breakfast on incandescent, built to chew, dream to find another world

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I often say (and prove) that it takes a village to raise me, as is the case with today’s recipe. I was gently prompted by my wise friend Charlotte to get snacks (that was actually essentially the entire advice but I was like my god, a fresh and bold perspective from a true maverick, which tells you what kind of baby the village is dealing with here. But also: having snacks on hand is useful! I mean, did you know that, without someone telling you?) And then, acting upon this advice and making myself a large batch of granola – cheap, filling, nutritious, snacky – I was suddenly panicking that I wasn’t going to get it photographed before darkness fell and my wise friend Kate was simply like “why don’t you take a little out of the oven and put it in a bowl and photograph that while you carry on cooking the rest” and I was like my stars, a genius walks amongst us, lo and behold her shrewdness meant I was able to take the photos you see here in the last fifteen minutes of workable light that the day held, and in doing so I realised I’d actually forgotten when I’d even put the granola in the oven in the first place, and it was in fact extremely ready to come out anyway. This all might sound really stupid but I’ve been experiencing higher than usual anxiety (I’m fine and my higher-than-usual anxiety is way lower than the everyday-anxiety of a few short years ago but it still comes around, you know?) and when it’s there it means my brain is less able to put one foot in front of the other than usual and my usual is honestly not that impressive anyway, and having things slowly spelled out to me still feels like I’m trying to sit an exam that I haven’t studied for, and what looks like a simple conclusion seems like the most staggering realisation.

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I have made a lot of granola in my time, and I confidently assert that this is one of my best. To expound the “get snacks” advice – now that I’m not working, I (a) have resumed a relatively normal body clock and so am actually eating breakfast, (b) am not getting fed at work and so need way more of those aforementioned snacks, and (c) I’m not earning any money so it behooves me to make something at home in large quantities rather than recklessly just buy food when I’m hungry. Granola is a tidy solution. It’s simple to make, it lasts for ages, it’s not too expensive to put together, it’s nutritious, and it tastes good at any time of the day.

Caramel Walnut Granola

A recipe by myself

  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup desiccated or shredded coconut
  • 1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup linseeds
  • 1/2 cup rice bran oil or similar plain oil
  • 1/2 cup date syrup
  • 1 cup dates, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 large pinch sea salt, to taste

Set your oven to 150C/300F, and get out your biggest roasting dish – the sort that’s the size of one of the entire oven shelves ideally – and line it with a large piece of baking paper.

Pour the oats, sunflower seeds, walnuts and linseeds directly into the paper-lined roasting dish, and stir to combine – or just use your hands to shuffle everything about. Drizzle over the oil, then the syrup – and I recommend it in this order so that the syrup slides easily out of the now-oiled measuring cup – and stir it in, or again, use your hands. Place on the lowest shelf of the oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring once or twice partway through, till it’s golden and toasty and browned. Allow to cool, then stir in the dates, chia seeds, cinnamon, and salt, then taste some to see if it needs anything extra. Store in an airtight container. This makes a lot.

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This recipe is very comfortingly low-key – the caramel flavour comes from the date syrup, which helps give that requisite crunchy clumpiness to the oats as it crystallises under the oven’s gentle heat, plus actual dates, which taste like little chewy nuggets of toffee. Date syrup is relatively easy to get hold of these days but if you can’t, golden syrup or maple syrup would be fine instead. It’s worth hunting for though – date syrup has this almost liquorice intensity without being too overtly sweet, I really love it. The slowly toasted walnuts, buttery and soft, mesh so well with the date flavour but obviously granola is one of the easiest things to go off-course on to suit your own tastes, needs, and accessibility. You could consider adding almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, I’m just naming nuts and seeds now but you get the idea, dried apricots or dried apples or dried cranberries or figs, you could leave out the coconut or add heaps more, you could leave out the chia seeds or find an even more expensive superfood to add. I went with lots of 1/2 cup measures to make things easier but if you’ve got more or less of any ingredient that’s totally fine.

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By this point your finished product might end up being several times removed from mine, but like, I only came up with this particular recipe because I wanted to use up as many ingredients as possible that I already owned, so why shouldn’t you? And the point is: we’ll both have snacks.

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If you’d like further granolae of mine to consider, I recommend my recipes for Lux Maple Granola, or this Buckwheat, Cranberry and Cinnamon Granola (both gluten-free for what it’s worth) or Strawberry Jam Granola which I blogged about the last time I was staying with Kate and Jason almost five years ago (as well as taking a village it also took a village, and Kate and Jason are such village people.)

PS: As always, thank you in particular to my Patreon patrons for supporting me and my writing, you’re literally so immensely important. A mere handful of dollars per month directly influences my ability to write and indeed, snack, and gets you exclusive content in return, like book and film reviews or what star sign I believe each character from Gavin and Stacey is or a recipe for the best vegan scones. Signing up is easy and my gratitude is real.

title from: Metropolis, by Janelle Monáe, one of her very, very early works, I’m talking literally a demo album from 2003 – although its spaciously lush r’n’b sound and conceptuality feels amazingly recent.

music lately:

Waiting Room, by Fugazi. I just love this lurching, shambling song with its oddly sanguine call-and-response. (Credit where it’s due: I was reminded of this song after listening to an excellent Spotify playlist from La’Shaunae, one of my favourite models, for Tunnel Vision, one of my favourite fashion companies.)

My Sweet Lord, by George Harrison, look, it’s just very twinkly and uplifting and I have a real thing for songs that appear to start in the middle of the chorus and then just stay there, simply keep giving you more and more chorus, bigger and bigger, it lends them a weirdly addictive urgency of sound.

Mein Herr, by Liza Minelli, from Cabaret. Such a fantastic number – there’s something so satisfying about the way the lyrics travel across the beat in Minelli’s rich voice – “it was a fine affair, but now it’s over, and though I used to care, I need the open air” – and that exquisite, deliberating Bob Fosse choreography, so much about the negative space, with the bodies almost frozen in place but for a wiggling finger or rotating ankle, until it explodes into the floor-slapping finale.

Next time: I made a spaghetti recipe that turned out surprisingly amazing for how simple it was, I intend to try it again and if it turns out that it wasn’t a total fluke, well, you’ll be hearing about it.

which definitely is as exciting as pudding

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Christmas is approaching with all of the endlessly slow then suddenly in-your-face manner of, oh, to pluck an allegory from the air, the Golden Bangkok pre-amble to One Night In Bangkok from the musical Chess, you know the one, you’re like “oh nice, an overture to open the second act, that’s reasonable” and then after a while you’re like “they’re really just … going to repeat that third movement again” and after a while it’s like “look, when will we ever get to hear Murray Head attempting to rap somewhat incongruously in the middle of this sung-through musical?!” and then suddenly there’s a flurry of violins and there he is rhyming “oyster” with “cloister” and then it’s over! With all this in mind, I made up a pudding recipe for Christmas Day.

But first: I have not been feeling entirely like myself lately, I would say in fact pretty definitively that it has been, in fact, what would appear to the casual observer to be something approaching a depressive episode; the casual observer might follow up by saying “but Laura? Why? Everything appeared to being going fairly wonderfully, perhaps more wonderful than you’d ever dared to be possible and full of more possibilities than you could ever dare wonder, how on earth could you be feeling so down?” And I would reply “well that’s more of a fervent observation than a casual observation but I relish the attention nonetheless.” I would then say, “I’ll tell you why it is so, that I’m feeling kind of blank and absent and not inclined to do much other than lie in bed and watch Frasier. I’ll tell you exactly why.”

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The reason is: you just cannot predict when it’s going to happen, no matter how much trust and faith you put into your current situation, no matter how tightly you hold onto that handful of sand, no matter how long the overture to One Night In Bangkok goes on for, sometimes it just surprises you by not being that thing anymore with all the speed and subtlety of a brick thrown into a bowl of jelly. Now, what I am not saying is that you should go through life with your trust dried out and hardened like an old piece of bread just in case you start to feel down. Please, continue to enjoy a moment without suspicion. I’m just saying, sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down. It is what it is. And while it is what it is, I found myself also feeling like, completely furious about it. I went from never better to better never and I didn’t want to cook or write and that was so infuriating to have these two things that are so crucial to my existence not available to me.

But anyway – because (a) it’s Christmas and I would like to bring this jingle-bell curve upwards and (b) because there is more to the story than me being intermittently subdued or incandescent with rage: I came up with a recipe! Which I believe is absolutely a sign of getting better. And now I’m writing about it! Cooking and writing! And indeed, before you get too worried (another thing I’m mad about: now I have to worry people? That’s so far down the list on my preferred forms of attention!) I genuinely am on the up and up and have been doing lots of good good things to augment my festiveness: my best friends Kim and Kate came over and we drank bubbles to toast 2/3 of us finishing work for the year; I’ve been watching Christmas episodes of my favourite television shows; I’ve been listening to the Christmas albums of various Broadway stars; I’ve done my Christmas shopping; I went to my work Christmas party and danced in the sun for roughly yet literally four hours straight and it felt really, really, really good.

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AND there’s this Christmas Sticky Toffee Pudding! Which I made up out of nowhere! And it’s unbelievably delicious! It’s also a pretty straightforward concept: just regular sticky toffee pudding but with some Christmas elements added to make it aggressively seasonal, yet I cannot express how much of a crowd-pleaser it is. By way of illustration: on the day that I made it last week, a friend had come to visit on her way to therapy and we sat there just looking at it and I was like “tbh I’m too depressed to eat, do you want some?” and she was like “honestly I’m too anxious to eat, no thanks.” And so we carried on looking at it. But then, bolstered, united, and probably with a sense of friendly obligation on the part of precisely one of us, we decided to share a slice and agreed that it did indeed taste fantastic! That’s how good it is. So caramelly and butterscotchy and (*checks thesaurus*) caramelly! So dense and rich! So (*checks Nigella*) redolent of Christmas! (Nigella uses that word a lot, that’s the joke.)

Christmas Sticky Toffee Pudding

A recipe by myself

  • 1 cup dates, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup prunes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup/250ml boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (or neutral vegetable oil)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon allspice (optional tbh)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or similar)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 and 1/3 cups plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa

Toffee Sauce

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 3 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk (look for one with 80% or higher coconut extract)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons custard powder (or cornflour) mixed with two tablespoons cold water

Set your oven to 180C/350F and lightly grease an oven dish, you know, one of those standard sized ones that you might bake a pudding or brownies in?

Place the dates, cranberries, prunes, baking soda and water in a large mixing bowl and allow to sit for five minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients, with the flour and cocoa last (and consider sifting them, I reckon) and spatula the lot into the baking dish. Bake for 30-45 minutes – it will depend on your oven – until the centre springs back when you press lightly on it and a knife or skewer inserted comes out clean. Cover the edges with tinfoil if they seem to be browning too much while the centre is still uncooked. Again, depends on your oven.

While the pudding is in the oven, get started on the sauce. Tip the coconut milk, brown sugar, golden syrup, salt, and cinnamon stick into a saucepan and bring to a good solid simmer. Allow to bubble away very gently over a low heat for half an hour, swirling occasionally and scraping down the sides with a spatula if need be. Once the time is up, remove the pan from the heat and discard the cinnamon stick. Stir in the custard/water mixture. When the pudding comes out of the oven, stab it several times with a skewer or knife – whatever you’ve been using to check its done-ness – and pour over roughly a third or so of the sauce. Transfer the rest of the sauce to a jug for people to pour over as they please.

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Obviously cranberries are super Christmassy, I also feel the warmth of cinnamon drifting through the toffee sauce and the intensity of all the spices in the pudding itself offer that let-it-snow cosiness which I somehow feel impelled to conjure up despite the sweatingly intense heat of a New Zealand mid-summer Yule. Now, the prunes, they’re honestly just there because I happened to have some; you could leave them out and up the cranberries, or you could include some raisins or sultanas for a more fruitcake buzz. You could consider a splash of brandy or rum in the sauce, or the cake, or your mouth, to add to the general festivity, and you could also consider not worrying at all about the fact that this recipe happens to be vegan: it tastes fulsome and rewarding and abundant and like pudding should.

This morning I, the prodigal son, the fatted calf, am flying up to stay with my family and spend Christmas with them for the first time in a few years, and I am honestly extremely excited to cook this for everyone, and! To relive the traditions of a Christmas at home: seeing the tree decorations from my childhood, listening to the old Disney and Tin Lids and Bing Crosby albums, being studiously, ruthlessly ignored by the cats. As for you, I hope you also have a wonderful time however you observe the holiday: casually or fervently.

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title from: Sam, a mellow ballad as lethargically slow-moving as toffee sauce from my absolute favourites, Meat Puppets.

music lately:

I started watching this musical TV show called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and while I tend to be cautious in terms of receptiveness to parody musical numbers the absolute homework that went into this show is genuinely extraordinary, it’s like, scholarly when it comes to musical references. The title refrain from West Covina, the song the lead character Rebecca sings about deciding on a whim to move cities in the hopes of running into a guy she used to date is really very beautiful. (I also recommend the impeccable Marilyn-ness on The Math of Love Triangles. and I think I also learned some maths from it?)

Mudhoney, Into the Drink. Good energy.

Velvet Underground, Heroin. As utterly bewitching as it is useful as a unit of time to sternly instruct yourself to clean your room for the duration thereof.

Next time: I’m going to try to blog again before the end of the year and also just generally continue hurtling ever upwards on a one-horse open trebuchet!

sometimes I think you’re just too good for me, every day is Christmas, every night is New Year’s Eve

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With last week’s post being absolutely enormous I thought I’d make this one fairly low-key, calm, brief. But then I watched classic Christmas film Die Hard for the first time ever and it’s really hard to not feel seasonally hyped up after that, right? So instead I decided to do the absolute opposite and give you something high-key, vast, yet still fairly calming in its own way: my annual round-up of recipes from this blog that I think would be worth considering if you’re wanting to do the home-made edible Christmas present thing. Whether or not Christmas is something you acknowledge, be it for religious reasons, self-preservation reasons, or something else entirely, there’s no denying that it’s going to literally happen this very month and besides, you could use this list at any time of year that you have a person for whom a gift is required. I for one think there’s nothing more delightful than the tangible and consumable result of a person’s concentrated time and effort as a gift, not to mention the joy of stomping on the delicate, exposed foot of capitalism by DIY-ing it yourself. (That said – and look, no one is out here defending capitalism, don’t worry – I’d also like to throw my voice to the chorus urging you to consider shopping local/small/ethical/indigenous/gay/generally independent this season.)

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THE HUNGRY AND FROZEN MODERATELY INDISPUTABLE LIST OF EDIBLE GIFT RECIPE IDEAS FOR LIFE, NOT JUST FOR CHRISTMAS

Caveat 1: Because this goes so far back through the archives, the majority of which I spent neck-deep in butter, well, there’s going to be some butter. I’ve marked accordingly whether a recipe is vegan, also gluten free if applicable – I see you!
Caveat 2: Because this goes so far back through the archives the continuity/life details on display in any given post might be kind of jarring and this is what happens when you write about many details of your life for eleven years! But if we can handle our TV characters like, changing haircuts and so on throughout the course of a series, so can we handle such things here.
Caveat 3: (And just know that I couldn’t help but hear “O CAVEAT THREE-EE-EE” in a superloud, third-time-round, “O come let us adore him” vibe in my head) I moved my blog over to WordPress halfway through this year and all the formatting completely fritzed out, so just know, every single individual blog post that I’ve linked to here that does have, y’know, line breaks, has had its individual html edited by me, and I haven’t quite managed to catch them all yet. This caveat is more of a weird flex, but.

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Category 1: Things in Jars

Too easy! Jars make everything look pulled together and clever, whether it’s the unsinkable salted caramel sauce or some pickled-into-submission vegetable. To ease any anxieties – which you admittedly might not have even considered having, but that’s why I’m here –  on the part of both giver and receiver, I advise including a gift tag with some recommendations of how to use the stuff within the jar ( and “consume in one go in bed” is entirely viable here.)

Subsection A: Saucy Stuff

Subsection B: Stuff stuff

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Category 2: Baked Goods

As easy or as hard as you like, whether it’s some cookies in a takeout container with a ribbon around it (and honestly: those takeout containers – you know the ones – are always useful to have around so it’s not a cop-out) or whether you go full out, make someone an enormous Christmas Cake and find a tastefully yet jaw-droppingly stunning plate to serve it on and make that part of the gift too. To maximise on tis-the-season seasonality I recommend embarking on all baking projects late at night with some kind of liqueur by your side, it just feels right.

 

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Category 3: No-bake Novelty!

This is (a) lots of taxing recreations of candy you can get for like forty cents at the corner dairy, (b) lots of stuffing existing products into other existing products and (c) nevertheless the most fun category.

And one more for luck:

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Almond Butter Toffee

a recipe by myself

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) water
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3 heaped tablespoons crunchy almond butter
  • 250g dark chocolate
  • sea salt

Line a baking tray or tin with a large piece of baking paper.

Place the sugar, water, and cream of tartar in a saucepan and slowly bring to the boil over a medium heat, without stirring at all. Let it continue to bubble away for five to ten minutes, until it just starts to turn golden – even though it’s boring for a while, don’t walk away or lose focus or it WILL burn, it just will – and as a pale gold cast creeps across the bubbling sugar, at this point immediately remove it from the heat. I hate to be harsh but if the sugar has turned a dark golden brown this means it’s caramelised too far and will taste harshly bitter and burnt; better to start over with more sugar and water than to try to forge ahead, I promise (I speak from much experience.)  Stir in the almond butter, and, working quickly and carefully, tip the lot onto the sheet of baking paper, coaxing it around with a spatula if need be to make it an even shape/thickness. Sprinkle over a good pinch of sea salt. Allow to set and get completely cool, then break it into pieces. 

Melt the chocolate however you prefer – short bursts in the microwave does it for me – and dip each piece of toffee in the chocolate before returning to the baking paper lined tray to set again. Sprinkle over more sea salt if you wish. Store refrigerated in an airtight container.

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This stuff tastes not entirely unlike those magical Daim bars (or Dime bars as they’re known in the UK) with a buttery, snappish crunch that is somehow sweet enough to taunt the teeth with impending fissures and yet mellow and balanced enough for you to eat an alarming quantity without giving it a second thought. As is or chocolate-dipped: novelty perfection. (And especially delicious if kept in the freezer, for some reason.)

I guess humans make traditions to give us something to cling on to in a harsh world, something that marks the passage of time other than the time itself, and making this list has become something of a tradition for me so it’s nice to visit it again, even as my eyeballs throb from all that painstaking hyperlinking. Even if you don’t make a single thing on the list – and you’re under absolutey no obligation to – the fact that you’re reading this far means you’re part of my tradition too. Sentimental, yes! But as I said: I watched Die Hard for the first time, so, you understand.

title from: Sade, The Sweetest Taboo. The sultriness! Ma’am!

music lately:

The Pure and the Damned, Oneohtrix Point Never ft Iggy Pop: “Someday I swear we’re gonna go to a place where we can do everything we want to, and we can pet the crocodiles.”

Turkey Lurkey Time, from the 1969 Tony Awards performance from the musical Promises, Promises. Another tradition! Every year on December 1st and not a moment sooner I rewatch this and every year I am breathtaken anew! Michael Bennett’s audacious choreography that cares not for your chiropractic bill! Donna McKechnie (in the red dress), triple threat, rubber-legged, spinal chord cracking like a whip! The lyrics which are SO STUPID! The final minute which every time makes tears spring to my eyes at the sheer magnitude of it!

Whack World, the album by rapper Tierra Whack. Every one of her songs is precisely one minute long (which is just perfect for me) with its own precise personality. I particularly love Black Nails and F**k Off.

Next time: less REALLY will be more, I promise. 

could we start again, please?

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In the time between my last blog post in mid-June and right this very second, I’ve been, with modest effectiveness, working on getting this site to a point where, to use a metaphor to briefly illustrate a much larger point while also weighing it down by explaining my use of metaphor in a belaboured, some might say deeply unnecessary way: the romance is rekindled in the relationship. I’ve loved writing this blog for almost eleven years now and damn it, I’ll love it again.

Part of that includes the added dimension of encouraging you strenuously to subscribe to this blog so you can receive the posts, before anyone else sees them, in your inbox each week! I just thought it would be fun!  What you’re reading now is the post, (edited lightly for context), that I already sent out, because of course this is still a functioning blog and I don’t want to make you sign up to get these posts sent to you. But it’s like, aren’t we all conspiratorial and cosy and secret, and isn’t this easy, just me landing in your inbox without the unspeakable drudgery of having to go manually find my blog yourself. It’s a little like the pilot episode of a TV show where I’m seeing what works, things might get moved around without explanation in further episodes, but if I didn’t actually post this now, unpolished and unprepared as it is, it might never happen. But also like, imagine me being polished and prepared ever. It’s good to laugh!

I realise the last blog post I did back in June is VERY heavy on this same kind of talk about, you know, where am I going and what am I doing and is it just that I’m too tired all the time or is it that I’m scared that if I had the time to create I still wouldn’t achieve anything, so I’m going to try to not double down on that. I will concede that the last few weeks have been massively busy at work with the Wellington on a Plate food festival going on and what I’ve lacked in spare time I’ve made up for in lack of spare time.

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But here’s what I’ve actually done. While the layout of the new-not-new hungryandfrozen.com isn’t perfect and there’s broken links everywhere and strange formatting from the blog being uprooted from format to format like an army brat; I feel like this latest home has a warmth that the last one was lacking a little, and that made me feel distanced from what I was creating. My dear friend Jason patiently walked me through the entire process and did a lot of fiddly code work, and even more heroically, a lot of answering my endless emails. (Did you know he moved 640 blog posts over to WordPress for me? “What a dick” I said, upon discovering I’d written that many.) My wonderful friend Matt made me a beautiful new logo – scroll up and look at it! – which I feel kind of encompasses everywhere that the blog and I have been. And finally I, Laura Vincent, wrote this post. What a hero.

Because I love to not be able to see the woods for the trees, I naturally got incredibly stuck on just what recipe to don’t-call-it-a-come-back with. Whether it’s ADHD or I’m just a slatternly genius, I genuinely cannot achieve a single thing during the allotted, logical achievement time. No, not for me: I instead must wait till the very last minute and then do it all at once, heart pounding and words falling over themselves. That’s what happened here. After tapping my foot impatiently for days and days this black salted caramel ripple ice cream came about in my head very suddenly, and thank goodness: it’s incredible. And ice cream being one of my very favourite foods: it’s appropriate.

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Tahini has this rich, fudge-like texture and while I was sold on the blackness of the colour alone, for vague goth reasons unrelated to being even the slightest bit goth and more about simply enjoying ascribing the word goth to things willy-nilly in a doubtless irritating way – the actual flavour is a little sweeter and more mellow than regular tahini. If that’s all you can find though, it’s extremely sweet as. The other major component is simply golden syrup, which has this buxom sweetness, all mouth-fillingly caramelly and sticky and almost buttery once you add the salt to it.

And almost is the crucial word there, because I guess the other thing of note since I last posted is that I’ve decided to go a bit vegan. I hesitate to actually label myself as such with any fanfare since that would seem to set me up for failure, but it’s just something that I’m doing and I am enjoying it. Initially I was all, “restrictions make creativity flourish!” but now it’s less about the absence of animal products and more about the abundance of literally everything else. I wouldn’t say I don’t want to talk about it per se, since all I want to do is talk about myself, but it’s just something I’m trying and it’s been very low key and do-able so far.

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So it helps if you think of this salted caramel sauce as not just good in comparison to what it’s not, but in fact how good it is on its own terms: salty-sweet, slow-movingly thick as it slides off a spoon into your mouth, buttery and butterscotchy and rich. Freezing amplifies the fudgey texture which contrasts deliciously with the icy, clean swirls of delicately flavoured coconut cream wrapped around it. On top of which, this ice cream is – as I intend for all my recipes to be – really, really easy to make.

Black Salted Caramel Sauce

  • 125ml/half a cup black tahini
  • 125ml/half a cup golden syrup
  • 3 tablespoons coconut cream
  • Sea salt, to taste, but at least a teaspoon

Get a jar ready to tip the sauce into. Warm the ingredients together over a low heat in a saucepan, stirring constantly, till it forms a thick, shiny black sauce. Remove from the heat and spatula into the jar.

Black Salted Caramel Ripple Ice Cream

  • 125ml/half a cup black salted caramel sauce
  • 2 x 425ml cans coconut cream (forgot to say this in the email, but absolutely use the remainder of the can from which you took the small amount of coconut cream for the sauce, as opposed to opening a whole other one) 
  • two tablespoons golden syrup

Empty the cans of coconut cream into a large bowl and whisk in the golden syrup. Continue whisking briskly until the coconut cream thickens somewhat, like, it’s not going to look like whipped cream but it’s going to have some body to it, you know?

Pour the coconut cream into a container and freeze for at least an hour, until it’s partially solid. At this point, drop spoonfuls of the caramel sauce into the semi-frozen coconut cream and use a skewer or chopstick or similar to swirl ripple patterns into them. Try to use as few movements as possible or the whole thing will end up grey, and the point is to have dollops of caramel sauce amongst the frozen coconut as opposed to blending it all together.

Freeze for about six hours, or until completely solid, then take it out of the freezer about twenty minutes before you want to eat it to let it soften a little.

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If this has stirred within your loins an urge to make further frozen things, may I direct you to other blog posts I’ve done of this nature, such as my recipe for Cucumber and Lychee Sorbet or my recipe for Lemon Poppyseed Ice Cream.

title from: Could We Start Again, Please from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, an eleventh hour plea to match the eleventh hour nature of well, literally everything that I do. I first came into contact with this musical when we saw the local production of it up in Auckland in 1994, with laser lights and Janet Jackson microphones and people from Shortland Street in it, naturally it had an enormous effect upon me. Whoever did the arrangements for the vocals in this particular production and decided to have Simon Zealotes slide upwards on “ought to call a halt”, thus adding extra drama and anguish: thank you. Margaret Urlich was so beautiful as Mary Magdalene and I stand by my 1994 assertion that her voice sounds like two silver coins being rubbed together.

music lately:

Mitski has been casually, effortlessly ruining me. I’ve been listening to Thursday Girl over and over and over, it has this mellow early 90s singer songwriter Natalie Merchant Sophie B Hawkins ache that I genuinely cannot get enough of.

I’ve been watching a lot of this show Kingdom about MMA fighters and initially I thought the soundtrack was amazing but occasionally it’s more that no, the snippet of this song just sounded amazing while these handsome men were doing some high-stakes beating up of each other. I Got Skills by Mozes and the Firstborn though, is appealing in or out of diegesis.

Next time: I don’t know yet but it’s good to be back. Uh, and it will be something vegan.  And you’ll find out sooner if you subscribe, but also just waiting for the blog posts is ENTIRELY valid. 

and her pink skies will keep me warm

I was a very righteously-opinioned child. For example, I took the mathematics curriculum as a DIRECT PERSONAL SLIGHT against myself and would injuriously huff about it at any given opportunity (and especially in opportunities that weren’t given.) Like, in any schoolbook from my youth I’ll take jabs at it – not least in the actual maths workbook itself where I’d constantly write evaluations of my work complaining about how unfair and stupid maths is, and take great pleasure in defacing each and every possible blue-lined square with colours and stars and patterns. God help the defenceless teacher if there was an “about me” section in any piece of work – I’d be all, “I’m Laura Vincent and I hate war, people who don’t understand the genius of the Spice Girls, and the fact that I have to do pointless, irritating mathematics.”  

 the rose tint

the rose tint

That’s just one example. I was also vehemently against the colour pink, simply because I wanted to rebel against the generally held gender norms that pink was for girls and blue is for boys. I definitely went through a distinct Barbie doll phase (I was in it mostly for the fashion, but I do remember being with my cousins and pretending to burn a Shaving Ken at the stake while several other Barbies danced around him triumphantly as we sung Sacrifice by Elton John – “we’ve got a Shaving Ke-e-en, and he’s our sacrifice”) but after a point I truly felt like not seeking out pink things made me somehow more superior. Pink was obvious. Obviousness was weakness. 

Tiny jerkfaced me could never have predicted that in the year 2017, I would embrace the very shade that I so long derided (okay so from the years like, 1999 – 2014 I was honestly neither here nor there on it) in the form of Millennial Pink.

Millennial Pink is a real phenomenon (there’s a great article charting its rise to prominence) and I ADORE it. In these garbage times, this shade is soft, it’s kind, it’s calm AS HELL, it’s really, really pretty. And it’s increasingly charmingly genderless, which I feel lil no-wave feminism me might have appreciated. It’s the colour of soothing tumblr aesthetics, of Drake’s puffer jacket, of Rihanna wearing pyjamas in the club, of watching makeup tutorials till you fall asleep, of brutally plain late 90s slip dresses, of rose quartz crystals, of Jenny Holzer truisms, of the icing on top of cream buns and doughnuts, of peonies and rose petals, of bleached and coloured hair on Instagram, of sun-faded walls with bright green plants propped up against them, of fluffiness and softness and dreaminess. 

All of which possibly sounds stupid but like, I like what I like. 

Hence why I found myself starting with a colour as an inspiration point and working backwards from there, and ended up with this extremely delicious toffee.  

I had some almonds kicking around from making orgeat for work and in the spirit of sustainability or the illusion thereof, I decided to surround them with crunchy, buttery toffee and smother them in rose-tinted white chocolate. Anything caramelly just bloody does it for me, and I sheepishly prefer white chocolate over the other sorts, so this resulting slice was extremely 100% my idea of a good time. Making toffee from scratch does require some patience and a healthy fear of getting too close to the relentlessly boiling sugar. What you get though is the most glorious stuff – your teeth sliding effortlessly through the silky, vanilla-y white chocolate into hard, almond studded salty toffee which shatters as you bite down into chewy caramel crystals.  It’s intense and it’s wonderful.

millennial pink salted almond white chocolate toffee

a recipe by myself

  • 250g butter
  • one and a half cups caster sugar
  • a decent pinch of sea salt
  • one cup of toasted almonds, blitzed in a food processor so they’re rubbly and chopped
  • 250g white chocolate
  • one teaspoon vegetable oil
  • a few drops of pink food colouring

This recipe looks really really long but it’s just a convoluted way of saying boil stuff then chill it then cover it in chocolate, it’s all pretty straightforward I promise. 

Line a regular sized brownie pan with baking paper . In a large saucepan, heat up the butter, sugar and salt and allow it to come to the boil. Let it bubble away, stirring only occasionally (it might seem like the butter won’t absorb into the sugar but as it boils the sugar will take it in, give it a few gentle stirs though if it eases your mind.) After a while, take a spoonful of the boiling sugar and drop it in a glass of cold water. Let it sit for a few seconds and then taste it – the texture you’re after is a good hard toffee crunch. If it’s more fudge-like, then you need to let it carry on boiling. 

Once you’re at this point, remove it from the heat and dump in the almonds. Give it a quick stir and spatula it briskly into the waiting brownie pan. This is like, the hottest thing on earth and it will continue to bubble VERY disconcertingly in the pan so just let it settle down for a bit before you put it in the freezer or it will throw your entire ecosystem in there out of balance. 

Once the toffee is cooled and firm to the touch, melt the white chocolate gently with a teaspoon of vegetable oil and add the merest droplet or two of pink food colouring. Stir gently and add more colour if you desire but go slowly! I used literally like, three drops for this stuff. Spatula it evenly over the surface of the toffee, and gently bang the base of the tin against the bench to settle any lines in the chocolate. Return it to the freezer, and then when that is finally set, slice it however you like and eat the damn stuff. 

 pink is the flavour, solve the riddle

pink is the flavour, solve the riddle

To be honest almost every time I make something starting with aesthetic instead of flavour or texture as the inspiration point I end up screwing up the recipe completely, as though the universe is admonishing me for being driven by such base instincts, but this worked out perfectly. Proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that wanting things to be pretty is like, not the worst. I ended up taking it around town and dropping off tasters of it at various beloved establishments before bringing the rest to work for my team like some kind of actual heroic angel. I know there’s some still waiting for me tonight when I go to work and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Just one woman’s opinion, but go forth and embrace pink. Oh and maths really does suck, I was right about that one. 

title from:  Frank Ocean, Sierra Leone, from his extremely very perfect album Channel Orange. 

music lately: 

I am regrettably completely head over heels for this guy from the UK called Rat Boy, who was clearly bred in a lab with the express purpose of being to my personal taste. Sample song: Revolution. 

As well as being an absolute BOP, Charli XCX’s song Boys is like…Millennial Pink condensed into one explanatory video. 

next time: It’s (SOMEHOW, and I suspect HIGHLY ILLEGALLY) September now, so like, let’s shuck off the heavy winter food and get into spring (it’s honestly colder outside than it has been all year but a gal can remain optimistic!) 

pile on many more layers, and i’ll be joining you there

three chocolate cakes sandwiched together with cream cheese icing and crushed up creme eggs and you can’t see it but there’s also an implied *painting nails emoji*

Well, Mars may be in retrograde and my April tarot card may be the tarot card equivalent of a heavy resigned sigh, but: ya girl is out here being thirty finally. (She says, quite thirty-ish-ly.) It seems only right that the first blog post I do after my birthday is for a birthday cake, yeah? Not my own, but instead one I made for my pal-and-colleague’s girlfriend’s 21st, because that’s a thing I do sometimes. Such a momentous occasion and an honour of a task calls for something a little no-holds-barred, and with the simple brief of “Cadbury Creme Egg” I set to work on what turned out to be this three layer masterpiece. Being the dingus I am, I stupidly only took a few cursory snaps of it on my phone rather than sitting it down and lovingly photographing it with my proper camera, but I was so pleased with the results – like, look at that thing! It’s beautiful! – that I decided to blog about it anyway, hasty photos and all. Who knows when you, yourself, might need to make a three layer creme egg cake!

 champagne for my real friends

As for my birthday, I won’t sugar-coat it for you: it was wonderful! It started when the clock ticked over to midnight the night before because I was still working; however all the hugs and frolics made it fun and I liked that I got to catch my birthday in the act, right as it started, without wasting a drop of it. As someone who wastes a lot of time fretting about wasting time, that was nice. The day proper had a professional hair wash and straighten like I am a fancy rich woman who just does that, real champagne, delicious brunch, the receiving of exciting gifts like tequila and a gilded bowl and Lana del Rey vinyl and a rather gobsmackingly beautiful record player; rewatching Once More With Feeling; a phone call home where tales of my birth and incredulity at the passage of time since then were recounted, and then lashings of wine and platters and selfies with beauties at the place where everybody knows your name (yeah, that’s right, I went back to work to hang out on my birthday, that’s how much I like the place.)

a bad but maybe useful photo of the three layers waiting to be iced

So, the cake! Oddly enough it was incredibly un-stressful to make – I made it in my mornings between doing wall-to-wall shifts at work and was still generally very serene the entire time. The mixture generously makes three moist, rich cakes with near-perfect tops for stacking and icing (I sliced a bit off one to make it super evenly flat, and this is how I know it tastes extremely good.) The icing of it is also very straightforward, and in fact the hardest thing about it is getting your hands on some creme eggs. I was going to ice the whole lot like a more traditional cake but decided to leave the sides nakedly exposed with the icing tightly spread into every gap a la momofuku – it’s actually much easier, and that way you can see the cakes themselves in a “you’re damn right this cake is three layers tall” kind of way and it’s all rakishly messy yet neat at the same time.

I could’ve gone for a more hardcore filling but decided that the tang of the cream cheese would gently counteract the bone-dissolving sweetness of the fondant inside the eggs while still showcasing them. Honestly, the more novelty involved the more serious and thoughtful you have to be. This cake is so majestic and tall and the creme eggs look so cute all halved and nestled in together that you really don’t have to worry about any further decoration but there’s also nothing stopping you – my one concession was to quickly melt a caramac bar and pour it onto the top layer to echo the look of the eggs’ filling, but it’s not that necessary.

These recipe instructions are long as hell, I grant you, but it’s honestly more or less chill. I just like to reeeeally explain stuff. As I point out in the recipe, I only had two caketins so baked two layers at once followed by a third, and it all worked out. Also, this would be easier with a cake mixer probably but I used a mere wooden spoon and honestly didn’t even do that great a job of creaming the butter and sugar and it STILL worked out fine so – let’s all just breathe.

triple layer creme egg cake

I made the actual cake itself by following the recipe from this site pretty well to the letter; all the random measurements are a bit of a faff but the cake same out perfect so I’m happily and trustingly passing it on to you. I deviated and made my own icing, if you wanted to take this cake in a whole other direction you could use whatever filling and icing you like. It’s a very good starting point.

cake:

one and a half cups good cocoa powder
one and a half cups boiling water
one tablespoon instant espresso powder (or plain instant coffee if it’s all you can find)
three quarters of a cup of sour cream
one tablespoon vanilla extract
375g soft butter
two and a half cups sugar
three large eggs
one and three-quarter cups plain flour
one and a quarter teaspoons baking soda
a pinch of salt

Take three 20cm springform caketins and line the bases with baking paper. Grease the sides with butter and sprinkle a little cocoa over them, shaking the tins about till they’re fairly evenly covered with a cocoa dusting. Set your oven to 180 C/350 F.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the cocoa, coffee powder, water, and sour cream till smooth. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together till creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time till thoroughly incorporated, then add about a third of the flour and baking soda (you’re gonna want to sift them if you’re going to all this trouble, the last thing you need is baking soda lumps) along with the cocoa mixture in alternating quantities, mixing till it’s a suddenly-enormous dark, smooth chocolatey batter.

Divide the batter evenly between the three cake tins, smoothing down the tops. Place them all in the oven and bake for thirty or so minutes, rotating their positions on the oven shelves halfway through to ensure even baking. If you only have two pans, then just bake two cakes using 2/3 of the cake mixture, then while they’re cooling, put the remaining third of the batter in one of the used cake tins and bake that after. This is what I did and it was totally fine.

Allow the cakes to cool completely.

Icing:

100g soft butter
500g cream cheese (this sounds like a lot but it’s just two of those Philadelphia packets) at room temperature
two cups icing sugar, but have more just in case
five or so creme eggs (perhaps grab a few extra in case anything goes wrong.)

Make sure both the butter and the cream cheese are soft, and your icing sugar isn’t lumpy, and then just mix the hell out of all three ingredients till you have a ton of icing.

Assembly:

Slice the peaked tops off any of the cakes if they’ve risen too much, so that they’re all more or less flat. Place one cake on your chosen serving plate, and place a good dollop of icing in the centre. Spread it out fairly evenly using the side of a knife. Unwrap one creme egg, roughly chop it, and sprinkle/drop the whole lot evenly on top of the icing. Then place another cake layer carefully on top.

Don’t worry if there are massive gaps between the layers, we’ll take care of that later. Repeat this process with the next layer of cake and another egg.

Finally, put the top layer of cake on and spoon most of the remaining icing on top. You want a decently thick, even layer on here. Now, using the side of the knife, smear remaining icing into any gaps along the sides, running the knife’s side around the sides of the cake to press it all in and to create a messy yet smooth look. Does that make sense? You kind of want the cake to look like it has just fallen out of a cylinder. Halve three creme eggs and arrange them, cut side up, on top of the cake. I melted a caramac bar and drizzled it into the centre just to add to the creme egg look, but it’s not essential. You now have a damn creme egg cake.

So I ate a bit of cake off-cuttage and a lot of icing and loved it all, but in order to strike real faith in your hearts about this recipe, let me quote the actual recipient of the cake, the birthday lady herself: “Argh it was amazing! With all of the layers and all of the creaminess and chocolate and just the fact that a cream egg could be transformed into a cake. Super awesome and delicious”.

I had a lot of fun making this cake and it was such a nice opportunity; and should you ever be called upon to make a fancy big cake I definitely recommend this one. If creme eggs are emphatically not your jam, I think this would be amazing with roughly chopped caramel-filled chocolate covering it with the caramel dripping everywhere; or with smashed up oreos, or with milk chocolate melted and drizzled all over the top, you see what I mean? For an enormous time-consuming cake made to a very specific brief it’s really quite versatile.

what a cute 30 year old.

Finally: fun birthday fact! It turns out that if you say “Happy Birthday” to me I’ll immediately say it back to you without thinking. I’m not sure if it’s cute or weird or both (the Laura Vincent Story) but it’s what my brain has decided is a fantastic reaction and I can’t break it. Not that I – or indeed, you – have to worry about it for another year. Happy birthday!

title from: Pink Floyd, Shine On You Crazy Diamond. I may not be inspired by Pink Floyd to write poetry anymore as I was in my teens – for which we can all be relieved – but this song still goes off. Very slowly. And what an imperative in that title!

music lately:

Something To Sing About, from Once More With Feeling. As I said, on my birthday I rewatched this, the musical episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Joss Whedon can be ever so Joss Whedony but I’ll never deny the incredible cleverness that went into writing this episode. All the songs are brilliant and Something To Sing About is 100% NOT the best place to start if you don’t know the story because of the massive spoilers and lack of context but it’s still my favourite and you should watch it anyway. Buffy’s eyes! The discordant wobble when she sings “heaven!” Spike’s half smile when he sings back at her! The time signature changes! I died.

By My Side, Godspell. I busted out my copy of the original broadway cast recording of the musical Godspell on vinyl and while it hilariously does not hold up, the music is still endearing and By My Side is still one of the most beautiful songs ever written.

Penguins and Polarbears, by Millencollen. Couldn’t say why, but I truly adore pop-punk singers when they sound completely congested, which Millencollen delivers upon handsomely. If the lead singer makes you want to swallow an antihistamine for your own safety, then chances are I’m all over it. (There’s a point during the Green Day Bullet in a Bible concert performance of Brain Stew where I’m pretty sure lead singer Billie Joe is literally just dribbling incomprehensively and I love it.)

next time: I think I mentioned last time that I made homemade matcha mayonaise but I also made this awesome granola stuff. Either way: deliciousness awaits you.

 

perfect hexagon of the honeycomb and you soothe yourself with the shapes you know

how much trouble can one ice cream be?

Prologue: Laura.

Confused yet? I decided to write this blog post somewhat in the style of a Baby-Sitters Club book, for no good reason other than it occurred to me and I ran with it.

Chapter 1

WHUMP! CLATTER! 

That’s the sound of me jumping onto my bed while holding a bowl of ice cream and delicious homemade honeycomb sauce, immediately knocking over the worrying number of empty juice cans that I’m lazily keeping beside it instead of putting them in the bin. “Auughhhh!” I just manage to stop the rapidly-melting ice cream and warm sauce from spilling over onto my bed. What a day!

I guess you’re wondering by now who I am, and what I’m wearing. Well there’s me, Laura – I hope you’re taking notes, I’m going to quiz you on this later! Psych! I’m kind of the humorous one here, or so I always say. I’ve got chin-length unruly red hair and glasses, but people do still hang out with me. I’m wearing these old cerulean blue shorts that I think used to be part of some boys’ high school regulation gym uniform (I love vintage!) and a white crop top that has the word “CHALLENGE” written across the front in big black letters, because I like to wear clothing that doubles as a friendly warning for what kind of person I am. I don’t have pierced ears, but people do still hang out with me. Most importantly, I’m eating ice cream, even though it’s not even breakfast time yet. I know what you’re thinking – how do I eat all this ice cream without getting in trouble? The thing is, I’m kind of an individual when it comes to doing what I want. I’m also the only person ever that has ever been into cooking. It’s kind of my one personality trait. If anyone else likes it, I’m certainly not acknowledging it!

this ice cream is sensitive and a good listener

Chapter 2

My best friends work during the day and I work at night, but when we get together, we always have a good time! We’re the best friends you’ll ever have. Does that sound like a threat? I’m inclined to tell you the intimate details of their respective family history, but that would be really weird, so I’ll just do a brief hagiography (that means documentation of the lives of saints, it’s a word I learned recently). There’s Kim, who has lo-oo-ong dark hair and the enormous macadamia-shaped eyes of a curious woodland deer. She’s kind of the wise, yet wickedly fun one of the group. Kate has just dyed her hair blonde, which means she is now even more popular and sophisticated – she also has a crazy household with a cat AND a dog, and a real, live, husband! Confusingly, Kate is also wise yet wickedly fun. This week because of Easter and having days off I’ve been able to see them relatively heaps and it has been very good for the soul, as the saying goes. For example, on Monday night we sat on the floor of my bedroom (it’s a great meeting space, I’m so lucky to have my own one!) and ate Pop-Tarts and drank Boulevardiers. That’s a cocktail which is like a negroni but uses bourbon instead of gin, and it’s one of my favourites. We clinked our glasses together in what we call “a toast”, and in that moment we felt like real Big City women.

darn it! I said ruefully. I only described their hair, not their outfits. 

 

Chapter 3

“We’re finally getting to the plot!” I thought ruefully, tucking a lock of unruly red hair behind my tragically unpierced ears. So, I’m kind of the “food blogger” around here. I’m also kind of an ideas person. I have Big Ideas and then Occasionally Make Them Happen Around Three Weeks Later If I’m Awake Enough, I know, it’s a little exhausting trying to keep up with me! When my Ideas and food blogging combine – bam! Honeycomb Sauce. Okay, okay, I had honeycomb ice cream at a local restaurant and immediately decided that honeycomb was the new salted caramel, and wanted to make some version of it for myself to have again and again in the comfort of my own bed and/or more normal area in the house to eat. But after some time I learned a little bit about myself and a lot about the true meaning of friendship: it’s not a competition. Salted Caramel may be heavily overexposed, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious. Honeycomb is just a flavour I hadn’t thought about in forever!

I know what you’re thinking – just honey and sugar? Way too sweet. Booooring. About as fun as a pop quiz or getting Salisbury Steak for lunch, neither of which I’ve ever actually experienced.

In fact, the delicate floral sweetness of the honey and the richness of the butter come together to make something pretty magical, and very individual. It doesn’t taste overly of honey, it’s more reminiscent of (that means “reminiscent of”, it’s a word I learned recently) actual honeycomb, the kind of stuff that you find inside Crunchy Bars or other similar candies hidden around your room. This sauce isn’t perfect – I admit! – half of it remained saucy and the other half solidified as soon as it hit the cold ice cream, but this was all so fun and delicious that I decided to share it with you anyway.

honeycomb sauce: a delicious prototype 

A recipe by myself. I’m thinking of adding a tablespoon or so of cream to it next time to see if that keeps it more liquid but I do love it just like this. 

100g butter
half a cup of sugar
one tablespoon brown sugar
one heaped tablespoon honey

Heat everything together in a saucepan, stirring gently as it comes to the boil. Remove from the heat once it starts bubbling and continue stirring for a bit. Allow it to cool somewhat (it’ll be like actual lava initially) before pouring it all over your ice cream. 



Chapter 4

I decided to end the day with ice cream and honeycomb sauce – after all, I’m a grown up and kind of a bad girl who makes her own rules. The remaining sauce had turned rock solid in the fridge, so I had to carefully sit the bottle inside a cup of boiling water to soften it, but during this time, I learned five more lessons about friendship. Unfortunately I’m still wearing the same outfit that I was at the start of this story, but to pad things out a bit, I’ll tell you about what I wore yesterday: a vintage white minidress with pink and orange diamond patterns across it and a high neck with a collar. I wore it with my yellow socks with pizzas on them and chunky black ankle boots – pretty wild, huh? I’m a pretty wild dresser!

feel free to judge how well the illustration matches the description

Prologue:

Ice cream twice in 24 hours – that day was a summer I’ll never forget.

title from: One Beat by Sleater-Kinney. Howl-y goodness. Oh yeah, and while I’m all “what would Kristy Thomas, President of the Babysitters Club, have to say about Sleater-Kinney?” I’m also dropping the conceit for the remainder of the blog post, okay?  

music lately: 

I’ve finally given Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton a proper listen and I am predictably entranced and addicted. That man is a beautiful genius and I will ramble at extreme length if given the chance to talk about him. Also look, please just watch him and other members of the cast perform My Shot for the damn president at The White House and I dare you to not get shivers.

Listening to one modern musical about historic political American times got me thinking about another one: Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, which in the opposite direction of the incredible success of Hamilton, ran for a mere hundred and twenty something performances on Broadway before closing. I saw a production of it in New Orleans a few years back but haven’t listened to it since; its pop punk sound is like…perfect? I don’t know what the best entry point would be, maybe Rockstar if you want something fast or Saddest Song if you want something amazing.

Kid Cudi with MGMT, Pursuit of Happiness. Whatever track this samples is intoxicating and then the rest of the song has the temerity to be excellent as well. This song is moderately ancient but sounds so fresh.

next time: the novelty is over, kids, and I have some brussels sprouts to emphasise this (they’re fried with pistachios and truffle butter though, so) 

for the want of the price of tea and a slice

Things I’ve said at work lately:

– here, have this salted chocolate cashew butter slice that I made. It’s dairy free and gluten free!

– uhh I have to go to the bathroom because my satin jumpsuit is actually on backwards and I’ve only just noticed

– hey, I know we’re kind of busy but I have a rather singular situation, the centre bit of my bra is hanging on by a fragile, tautly pulled thread and if I shake one more cocktail it will very likely break and bust open, and since I’m wearing a cropped top there is very little room for error here. Is it okay if I run home and change my bra? I can be back really soon- oh, you were just coming to tell me I could sign out? So there was actually no need for me to tell you any of this?

As well as wearing clothing quite uselessly, I also like to occasionally bring in treats to work to boost both morale and blood sugar. In this case I’d been toying with an idea, batting it about like a cat with a small felt mouse on a string, about some kind of nut butter slice covered in chocolate. What I made was fine, with a soft, fudgy texture in the base followed by the snappish crunch of cold dark chocolate, but it wasn’t quite there. As soon as I sprinkled some salt on top the flavours sprang to life and it all made sense and tasted properly delicious as opposed to giving the illusion of tasting delicious. So don’t leave that bit out, even if it seems either excessively sodium-ish or small enough to forget about.

This is so easy to make – truly, the hardest bit is getting the various nut butters and coconut oil out of their jars without flinging them everywhere. Indeed: if you end up getting slightly more than half a cup of each ingredient it’s completely fine. I know I probably did.

salted chocolate cashew butter slice

a recipe by myself 

  • half a cup cashew butter
  • half a cup peanut butter
  • half a cup coconut oil, melted
  • half a cup LSA mix, or ground almonds
  • quarter of a cup icing sugar
  • one tablespoon honey or maple syrup
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • sea salt

Mix the nut butters and oil together till smooth, then tip in the sugar, honey, and LSA and stir again. Pour it into a brownie tin lined with baking paper, and freeze till firm. Gently melt the dark chocolate and remaining coconut oil together, and pour over the base. Freeze again. Once you’re pretty confident that it’s completely solid, sprinkle with plenty of sea salt and slice up however you like.

(Regarding that bra situation: I juuuust made it home before I heard this muffled popping noise indicating the valiant thread had finally snapped. I was sad to see it go, I called it my “power bra” because I got it in New York and it basically positioned you in such a way so you could break a glass ceiling with your own buoyant cleavage. I was like…I’ve defeated my power bra. Am I too powerful? Do I have to eat the bra now, like that scene with the Khaleesi in Game of Thrones?)

As well as giving you an energy boost and being full of shiny-making ingredients, this has a gorgeously buttery, mellow flavour with a pleasingly dense bite to it. Texture is everything here but you can totally play with flavour too – you’re welcome to use entirely cashew butter in the mix, but I decided to cut it with the much cheaper peanut butter so as to not make this ridiculously extravagant. You could, however, use almond butter or all peanut butter or add cinnamon to the base or whatever you like, really. If avoiding dairy isn’t a daily task for you, then you could definitely use white or milk chocolate on this instead – and I do adore both – but the bitter plainness of the dark chocolate against the creamy, nutty base is genuinely pleasing.

We ended up being extremely busy on the night that I brought in my container of this in to work, so I left it in the freezer and when I opened up the bar the next day it was entirely gone: I am taking this as positive feedback. I myself couldn’t stop eating the stuff that I’d left in the freezer at my apartment, so for what it’s worth my own personal feedback is highly positive.

All I’ve really been doing is working lately and I’m so tired that all I can talk about is how tired I am like it’s my one personality trait (as opposed to in high summer, when my one personality trait is that I’m sweatily overheated.) But I managed to make this delicious stuff, and I somehow overthrew my own Power Bra, so I guess I’m doing alright.

title from: Us and Them by Pink Floyd – I used to be incredibly obsessed with them, then dropped off a bit, and now am back to gently sincere fondness.

music lately:

Billy Bragg and Wilco, Walt Whitman’s Niece. I used to listen to this song all the time, it has this rollicking, shambling quality that I love and the call-and-answer bit is charming.

Roots Manuva, Witness the Fitness. This song is on the work playlist and no matter how exhausted I am it brings me back up every single time. It is a TUNE.

next time: I’ve been mucking around with this roasted broccoli turmeric coconut thing recipe which may appear here.

 

you could have my heart or we could share it like the last slice

so delicious that Pony by Ginuwine starts to play non-diegetically when you take a bite

There’s a scene in the important film Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, where Dewey Cox is starting his rapid trajectory towards being a famous rock’n’roll star. He tells his wife Edith, “I’m gonna miss some things, okay? I’m gonna miss some birthdays and some christenings. I’m gonna miss some births, period. It’s just unrealistic to expect that I’m gonna be here for every time you have a baby.” I’m currently relating heavily to this, apart from, tragically, the bit with the ascension to fame, because I’m week three into working roughly five thousand times more hours than I normally do. Luckily, I adore my job and doing so many hours does make payday fun, but all I’ve been doing is sleeping and working which doesn’t bode well for getting blog posts done, or indeed anything. In fact, I’ve been trying to write this very one here that you’re reading for about seven days now, but every time I went to write I would instead just stare into space and then wake up three hours later, gently spooning my laptop like it was some kind of ergonomically disappointing teddy bear.

Yet finally here I am! With a really wilfully stupid peanut butter chocolate caramel slice! It was in a brief moment of lucidity that I concocted it, taking a base made largely of peanut butter and actual butter, a centre made of condensed milk and more butter and a handful of roasted salted nuts, and a top of melted milk chocolate. Seriously, that’s really all there is to it. You pretty much know the recipe now.

hey baby, I think I wanna marry you

It sounds like it would be stupidly, almost uncomfortably sweet and rich, and while admittedly I have literal syrup running through my veins instead of blood and therefore my bar for the overly sweet is set quite high, I assert to you that it’s honestly very manageable to eat. In that you could easily manage to eat three quarters of it before you even realise the knife is in your hand and you’re standing at the fridge slicing off thick squares of it.

Oddly enough it’s the caramel centre that keeps it in check – you blast the hell out of the condensed milk and butter in the microwave before spreading it across the base, and all that heat reduces it down and brings out the ocean-deep dark toffee flavours present in the sugars. Then the roasted nuts, crunchy as popcorn and covered in salt, add to this. Just in case it starts to sound all too sensible I then cover it in the plainest sweetest mellowest milk chocolate, but with good reason, because dark chocolate would be too punishingly intense and make it a chore to eat.

it isn’t too hard to see, we’re in heaven

Speaking of important movies and delicious things that make people flustered, my one other accomplishment of recent time is, last night I went to the movies and watched Magic Mike XXL with my girlfriend and her flatmates. But Laura! I said to myself. Aren’t you really like…gay? How could a movie about male strippers possibly hold your precious attention? My people, this movie is one of the best pieces of filmmaking I’ve ever encountered, one of the most joyful, kind-hearted, generous movies, and honestly, a rare film where women of all shapes and skin colours and faces have fun and are celebrated and support their friends and are in charge and are never, ever the joke, even though you keep thinking that’s where the movie’s gonna go. A film where men are emotional and express their love for each other without once adding “no homo”, but also a bisexual character is not seen as a curiosity to be analysed and picked apart. A film where guys listen to women and help them, not in a “you frail stupid woman let me do this better than you” kind of way, but a “I’d like to make things better so you can be happy because that’d be nice” kind of way. Just when you think it’s gonna zig, it zags. Honestly I’m getting emotional just trying to write about it.

Oh and if you’re into the sight of men and stuff, there’s…a lot of abdominal muscles being flung around. But truly, this movie is so very good, in the way that an old dog tied up on the street waiting patiently for their owner is good. Take your mother, take your 300 year old grandmother, take your husband, take your nine year old child, take everyone to see this movie! Put it this way: I came out of it saying that I’d actually love to read think-pieces on it, and normally my attitude towards think-pieces is that they should be thrown into the ocean. So. While I’ve been berating myself frowningly for not being outstanding in the field of achievement lately, getting this movie under my belt (hey-oh!) makes me feel like I’ve used my time very wisely.

just imagine another song from the Magic Mike XXL soundtrack here okay

Okay, one more thing about this movie before I get back to that other ridiculously sexy caramel confection: I love that there was more or less zero conflict. The characters were just happy and chill and overcame small hurdles and that was it! I have come to realise that I hate when movies, especially movies about an existing entity are like, what shall we do with these characters that the audience knows and loves – better make them fight and be isolated from each other until about ten minutes before the end. (For some reason A Goofy Movie is what sprang to mind here: hot take, A Goofy Movie was a bit disappointing.) Up with niceness! Okay that’s quite the end of my breathless and shrieking thoughts on Magic Mike XXL. On here at least.

peanut butter chocolate caramel nut slice

a recipe that I made by smashing several Nigella recipes together and adding bits of my own thoughts so yeah

200g smooth peanut butter
50g soft butter
half a cup brown sugar
one and a half cups icing sugar

one tin sweetened condensed milk
200g butter
two tablespoons golden syrup
half a cup (or so) salted roasted mixed nuts 

200g milk chocolate

Line a brownie tin – either a 23cm square one or a regular sized rectangular one – with a large piece of baking paper. Use a wooden spoon to beat the peanut butter and butter together, then carefully stir in the sugars (I say carefully, because icing sugar tends to fly everywhere in dusty white clouds at the slightest provocation) until you have a sandy, crumbly mixture. Press it into the base of the baking tin, using the back of a spoon (it helps if you dust it with icing sugar first) to flatten it out fairly evenly. Refrigerate while you get on with the filling.

To make the filling, melt the butter in a decent-sized china bowl (or something else microwave-proof) and then stir in the condensed milk and golden syrup. Microwave for five to seven minutes, stirring every minute or so – it will bubble up angrily but shouldn’t overflow, it’s better to stir it too much than to let it burn or overflow though – by which stage it should be thickened, and darkened into a rich, but still fairly light, golden colour. Let it sit for a bit to cool slightly, and then stir in the nuts. Pour this over the peanut butter base, using a spatula to get every last bit out and to smooth it out on top, then refrigerate till set and firm. 

Finally, microwave the chocolate in short bursts till it’s collapsing, and stir till it’s totally melted and smooth. Gently spread across the caramel layer, and allow to set either in the fridge or a cool place. 

Wait, I’ve achieved two other things lately: I zoomed to a party after one of my shifts and danced my face off with friends and had my sister-from-another-species vibe with Percy the corgi reconfirmed.
And, I dyed my hair purple. Well, more specifically, I stuck my hands in the pot of purple dye and kind of mussed up my hair (which was at the time a fading blue colour) in a haphazard manner just to see what would happen. It turned out pretty well, I think. In fact there’s probably also a metaphor for my life in there (or at least I’m self-centred enough to think that pretty much everything could be a metaphor for my life and indeed, that my life is fascinating enough to warrant multiple metaphors to represent it.) (I’m not sure if that made any sense but in my defense: oh man I’m tired.)
title from: Drake, Best I Ever Had, which is just…so Drake. “Sweat pants, hair tied, chillin’ with no make-up on/That’s when you’re the prettiest, I hope that you don’t take it wrong.”
music lately:
 
Carly Rae Jepsen, Run Away With Me. It’s like the best eighties song you don’t remember. 
 
Janet Jackson, No Sleep. It’s so dreamy. She’s back and she never even left.  
next time: I’m still working a ton more than usual but I’m gonna try so hard to cook for myself one time and blog about it before, I don’t know, the next financial year end rolls around. 

down with love, with flowers and rice and shoes

I have a day off today and approached it with gleeful anticipation of writing a blog post with diligence and discipline, but instead I had a terrible sleep last night (the kind where you just wake up at irritatingly regular intervals for no good reason) and I’m assuming it’s that which has left me staring listlessly at the screen unable to think of anything cool to say about this rice pudding.

So then I had a break and spontaneously danced around the lounge, free-limbed and embarrassingly passionate! I leapt and did high kicks and sank into the splits and twirled! And now I’m back on the couch sitting under my laptop and I’m still tired and uninspired but like, dancing was fun, I guess. But if doing enthusiastic self-flinging to Inside Out by Eve Six and Problems by ASAP Rocky and Honey to the Bee by Billie Piper can’t help inspire one to talk about rice pudding, then, well. What is there.

But now that I think about it, having worn holes in my socks from pirouetting on carpet and exhausted my lung capacity from doing powerful leaps, this rice pudding was really, really good. I don’t even consider myself someone who considers rice pudding…at all. But I had some at a cafe recently and was, upon eating it, filled with profound thoughts like “This is so exemplary, I might make my own damn rice pudding some time.”

The rice pudding I’ve made is part of a mighty enough English tradition of milk-based puddings, with this being rice cooked slowly in said milk till it has swollenly absorbed the lot and turned all creamy and soft and comforting. Numerous cultures worldwide have their own similar version, presumably with everyone coming to the same culinary conclusion around the same time many years ago. It can be utterly vile, and worse, boring, but when made right it’s pretty brilliant. Rice has its own subtle flavour and texture which suits the aggressive creaminess, and as a prop for other flavours – in this case, sesame-tinted caramel sauce and sugary blackberries – it’s excellent.

I was determined to avoid any troubling blandness here so used a mixture of full cream milk and water plus milk powder, which seems counter-intuitive for the sake of it, but if there’s one thing I enjoy, it’s seeming counter-intuitive for the sake of it. But also I do like the vanilla-salt-kick that milk powder gives, and have this vague and unfounded scientific feeling that a mixture of milk and water makes for better liquid absorption. The rice itself releases its starches slowly, making it stupidly creamy all on its own, and then you can pour over as much actual cream as you like once it’s cooked. The sesame seeds aren’t super necessary but their warm toasty nutty flavour makes things more compelling, and works oddly well with the particular tartness of the berries. And when you’re making a pudding that you’re not entirely sure you’re even that enthused about the concept of in the first place, “oddly well” is a highly respectable result.

rice pudding with blackberries and sesame caramel sauce

a recipe by myself. Serves four, although I ate the lot entirely alone (in two sittings, not that I’m entirely concerned what you think about my portion-related decisions) This makes honestly about seventeen times more caramel sauce than you need but it’s nice to wake up the next morning and drink the remainders of it while standing in front of the fridge. I’m assuming you’ve got frozen blackberries here, but by all means use freshly picked ones if you’ve got them, you princess of the meadow.  

three cups full fat milk
two cups water
four tablespoons full fat milk powder
two tablespoons sugar
a pinch of salt
three quarters of a cup of arborio rice

one cup of frozen blackberries
one tablespoon caster sugar
one teaspoon vanilla extract

one tablespoon of sesame seeds
50g butter
half a cup of brown sugar
half a cup of cream
a small pinch of salt

Place the blackberries, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl and leave to sit while you make the rice. 

In a large pot, bring the milk, water, milk powder, sugar, and pinch of salt gently to the boil. Pour in the rice and stir it, lowering the heat to a simmer. Allow to simmer, stirring often, for around thirty minutes or until the rice is swollen and soft. You may need to add extra water if it’s looking like this will never happen. I did. There was totally a point where I was like, ‘wow, I guess I’m never going to have rice pudding ever’, because the rice just would not soften entirely. You just have to keep stirring and tasting (don’t bother tasting till most of the liquid is absorbed though) and eventually it honestly will be cooked.

Let it sit while you make the caramel sauce – toast the sesame seeds in a small pan till they’re browned, then quickly tip them into a bowl (quickly, because they will burn swiftly if left unattended) and in the same pan, melt the butter and brown sugar together. Once it’s bubbling, tip in the cream and stir vigorously, then remove from the heat. It might look all weird and separated but stirring will bring it together! Tip the sesame seeds back in along with the salt and stir them through. 

The blackberries by now should have defrosted into the sugar and be all glossy and syrupy. Spatula the rice into a serving dish, fling the berries and some of their syrup over the top and then spoon over as much caramel sauce as you like. Serve with more cream and caramel sauce for pouring over. Should you have leftovers, it’s worth knowing that the rice near the berries will turn an unpromising blue colour, it’s all good and all still plenty edible. 

Describing rice pudding as comforting might seem a bit obvious, but sometimes things are obvious for a reason. It is just so soft, and creamy, and mildly sweet, and warm, like eating that particular feeling where you pull a pile of laundry out of the dryer and then lie down and pile it all on top of yourself like a cosy mountain. The caramel sauce pierces all the plainness with its dark sugary salty toffee vibes, and the blackberries bring some pure fruity sweetness which feels necessary in the face of all that milk and starch.

And importantly, the berries also look so pretty against the snowy white rice.

Aside from trying to write this post I’ve spent the weekend thus far rewatching Skins, reading up with terror and horror on Ferguson (I recommend this brief but devastating piece by Roxane Gay), making a pre-wedding breakfast for a bride and bridesmaids at my flat (my roomie Kate being one of those bridesmaids), lying in bed willing myself to go buy iron pills, and anticipating December with trepidation. My tarot card for November was all “it’s over, let it goooo” and “get lots of hugs” and I’m not sure that I’ve quite lived up to the potential of it but I mean, I did cut my hair.
I still have short hair! And that was the weekly Laura’s Hair Roundup

So the thought of December being amongst us is making me a little nervous – this will be the first ever Christmas I don’t spend at home with family, because I’ll be working, and also there’s just that weird thing where the end of a year makes you consider every damn moment that’s led up to this point and what you could have done differently and what it all means and who you are and where you’re going with life and stuff. But my tarot card for December is Queen of Wands, which is a super rad one to have, being all about things like creative vision and achieving goals; enjoying the limelight; acting upon feelings; and, according to one site, potentially finding love by meeting someone through a light-haired friend (am I that light-haired friend to myself?) Cool, yes? Well, whatever the cards say could happen, as long as I thrive aggressively and be 100% successful in all aspects of my life and get intimidatingly rich and radiate pure happiness, I’ll be quietly satisfied. 
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title from: Down with Love, by that queen Judy Garland. Up with love, I say, but the song’s sentiment is pretty understandable sometimes. Especially if Judy’s singing.
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music lately: 
Eve 6, Inside Out. Erm yeah I listened to this about nineteen times yesterday, whatever. 
Lorde, Yellow Flicker Beat, live at the AMA’s. The last five seconds, chills through my heart. 
En Vogue, Don’t Let Go (Love). The lyrics to this are blisteringly good. “Have the right to lose control”, omg. This is the kind of song that gives me false nostalgia about the nineties. Actually, so is the Eve 6 song. Damn it!
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Next time: I might blog about the granola that I made for the bridal kids? It’s delicious stuff and looked pretty, and those are my usual requirements covered.