Bucatini with Chilli Oil Pumpkin Seeds [vegan]

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Okay, so there was the Chilli Oil Beans, and then the Sushi Rice with Chilli Oil Nuts, and now we’ve got Bucatini with Chilli Oil Pumpkin Seeds. I’m not trying to pretend like this recipe is a brand new thing! We’re day 85 into the Neverending Lockdown and I am frantically uncreative, and where my creative faculties once lived now sits a reluctant brick wall, covered in fast-moving moss, forgotten by mankind, perhaps to be discovered a hundred years hence by a plucky main character, but it’s looking dubious, and it’s only barely metaphorical. So – a little more repetition! In fairness, lockdown or not I am prone to fervently latching onto particular foods like they’re the new girl at school who needs a makeover, or a favoured mistress in the court of the Sun King. As I said in the prior iterations, and in the recipe, Lao Gan Ma chilli in oil was the initial impetus for this recipe, helped by watching numerous TikToks (eg Chef Priyanka and TiffyCooks) of people pouring hot oil over chilli and spices. My loyalty to Lao Gan Ma goes unchallenged, but also I can’t see myself getting sick of this chilli oil recipe any time soon, or running out of ways to use it. Above all, the most relevant justification for repeating it so often is – it’s really delicious!

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So yes, this is incredibly delicious, and it’s very easy – not exactly one-bowl, but there’s not too much in the way of dishes, and toasting nuts and heating oil is not so much a victimless crime as an act of charity, since you’re basically seasoning your pan in the process – I put mine away unwashed, but for a brief swipe using a paper towel, with a clear conscience. Because I ordered three packets of bucatini online back in September as a lockdown treat, I’ve used that here where you might expect to see noodles – and you could use spaghetti or any other long pasta or, of course, actual noodles. It’s not that these long hollow tubes are superior to any other kind of pasta or noodle, but the rarity of it feels fun and opulent. As you can see in the photos I also recently ordered myself a pretty, irregularly-speckled pink plate, as another treat. Getting little packages in the mail is not quite the same as interacting with my loved ones in the outside world and enjoying my one wild and free life but receiving a package is an undeniable rush, and a reminder that there is still much and many to be grateful for.

Well, what is left to say about this chilli oil? Last time I described “the jovial heat of the gochugaru, the aromatic fennel…the allium savoury vibes from the chives and garlic, the soft oil-pastel crunch and sweetness of the cashews and walnuts and the half-hearted yet welcome kick from the ground white pepper.” I’m not sure I can come up with anything new that’s better – just replace the cashews with pumpkin seeds and add the sweet warmth of a broken up cinnamon stick, the softened forbidden-woodchips of which I happily eat as I find them in the pasta, and that sums up this recipe. The bucatini is a perfect backdrop for these lively flavours, twirling them up in a merry vortex around your fork (best not to wear white while eating this) and it makes a stunning contemplative lunch or a casually elegant dinner, and is very easily doubled or trebled to feed more.

It would appear that the more simple and straightforwardly delicious the recipe, the more unhinged and long-winded the blog post must be, let this be a comfort, I guess, and confirmation of how truly good this recipe is.

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Bucatini with Chilli Oil Pumpkin Seeds

The chilli oil is back – it never left – and this variation is just as delicious as the others. An easy, fast, luxurious but chill vegan meal for one, I need you to know I didn’t actually measure any of these ingredients and it’s not something to stress about. As you can tell by how often I return to it, this chilli oil can be applied to numerous foods successfully, and I have Lao Gan Ma chilli in oil, and my devotion to it (plus several TikTok videos) to thank for the inspiration that led me to each recipe, including this one. Of course, you can use whatever nuts and seeds you have, and of course you can use spaghetti or noodles or whatever here instead of bucatini.

  • 90g bucatini
  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons gochugaru or chilli flakes of your choice
  • 2 tablespoons snipped chives
  • 1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped
  • a hearty shake of salt and ground white pepper
  • 4 tablespoons neutral oil, such as rice bran

1: Bring a large pot of water to the boil, salt it generously, and then cook your bucatini in it until it’s tender.

2: While this is happening, toast your pumpkin and sunflower seeds in a small pan until they just start to colour. Tip them into a heatproof bowl. Break the cinnamon stick into small shards, and add this to the bowl of seeds along with the fennel seeds, gochugaru – or your chilli flakes of choice – chives, the chopped garlic, and the salt and pepper.

3: Heat the oil – might as well use the same pan you toasted the seeds in – until it’s very hot. You can check by sticking the tip of a handle of a wooden spoon into it, and if small bubbles cling to the surface, it’s ready. Carefully pour this hot oil into the bowl of seeds and spices. It’ll sizzle and bubble but it should settle down quickly. Set aside.

4: Drain the cooked pasta and stir it into the bowl of chilli oil pumpkin seeds. Serve immediately.

Serves 1.

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music lately:

Carpe Diem by The Fugs. This is just – so cool!

Don’t Change by Limp Bizkit – a new album from Limp Bizkit in 2021? And they’re covering one of my very favourite INXS songs? Could this be good news at last? Yes! Despite the vaseline-lens softening of nostalgia and the constant mining of the past by both those who both lived through it and those who were conceived in it; time has not exactly been kind to Limp Bizkit, and to still be doing their whole thing in the vastly different climate of 2021 takes some chutzpah. Sure, a gentle acoustic cover is an easy win, and I was always going to listen with generous ears, but this song makes me very happy. (And while it’s low-key, it’s a significantly better decision than their 2003 cover of Behind Blue Eyes, which we simply won’t talk about. Of course, the best cover, and best example of Durst’s underappreciated vocalising, is always going to be Faith.)

I’m Here, from the Broadway musical The Color Purple, sung by Cynthia Erivo, who recently won the role of Elphaba in the film adaptation of Wicked, alongside Ariana Grande as Glinda. Wicked is so dear to my heart that nothing short of a pro-shot of the original cast could satisfy me, and musical film adaptations have been sharply diminishing returns since 2002’s stellar Chicago, but – Erivo has a voice like liquidised satin and she only needs one more letter to claim that EGOT. This could well be it.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Sushi Rice with Chilli Oil Nuts [vegan]

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This is quite obviously a gently reworked version of my Chilli Oil Beans recipe but we’re seventy days into lockdown and my concept of “my life” in general has been reduced to much the same level of control and robustness as the plight of the titular corpse in The Trouble With Harry, and my brain cells and general morale have all given up and lain on the floor howling, so you’ll forgive me for lacking flair. But! To say this does an unnecessary disservice to this recipe for Sushi Rice with Chilli Oil Nuts, which is wonderful and would be so in any context – even this one. (And here’s my disclaimer that I’m immensely pro-lockdown and pro-vaccination, I’m just massively frustrated and exhausted by our current frustrating and exhausting situation.) While this recipe’s origins are clear it also was tangentially inspired by one of my go-to struggle meals in Wellington when I was funnelling all my earnings into the particular unearned rent prices that city boasts, usually eaten in the dark at 4 or 5am after a shift – a hefty pile of toasted sunflower seeds mixed with olive oil, salt, and ground white pepper.

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The chilli oil already tasted amazing in its original format, but when I tutu’d with the proportions to make it more nut-forward (and I apologise for how weird that phrase looks on the page) as if the nuts were in fact replacing the beans as opposed to simply adding texture – well, it became even more delicious somehow. I had to march myself out of the kitchen to stop myself from eating all the waiting chilli oil nuts spoonful by spoonful as the rice cooked – and I realise this sounds like standard-issue blogger exaggeration but if there’s one thing you need to know about me it’s that I literally never exaggerate! And why would I exaggerate about food when it tastes good enough to simply describe it as it is?

The balance of flavours in these chilli oil nuts is quite exquisite – the jovial heat of the gochugaru, the aromatic fennel and star anise, the allium savoury vibes from the chives and garlic, the soft oil-pastel crunch and sweetness of the cashews and walnuts and the half-hearted yet welcome kick from the ground white pepper. You might think that all this, the sticky sushi rice and the taste detonation of kimchi would be enough, that you don’t need the richness of avocado along with the oil and the cashews and so on, but! Somehow even in these trying times an avocado still feels like a little treat, a surprise, like, surely it’s going to be a good day if there’s an avocado involved. Don’t leave out the avocado. That being said rice and the chilli oil nuts on their own would still be a great meal – and it can just be regular rice, not sushi rice.

In lieu of anything else going right, there’s one thing you can rely on to soothe and offer a brief, sanguine feeling of sanity: a perfectly composed bowl of rice.

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Sushi Rice with Chilli Oil Nuts

A very simple and utterly delicious solo meal (it is genuinely simple, the recipe just looks long because I like to talk!) – and despite its simplicity it also feels like you’ve really Done Something. Recipe by myself, with thanks to JustOneCookbook for their highly detailed instructions on how to cook sushi rice on the stove top, which I used as a reference.

  • 3/4 cup (or one rice cooker cup) sushi rice
  • 1/3 cup cashews
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons gochugaru (or whatever chilli flakes you’ve got)
  • 2 tablespoons snipped chives (I did not actually measure this and nor should you)
  • 1 fat garlic clove
  • hearty shake of salt and ground white pepper
  • 3 tablespoons neutral oil, such as rice bran
  • a tablespoon or so of sushi vinegar, if you have it, or a splash of apple cider vinegar and caster sugar mixed
  • together with a little salt
  • Kimchi and sliced avocado, to serve

1: Place your rice into a medium-sized saucepan and partially fill the pan with cold water. Briskly rinse the rice, swishing it around with your fingers and tilting the pan to drain the water out, without letting the water sit too much between rinsing. Repeat twice more. Once this is done, fill the cup measure you used for the rice with water and add it to the pan, and then repeat – perhaps placing your finger on top of the rice and checking that the water reaches your first knuckle, which means you’ve got the correct quantity of water – and then place the lid on top and set it aside for 30 minutes.

2: While the rice is waiting, get started on the chilli oil nuts. Roughly chop the cashews and walnuts and tip them into a small heatproof bowl. Add the star anise, fennel seeds, gochugaru or whichever chilli flakes you’re using, and the chives, then grate in the garlic clove (or slice it finely, up to you) and shake in the salt and pepper.

3: Heat the oil in a small saucepan until it seems hot – you can check by sticking the tip of a handle of a wooden spoon into it, and if small bubbles cling to the surface, it’s ready – and then carefully pour this hot oil into the bowl of nuts and spices. It’ll sizzle and bubble but it should settle down quickly. Set aside.

4: Place the pan of rice over a high heat, until the water comes to the boil (a pan with a see-through lid is obviously ideal here) and as soon as it does, turn the heat as low as it’ll go and cook for ten to twelve minutes. Then, remove it from the heat – with the lid still on – and let it sit for ten minutes. It’s best to not remove the lid at all during this entire proceeding but every time I’ve cooked sushi rice I’ve very quickly lifted the lid to swipe a small spoonful to test for done-ness and nothing bad has ever happened – make sure you’re quick about it, though.

5: Use a rice paddle or spoon to carefully stir the sushi vinegar (or ACV/sugar mixture) through the rice. Spoon your desired quantity of rice into a serving bowl, top with sliced avocado and kimchi, and then spoon over the chilli oil nuts.

Serves 1, but this makes enough rice for two – if you’re making this for two you could probably get away with just adding half as much of the chilli oil ingredients again rather than doubling it but I, personally, would want more.

Also – I especially like cashews here, but you can obviously use other nuts and/or seeds – peanuts, pecans, pistachios and pumpkin seeds would be great in particular. And if you really, really aren’t into fennel-y/aniseed-y flavours then leave out the fennel and star anise but for what it’s worth, liquorice is one of the few sweets I cannot face – it is the personal enemy of my palate – and yet I love the hint of it here. It’s not overpowering at all, and just adds a little ping of complexity.

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music lately:

Rave On by Buddy Holly, maybe it’s because I have only left the house twice in the last seventy days and both times was to get vaccinated but this song, my god! There’s something so wildly subversive lurking beneath its vaguely square surface – if not hiding in plain sight – every now and then you get hit by a wave, for just a second, of what it must’ve been like to hear a song for the first time, and as soon as he sings “we-he-he-he-hell” that wave crashes down upon me.

Venus In Furs by the Velvet Underground, this is definitely more of the subversion hiding in plain sight variety of song, from the moment it drops you headfirst into the molten hot wax of those opening violins to the laugh in Lou Reed’s voice on “bleed for me”. This is probably my favourite VU song – not an easy selection, nor a necessary one, really – and I was charmed to hear it right at the start of Todd Hayne’s elegant new documentary about the band.

I’d Love To Fall Asleep by Muriel Smith – you know what, considering this was sung in the post-Hayes-code era of films showing married couples in separate beds, this song is kind of subversive in its own way, too. Smith’s contralto is gorgeous and rich and the fuzzy crackle of the vinyl this song is playing on only adds to the comfort.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Chilli Oil Beans [vegan]

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For all that the instant and the fast and the promise of the fifteen-minute feast in seven ingredients or fewer have had a persistent hold on food writing directed at all people from around the age where they’re able to operate a toaster unsupervised; there is joy to be found in the circuitous route, in taking your time, in being present and looking your food in the eye (metaphorically, speaking as a vegan) and saying “I see you”.

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This is – you could say – a circuitous route to describe a recipe that is actually pretty instant, but I wanted to set the scene in case you glance over these Chilli Oil Beans and think “why would I do this when I could just open a jar of Lao Gan Ma chilli in oil instead?” Well, first of all, that would be a valid and delightful decision and I’m not going to talk you out of it! My recipe merely involves spooning sizzling hot oil from a pan into a bowl of aromatics, and this gentle yet decisive incubation process creates a stunningly fragrant and rich spice-jewelled condiment, absolutely lush stuff, and sheer magic against the creamy mellowness of the beans.

The road to this recipe was many-pronged – first, I was struggling to find kimchi online during lockdown, so I ended up ordering gochugaru (Korean chilli flakes) to make my own, and the bag that arrived was roughly the size of my head, so I had a significant quantity leftover. Second, several TikTok videos involving chilli oil entered my peripheral vision (including this one by Chef Priyanka and this one by TiffyCooks) and the notion of pouring hot oil over spices really stuck with me – and I know I keep bringing up TikTok but I’ve been in lockdown since mid-August, I live in the middle of nowhere and I’m 90% unemployed, so my reference points are going to be fairly narrow and repetitive, and that’s a personal guarantee! Besides which, TikTok can be a brilliant culinary resource, especially in the case of these creators. Finally, I’d been thinking about this chilli oil and how it would be wonderful stirred through beans or lentils – the dense, grainy legumes and the crunch of chopped nuts and quick-toasted whole spices and the crackle of hot chilli all together – and so, here we are.

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(every now and then I break my personal rule of never photographing food with ingredients scattered impractically hither and yon; but it’s my understanding that people like this kind of photography and the algorithm is a vengeful god who must be appeased with occasional sacrifices)

Whether or not you’re in lockdown this is just the kind of food that makes you feel free and glorious both in the making and the eating – and despite my opening paragraph, I really must reiterate how straightforward it is. Although I presume you know how to deal with a bowl of beans, this can be more than just a snack in and of itself. It would be excellent piled onto rice or stirred through pasta – short, I reckon, like orecchiette or ditalini – or wrapped in something burrito-adjacent; that being said I just kept sneaking more and more spoonfuls of it while standing up at the bench taking photos until there remained nothing more to photograph but the bowl and the spoon and a thin film of red-flecked oil. And of course, the oil itself can be used on literally anything! Even if I didn’t have a bag of gochugaru the size of my head to work through – a blessing, rather than a hardship! – I would definitely be making this again soon.

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Chilli Oil Beans

Fast, simple, delicious. So simple and delicious that I completely forgot to add fresh ginger and garlic and it still tasted amazing? Please consider adding a few chopped garlic cloves and sliced coins of fresh ginger; please don’t consider leaving out the aniseed flavourings, they’re important! Recipe by myself.

  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • a small handful of chives, snipped (around two tablespoons, it really doesn’t matter)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1-2 teaspoons gochugaru or regular chilli flakes (adjust to your tastes, of course)
  • a hearty shake of ground white pepper
  • 2 generous tablespoons rice bran oil or similarly neutral oil
  • 1/4 cup cashews, roughly chopped
  • 1 x 400g tin cannellini beans
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • dash sesame oil

1: Place everything up to and including the white pepper into a small, heatproof mixing bowl. Heat up the rice bran oil in a small saucepan until you can dip a wooden spoon into it and tiny bubbles start to gather – at this point, remove the pan from the heat and tip the oil into the bowl of spices. Add the cashews and let it sit for a minute.

2: Rinse the beans – and if you want them heated, you can take this opportunity to warm them through in the same pan that you heated the oil in. if you’re happy with room temperature beans, then hooray, one less dish to wash. Carefully remove the cinnamon stick and star anise from the mixing bowl, then tip in the beans and stir to coat them in the spiced oil. Stir in the soy sauce – adding more if you like – and a dash of sesame oil.

Serves 1, but depending on its application, (eg served on rice or stirred into pasta) this could serve more. If you are not a dolt like me and remember to include ginger and garlic I would leave the garlic in but fish out the bits of ginger. Obviously, you can use lentils, chickpeas, borlotti beans, anything you like, and you’re more than welcome to cook them from scratch rather than using canned. 

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music lately:

Spaceman by Babylon Zoo, I don’t know who greenlit this chaos but good for them, I still remember hearing it on the radio for the first time in 1996 and it felt like I was flying in a dream, the kind of song that makes a small-town youngster look out the window and say damn, this is living.

Caught Up In The Rapture by Anita Baker. Smooth, stunning, and it bears repeating: so smooth, so stunning!

Disappear by INXS – look, if you’re still within a strict lockdown level I don’t entirely recommend listening to this, it’s too exciting and too powerful. Cruelly, it’s on my mind – but then, it always is, lockdown or not.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Chilli Corn Macaroni [vegan]

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I’m not sure there’s a pasta shape in the world where the mere mention of its name immediately evokes and suggests its partner ingredient the way macaroni does with cheese. Yes, there’s spaghetti and its frequent dance partner bolognese. But spaghetti has broad-spectrum versatility, it’s culinarily non-monogamous, whereas – other than perhaps those spooky mid-century salads – what else would you do with macaroni but serve it as mac and cheese?

I say this to point out that while my recipe for Chilli Corn Macaroni isn’t supposed to be a vegan mac and cheese dupe, it still relies on the muscle memory of your taste buds to recognise the similar vibe – bright yellow, crunchy topping, creamy sauce, comfort food. In my earlier days of being vegan, I was more dedicated to coming up with sauces that could emulate and replace the macaroni cheese I’d grown up with, but the longer I stick with it the more I find myself making recipes that owe something to the blueprint but aren’t trying so hard, which – I think – makes them all the more interesting and delicious. I’m talking specifically about my Thai Yellow Curry Mac’n’Cheese or the Triple Pickle Macaroni that I made for my birthday last year; and now I’m adding this Chilli Corn Macaroni to the canon.

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And yes, you could make this sauce for linguine or bucatini or something more elegant but it fits best with the homely and unassuming macaroni elbow (or other small shape if that’s all you have) and till the day comes where a decent and affordable vegan cheese appears on New Zealand supermarket shelves – not crayon-waxy, not stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth gluey, but proper and sharp and able to melt into bubbling pools of golden promise – till that day comes, I’ll stick with these recipes.

That being said – would this taste amazing with non-vegan cheese melted on top? Probably! I’m not going to haunt your descendants from beyond the grave if you decide to do it.

Fortunately for the rest of us, this macaroni tastes excellent as is. The corn is pureed into sunshine-coloured velvet and becomes wonderfully buttery and sweet – if yellow had a flavour, this would surely be it. This sauce owes something to the Corn Butter Risotto recipe that I made a few years ago, but it’s significantly simpler to make – though nothing’s stopping you from straining this sauce through a sieve as well I imagine no one has the energy for that right now. While this is comfort food, it’s not entirely coddling you – the hit of chilli ties it all together, which is hardly a surprise when chilli and corn pair so well in numerous other established recipes. The garlic crumbs on top are my usual way of providing added texture and flavour in these circumstances, and rather than thinking of them as a cheese substitute, they are delicious, and indeed, necessary in their own right. In case this sounds like too much effort, rest assured that you don’t have to wash the blender or the pan between making the crumbs and the sauce – beyond that I can’t help you, but I certainly won’t judge you.

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Chilli Corn Macaroni

As long as you have some kind of blender this couldn’t be easier – or more comforting – just creamy, buttery pasta evocative of mac’n’cheese without actually trying to be it, blanketed in crunchy garlic crumbs. Recipe by myself.

  • 200g macaroni elbows
  • 2 pieces of bread (any kind is fine, although I’d lean towards white bread)
  • 2 fat garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 x 400g can of whole corn kernels
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (I used mushroom soy sauce)
  • a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha or chilli sauce of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal (optional)
  • a splash of pickle brine (optional, but very good)
  • salt and white pepper, to taste

1: First, bring a pan of water to the boil, generously salt it, then tip in the macaroni elbows and cook them for about twelve minutes or until tender.

2: While this is going on, toast the two slices of bread in the toaster – just to dry them out a little – then tear them into chunks and place in a blender or food processor with the garlic cloves and thyme leaves, and pulse till they form breadcrumbs. Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry these garlicky breadcrumbs till golden and a little crunchy – bearing in mind that they’ll crunch up more upon sitting – then remove them to a bowl and set aside. This makes a decent quantity of breadcrumbs, perhaps more than you really need, but naturally, I’ve allowed extra for you to swipe while making everything else.

3: In the same blender – no need to wash – puree the drained corn kernels along with the mustard, soy sauce, nutmeg, and sriracha along with about 1/2 a cup of water (I just eyeball the quantity from the tap into the empty tin of corn, swirl it around, and pour it in). A high-speed blender works best here to really puree the corn into velvety mush, a regular food processor may struggle to achieve the right texture, or at least, you’ll be blending it for a lot longer. Also, it goes without saying (but I’m saying it just in case) that you can add more or less chilli to suit your taste.

4: Heat the same pan that you cooked the breadcrumbs in – again, no need to clean it – and spatula the corn mixture into the hot pan, along with the cornmeal and pickle brine if you’re using them. The cornmeal helps to thicken it but it’s quite fine without; if you don’t have any just add a small splash of starchy pasta cooking water, the pickle brine is pretty self-explanatory flavour-wise but you could always use a little red wine vinegar instead. Stir over a high heat, letting this bright yellow mixture bubble away and thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste, and then – since the pasta should be cooked by this point – take off the heat and stir in the drained macaroni. Divide between two bowls and top each bowl with a generous quantity of garlic breadcrumbs.

Serves 2. You could get away with putting 300g of macaroni in this, but add a little extra pasta cooking water to the sauce as you stir it. Any more pasta than that and I’d add an extra can of corn (and instead of doubling the seasoning, you could consider instead throwing a vegan chicken stock cube into the blender with the second can of corn.)

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music lately:

Can You Get To That by Funkadelic. If the colour yellow had a sound it would be this song!

Evel Knievel by Lilys, it’s a big crunchy distorted beeping stop-start mess of a song but it’s just the kind of thing I want to listen to. For something more straightforwardly pleasant I recommend the delightfully effervescent Ginger – the opening song to Evel Knievel‘s closer on their 1994 album A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns.

Candy Store from the off-Broadway musical Heathers (based on the film, Heathers) performed by Jessica Keenan Wynn, Alice Lee and Elle McLemore; I listened to this cast recording and thought it was fine but then I couldn’t get this song out of my head so here we are – between that glam-rock stomp of a drum beat and the stunning harmonies it’s just very, very catchy! There’s also this one small part of the song Big Fun from the same musical which is forcibly lodged in my head and I can’t get it out, but to prevent you being similarly afflicted I won’t tell you which part.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Vegan Gochujang Bokkeum

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I’ve been vegan for about three years now, and comfortably so, but I’m only human and despite my claims, it is not just white chocolate that makes me occasionally question my every last firmly-held conviction. It’s Folu’s Unsnackable newsletter, it’s the memory of a filet o’fish – not that I think it would be hard to make a vegan dupe but a recipe for those pillow-tender steamed buns as yet eludes me – and it’s all the Korean food creators that I follow on TikTok. This recipe for gochujang bokkeum – a fried gochujang sauce with onions and beef – by Johnny Kyung-Hwo Sheldrick algorithmed its way onto my phone, and it looked so delicious, and I was sure I could make it vegan easily enough without squandering the vibe of the original recipe. (More so than the person who commented “is it vegan” to which Johnny gamely and politely replied, “without the beef it is”, such is the state of critical thinking these days.)

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Far be it from me to suggest that the food of a cuisine that isn’t mine needs me to meddle in it but as it stands, I don’t eat beef but I wanted to eat this. I’m delighted with my variation and I’m delighted that I found the original recipes that inspired it; I wouldn’t have come up with this without them. Rather than use a fake meat as a replacement I decided a rubbly mixture of blended up peanuts and sun-dried tomatoes would be ideal, and they were – the peanuts give texture, protein and nutty mildness; the sun-dried tomatoes add concentrated, near-meaty dark red savoury flavour and stickiness.

So far this gochujang bokkeum has been delicious on cold noodles, on hot noodles, and mixed into stir-fried vegetables with fake chicken; I know in my near future there’ll be a big spoonful of this on a bowl of rice with fried mushrooms, and I feel like it would work beautifully with a creamy texture as well – like these coconut chilli tofu noodles.

@hungryandfrozen

vegan gochujang bokkeum 🌶 SO DELICIOUS thanks @johnnykyunghwo for the inspiration🌶 #vegankorean #recipe #gochujang #veganrecipes #foodblogger #fyp

♬ Rumble – Link Wray & His Ray Men

All the peanuts and tomatoes spread that chilli heat out a little, but eating this is still a vigorous experience, and the gochujang, a Korean fermented chilli paste, is definitely pretty fiery. But it’s not only hot. It’s got these shadowy layers of flavour and depth and, as Nigella Lawson said in her book Kitchen, an “almost liquorice intensity”, a description that dances in my mind whenever I eat it. Besides, heat tolerance is a moving target and the only way to get used to it is to eat more. I don’t consider myself even close to being able to handle a lot of chilli heat and yet I keep sneaking spoonfuls of this; after a while your tastebuds do adjust – eventually you’ll be spooning it onto your breakfast cereal.

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Vegan Gochujang Bokkeum

This Korean fried chilli sauce is seriously delicious and versatile. I’ve replaced the usual meat with peanuts and sun-dried tomatoes, but the star ingredient is, of course, gochujang, a Korean fermented chilli paste. My vegan version is both inspired by and based on this recipe at Racheerachh Eats and this TikTok by Johnny Kyung-Hwo Sheldrick.

  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 and 1/2 cups raw peanuts
  • 10 sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used rice bran)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mushroom soy sauce (or regular soy sauce)
  • 1/2 cup gochujang
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1: Finely dice the onion and roughly chop the garlic. Place the peanuts and tomatoes in a food processor and blend them into a chunky paste; the peanuts should be in small pieces but not in any danger of turning into peanut butter.

2: Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy frying pan and gently fry the onions and garlic till they’re softened. Spatula in your peanut and tomato mixture and fry for another five minutes, stirring often – don’t expect it to brown or change appearance considerably – then stir in the sugar and soy sauce and keep stirring till the sugar has melted into everything.

3: Add the gochujang to the pan and continue to fry and stir for another couple of minutes, it will be a fantastic dark red shade and quite thick. Remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil and sesame seeds, and transfer to an airtight container or clean jar. Store in the fridge.

Makes around 2 cups.

  • Gochujang is more readily available in chain supermarkets these days but since most of my favourite ingredients come from Asian supermarkets anyway I tend to just get it there; either way, I’m afraid to say I go for the one labelled “mild”.

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music lately:

Mijn Droom [I Dreamed a Dream] by Pia Douwes from the 1991 original Dutch production of Les Miserables. I love finding the people in non-English speaking countries who are the go-to for theatre roles (like German powerhouse Willemijn Verkaik) and though I’ve heard of Pia Douwes I’ve never investigated her singing before, it was after watching a TikTok by BroadwayBob that I simply had to. She has this gutsy yet vulnerable voice that is made for the stage; I also highly recommend her Sally Bowles in the Dutch language Cabaret, it is, as you can imagine, quite powerful.

Legend of a Cowgirl by Imani Coppola, it’s the most 1997 sound imaginable and yet still so fresh and arresting and irrepressible and she should’ve been a megastar off the back of it.

It Hurts Me Too by Karen Dalton, one of those songs and voices that just makes you tearful the second you hear it. Good crying, not crying-crying, but after a while who can even tell!

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Vegan Miso Butter Noodles (two ways)

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Somewhere in the last ten years, two things happened: food blogs became more homogenised – facsimiles of facsimiles which trade strenuous perkiness for any discernible personality. And people on Twitter started complaining about food blogs, usually with the cadence of a joke but an absence of actual humour. “Get to the recipe, Karen”, they say, “I just want to know how to make pancakes, I don’t need to hear your life story. Don’t make me scroll through five paragraphs on your year abroad in the Tuscan hills and how it gave you a new appreciation for the mysteries of olive oil.” Everyone words it as though they’re the first person to be affronted by scrolling through a blog to find the recipe. Even Mindy Kaling tweeted this tired joke, and I know she knows how to be funny! (She since deleted it.)

Spend enough time ploughing in the Discourse Salt Mines and you’ll find insufferable takes on both sides (although anecdotal irritation doesn’t preclude one side from usually being considerably in the right.) For every re-tread of this same snide joke, there are a dozen earnest responses about valuing women’s labour (a valid point) and how bloggers get paid greater ad revenue if their posts are longer, or that Google SEO prioritises particular keywords and structures, or other words that mean nothing to me because my blog doesn’t earn me a cent and it’s too late to reverse-engineer any attention from Google’s finicky SEO.

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Yes, that’s certainly an explanation as to why these rictus-grin food blogs chant the same interchangeable phrases over and over, and my issue with them is that the writing is bad, not that I have to wade through it to get to the recipe – but my question is, why aren’t all the complainers simply reading better food blogs? And why are they so brutishly averse to even a shred of context and back story – who could possibly hate context? Imagine two marshmallows: one is sitting on a plastic plate on the floor in a room dimly lit by a flickering bulb, the second marshmallow is on a china plate on a tablecloth lit by candles with kittens roaming about and a sign saying “this marshmallow is delicious and hand-made using local ingredients” – which marshmallow do you think most people would choose? That’s context, baby! (I realise I accidentally made the first marshmallow sound cool as hell, but hopefully, you get what I was going for.) And even the most unreadable food blog is still providing you with a service, for free, that you could get elsewhere but you didn’t, because they made it easier for you – and I recognise how in their own bizarre bloodless way, these food blogs are as much social history as anything I’ll ever write or any food writer I love will ever come up with. They’re documenting a specific time when the tyranny of SEO flattened –

Okay, I also recognise the irony of kicking off such a blog post with absolutely no sign of the recipe in sight.

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This dichotomy of food blogs and those who consume them is always on my mind and the simplicity of today’s recipe for Miso Butter Noodles was what tied it all together for me and started this rant. Literally, just the simplicity: I was like, I have to reassure the readers that this is simple and they shouldn’t expect too much of it, but also that its minimal ingredients aren’t a mark of success in and of themselves and this is simple because it needs to be – and then I started spiralling – and, well, here we are. I feel like I’ve got more to say about food blogs and the space they take up, and perhaps one day I’ll revisit these opening paragraphs and expand upon them, but for now, I’ll start actually talking about the recipe since you’ve already scrolled this far, and I hear that scrolling is an exhausting task.

In 2013 my cookbook was published by Penguin, when writing the manuscript the recipe for Miso Butter Noodles was perhaps the easiest to commit to paper; it’s definitely the recipe I’ve made most since. In taking this favourite and recreating it to be vegan-friendly I knew I couldn’t just sub in vegan butter – aka margarine – or at least, not until I meet a brand my tastebuds can trust – and while you absolutely could use a homemade vegan butter, I didn’t want to presume such forward-thinking of you. If you’re coming to this recipe, you can make it on the spot using store-cupboard ingredients.

The salty, grainy savoury vibe of miso and the rich oiliness of butter make perfect sense together, and I knew there had to be a way to translate that to a vegan recipe without compromise. The result kind of is a compromise, in that I offer two versions: one simply using almond butter, which coats the noodles pleasingly and matches the depth and body of the miso. The second method – my preferred one – fools a few ingredients into acting like butter – coconut oil for fat, soy milk for protein, and vinegar to coagulate. Heating this together with miso paste makes for a more delicate and subtle yet surprisingly, genuinely buttery sauce, and each fat noodle strand is all the more delicious for it.

This is a very simple recipe and it tastes simple – it’s meant to! Feel free to augment any ingredients to make the balance work for you, and definitely add chilli if you want – I love it with Lao Gan Ma chilli in oil, but sriracha or chilli flakes would be friendly too – or garlic sauce, or soy sauce, or kimchi, or fried tofu, or wilted greens. It started life in the cookbook as the sort of meal you could rustle up for yourself while tired, tipsy, or both, and in the years hence it’s slid into pure comfort food territory – it soothes because it’s easy to make, it soothes because it’s salty and oily. I’m glad to have it back.

(PS: speaking of comfort food and things we’re glad to have back, I finally concluded season 1 of my Frasier food blog; to prepare I rewatched the episode under the most perfect of settings: it was raining, it was Sunday and I didn’t have anywhere to be the next day, and I was eating a bowl of these noodles.)

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Vegan Miso Butter Noodles

A revamp of a favourite comfort food recipe from my 2013 cookbook. I offer two variations depending on your ingredients and effort level – but neither version asks too much of you. As you can see this is an incredibly simple recipe: add anything you like to make it more your own. I can definitely recommend a large spoonful of Lao Gan Ma chilli in oil, but then I would recommend that for literally anything you’re eating. Recipes by myself.

Version 1: Almond Butter

This is the simplest of the two simple recipes – a little stirring and you’re done. Make the sauce in the bowl you intend to eat the noodles from for even faster results.

  • 1 x 200g package udon noodles
  • 2 heaped tablespoons almond butter
  • 1 heaped tablespoon white miso paste
  • chives to serve

1: Place the noodles in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let them sit for five or so minutes until they’ve softened. If you have a preferred way of cooking your noodles then do that instead, this is the slovenly habit I’ve fallen into (in my mind, if the bowl has just had hot water and noodles in it, it only needs a rinse before going back in the drawer…perhaps I’ve said too much but it is what it is.)

2: Whisk the almond butter and miso paste together, using a spoonful or two of the noodle water to loosen it into a smooth paste. Drain the noodles and fold in the miso-almond butter sauce. Taste to see if it needs more miso paste and then snip over your chives with kitchen scissors or finely chop them and sprinkle them over. Serves 1.

Version 2: Quick Emulsion

I need to come up with a more appealing name than “quick emulsion” but that’s what this is – you’re basically tricking these ingredients into acting like butter. Anyway, it’s very fast and gives a more subtle, delicate sauce – of the two, this is my favourite version, but they’re both delicious.

  • 1 x 200g package udon noodles
  • 1/4 cup soy milk
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar of your choice (I used Chinkiang black vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons refined coconut oil
  • 1 heaped tablespoon miso paste
  • chives, to serve

1: Prepare the udon noodles as above, or to your preference. Meanwhile, place the soy milk, vinegar, coconut oil and miso paste in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until it’s bubbling slightly and all the ingredients have combined to form a cohesive sauce. Drain the noodles and stir them into the sauce, then top with the finely chopped chives. Serves 1.

Note: if you have homemade vegan butter (eg this recipe or this recipe) then you can melt as much of that as you like together with a heaped tablespoon of miso paste and stir that through your noodles for an excellent time. If you have a store-bought vegan butter that you genuinely love and trust, then use that instead, too, and if you live in NZ please tell me the brand name because I want to know what love is!

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music lately:

Looking For Someone by 8 Eyed Spy. The film-noir horns and Lydia Lunch’s voice both have this incredible mix of bombastic yet careless, I love it so much.

The Key The Secret by Urban Cookie Collective, this song is simply pinging with unreal levels of euphoria – when Diane Charlemagne goes from “I’ve got the key, I’ve got the secret” to “I’ve got the key, I’ve got the secret” – that’s the sound of living!

Freedom! ’90 by George Michael. Those piano chords…that bridge…those supermodels…my life would be NOTHING without this song, that’s all there is to it!

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

Roasted Plum Harissa [Vegan]

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We’re still squarely in Plumtown. Last time it was the Five-Spice Plum Ice Cream, this time it’s Roasted Plum Harissa, an idea inspired by Nigella Lawson’s apricot harissa from her latest book, Cook, Eat, Repeat, which I joyfully received for Christmas. This book is exactly what I needed – not a cookbook as you’d expect it, but just an unhurried and welcome tidal wave of Nigella meditating with gentle persistence on food and its place in our lives. It’s honestly near-hypnotic.

Cook, Eat, Repeat, is the first post-COVID cookbook I’ve read – more specifically, it’s clear that the pandemic affected the course of the book, as Nigella talks about changing a chapter on dinner parties and offers several means of reducing recipes down to a single serve. It’s not as simple as merely, breezily, omitting content however. When she says, in the Christmas chapter – a time of year she has made very much her province in all its elaborateness – that as long as she had her children around the table that year she could “eat gruel and be happy” – when she says “we shall not be eating in isolation forever,” – well! Let’s just say the cookbook got stained with tears before it did with cooking ingredients. (I mean, it took me precisely one recipe to stain the book with ingredients, and as you can probably guess the contents of this harissa are also living on, pagebound.) I sometimes feel weird and ungracious barrelling on with blogging as though everyone reading this is in the same, relatively calm position I’m in – I also can’t rule out New Zealand unexpectedly entering another lockdown at any minute. Nigella, as per usual, is excellent at articulating not just the food, but every emotion and motivation and expectation and context around the food – and there is just so much to articulate!

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Anyway, the harissa. Nigella acknowledges that apricots aren’t traditionally used in this Tunisian chilli paste, and as for plums, well, they’re really not supposed to be there. But I couldn’t stop thinking about them together with the chillies and spices – possibly from the power of suggestion as opposed to culinary genius as we just had so many plums around – but either way, this harissa is lush, and for that, at least, I comfortably give myself credit. That plummy taste – you know, garnets soaked in pinot noir, something like that – plus their sourness, softened by the heat of the grill, is tremendous with the blistered chillis and all those whole spices – licorice-y caraway, smoky paprika, earthy cumin, and ginger-lemony cardamom and coriander. The combination of heat and spice, plus the sweetness, saltiness, and the richness of the olive oil, is incredibly compelling – you’ll taste it to see if it’s balanced and find your spoon returning again and again to the bowl without even realising it.

This harissa is immensely versatile – first of all, you can just use it wherever you might otherwise have applied some kind of chilli. It’s wonderful alongside tomato – the acid of the plums and the depth of the spices making the blandest, cheapest canned tomatoes come alive – and I’ve used it already in a tomato-based pasta sauce and a sort of patatas bravas-type dish with great results. It also works to punch up more mellow foods – for example, it would be delicious alongside or inside hummus, and in Cook, Eat, Repeat, Nigella uses her apricot harissa in a roasted cauliflower recipe – I’m sure I’ll be following her lead before long. For all of harissa’s versatility, we’re likely to move through most of it just from me swiping spoonfuls from the jar every time I pass through the kitchen, in fact, I’ve half a mind to spread it on my toast.

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Roasted Plum Harissa

Spicy, sour-sweet, extremely compelling. Recipe based closely on the Apricot Harissa from Nigella Lawson’s wonderful book, Cook, Eat, Repeat.

  • 6 ripe, firm plums
  • 3 large red chillis
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • seeds from 4 cardamom pods
  • one teaspoon ground turmeric (or 15g fresh, peeled and roughly chopped)
  • 25g fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt flakes, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon coconut sugar (or regular sugar)
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, extra
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1: Turn your oven to the grill (broil) function at 220C/425F. Slice the plums in half, discarding the stones, and place the fruit cut side up along with the chillis in a small shallow roasting dish. Pour over the two tablespoons of olive oil, turning the plums and chilli over and back again with your hands to make sure they’re all oil-slicked. Grill for about ten minutes, or until the chillis are wrinkled and darkened in places. The plums should still be holding their shape but look a little collapsed.

2: Remove everything from the oven. Place the chillis in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap or something airtight and more environmentally friendly should you have it, and set aside for a few minutes. This will make it very easy to peel the skin from the chillis – which is the next step – although it doesn’t matter if some skin remains. Discard the green stems from the chilli, and if you want a more mellow harissa you can pull/prise open the chillis and remove the seeds at this point, too. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards and avoid touching your eye area, as any chilli remaining on your fingertips will hurt like hell.

3: Place the deseeded, skinned chilli back in the small bowl along with the plums and any oil from the roasting dish (a spatula is useful here.) Place the caraway, coriander, cumin and cardamom seeds in a small pan and toast them over a low heat for just a minute or two, shaking the pan and stirring them to ensure they don’t burn. Their fragrance should, as Nigella says, waft up to you as they cook – this will let you know it’s time to remove them from the heat. Tip these spices into the bowl of chillis and plums.

4: Add the remaining ingredients to this bowl, and using a stick blender, blitz it to a bright-red, smooth-ish paste. Taste to see if it needs more salt, or maybe a dash more vinegar or sugar – you may also want to add more olive oil. You’ll know when you have the harissa you want.

5: Transfer this mixture to a clean jar, and store in the fridge. It may solidify or separate slightly after a while in the fridge, but a brisk stir will set it right again. I don’t know how long it keeps, to be honest, but I imagine pretty indefinitely.

Makes 250ml/1 cup.

Notes:

  • You can of course use Nigella’s originally stipulated dried apricots (six thereof) instead of plums. She also used 20g large dried chillis, reconstituted in boiling water, and the only reason I didn’t use them was because I absolutely couldn’t find any at my local supermarket. The sugar is also my addition, to balance the sourness of the plums – dried apricots wouldn’t need such sweetening.
  • If you use five or seven plums and four chillis or whatever I doubt it’ll hurt the recipe – you’ll just end up with slightly more or slightly less harissa.
  • If you don’t have sea salt, I would just add whatever salt you have a little at a time until the salinity suits your taste buds.
  • If you don’t have a stick blender, then a regular smallish food processor should do the trick, but maybe bash the spices in a pestle and mortar first or put them through a spice grinder (although if you have such fancy equipment as this you probably have a stick blender.) You could also surely make this whole thing in the pestle and mortar if you’re so inclined.
  • You might notice that the plums are actually grilled, not roasted, but I thought the word roasted sounded better, and then also it cuts out the potential cross-translation into the American word “broil”, which I just think sounds kind of terrible, comparatively. So, roasted it is.

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music lately:

Joy by Apollo 100. You may sneer, but five seconds of listening to this sheer exuberance will have you dancing an eightsome reel before your mind has even had time to process what your body is doing. The hymn Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, upon which this is based, is one I sang with negligible success in my school choir – and which I erroneously believed, until this year, was also sung by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa at the wedding of Princess Diana. The choir teacher told us this, possibly to motivate us to be less visibly tormented by that laborious time signature. The whole time, Dame Kiri actually sang Let The Bright Seraphim. This is exactly like the time I realised, after telling so many people that Rita Moreno was the first person to get an EGOT, that Rita Moreno was not the first person to get an EGOT.

A Depression Glass, by Spahn Ranch. Holds onto some of their earlier “chainsaw being thrown at your head” vibe while sounding extremely 1997 – in fact it sounds like it could have been in the party scene in the film Nowhere by Gregg Araki, which is one of the higher honours I could bestow a song.

Ridin’ For A Fall from the 1943 film Thank Your Lucky Stars, performed by Dennis Morgan and Joan Leslie (although, actually dubbed by voice-for-hire Sally Sweetland.) That “gal with the big blue eyes” line is astonishingly catchy, and although it’s not her singing voice, Ms Leslie’s charisma and good humour is so evident in every frame, I just love it. If I’m honest, I think they could’ve chosen a more relaxed vocal for this number – Ms Sweetland’s soprano is beautiful, but it sounds a little overcooked in this cutesy song. Someone with a more conversational tone, like say, Annette Warren (who provided the singing voices for Ava Gardner and Lucille Ball among others) might’ve been better. Even so, Joan Leslie sells it 100%.

Next time: I’m making cupcakes for my dad and brother’s birthday, I’m assuming they’re going to be delicious and so will share the recipe here.

PS: If you enjoy my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

Mustard Tomato Broth (or, Anti-Anxiety Broth)

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As someone with vast, abundant, storied, unceasingly and almost impressively regenerative experience with anxiety, I find myself – perhaps surprisingly – more mentally soothed by high-intensity noise. Loud, beat-driven music, aggressive ambient frequencies, moderately humorous mid-century patter songs.

This mustard tomato broth is like that. But in broth form. This is noisy food. When you eat this mustard tomato broth, all you can sense is its ingredients, and not your spiralling thoughts. I’m not saying I’m anxious right now, but even at my most serene my brain still sounds like someone is tap-dancing to Scotland the Brave while brandishing a chainsaw (as I often say, I only wish I were exaggerating for comic effect) and yet – I was notably silenced by my own lunch.

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The main source of shock-value here is a brisk spoonful of sinus-punting mustard powder. There’s balance though, it’s not mere distraction, otherwise I might as well simply direct you to snort the powder instead of cooking with it. You get sweetness and rich salinity from the tomato, briefly steeped in salt to draw out its liquid, effectively making you a small quantity of highly-flavoured stock. There’s lemongrass – if you have it – or a strip of citrus peel, to lend the broth an air of zesty optimism, and spring onion for its obvious savoury backdrop.

You can add extra bits to your broth, of course. I would’ve used chilli flakes but a mouse broke into our cupboard and ate them, so I used chilli sauce instead – only a drop, because there’s enough going on already without being wilfully obtuse. A dash of sesame oil would probably be lovely, you could also try this with horseradish instead of mustard if you can get hold of it. Though the tomato and salt has to sit around for a while, the remainder of the recipe requires the briefest of heating and stirring – and just like that, you have an outwardly tranquil and inwardly rambunctious snack.

I was tempted to call it Anti-Anxiety Broth on its own, but would like to hope the bulk of you can enjoy my recipe removed from that particular context, on top of which I don’t want to saddle it with expectations. Besides, the most relevant attribute is: it’s delicious.

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Mustard Tomato Broth, or, Anti-Anxiety Broth

A recipe by myself.

  • 1 medium-sized tomato (or a handful of cherry tomatoes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced (white part only)
  • 1 stalk lemongrass cut into short lengths, or a wide strip of lemon or lime zest
  • 250ml/1 cup water
  • chilli flakes or chilli sauce, to taste

1: Dice the tomato quite finely, removing the green stalk, and place in a small bowl or cup and sprinkle over the salt. Leave to sit on the bench for half an hour to an hour.

2: Transfer the entire contents of the dish – tomato, salt, drawn-out liquid – into a small pan. Stir in the mustard powder, then add the sliced onion, lemongrass stalks, and the water. Bring the liquid to the boil, stirring as you do, and remove from the heat as soon as it reaches this point.

3: Stir in chilli, to taste, and then tip everything into a small bowl.

Serves 1.

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music lately:

Cokane in my Brain by Dillinger. This is so charming and breezy and garrulous. “A knife a fork, a bottle and a cork, that’s the way we spell New York.”

Nag Nag Nag by Cabaret Voltaire, wonderfully sparkly and energetic yet droning and miserable, a true winning formula for capturing the attention of my ears.

King of the Wild Frontier, Adam and the Ants. When those drums come in! I have a real thing for any song that sounds this urgent, even if the urgency itself is lost on me. Back to the drums, if big noise is also your thing I highly recommend this incredible recording of The Drummers of Burundi from 1987, it was their sound which directly influenced – or was nicked by – bands like Adam and the Ants.

Next time: still working on that ice cream.

PS: If you enjoy my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

Spaghetti with Olives, Nori, Pine Nuts and Chilli

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Not once in my thirteen years of writing hungryandfrozen.com has a recipe featured anchovies. I wasn’t against anchovies – I also clearly wasn’t going out of my way to court their flavour. Being vegan now would suggest that stance is unlikely to change, but then I re-read a Nigella Lawson cookbook, as smooth and eroded from my fingerprints as a statue of Mary in a particularly tourist-friendly French cathedral, and suddenly I was consumed with trying to capture the flavour of anchovies – minus the anchovies. You might shrewdly ask, where was this fervour over the last thirteen years? The thing is, I’ve already had my first Nigella-fuelled attempts at an anchovy phase back in 2006, just before I started my blog. It wasn’t successful – I don’t think I’d amassed the life experience needed to truly enjoy anchovies – and it had since lain dormant, waiting for the trigger: the fact that I really can’t eat them anymore, and so of course, strangely want them. Limitation being the mother of invention – and Nigella being the mother of the mother of my invention, which I guess would make me the mother of my own limitation, and my limitation a servant of two masters, and this paragraph complete nonsense – I made this spaghetti.

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As they say when they’re quoting The Wire, all the pieces matter – the olives give briny density, the nori sheets strongly suggest the ocean, the pine nuts are gently rich, the parsley is strident and a little astringent, and the prunes add darkly subtle balancing sweetness without any actual, you know, pruniness. I know prunes are deeply un-alluring but I insist that you humour me here! I’ve previously paired them with olives in my tapenade recipe – frankly I think they’re an ideal match for each other’s intensity. The chilli flakes were a reckless, “more is more” addition, but their heat grounds the sauce, stopping the flavour from skidding too wildly off-course.

The flavour of this sauce is A Lot, and it looks completely hideous – like hearty mud – but once you’ve made peace with both these factors, deliciousness awaits you. Because, A Lot of flavour is great! And the ugliness of the pasta can be carefully hidden under parsley and extra pine nuts, as you see in the photos. It would take someone more recently familiar with those tiny fish than I to assess for sure if this captures the flavour of anchovies, but it’s definitely got a vibe, you know? This is pasta that has known the sea.

Given that this was inspired by her numerous anchovy-pasta recipes I probably should’ve given it a Nigella-esque high kick of a name, but I find it more helpful for all involved to simply list the main star ingredients. (Pointedly, minus the prunes, since I don’t want to alienate people before they’ve even begun.) That style works for Nigella – no-one needs to read me calling something “Sprightly Spaghetti.”

(To be fair, it really is sprightly.)

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Spaghetti with Olives, Nori, Pine Nuts and Chilli

A recipe by myself

  • 1/2 cup pine nuts (70g)
  • 3/4 cup black olives, pitted
  • 1/2 cup parsley (more or less – just grab a handful)
  • 2 x 10cm nori sheets, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves or to taste
  • 2 prunes
  • chilli flakes, to taste
  • 100g spaghetti or pasta of your choice

1: Toast the pine nuts in a small pan over a medium heat till they’re lightly browned. Reserve a tablespoon or so for sprinkling over at the end, if you like, along with a little of the parsley.

2: Blend the pine nuts, olives, parsley, nori sheets, olive oil, prunes, and chilli flakes either using a stick blender in a small bowl (which is what I did) or in a small food processor, until it forms a thick paste. You will probably need to scrape down the sides once or twice. Taste to see if you think it needs more chilli, nori, etc.

3: Bring a pan of well-salted water to the boil (or, more efficiently, boil the jug and then pour that into the pan along with your salt) and cook the spaghetti for ten to twelve minutes, or however long it takes for them to be done.

4: This is a good opportunity to steal some of the pasta cooking water to stir into the olive paste to make it more saucy, if you like – around quarter of a cup should do it. The starch from the pasta makes the cooking water particularly great for this purpose, as opposed to plain tap water which will just make it watery.

5: Drain the pasta, stir through as much of the olive sauce as you like, and sprinkle over more parsley, chilli flakes, and the reserved pine nuts to serve.

Serves 1 generously, and the sauce would easily stretch to two people, just double the pasta obviously. If you don’t have a blending implement, you could chop all the sauce ingredients as finely as possible and mix them together – it will be a lot more textured as opposed to saucy, but this isn’t a bad thing!

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music lately:

All Through The Night, Cyndi Lauper – one of the most beautiful pop songs. My introduction to this was via a 2002 Idina Menzel concert bootleg at Ars Nova (if you know, you know!) but Lauper’s original is glorious, with those delicious twinkly keys and that reckless, triumphant, anything-is-possible chorus.

Suddenly Seymour by Ellen Greene and Rick Moranis, from Little Shop of Horrors. There is no one else on earth who should sing this but Ellen Greene – the way she goes from that feather-squeak speaking voice to a blood-freezing full belt is astonishing. I love the way the verses rush over each other in the middle section, I love the Kermit (as in, the Frog) earnestness of Moranis’ voice, and – Ellen Greene’s belting! So exhilarating.

Also, if you like the way I write about music and also like dogs, I made a playlist called 25 Great Songs For Dog Lovers and wrote a bit about each song for Tenderly, and you should definitely both read and listen to it.

Next time: I cooked some pulled jackfruit into which I may have put way too much chilli. I’ve been nervously avoiding returning to it to taste-test, but if it actually is good you’ll be the first to know.

PS: If you enjoy my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon.

we don’t talk about love, we only want to get drunk

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I had intended to make these Drunken Noodles because I thought they’d be delicious, and not because of the reason for their cute name – which supposedly came about because they’re a good hangover cure. But then I got a bit of a hangover! Not a huge one, but just a certain dull-edged self-indulgent seediness that made me crave salt and heat. As I said in my last blog post, there’s not much else to do in the countryside other than drink tea; now that I’m back visiting Wellington there are significantly more bars per capita and people to catch up with, in said bars, also per capita. You start off with a ferrous, silt-thick craft beer while using a bar’s WiFi, then move to a second location to meet your dear friend Kate for a Prosecco, then another dear friend Kim joins and it’s like, would it be morally wrong not to split a bottle of wine now? And then you have more wine with dinner, and then whisky afterwards, and before you know it’s 9pm and you’ve been drinking since noon.

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The next day I made these noodles for Kate and myself and I do think they had some kind of positive effect, but they were so delicious that I’d very much like to eat them on a weekly basis whether or not there’s a hangover involved. Drunken Noodles are a Thai dish that you might see on menus as Pad Kee Mao, and it’s not traditionally vegan. My recipe is obviously absolutely not authentic because it’s something I pieced together from trawling other non-vegan recipes and trying to suss out how I could make it work for me – but it’s straightforward, and it tastes fantastic, and as you can see from the ingredients list there’s plenty of room to move. You could fry some mushrooms or tofu to bulk it out, you can toy with the seasoning and sweetness, and you can make it as chilli-hot as your tastebuds can withstand.

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Drunken Noodles

  • 200g (or as many as you want) rice noodles
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Thai seasoning sauce, Maggi sauce, liquid amino sauce, or similar (or just more soy sauce if you’re stuck)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons oil (peanut oil is great, otherwise use vegetable)
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar (Zhenjiang/Chingkiang vinegar is amazingly delicious, otherwise just apple cider or malt would work)
  • 2 teaspoons sriracha, or to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • a handful (roughly) of fresh basil leaves, plus extra for serving
  • 2 spring onions
  • a handful of cherry tomatoes
  • chilli flakes, to serve 

(Note: if you can get hold of Thai basil then use that instead, I could not find any but regular basil seems to be a serviceable substitute. Similarly, if you can get hold of some vegan oyster sauce then definitely add a spoonful of that to the sauce.)

Place the noodles in a heatproof dish and cover in boiling water. Let them sit for a couple of minutes to soften, then drain and set aside.

Stir together the soy sauce, seasoning sauce, sugar, oil, vinegar, sriracha, and finely chopped garlic cloves. Finely chop most of the basil, reserving some for garnish, and stir it into the sauce. Finely slice the spring onions, and halve the cherry tomatoes.

Heat a little extra oil in a frying pan and tip in the spring onions, stirring until they’re softened and a little browned. Add the cherry tomatoes, the drained noodles, and the sauce, stirring for a couple of minutes to let the noodles absorb everything and the cherry tomatoes collapse a little.

Remove from the heat, and divide between two bowls. Sprinkle over as much of the chilli flakes as you want, and a little extra basil.

Serves 2, although one person could probably handle this quantity, that person being me.

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For something that comes together in a minute this gives so much depth of flavour – layers of dark saltiness, bursts of heat, slippery tender noodles, the sweet juiciness of the tomatoes, and the almost cinnamon-like warmth of the basil. Tomatoes and basil are always presented as an Italian cuisine thing, but I think this pairing of them here is even more iconic.

I’m in Wellington for another week or so and am not going to be operating at this high level of activity for the entire time but I absolutely will be making these noodles again. And there’s nothing quite like the pure creamery quadruple-distilled corn-fed joy of seeing old friends again – I am hugely enjoying myself.

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(Friends like…Ghost the dog!!!)

title from: A Design For Life by Manic Street Preachers, I really don’t like their music on the whole but I extremely love this one song – the dramatic strings and the way the chorus thunders into your ears and the structure of the lyrics, it’s so good.

music lately:

Spindrift by Colin Stetson. This is an incredible piece of noise, like a cavalcade of uplifting fluttery sounds coming from the saxophone of all things, it’s like a shower of cold water running over your ears but also you’re floating?

Beautiful Baby, by Elizabeth. Kate introduced me to this artist, and I was instantly in love! This song holds that particular kind of melancholy where it feels like it should be playing while you watch a person that you’re in love with slow-dancing purposefully with with someone else.

Next time: All I want to make is these noodles, it seems kind of unfair that I have to plan other recipes? But I guess that’s how food blogs work? What if I just talked about this recipe till the end of time?

PS: if you enjoy my writing and would like to support me directly, you can do so by joining my Patreon. It’s like a cordoned-off VIP area where you can access content written just for you: recipes, updates, etc – this month I reviewed 41 films and 20 books, last month I revealed the opening sentences of the novel I wrote.