it was ice cream headaches and sweet avalanche

On the one hand, I absolutely hate tough love and would much rather live in some kind of constructed reality where I’m relentlessly coddled and never need face up to hard truths, on the other hand if I was on top of my game at any given areas of my life, tough love and hard truths wouldn’t need to be a constant burden to be avoided, yeah? Anyway to my great aggrievement, I had to tough-love myself and acknowledge that there is just no feasible way that the ticket to Lana Del Rey’s concert in Melbourne at the end of this month that I bought for myself in a burst of hopefulness earlier this year is going to get used by me, not in this economy. (Although I have best friend and economy expert Kim to thank for getting me to this point, she was essentially like “have you decided what you’re doing” and I was like “I’ve decided to flail endlessly” and she was like “what are your incoming and outgoing funds” and I was like “lol as if I’m supposed to know that kind of thing” and then I kind of investigated and she was like “well there’s your answer.”)

Part of the reason that it was so hard to give up the idea that some eleventh-hour miracle might happen is that I haven’t left the country in six entire years, partly because of life getting in the way of life, mostly because of the old incoming-outgoing paradox, and while traveling for the purpose of pleasure in no way makes you a more interesting or worthy person, I was like, I’m an adult, aren’t I? Why can I not perform this small display of adulthood in the manner of so many other adults? But also being kind to myself in the face of defeat but also not pinning my entire hopes and worth upon one single star when there’s a whole galaxy out there waiting, is also something of a display of adulthood, I GUESS.  (Related: if someone wants to purchase one GA ticket to Lana Del Rey’s concert in Melbourne on 31 March kindly get in touch.)

Meanwhile, I made some ice cream. I would regard ice cream as easily one of my favourite foods; as I’ve said before there’s something about its creamy frozen-ness that is a perfect blank canvas upon which to paint flavour, I love its billowing softness, its glacial richness, its melting sweetness, its, um…I just really like ice cream. My love for ice cream possibly exceeds my ability to talk about ice cream reverently, and you know I store vast reserves of reverence within my brain, like a camel of overexcitement.

Initially when I started making ice cream, well over ten years ago now, I would either do the traditional method – gently cooking egg yolks and cream into a rich custard – or Nigella’s swift method, literally just sugared whipped cream – but my current favourite base recipe that I find it impossible to extricate myself from because it’s so easy and makes perfect ice cream every time, is a mixture of condensed milk and cream. So this time around my idea was tahini and honey – tahini is a thick, rich paste of ground sesame seeds, with a really wonderful toasty nutty flavour and the texture of peanut butter. Even if you’ve never bought any you’ve probably had it before as it’s an ingredient in hummus.

This makes for a really lovely, slightly unusual flavoured ice cream – there’s an almost savoury quality to all that sesame, but its toasty nuttiness, and I’m sorry to re-use adjectives but there’s only so many bloody ways to say it – is just wonderful against the thick, soft, creamy backdrop of the ice cream. The honey adds gentle sweetness and all in all it’s a very mellow, mild ice cream, the sort that would be ideal under lots of toppings – some toasted pine nuts or walnuts, a further drizzle of sticky, slow-moving honey, some dark, dark melted chocolate, or as I did, a scattering of sesame seeds, for obvious reasons.

tahini honey ice cream

  • 50g butter
  • three heaped tablespoons tahini
  • thre heaped tablespoons honey
  • one can sweetened condensed milk
  • 600ml cream  
  • sea salt  

Stir the butter, honey, and tahini together in a saucepan over a low heat until the butter is melted and it’s juuuust at the ghost of a simmer, like, remove it from the heat just when bubbles start to form on the surface. Stir in the condensed milk and a decent pinch of sea salt. Whisk the cream in a large bowl till it’s just thickened but not whipped – thick enough to be kind of billowy and bordering-on-solid but not actually in stiff peaks, you know? Mix the cream into the tahini honey mixture any way you like – I poured half the cream into the tahini and whisked it and then poured that into the remaining whisked cream and folded it together but honestly literally, whatever.  

Spatula all this into a container of roughly 1 litre and freeze overnight or until solid. 

For me the most difficult part making of ice cream is probably waiting around for it to freeze solid enough to be eaten, other than that hardship I assure you that this recipe, as I hope for all my ice cream recipes to be, is really pretty easy and requires nothing more than a spoon, a pan, and a freezer-safe container. Something about the density of the sweetened condensed milk (or it could be any other scientific reason beyond my comprehension, the point is, it works) prevents any ice crystals from forming, meaning all you have to do is bung the mixture in the freezer and leave it alone, without any stirring or blending or further agitation until the blissful moment of actually eating it.

Gloomily accepting my lot in life aside, I did have a high-achieving week: I flew up home to Waiuku to spend two nights with my parents, catch up with an awful lot of family all at once, be roundly ignored by the cats, and pick up some total clothing gems at the local op shop, before scooting briefly up to Auckland to see Fall Out Boy in concert, the result of a ticket I purchased a long time ago and completely forgot about until quite recently. It was lovely to go home and see everyone, and the concert itself was just wonderful, such naked earnestness (luckily the nudity remained metaphorical only), such whoa-oh-ohs, such specificity of lyrics that it’s like, how dare you.  Just in case you thought I was exaggerating about well, literally anything earlier, the only way I was able to spatula myself on a mere visit to Auckland was with financial assistance from my parents for the flights, but one out of two concerts in one month isn’t bad, I guess. And if nothing else there’s no better music to listen to when you’re feeling sad about Lana Del Rey than Lana Del Rey, she is to sad moods what like, salt is to tomatoes.

And if nothing else, I did manage to finally get my application for my passport sent off, including an injurously bad photo that I refuse to acknowledge is an accurate representation of me in the slightest, considering my current passport expired in 2014 (I’m literally grinning in the photo inside it, can’t do that anymore) I’m mildly proud of myself.

While we’re talking ice cream I have any number of other recipes to recommend to you if you’re interested, but instead I offer you some recipes with which to use the rest of the jar of tahini – such as Green Tea Soba Noodles with Tahini Satay Sauce; Ottolenghi’s Roasted Butternut with Lime, Yoghurt Tahini Sauce, and Chilli; or this truly incredible Halvah Shortbread.

title from: Carpal Tunnel of Love, by Fall Out Boy, as I am nothing if not topical.

music lately:

A nice thing about working at Laundry bar is that there’s regularly DJ sets to bop to, and the very last song on Saturday night just got me right in the heart, it was a remix of Beth Orton’s song Central Reservation and it just filled me with euphoria, which, at the tail end of a long shift is like, a cool feeling. I haven’t been able to find the exact version that I heard but this one will do in the meantime.

Another song that stopped me in my tracks at work was when one of the DJ’s just casually dared to drop Rez by Underworld, like, did they not realize that when this song is playing I am capable of naught but standing with my eyes closed and waving my arms around in what I hope is roughly a graceful fashion, interrupted only by some jumping up and down with little regard for objects or people around me? This song is just magical.

Deftones, My Own Summer. Respectfully, shove it.

next time: Well, I still have half a jar of tahini left.

and you’ve just had some kind of mushroom, and your mind is moving low

My last blog post was kind of a downbuzz (an honest one, but like, never the damn less) so I’ve decided to come to you this time with some things that have made me proud of myself. Admittedly I’ve got one small initial burst of negativity: I’m SO annoyed that it’s taken me until now (it’s like what, the fortieth day of August or something?) to write a new blog post, but as with all things in my life, not achieving does not equal not trying. Which makes it all the more frustrating, naturally. But now that this brief flail is over, let’s move on to the positive things! All of which involve the cunning instincts of my tastebuds, in one way or another, so it’s all neatly related. 

First thing! Kicking off with some jaunty exclamation marks! If I go any harder with this punctuation it’ll be like I’m trying to convince myself of something!!! So, I was invited to attend a masterclass with Joy Spence, Master Blender of Appleton Estate in Jamaica. This was a sprightly and fascinating dissemination of information coupled with some truly superb rums, plus the singular delight of face time with the first woman in the world to occupy this role, who has been running things in her field for 20 years now. There were like, at least 30 of us there and we were given some unmarked bottles to make our own rum blend, to be judged by her sincerely distinguished palate, and I bloody won, didn’t I! Not only did I get a bottle of Appleton Estate 21 Year (which a surreptitious google search reveals to be hilariously expensive) I got it signed by her and I was all like, look I run a rum bar and I’m the first woman to manage it and this means so much to me as a bartender and as a woman, and she was extremely gracious and nice about it and it was just such a cool experience, you guys. 

I know lots of people say this but I’m really an extreme mix of confident and knee-shakingly uncertain of myself, which is why it was so lovely to have the blend that I instinctively put together be deemed as Good by someone so discerning. It would’ve been an amazing experience either way, but stuff like this just doesn’t happen to me all that often, you know? 

The next thing! Visa Wellington on a Plate has begun, and if you hear an ominous rumbling in the distance it’s the noise of every single restaurant and bar in town clamouring for the attention of the public in an extremely crowded environment (myself included.) This year stands out for me though because I submitted a cocktail to the programme on behalf of Motel (said rum bar that I run) and it got accepted and now it’s like…out there. People have come to my work to order a drink that I invented because they saw it published in the programme and it’s, I don’t know, it’s just such a big deal for me, in terms of backing myself and my cocktail-mixing abilities and instincts for flavour and so on. I never thought I’d get to this point! I literally kept the receipt from the first sale of the cocktail that I did because I’m so proud of myself. 

The cocktail, by the way, is called The Emotional Baggage Daiquiri and it has halloumi infused golden rum and Gunpowder rum and blackberry and flamed rosemary and it’s a whole lot but also extremely amazing, I’m pretty sure of that. And if you don’t understand the name of it then you’ve clearly never lived in Wellington. 

Finally, the recipe I’ve got for you today also has me kind of proud. You may have picked up from my last few blog posts that I’ve been overtired and underinspired. Well, the other night I was all overachieving in the field of insomnia, and as 6am approached and I was still awake and on the point of utter madness, all of a sudden I started thinking up recipe ideas. Really, really good ones. I think this is what is sometimes referred to as ADHD superpowers – basically it means that you suck at literally everything but every now and then you’ll be really intensely creative for about half an hour. What a trade off! Anyway I wrote down all the recipe ideas, including these mushrooms, stuffed with pine nuts and coriander seeds. I made them for myself and was thus not only replete with vegetable nutrients, I’d also given myself some content for this godforsaken blog, and done something nice for myself, by feeding myself.

My early morning insomnia-fuelled inspiration did not let me down, by the way – these mushrooms are SO delicious. Rich and juicy, with their flat rumps dusted in cornflour and roasted in hot olive oil till sticky and crispy, with the soft crunch of pine nuts and the lemony-earthy coriander seeds. Balsamic vinegar gives a mellow sweetness which balances the intense savoury umami (ooh, mami) of the mushrooms and the tahini, as well as providing the glue to stick all the stuffing to, adds to the richness of it all. Honestly, this is such a good dish and three mushrooms alone made for a satisfying lunch, but these would be great with a salad as a starter or multiplied to accompany some kind of roasted something. 

field mushrooms stuffed with tahini, garlic, pine nuts and coriander seeds

a recipe by myself

  • three large flat mushrooms
  • two tablespoons of tahini
  • two tablespoons of pine nuts
  • one tablespoon of coriander seeds
  • two garlic cloves
  • two tablespoons of cornflour
  • a pinch of ground cumin
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • sea salt

Set your oven to 220C/450F, pour a decent amount of olive oil into a small roasting tray – enough so that the base is completely slicked with about a millimetre of oil.  Place it in the oven to heat up while you deal with the mushrooms. 

Brush any dirt off the mushrooms and gently pull the stems out. Roughly chop said stems with the garlic cloves till they’re all uniformly small and like, chopped up. 

Mix the cornflour and cumin together and dunk the base of the mushrooms in it so they’re generously dusted in it. I just put the cornflour directly onto the paper bag that the mushrooms came in so I could bundle it up and bin it once I was done. 

Mix the tahini with two tablespoons of water to make a paste, then spread this thickly over the top of the mushrooms (as in, the spore-y cavity, the underside of the top, the bit where you’d expect to stuff a mushroom, idk, just look at the pictures) and divide the mushroom stem-garlic mixture between the three of them. Sprinkle over the coriander seeds and pine nuts and press everything into the tahini so it kind of glues it into place. 

Take the tray of hot oil out of the oven and place the mushrooms in it. Roast them for about 20 minutes or until the pine nuts are golden brown. Use a spatula or something to gently lever the mushrooms from the tray onto a plate, and carefully drain some of the olive oil into a small bowl. Mix the oil with the balsamic vinegar and sea salt and spoon it over the mushrooms. Garnish with fresh herbs if ya like. 

Every time I eat roasted mushrooms I’m all like, yes, this tastes of tramping in the woods and running my hands through damp soil and licking mighty oak trees and making a splendid cape out of autumn leaves and leading an army of truculent stags through the forest while butt naked, but really, don’t they taste mysteriously good? And how good are coriander seeds, little crunchy bursts of herbal intensity? And how damn expensive are pine nuts? Why is no one talking about this? 

So these are all things that I’m proud of myself for. I’m trying this thing where I try to not frame my life in such a negative way – self-deprecation included – so it’s a little new for me to be so openly supportive of myself, in fact it’s at the point where I’m like, literally proud of myself for being proud of myself at all. LIFE, huh. 

song title from: Jefferson Airplane, White Rabbit. Don’t eat the brown acid.

music lately: 

Willow Smith, IDKI believe the Smith kids are our future. 

Sneaky Feelings, Throwing StonesThe early eighties was a damn goldmine for New Zealand music, I swear. 

CC Dust, New Ways. File under “songs that make me emotional” (all songs ever are filed under that category, lol) 

next time: hopefully going to make more of my insomnia-recipes into delicious reality. 

and when i hit that dip get your camera

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

  super  super

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

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

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

Well that explains my sore stomach, said I.

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

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

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

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

hummus with avocado, pomegranate, pine nuts and pumpkin seeds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

music lately: 

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

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

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

to loving tension, no pension, to more than one dimension

So I watched this video on quantum physics dimensions (yes, times are strange lately) and it explained how humans live in the third dimension, as in, we are 3D, and basically each following dimension eats up the previous dimension like The Very Hungry Caterpillar until you’re at this stage where you’ve got all possible timelines and outcomes to the point of infinity but even that can be shrunk down to a small dot containing all the previous dimensions. The last week has been kind of like this. Things just kept happening that would absorb what had happened the previous day – David Bowie died, Alan Rickman died, I was a bridesmaid in a wedding, Pretty Little Liars returned…and that’s just the stuff I feel like going into. I’m not sure if I’m explaining any of this very well, least of all the dimensions of quantum physics which I begrudgingly concede might take more than a quick youtube video to properly understand. Basically: wow, lots of stuff, every day.

I hadn’t been a bridesmaid since 2004 and this time around I was there to support a dear friend from high school. It was such a long, surreal day, but really genuinely beautiful and lovely and all the good adjectives and it was an honour to be part of it. I was away from Wellington for three and a half days; during which time my main achievement was discovering that for some reason during this visit Poppy the cat was outraged at how much she likes hanging out with me.

the face of a cat who has just realised they’ve given too much information away

such begrudgement

 

waves of disapproval emanating

I made myself this noodle-y thing the day before I left for the wedding, but I was thoroughly naive in believing I would have time to write about it before then. This recipe was born from me running round the supermarket and being all “I crave garlic” but also “I really don’t feel like trying very hard at anything right now”. All this comprises is noodles and a series of things all fried briefly in the same pan. Calling the tahini sauce “satay” is a bit of a stretch, and indeed, feel free to use peanut butter instead if you want, but you get the idea.

Green tea soba noodles have the barest hint of grassy bitterness to them which keeps things lively, tahini is all sesame-nutty, and the bursts of golden, sticky garlic are frankly the universe rewarding you for existing.

This is one of those recipes that you can add a million different things to – a seared salmon steak laid across it would be wonderful – but is also extremely satisfying in its simplicity. I enjoy recipes like this, where it looks like there’s not much going on but you get whammed in the tastebuds with flavour and texture. PS: fresh garlic is a little different from the usual stuff, it is all youthful and mellow and usually has a trimmed green stalk at the top; regular garlic is of course still good. And if you want to use different noodles, it’s not going to ruin anything.

green tea soba noodles with fried garlic and edamame beans, and tahini satay sauce

a recipe by myself

  • 45g/a handful of dried green tea soba noodles
  • three large cloves of fresh garlic, or four of regular garlic
  • a handful of frozen podded edamame beans
  • olive oil
  • two tablespoons of tahini
  • one tablespoon soy sauce
  • one teaspoon sesame oil
  • a pinch of brown sugar
  • a dash of chilli sauce
  • sesame seeds, to garnish

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, drop the noodles in and allow them to boil away till the noodles are soft and cooked through. Drain them in a colander or sieve and run some cold water over them. Set aside.

While the noodles are cooking, slice the garlic cloves into thin slivers and gently fry them in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Carefully remove them from the pan and set aside and then tip the edamame beans into the same pan. Let them fry briskly till they’re heated through and a little scorched in places from the heat. Finally, remove the beans and set aside, and proceed to make the sauce – throw the tahini, the soy sauce, the brown sugar and the chilli sauce into the pan and stir over a low heat. Add water about half a cup at a time and continue stirring – it will be all weird at first but it should thicken fairly quickly. Continue to add water till you’re pleased with the consistency, and taste to see if it needs more salt, sugar or heat.

Arrange the noodles between two plates, pile some sauce on top, then scatter over the fried beans and garlic pieces. Spoon over more sauce if you like, and then blanket with sesame seeds.

Noodles! So good. This whole thing is kind of at its best at room temperature, eaten immediately, otherwise the tahini gets all thick and solid. If you have to eat it cold the next day from the fridge in a giant gluey mass it’ll probably still be more or less excellent though.

Going back a few dimensions, the whole David Bowie thing hit me really hard, he was one of those artists that was present and meaningful throughout my entire life, you know? Labyrinth was the first movie that really had a proper impact on me at around three or four (and I maintain that Bowie in that was my first crush) and from then on he was just everywhere. I’m barely exaggerating when I say he gave off immortal vibes, like if he’d been all “yes I’ve low-key been an immortal alien this entire time and I will never die” I’d be like, yeah that checks out. But there he went. I have nothing particularly intelligent to add to the obituarial chorusing but through his personas he explored and played with ideas of gender presentation while being one of the coolest people on earth because of it, not in spite of it – we were lucky to have him.

found another cat at the wedding to befriend, in your face Poppy (love you Poppy)

 

If you need me, I’ll be over here lying down while trying to process how every possible outfit I could choose to wear tomorrow morning counts as the start of its own potential timeline. I told you I understand quantum physics.
title from: La Vie Boheme, Act 1 closer to the indefatigably ebullient and important-to-me musical RENT (from which this blog gets its name)
music lately:

Craig David covering Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself. Welcome back to the singer so smooth he’s basically a human creme brulee. Actually that implies crunchiness, but the bit under that is really smooth, okay? And this cover is amazing.

Scritti Politti, The Sweetest Girl. Such an unnerving and stunning song, the sort that I will listen to on a loop five times in a row quite happily, even though not a lot happens in it.

Sia, Chandelier. It’s not new but I’ve been listening to it a bunch lately, if you haven’t seen the video but watching unsettlingly incredible dancing and choreography raises your heartbeat then I strenuously recommend you watch it.

Cold War Kids, First. It is just so, so, so good.
next time: I’m way overdue something sweet, tbh

 

if you got beef, your problem, not mine

beef: got it
For a while there I was feeling some sizable angst about turning 29, partly because I was like, I’ve blatantly achieved nothing in my life and am an elderly loser (I know neither of these things are true but when you’re already prone to hyperbole it’s amazing the distance that your brain will take the existing hyperbole when you’re being down on yourself) and I also was like, I’m blatantly too old to achieve anything ever, am no longer an ingenue, am a giant snore in a trenchcoat and hat with a fake mustache on pretending to be human. (Again: the hyperbole! It really goes places, doesn’t it?) 
leftover birthday cake for breakfast

And then I reminded myself that Beyonce and Nicki Minaj are 33 and 32 respectively and have released the most fire music of their careers in the last couple of years, and that I have so much ahead of me and 29 is still really young and I should just drink some water and calm down a bit because the passage of time cannot be fought so you can either age yourself horribly by worrying about it or ignore it because it’s ultimately meaningless. I mean, Beyonce’s 2013 album is honestly life-changing, to put it casually. If she can do that at 32 with all her resources and brilliance, I can achieve something productive as a tired moderately broke but talented 29 year old.  
“Rosie, dear Rosie, there’s a rose in my heart for you” 
So yes, I had a birthday recently, and it was honestly quite perfect. My boundlessly marvellous girlfriend cooked me a Full English Breakfast with about seventeen different kinds of protein (including black pudding – seems somewhat gothically appropriate to start one’s birthday consuming literal blood) and we sybaritically clinked glasses of whisky to go with it. I dyed my hair purple, I had a beauteous dinner and follow-up drink with my very best friends Kim and Kate, and then said girlfriend and I went to the St James theatre (above) to see the musical Singin’ In The Rain, which I swankily yet utterly serendipitously had scored free tickets to. It was just wonderful and I urge you to see it if you have even a passing interest in musicals, old movies, tap dancing, and singing in and/or rain. The costumes were spectacular, the dancing was brilliant, the singing was on point – Gene Kelly casts an unfairly long shadow but the guy playing his role was ideal – and it was just so joyful. The night finished with cocktails and fries at my work and some general reflection on how completely good my birthday had been (and on how funny it was that I had reflexively replied “Happy birthday!” several times that day when someone had said “Happy birthday” to me.) 
sausages/beans/tomatoes/egg/mushrooms/black pudding/bacon/fried bread/whisky/hashtag blessed
Winding back to a couple of days before my birthday though, I made myself this Mediterranean-ish eggplant and beef dish. Since it was so simple and good I thought I might as well try to blog about it, and five million days later I’ve finally got around to it, with my usual efficiency and haste. 
this bowl makes everything look rustic and nice, thank you bowl 

It’s vaguely Mediterranean insofar as it includes some flavours of that (vast, varied, unable to be generalised and yet here I am) area, but since I just made it up based on what was in my pantry I hesitate to label it anything more specific than that. What I can confidently tell you is that it’s rich yet sharp, with spiky sour sumac and lemon zest lifting up the crisply fried, melting cubes of eggplant and tomato-y beef, with thick, creamy spoonfuls of Greek Yoghurt dropped here and there adding to that rich-sharp contrast. I love thyme so much, so that’s what I scattered over this, but oregano or mint would also be splendid in their own way. The only real change I’d make is using pine nuts instead of sesame seeds – they’re just a bit more exciting and lush – but as long as you have something nut-like there it’s all good really. If you can’t find sumac – a beautiful sour, lemony powder from sumac berries – then just add more lemon zest or simply leave it out. I mean, I love its flavour but probably the main thing you’d lose is the way it somehow ties the dish together visually and stops it looking like “beef that yoghurt got tipped on”.

fried eggplant and beef with sumac and greek yoghurt

a recipe by myself, serves two 

one large eggplant
one red onion
one garlic clove
300g beef mince
half a cup tomato passata/puree
one lemon
to serve: 
thick Greek yoghurt
sumac
sesame seeds
thyme leaves

Dice the eggplant, and fry in plenty of olive oil (around three tablespoons) in a large pan. Allow to get properly browned and crisp as much as possible before setting aside, and in the same pan, fry the onion, garlic and beef until everything is thoroughly browned and cooked through. 


Grate the zest from the lemon, then squeeze the lemon juice into the beef along with the tomato passata and allow to come to a brisk simmer. After about five minutes return the eggplant to the pan to heat through, then transfer it to a serving dish (or serve straight from the pan), finishing with spoonfuls of Greek yoghurt spooned over at random, a generous blanket of sumac (she says, not having intended to put that much on but got a shaky hand, so we’re going with it) a scattering of dried thyme and toasted sesame seeds. I also add plenty of salt. Because I love salt.  

The yoghurt I use is Zany Zeus which is so thick, thicker than sour cream – if all you have is runny, slightly chalky stuff then I would not personally go putting it on this, but you do you. I do maintain though, that it’s the intensely thick, satiny texture of the yoghurt which makes this. I really haven’t cooked meat in forever but in the last two weeks I made ribs (for my girlfriend’s birthday, which also fell in April) and now this. I can go weeks without eating meat, even though I do love it, but I’m glad I dazedly purchased this mince in an overtired haze and then even gladder that I worked out something so completely delightful to make with it. If you want to though, you could just double or triple the eggplant and leave out the beef, since the vegetable’s buttery softness and golden brown crispness after being vigorously fried is entirely enough joy for your tastebuds on its own.

go big or go home

My birthday didn’t stop when the clock struck midnight on the 17th though, as my flatmate and dear friend Charlotte and I had a joint birthday party the following night. (Her birthday is a week or so before mine.) There was dancing and punch and disco lights and a noise control notification (less fun! Unimpressed tbh! But uh, it happened) and cake and candy and a little tequila and so many good people and very importantly: I had an incredible yellow shaggy fluffy cardigan.

look the part be the part as I always say (the part here being someone with a super cool fluffy cardigan who is very happy with their birthday)

So now that I’ve had a wonderful birthday and spent some time in solemn pious meditation on the achievements of Nicki/Beyonce, I’m completely ready to enter my 29th year full of thrive and bliss. 
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title from: Mary J Blige, Family Affair. This song is nearly 35 years old but still sounds fresher than toothpaste and is so upbeat and positive in a gloriously instructive way. Leave your situations at the door, so when you step inside jump on the floor…
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music lately: 

Ben Folds Five, Army. Oh man has Ben Folds done some terrible music, but this song is incredible, one of those ones that I get stuck listening to on loop for hours. It’s got that perfect late 90s horn section going (I used to get it mixed up with Flagpole Sitta back in the days where you might hear your favourite song on the radio once every six weeks, so if you like that song you may well enjoy this.) Am a particular fan of the rollicking piano on this. 

Sia, Elastic Heart. This song is brutal and gorgeous and the dancing and storytelling in the video is utterly compelling. Thick skin and elastic heart, such imagery in those words! Oof. Also as one who would likely livetweet brushing their teeth if the notion took me, I admire Sia’s commitment to being mysterious and anonymous. 
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next time: I bought some pears and kinda dig the idea of making Poires Belle Helene! (Vanilla poached pears with chocolate sauce. I mean.)

soy un perdador

tofu is made of soy, and soy is Spanish for I AM, as in “I am being so deep right now.”  

Right, well I intended for this blog post to be about the meal I cooked on Valentine’s Day, but what transpired was this: I had an elaborate dinner planned, then my reason for the season came down with a brutal case of tonsilitis, and then I mysteriously also ended up with a sore throat myself, and so postponed said elaborate dinner to instead make us the world’s most nourishing broth which I then took terrible photos of, so the whole thing was a flop, really. (That is, it was a very pleasant evening, mutual ailments aside, and the soup was also very pleasant, it was a flop only in terms of being bloggable. Let me be clear lest I sound more obnoxious than usual!)

With that option unavailable to write about, it took me a while to get my act together, but to paraphrase Beyonce the god, I woke up like this: craving tofu. And so I made myself this rather incredibly good tofu and cucumber salad for lunch today and now here we are!

those flowers were just sitting there on the table when I walked in but nevertheless I’m gonna assert that coordinating your flowers to your lunch is a clear sign of success in life

I know tofu gets regularly maligned for being flavourless or unfun or the epitome of dull vegetarian eating, but in the words of Harvey Danger, if you’re bored then you’re boring. Let the record state that I think tofu is amazing. Fresh, chilled tofu is an actual joy, all cashew-mild and milky of flavour with a softly firm (yes, both those things) protein-rich texture and the world’s most absorbent surface for whatever flavour you should choose to throw at it. Also deep-fried tofu is a revelation, but so is everything – I mean, probably even deep-fried socks would be palatable, so that’s not necessarily an impressive fact.

This recipe mostly came out of my head, although it’s inspired by a bunch of different things I’ve had at restaurants over the years. It’s so cold and crisp and refreshing and even though the dressing is all salty and oily and sour, somehow the cool juicy cucumber and dense cubes of tofu keep everything very mellow and calm. Both sesame and miso paste have this mysterious, magical savoury taste which help spruce up the ingredients that frankly do need some sprucing, and it’s all just very satisfying and nourishing and good. You could leave out the spring onion (by the way I think they’re called green onions in America, for my readers in that neck of the woods) but the flavour is so gentle and a million miles removed from actual raw onion.

tofu, cucumber and spring onion salad with sesame miso dressing

a recipe by myself. I know using olive oil in the dressing is a bit out of place with the rest of the ingredients but it’s all I had and honestly it tasted amazing so…yeah. 

100g firm tofu
half a cucumber
one spring onion
one tablespoon rice vinegar
one tablespoon soy sauce
one or two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
two heaped teaspoons white miso paste
a pinch of caster sugar
one tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Make sure your tofu and cucumber are well-chilled. Dice them both into small squares, about 1.5cm but, y’know, this is not a time for measurement accuracy. Just something smallish and squareish. Finely slice the spring onion, reserving some of the green for garnish.

In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, soy, olive oil, miso, and most of the sesame seeds until it comes together as a smooth dressing. Tip in the tofu, cucumber, and spring onion, stir to cover, then transfer to whatever bowl you’re going to be eating it from (if it’s a different bowl, that is) and garnish with the remaining sesame seeds and green spring onion slices. 

this serves one, but if you can’t work out how to increase it to feed more then…actually I cannot judge, my maths is hopeless, but seriously, it’s pretty easy to increase the properties to feed more people here.  

my new flat is a bit cute, yeah?

The other thing to note about tofu is that it’s aggressively filling. So even though this salad may not look like much, it is indeed…much. We’ve just ticked over into March here so it’s officially autumn, but Wellington is so whimsically changeable as far as weather goes and today I’m disgustingly overheated so this was a perfect meal for the temperature my body is currently burdened with, however I feel like this salad would be perfect any time alongside roast chicken and rice; to take to some kind of potluck thing, or with noodles that you’ve maybe also sprinkled with soy sauce and sesame oil. On its own though: a perfect little meal. 
I just realised this is pretty much my first blog post that include photos of my new flat, which is fitting, since I moved in just under a month ago and yet still am not entirely unpacked. I’ve decided to see the glass half full and congratulate myself on being amazing at progressing very slowly and being incredibly disorganised. My new room is so dreamy though, and will only get dreamier as I firmly take myself by the hand and make myself continue to tidy it up and unpack fully. 
fairy light grotto (they’re solar powered so hopefully I get to actually enjoy them, oh Wellington weather you’re easy to poke fun at! But really. I hope I get to enjoy them.)

make up n stuff nook! Also there’s nothing like the haunted eyes of Judy Garland greeting you as you wake up, if that’s wrong I don’t want to be right.

But really, it’s now March 2015, holy wow. From February last year to February last month it was basically nonstop turbulent difficult times, and even though I’m very much in this quagmire of “what the heck am I doing with my writing and am I making my own opportunities and why won’t endless flailing about wanting to write another cookbook afford me the ability to do just that” I am also feeling rather cloyingly serene and delightful about many things in life right, so watch out. Ya girl is quite happy. I mean, look how rapturous I’m getting about tofu.
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title from: Beck’s shufflingly and charmingly dour song Loser. Check me out, making truly awful Spanish puns all over the place. Obvs Beyonce shoulda won that Grammy but this is a damn nice song and the opening guitar riffs are truly excellent. Nice work, Beck. 
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music lately: 
Let Me Be Him, Hot Chip. The chorus (or whatever it is, this song just kind of drifts) is so uplifting and pretty and dreamy and full of “Oh-ohhh” bits and it’s just a lovely, lovely thing to listen to. Definite mood upswing stuff.
Eternal Flame, Joan As Policewoman. I’ve loved this song for years and years but have been listening to it over and over lately, it flickers like a candle and swoons and sways and the lyrics are so, so excellent. I love how soft and whispery and then deep and rich her voice goes. Oh yeah and also this is not a cover of the Bangles song which was later covered by Atomic Kitten, they just share a title, ya know?
The Killing Moon, Echo and the Bunnymen. Love a bit of tremolo, I do. 
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next time: I’ve made two batches of this Nigella coffee ice cream but I keep eating it all before I can take photos of it. If this trajectory is anything to go by though, there will probably be at least one more outing of the recipe in my near future so maybe that’s what I’ll blog about next! 

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. 

we’d roll and fall in the green

Today has been a bit of a dick, between one thing and another. I took a sleeping pill last night in the hopes that I’d force myself into actually sleeping. It worked, but then I was like a forlorn jellyfish the rest of the day, somnambulant and dopey and fractious and essentially undoing all the good work I had done by having a good night’s sleep. And I currently feel queasy, although I can’t tell if it’s because of the dinner I just made or something else. 
But, as Dave from Happy Endings would say, let’s back up. (PS: Max and Jane are my favourites. Also Brad and Alex. And Penny. Just in case you thought Dave was my favourite.)
Yesterday was pretty wonderful. I woke up just before 6am, lightly hungover from a gathering the night before for dear friend Kate’s birthday. This early start was for a skype date with Ange, erstwhile flatmate and forever friend, who now lives in London. Also because I can’t help waking up hilariously early on the weekend. It all started because Ange and I were emotionally snapchatting about our feelings about Top of the Lake and wanted to discuss them in a less rudimentary fashion, and ended with a “huh, we should probably Skype more often since it’s really convenient and stuff.”
We had brunch with Kate and Jason, which included an excellently bitter Campari and grapefruit juice. This turned into coffee where we ran into other friends, which turned into record shopping, which turned into ice cream sundaes with fixings leftover from the party the night before, which turned into beers at the pub around the corner. We saw a cute dog, we parted ways, and Tim and I went home to play candy crush and knit (respectively) and watch West Wing. And all I really felt like was eating greens, so I made us this.
Just greens on greens on greens, with some butter and lime juice and sesame seeds to make it more of a meal and less of a pile of stuff that happens to be technically edible. I am a firm believer in just eating what you feel like eating at any given moment, without guiltily focussing on whatever the properties of the food are (admittedly it was only roughly last year that I reached this calm conclusion) and so if I feel like eating a dinner composed largely of bits of plant, then that’s what I do. Of course, I could take a hell of a lot better care of myself on a day-to-day basis (my lunch today was basically just coffee and fruit burst lollies, which was down to apathy and stuff rather than actually wanting it) but it’s nice when what you feel like, and what you have, and what you’re able to make, are all the same thing. In this case, I happened to have a few vegetable-y bits and pieces getting wearily limp in the fridge, and they all benefited from this stirfry-steam-cover-in-butter method. 

greens with sesame lime butter

A recipe by myself. This mix of greens is a good one, but use what you have – beans, courgettes, etc – in the quantities of your choosing. 

broccoli, about half a head thereof
bok choi or pak choi, a bunch
a large handful of baby spinach leaves, or larger spinach leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons sesame oil
25g butter
1 teaspoon kecap manis or soy sauce
1 lime
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/3 cup cashew nuts

Wash the broccoli and bok choi leaves. Heat up a teaspoon of the sesame oil in a large pan, then throw in the broccoli and bok choi and stir around for a little bit to coat in the oil, then tip in 1/4 cup water and put a lid on the pan, so the water can bubble up and quickly steam everything. Once the water is evaporated, or thereabouts, and the vegetables have softened a little but are still bright green, remove the lid and stir in the spinach. Then remove all of that to a serving dish. Finally, melt the butter in the same pan, stir in the kecap manis, juice and zest of the lime, sesame seeds and cashew nuts. Allow to bubble away until the sesame seeds have browned slightly, then remove from the heat and tip onto the vegetables. Either stir through or take it to the dining table and make everyone wait while you photograph it, because you’re a highly strung food blogger.

Broccoli is already a little nutty and sweet, so adding sesame oil and sweet kecap manis only but embiggens everything good about it already. Astringent pak choi and fast-wilting, metallic spinach are helped by the rich butter and crunchy seeds and cashews, and the lime simply brightens everything up with its citrus intensity. It’s very simple and plain, but not to the point of nondescript, where you forget that you’ve eaten immediately after you put your fork down. Nope, this is delicious stuff. And a terrific end to my Sunday.

And then today happened and undid all the good work of yesterday. But I have high hopes for tomorrow, even if Tuesdays are often the worst. If nothing else, there is more knitting (my current project: a black hooded cape) and reading (have finished NW by Zadie Smith, am halfway through Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, am upping my weights at the gym so I can pick up The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton) and more Orphan Black to watch, and I have a list of recommendations of other sleeping pills that won’t make me feel like a baffled sock the next day.

PS…I still have a cookbook! It’s still strange and exciting and amazing and a lot to take on! If you like, you can listen to a very fun interview I did with Charlotte Ryan at Kiwi FM, where I got to pick some songs as well. I started off making a consciously careful, everything-rests-on-this list of tunes to play, but luckily ended up going with whatever I felt like at the time. What were the songs? You’ll have to listen to the interview! Or just ask me, I’m a total pushover.
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Title via: Wuthering Heights, a very important song by Kate Bush. If I had a dollar for every high kick I’ve done to this song, I wouldn’t have to worry about getting a good night’s sleep for work tomorrow, that’s for sure.
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Music lately: 

Dear Time’s Waste, These Words Stick Me To You. Dreamy.

ASAP Rocky, Problems. Effective, and effectively stuck in my brain.

Had the house to myself for most of Saturday, so naturally played some crowd-unpleasing Broadway and danced out my feelings, or at least some of them. Did some particularly bold pirouettes and leaps to Age of Aquarius from Hair and Heaven Help My Heart from Chess. (musicals with an arbitrary noun for a name, huh?)
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Next time: Whatever I feel like, evidently. 

square cut or pear shape these rocks won’t lose their shape

I don’t mean to deliver this like it’s candlelit-vigil level news, but the following exchange happened late last week:
Tim: we’ve exceeded our 60 gigabyte monthly internet bandwidth allowance.
Me: *dramatic gasp* No internet? But I’ll be insufferable.
Tim: I know. I know.

I mean, a breezy and heedless thank goodness for 3G on smartphones, but still, I’ve had to write this as hastily as possible, in the knowledge that we get charged significantly extra for every gigabyte over the monthly allowance that we use. Just keep that in mind if there’s, I don’t know, any tiny thing you don’t like ever. This is my excuse. 
This is how we do it.
I also don’t mean to deliver the following like it’s two-roads-diverging-in-a-yellow-wood level news of life-changing significance, but Tim and I have been in our house for around six months now, and only just had our first dinner party on Monday night. Not to harp on like some kind of harp about Game of Thrones, but this dinner party was in honour of the season three finale last night. Spoiler alert: some bits were all “whoaaa” and some bits were all “um, ugh, awkward white saviour moment”. I do love this show, although many’s the time after particular treatment of women within it that I have proclaimed myself absolutely done with it. And then I keep coming back, because it’s possible to enjoy something and have major problems with it at the same time. But if nothing else, it gave us an excellent opportunity to have our first dinner party in our now not-so-new house, in the form of a twelve person potluck. And it was wondrous. Quesadillas, Balti curries, roast butternut salad with tahini dressing, potatoes with caramel and prunes (oh Ottolenghi, you maverick), orzo salad, spicy pumpkin pie, and my offerings, a kind of grilled courgette and couscous layered dish covered in tomato sauce and capers, and these baked pears. 

Baked pears with almonds, chocolate, and rosewater. I was deeply impressed with myself at how they turned out, in that I thought them up on Monday afternoon and hastily made them just before everyone arrived. Then maybe had just one too many wines during dinner to be truly effective, and almost forgot about them till halfway through watching the show itself. Luckily Tim reminded me about them at what turned out to be their optimal cooking time. I’m so used to screwing up recipes that I make up on the fly lately, so was really pretty prepared for these to be awful right up until the moment that I had my first bite. But they worked out perfectly. Serendipity makes everything more delicious.

What also makes everything more delicious, is when it’s ridiculously delicious. Pears have this sweet perfumed mellowness which the touch of rosewater and almond helps subtly amplify, like the Rise filter on Instagram. Everything caramelises and intensifies, but covering the dish with tinfoil means that the chocolate doesn’t scorch and the pears stay juicy and yielding. So you know, these are quite, quite amazing the next day for breakfast, cold from the fridge with cream poured over.

The way these came about in my head was that I wanted to make something vegan for pudding, to accommodate friends, but also wanted something fairly luscious and rococo to go well eaten alongside an HBO fantasy show with an enormous budget and phrases like “good brown ale” and “I will take what is mine with fire and blood”. The secret ingredient here is tahini, which ties the ingredients together with an accommodatingly nutty, rich backdrop of flavour.

Baked Pears with Almonds, Chocolate, and Rosewater

Recipe by myself. On the one hand, these are some slightly high-falutin’ ingredients. On the other hand, pears are maybe a dollar a kilo these days.

6 ripe pears
Half a lemon
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 heaped tablespoons tahini
1 x 70g packet ground almonds (this is how they come in New Zealand, anywhere between 50-100g would be fine if you can’t specifically find this amount.) 
2 teaspoons rosewater
25g dark chocolate (I use Whittaker’s Dark Ghana, which has no dairy in it. And is wildly delicious.)

Set your oven to 180 C/350 F. Slice each pear straight down the middle vertically, trimming off the nubbly base and stem as you please (because little would be more shuddery than accidentally eating either.) Use a teaspoon to scoop out the seeds and a little flesh to create a hollow for the stuffing. Mine were entirely asymmetrical, so don’t worry about looks at this point. Lay the pears, cut side up, in a roasting dish and squeeze over the juice of the lemon. This will stop them browning while you make the stuffing but also helps complement the rosewater flavour. 

Carefully mix together the tahini, sugar, and rosewater – tahini can sometimes be ridiculously thick and un-pliant, so expect something that eventually looks like cookie dough – then roughly, coarsely slice up the chocolate into shavings and chunks and stir that through. Using a teaspoon, fill each pear hollow – really packing it in and heaping it on – with the stuffing. This should make the perfect amount for 12 pear halves, with an extra teaspoon or so for nibbling on. Cover the roasting dish with tinfoil and bake for around an hour, or until an implement slides easily into one of the pears. Like Valerian steel into one of the endless parade of now-dead characters on Game of Thrones. 

Last week was a series of ups and downs, the downs being I was sick with some mysterious sore throat and zero energy affliction, the ups being Tim and I went to the Visa Wellington on a Plate launch and mingled energetically with incredible bread and butter, lots of cool people, and the beauteous Garage Project dogs (you can see them on the event’s website, and perhaps understand why I ended up taking so many ‘best friends!’ type selfies with these hunds). Despite my jangled nerves at crowded social events like this – I’m an all or nothing mingler, either doing it with aplomb or awkward horror – It was a very, very fun night and the programme looks utterly bananas. Judging by my casual flick through it, it’s going to be a very good time to be in Wellington. The streets will be paved with halloumi and local chocolates.  

Back to the downs, I’m still not sleeping any better – if anything it’s getting worse. I woke up at 3.45am today, just casually awake. I take longer and longer to sleep, but wake up around 5am. On the weekends, with no alarms and no surprises, I find my eyes flying open at 7am. Which is technically a decent sleep-in by my standards, but still. On the other hand I’m not sure if it is getting worse or just swirling to a climax, as I look back over the last few years and am unsure if there’s a time when I ever slept well. Are there night classes in sleeping? Oh, wait. (Don’t worry, I’ll go see a doctor about it or something.)

But then back to the ups, I did, as promised a while back, start learning to knit and I adore it. It’s so soothing and quiet and repetitive and tactile and also very fun watching the creation (thus far: an oh-so-slightly wobbly square which will become a blanket) slowly grow like a soft wooly plant.

Also on the ups: bought some sriracha. The cool thing about sriracha is that it’s very instagrammable and cool and people perk up and say “ohhhh I’m addicted to that stuff” if you mention it (like Game of Thrones!). But also it really is incredibly addictive, slightly tangy hot chilli sauce, and I can’t wait to pour it on everything. (Which: seriously, what is life. On the downside I never ever sleep but on the upside I have a small bottle of nice hot sauce.)

Posing? Me? Well, often, but I really am eating sriracha in this photo. Cinema verite! 

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Title via: I acknowledge that Moulin Rouge spoke to me deeply at a particular time (there was one point where I was watching it more or less daily) but for these purposes I shall link to the ever-diverting Marilyn Monroe crooning Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.
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Music lately: 

Demi Lovato, Give Your Heart a Break. Perfect, from the slicey uplifting violins to the flawless chorus.

Brigitte Bardot, Moi Je Joue. I followed a link to this song from The Moveable Feasts, a food blog I love, and was rewarded with this adorably scrappy, impetuous delight of a song.

Laura Marling, Master Hunter. Tim and I bought her new record and are finding ourselves unable to stop listening to it. Love her music to pieces.
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Next time: Sriracha on EVERYTHING.

"That was Groffle: The Awful Waffle, a book that I wrote on behalf of my education initiative"

As you can see, my photos lately either take the form of badly lit dinner, or nicely lit but faux-artless scenes of plates and knives and forks. Or both. This scene is real, for what it’s worth (or I would’ve moved the damn lens cap out of the way.)

I have a theory. Well, that implies that it’s well thought-out – at this stage it’s less of a theory, more of a sentence on a blog. But: I swear food can sense fear, like horses can. (I know, I had a horrible horseriding accident at age ten. Sustained whiplash and a respectful terror of horses.) I have been on a ruining rampage in the kitchen lately, and it’s as if the food can tell I’m all nervous and have bad instincts about it. My latest screw-up was a salted caramel slice where I burned one can of condensed milk in the pan, and then, obtusely, the next batch refused to cook. Just wouldn’t. Slid around, off the base, which I’d already baked but which managed to somehow un-bake itself under the liquidy topping. I called it fail-slice. And ate most of it anyway over the next day or two, because the ingredients themselves still tasted okay.

That seemed so much more door-slammingly dramatic in my head, but to be fair, every time I ruin something I’m cooking it feels like the first and only time in humankind this has happened. The waste of ingredients, the bass-drop letdown after all that anticipation, the hangdog way that I have to impart the disappointing news to any expectant eaters. With that in mind, I am amazed that these falafel waffles, with their high level of novelty-induced-anticipation, and with their delicate, unbuttressed structure…worked. Worked just fine. Despite my nerves. So maybe food can’t smell fear, and all I have is a sentence, not a theory, and a lot of coincidentally recent cooking mistakes. The point is, I also have falafel waffles, and their relative success has helped my kitchen nerves no end, like in Sonic the Hedgehog when you gather up lots of sparkly rings, so it doesn’t matter if you lose a few here and there, because you will still have more rings to spare. (I played a lot of Sonic the Hedgehog one time.)

Sliced my lemon this way because I saw it in a fancy magazine. It looks so pretty but is kind of stupidly wasteful since you only get two slices per fruit. And now I’m in an aesthetics vs practicality food blogging quandary. Which is kind of like a metaphor for the waffles! (Or perhaps just kind of like the waffles.)  

I like a good portmanteau-ing as much as the next person, and “fawaffle” is pleasing, but I think I better enjoy the rolling assonance (hey…oh?) of falafel waffle written in full. I first heard of these when a friend Kat (who I’ve met all of once, but you know, the internet!) emailed me with some suggestions of things to do in New York while Tim and I were there in October last year. She mentioned that we should definitely try falafel waffle. We never made it to this mystical place but the idea stuck in my head. Falafel mix, but instead of baking or frying it, clamp it between the crenellated arms of a waffle maker. There’s significant aesthetic outcome involved, sure, but falafel is delicious and enwaffling it is surprisingly practical. It makes a lot at once, you don’t have to watch it, it’s really cute.

Let me first apologise hugely though, for posting a recipe that you need specialised equipment for. I try not to do this. In my defensive defense, not one of the bajillion ice cream recipes that I’ve posted on this blog needs an ice cream machine. But I really can’t see myself getting around the waffle maker thing in order to make waffles appear. I don’t know if there’s some alternative that involves indenting pancakes with the end of a fork or something. I…hope not.

Falafel Waffles

Makes two. Recipe by me. Concept not mine. To cold-weary to google them.

2 cans chickpeas (I’d really wanted to soak chickpeas overnight and blend them up, but continually forgot.)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon tahini (or peanut butter, in a pinch)
1 handful chopped herbs: coriander, parsely, chives, or all three. I only had a tablespoon of chives, but still.
1 teaspoon ground cumin, more if your cumin has been sitting around for years
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 egg

To serve: anything at all – lemon slices, thick plain yoghurt, more tahini, mustard, chilli sauce, tomato sauce, whatever.

Drain the chickpeas and blend them up in a food processor (more specific equipment, sorry, I’m on a roll here) till quite well-blended but not pureed – you want a a mix that’s nubbly in places yet smooth in places. Basically: be half-hearted about your processing and it will probably turn out how it’s supposed to. Add the salt, tahini, herbs, cumin, cinnamon and egg and pulse briefly to mix. 

Heat up a little oil in your waffle iron, putting it on a very high setting. Once you’re sure it’s good and hot, spoon in half the falafel mix, pushing it round evenly with the spoon, and shut down the lid. Leave it for a good solid five minutes, maybe longer – till it really seems cooked through. Use a spatula to carefully lever it away from the bottom grill, then lift it up and onto a plate. Repeat with the remaining mix.

I know two damn waffles doesn’t sound like much at all, but these are ridiculously filling, and when you think about it, each embossed heart segment is like a whole falafel on its own. There’s not that deep-fried crunch of the real thing, but it’s still excellent, outside of its looks. The cumin is rich and aromatic (that feels stupid now that I’ve written it down but it just is, okay) the indents making for maximum crispness within the baked-not-fried context, and chickpeas have a nutty deliciousness all of their own. Plus I covered mine in tahini and thick plain yoghurt and mustard and lemon juice, which made it look appalling but taste even better.

Is a waffle iron even worth it? Kinda. I adore waffles, but they are best if someone else is making them for you, otherwise I tend to get tired/bored halfway through the bowl of batter. Also they just aren’t as good as ones from a cafe generally. But on the other hand: waffles! Whenever you want them and also have the energy and ingredients! Tim and I got ours through Fly Buys, which is this points-gathering rewards scheme that takes forever to accumulate (one point per $25 spent on groceries. I mean really. Anyone rich enough to gather up enough points to get anything with that kind of system doesn’t need the system!) After seven or so years we scraped together enough points to get this waffle iron though, so…hooray for the system. The system is sound.

As well as apologising for your needing a waffle iron to make waffles, I’d also like to apologise if this particular post seems grave and unenthused: I have a cold and every word I type feels like an effort, the kind of effort when you’re trapped in a dream and you have to try and wake yourself up with an exhausting push of the body because it feels like a house is flattening you. I may also feel like the only person who has ever had a cold before, but it doesn’t help that work is so busy this week that I can’t take a forseeable sick day anytime soon, despite feeling deliriously atrocious. Even with my dramatics, that’s pretty much telling it like it is without too much embellishment. Which is all I’ll say about that – I’m always nervous to talk about work on here in case I get pulled into an office and am told “you said the word ‘work’ on your blog. That crossed a line between the professional and the personal. You’re fired and/or arrested.” (I’m basically always nervous, in fact.) I’m hoping I can outwit this cold with my smarts though, like Liam Neeson in Tooken 2. I still currently retain my sense of smell and taste, and the coughing only happens at night when I’m trying to sleep, so there’s that. I have ginger and whisky and vitamins and determination to get better by the weekend. And an immunity boosting ego trip from successfully making falafel waffles!

Between the cold and work I’ve been either running around or laying low but I had a good wine-fuelled impromptu-dance-party on Friday night, swooned frequently over Lost in Austen (it’s silly, but wins on swoon-per-capita) and saw this cool cat on Sunday at book group. Someone commented on instagram that this cat’s face is a bit like my natural face in photos. What a compliment! (That’s not sarcasm.) Like a horse smelling fear, or a recipe possibly smelling fear, cats can normally tell how badly I want to be their friend and so, being the bloody-minded creatures they are, remain aloof. But despite its sneer here, this cat (Oscar) was in fact super friendly and flopsy and nuzzlingly ridiculous.

(hands up who wants a pet cat more than ever now)

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Title via: Occasionally I quote things other than songs here. And really, who is more glowingly waffle-proud than Parks and Recreation’s glorious hero, Leslie Knope? (She’s a TV character, in case you don’t know. And if you didn’t: find out.) But also I suspect Leslie Knope would really hate falafel waffles, on account of their being full of legumes and lacking syrup. But still: waffles. So important.
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Music lately: 

Flip Grater, The Quit. Quiet and smoky, I love it.

What I Did For Love, from the musical A Chorus Line – just one of the most gorgeous songs in the world. The lyrics are so, ugh, just so good. “Look, my eyes are dry, the dream was ours to borrow…” I predictably love Idina Menzel’s version which she sang for President Obama, no big.

Robin Thicke, TI, Pharrell, Blurred Lines. Cannot quit this song.
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Next time: Something non-specialised like waffles, something gleaming with triumph because I definitely won’t have this cold anymore, no way. No ma’am.