set oven to 180 C and line a loaf tin with baking paper. Beat together the butter and sugars till light and creamy, add the eggs and lime rind. Fold in the bananas, flour, and liquids. It will be a very stiff dough, almost scone-like. Turn it into the loaf tin, and bake for 45 mins to an hour. When cool, drizzle over an icing made from about 1 cup icing sugar and the juice of a lime or two.

Don’t be fooled by the nothing-muchness of the icing – it really pulls the loaf cake together, mobilising all the flavours with its sticky tanginess. This is a moist, dense and easily sliced loaf, and while the palm sugar doesn’t exactly get all up in your face, its delicate fudge-like flavour along with the added lime make this a gently out of the ordinary delicious thing to bake. I photographed it this morning before work (grabbing one of the ‘artistic’ slices for a sneaky breakfast treat) and when I got home there was only a slender-ish chunk of loaf left sheepishly on the bench, as if it was trying to look bigger than it really was. I took it as a compliment.

Incidentally, it’s kind of fun reading over Flavours which is only all of seven years old, and seeing hints that basil pesto can be bought at the supermarket and avocado oil now being “available in two scented varieties.” Hee. How far we’ve come…well as far as pesto is concerned, anyway.

I guess I find out next week some time how the whole CLEO/Wonder Women thing went down. Voting closes tomorrow, Friday 25 June (which is, I guess, Thursday 24 June for all you international readers above the equator). I sort of feel like I’ve wrung dry everything I can from this, but if by chance you haven’t voted for me yet and would like to, firstly read why here and then email cleo@acpmagazines.co.nz with WONDER WOMEN in the subject line and “Voting for blogger: Laura Vincent” in the body of the email. Whatever happens, a mega-enormous thank you to everyone that did vote for me – and you can most definitely call on me to vote for you for anything in return.


Title via: Look, it’s a skit/interlude from M.I.A’s mad awesome album Arular, and I’m really usually not into skits clogging things up but this is so weirdly catchy that I’ll find “ba…na…naaaa” popping into my head when I least expect it.

Music lately:

Karen Elson’s The Ghost Who Walks, from the album of the same name. I love this album! It seems to hark back vaguely to ‘another time’ and is rich and full of melodies and warm, pretty Gillian Welch-ish harmonies. (Mum and Dad – I bet you’d love this one.) How lucky is Karen Elson – incredibly beautiful, married to Jack White, and luckiest of all, she can sing.

Big Boi’s new single Shutterbug, I just can’t get enough of it right now. It’s silkier than a silkworm, and the melody behind it reminds me of Grandmaster Flash’s The Message, but in a good way. I’ve always enjoyed Outkast’s take on hip hop and it’s cool that they’re just as capable of working as separate entities as they are together. This song is a diamond, and the man knows how to use the line “cut a rug” properly.


Next time: By the time “next time” shuffles along, we’ll know what the outcome of the All Whites’ game was, we’ll probably know whether or not I caused my own out-of-nowhere result with the Cleo/Palmolive Wonder Women thing, and…I will have a giant pavlova to share with you (well, words about a giant pavlova, but these words will allow you to make one for yourself and then share it with absolutely no-one at all, if you like).

now let me welcome everybody to the wild wild west

So, the novelty of a Monday at home is less novelty-ish when I’m coughing like a beast. Typing is a nice distraction from my chapped throat, but I’d sooner just get better. I’ve been downing tea made from lemon and ginger slices, crunching on vitamin C and echinacea, and sippin’ on gees linctus and juice. I’d had plenty of gees linctus when I was younger, but it turns out these days you have to state your intentions and hand over photo ID to get it, and it no longer comes in a pretty flask with a fancy label, but instead a tiny prescription bottle with one of those child-proof lids that are really difficult to remove.

I also have a whole mess of lozenges which are pretty good for noise control when I start coughing heaps. They were definitely useful at Tim’s graduation on Thursday. There were about forty thousand people (well, it felt like at least that many) getting graduated that night and I’m pretty sure not one of them wanted some lady spluttering during their moment of glory. In case you’re wondering, Tim was graduating with Honours in Media Studies which makes him super-qualified to do all sort of interesting things that no-one out there seems to need people to do right now, but fingers crossed that market opens up soon…Either way I’m pretty proud.
Tim’s family came down to be there for the graduation as well and his mum gifted us some bananas. There’s nothing I like more than a little unpremeditated push towards baking. Muffins felt a too obvious, but I couldn’t be bothered with anything too high-concept either. What a quandary. Then I remembered this eye-catchingly named recipe that I found while hopping from blog to blog like a frog on a lily-pad. It’s called Ponderosa Cake. According to the friendly person whose blog I found it on, the cake is named after some regional pine trees. Secretly I hope it was so named because someone wanted to immortalise their passion for Bonanza in baked form.
Ponderosa Cake
Recipe inspired by a recipe found on Chocolate & Chakra. I say inspired because I completely mucked things up as I went along – didn’t have enough butter, added 2 eggs by mistake instead of one, forgot the yoghurt till it was about to go in the oven – so the end result was almost a completely different cake…
100g soft butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2-3 large, ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon each of baking powder and baking soda
1/2 cup plain yoghurt or sour cream

125g good chocolate, chopped roughly
1 -2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar
Set your oven to 180 C/350 F and line a square or rectangular cake tin with baking paper. Cream the butter and sugar together till fluffy, then beat in the eggs. Add the bananas, then fold in the flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Finally mix in the yoghurt, plus half the chopped chocolate and cinnamon. Spread it into the cake tin, then sprinkle over the rest of the chocolate and cinnamon, plus the brown sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
I’d rather have a thousand coughs than a blocked nose and lose my sense of taste, because Ponderosa Cake is incredibly good. It’s very light and tender and keeps well. The blast of heat in the oven caramelises the spiced, sugary chocolate topping slightly, providing depth of flavour and a pleasing gritty crunch to the moist, banana-y base. Happily, it used some of the treats I picked up at the recent food show – like The Collective yoghurt and Whittakers chocolate. Despite the fact that I somehow managed to get things wrong every step of the way, this is really a very straightforward cake. It’s ideal for those times where you want something a little out of the ordinary but not so far out of the ordinary that you’re up at 6am measuring the temperature and viscosity of sugar syrups.
I’m not sure if Hoss and Little Joe ever bonded over banana cake, but it’s a nice thought, right? I understand when my mum and her brothers and sisters were growing up, Bonanza was appointment viewing on TV… You know you want to hear that theme song again!

Title via: 2Pac featuring Dr Dre, California Love. I know, it’s one state over from the Ponderosa. There couldn’t be a more obvious song that springs to mind for the sadly late Tupac Shakur, but no matter how often it’s thrashed it’s still a goodie, and one of those songs I knew all the words to (except for an embarrassingly long time I thought it was “city of corn chips” instead of “Compton”, what can I say, there was no Google back then.)

Music lately:

The Music and the Mirror from A Chorus Line. This song is actually mostly dancing but the singing that’s there is so gorgeous – the line “I’ll do you proud” slays me a bit. It’s a song about a woman who needs a job, so she’s auditioning for the chorus even though she is good enough to be a star. Well, it seems a bit more dramatic when set to music anyway, and the original Donna McKechnie is pretty incomparable but there’s plenty of fun to be found on youtube of that amazing dance in the red skirt. If you’ve only seen the film version of A Chorus Line, they cut this song – criminal!
The Ali and Toumani album, a recently-released collaboration between the late Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabate. It’s…an absolute beauty.

Next time: well, hopefully I my immune system and I become friends again. I’m down in Christchurch on Friday for Chartfest then Dunedin on Saturday for Smokefreerockquest so I can’t afford to be this germtastic.

it’s all so sugarless

I once read that Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys went through a troubled stage where he ate half a birthday cake every day. With all due respect to Wilson, I’d happily eat a whole birthday cake every day and I’m fortunate enough to not even be feeling particularly troubled at the moment. If only cake had any nutritional value. I know – want, want, want. A solution of sorts – there’s this recipe for vegan banana bread on the gorgeous Savvy Soybean blog which turned my head. Last week, with bananas rapidly browning in my fruitbowl, I got round to making it. Oh yes. It’s another post where I semi-patronisingly assure you that a vegan recipe tastes pretty good, even though it contains no butter.

But really. This banana bread is delicious stuff and you expend hardly any energy while making it. The finished product is really quite good for you especially if you can get your hands on the agave nectar, which somehow manages to be sweeter than sugar but with a much lower glycemic index. What an overachiever. Most important: it tastes so good.

Vegan Banana Bread

Recipe adapted from The Savvy Soybean

3 ripe bananas
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2/3 cup agave nectar or runny honey
2 cups flour
2/3 cup coconut (optional) (but nice)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Set the oven to 180 C and line a loaf tin with baking paper. Then, very simply, mix together the bananas, applesauce and honey, then fold in the dry ingredients. Don’t overmix. Turn the batter into the tin and bake for one hour. Pa-dah! Applesauce can easily be made by simmering one large, diced apple in 1/2 – 1 cup water for about fifteen minutes (keep an eye on it, it may need more water added) before roughly mashing with a fork. The original recipe included 1 cup chocolate chips which I didn’t have, I’m sure they’d be an amazing addition but it was delicious without all the same.

The bananas, applesauce and agave nectar or honey keep this moist and light. Combined with the cinnamon, this will fill your kitchen with a proper, comforting, wish-I-could-bottle-it baking fragrance. It keeps for ages and is very easy to slice. While it’s lovely as is – okay, a little chewy as opposed to straightforwardly cakey – it really comes into its own when toasted in a sandwich press. These warm, crisp slices of banana bread are brilliant with sliced plums and maple syrup any time of day, or with any other fruit really, plums is just what I got right now. It is, in fact, so very good toasted that next time I make this I might just slice it, bag it up and freeze it for whenever I require a slightly puddingy snack (which is often…really often).

I’ve been feeling a bit lethargic and brain-heavy lately – like I need to take a whole day out and just sleep before I can get on with everything properly. At any rate, I’m definitely going to need my energy this month – on the 17th Tim and I will be getting up close and personal with Jack White at the Dead Weather concert at Powerstation in Auckland. It’s been five years since we saw the White Stripes at Alexander Palace in London and while both of us are all “make new music together already, Jack and Meg” the Dead Weather is still a very, very anticipation-worthy engagement. Maybe eating more vegan banana bread will help perk me up?

Title comes to you via: Hole’s Celebrity Skin  Although the Spice Girls had my heart, I wanted to be Courtney Love so badly after MTV Europe came to New Zealand TV for a few brief but heady months. If I’d had a disposable income in 1998, there was not much I’d have wanted more (apart from a Spice Girls polaroid) than to lunge around the place wearing floaty dresses, with flowers in my hair and sparkles stuck on my face, holding a guitar. Actually I still do, let’s be honest. 

Music to cook to:

I found Miss World while trawling through Hole music videos. Forgot how much I love this song. I think I’m going to be buying some Hole albums.

Going to DC from Gavin Creel’s album Goodtimenation. I love love love Gavin Creel but to be honest this album doesn’t get played an awful lot, I just haven’t really connected with it. This song is the exception…I love how it’s all bouncy and adorable and ska-ish. And involves Gavin Creel.

I’m Waiting For the Day by the aforementioned Beach Boys from the incredible Pet Sounds. The drums! The fake ending! I didn’t actually think I even liked the Beach Boys until I heard this album. It’s breathtaking stuff.

Next time: I made this ‘tofu balls’ recipe of Nana’s which was wackily delicious, and even though it sounds dubious I’m pretty sure I’m going to share it with all of you too. It will either be that or the coffee ice cream that I made this weekend with rapturously good results. Or I’ll be too busy eating cake to post again…

Fruit ‘Em Up

Christmas shopping: 3 Laura: -100,000,000,003.
I’ve attempted to Christmas shop every weekend for the last month and have ended up with very little to show for myself. I know it’s not all about the gifts, but after a lifetime of getting presents for my family, I can’t just stop now because I can’t find much of anything. I have one weekend left to scour Wellington for trinkets. Wish me luck. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one in this sorry boat.

Melodrama aside, we have been eating remarkably well lately because, to my endless happiness, summer fruit and vegetables are finally getting cheap, properly cheap, at the local market. I’ve eaten more fresh fruit in the last two weeks than I have all year and I am loving it. Strawberries for $2 a punnet, and three mangoes for a dollar more than makes up for six months eating uncrisp apples and canned peaches. Not that canned peaches don’t have a special place reserved in my heart, but there is something so exciting about summer fruit.

Vegetables too – I finally got my hands on some of those sugar snap peas that everyone talks about, $1.50 for a big bag (but they cost $4.95 for about 6 beans in the supermarket), a whole bag of red, swollen tomatoes for a dollar, bunches of asparagus for a song, and the top story in my world this week, beetroot has gotten really really cheap again.

Inspired vaguely by an orzotto in Nigella Christmas, I wrapped two large beetroot in tinfoil and roasted them at 200 C for about 45 minutes. While that was happening, I did the usual risotto thing – sauteed onion and garlic in butter, added vermouth, let the arborio rice sizzle (I know, arborio is the least culinarily desirable of the risotto rices but it’s also the cheapest), and ladled in vegetable stock, stirring all the while. I diced up the now soft and roasty beetroot and folded it into the risotto, which promptly turned the whole thing a garish (but pleasing!) pink and made the frozen peas which I’d added seem particularly green in contrast. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: pink goes good with green. A spoonful of sour cream and a sprinkling of basil from the garden finished off this almost ridiculously colourful dinner. Bright? It’s phosphorescent! And delicious too, but any reader of this blog will already know that I am a fan of the beetroot from way back.

We always seem to have a swag of overripe bananas kicking round. And, I’d found myself a very cheap ring cake tin at the Newtown Salvation Army store and was amped to make something in it. I’m not going to even try and present this cake to you as if it’s anything new and revolutionary, but who could possibly turn up their nose at a slice? I based the recipe on the Banana Breakfast Ring in Feast by Nigella Lawson. It’s a little more spongy and springy than your trad banana cake, but still moist and delicious and very simple to make. And is it just me being irrational, or are ring cakes way easier to slice up than normal ones?

Banana Cake

60g butter, melted
3-4 ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs
150g brown sugar
50g white sugar
250g flour (I actually used 200g flour and 50g cornflour, but whatevs)
1 t each baking soda and baking powder
2 heaped tablespoons sour cream

Mix everything together gently, bake in a buttered and floured ring tin for about 45 minutes at 180 C. I iced it with a mix of butter, icing sugar and cocoa and it was perfect. Some kind of lemony icing would be equally marvelous, I’m sure. The cake may or may not keep well, it didn’t really sit round long enough for me to find out.

Well, well, well. Wellity wellity wellity. I hope to get another post in before Christmas, it has been quite slow here lately but my excuse about the slow computer still stands. Conversely, time is going so fast. I finish work for the year on the 23rd and then shall commence the annual war with my luggage in that (a) I have to cram everything in and (b) I have to pay exorbitant excess baggage fees on my flight home because they weigh too much, apparently saying bitterly, “Hey lady, it’s Christmas!” doesn’t really help the situation. Even though I’m only just getting home this side of the big day I hope to fit in a ridiculous amount of goodie-baking. New Years will be very quiet for me, and Tim will be in Wellington working through at Starbucks, but we will be hitting the ground running come 2009. In a matter of weeks -admittedly, several weeks- we will be seeing Neil Young and goodness knows who else at the Big Day Out, Arctic Monkeys (that’s right, we bought tickets to their Wellington gig even though they’ll be at Big Day Out), Kings of Leon AND The Who. Oh yes.

I haven’t been on Twitter for a while, once again the slowness of the computer prevents such frivolousities, but here are some random thoughts:

– I heard my neighbour singing the other day. Does this mean they heard me singing Defying Gravity while no-one else was home?

– What did we use for the saying “recharge your batteries” before the advent of electricity? Did people take mini-breaks or book facials because they needed to “stoke their coalrange” or somesuch?

– I wonder if Leonard Cohen ever got called Leotard as a child. Admit it. Now you’re wondering too.