Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Cherry Tomato Dressing

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As someone perpetually sliding around in the gauzy formlessess of liminal spaces — or at least, as someone who feels this way — or, at least, as someone who once heard the word “liminal” and really latched onto it without being 100% confident of deploying the word accurately and yet still blithely using it several times a day — I find myself drawn to recipes which occupy more than one space, not quite a side, not quite a main, able to be raked through linguine or spooned over bowls of various grains, or maybe just eaten on their own with nothing before or after. Recipes like the Chickpeas Diabolique, or Roasted Zucchini with Spinach-Peanut Pesto, or Salt and Vinegar Beans, or Vegetables a là Grecque, or today’s recipe, the equally nebulous but compelling Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Cherry Tomato Dressing. Is it a side? How many does it serve? I don’t know! Is it delicious? Of course! Why else would we be here!

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That being said, if you’re someone who quite reasonably likes to know where you stand, it might help to think of this as a definite side dish, or as a potential pasta sauce, having eaten it as both I can assure you of its success in either regard. Infuriatingly, but with weary predictability, despite it being the middle of summer the cherry tomatoes were stupidly expensive (for full transparency: two punnets of cherry tomatoes, a garlic bulb, a bottle of lemon juice because there were no lemons, and a basil plant cost twenty-two literal dollars) but because I had this idea in my head already and because supermarkets, themselves quite the liminal space, send me into a kind of automaton trance where I dazedly make stupid financial decisions in the name of feeding myself (although to be fair these days it’s hard to buy anything at the supermarket, even the driest bag of lentils, without it being a stupid financial decision), I bought the lot and proceeded with this recipe.

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Anyway, enough of the requisite cantankerous captiousness at the state of supermarket prices; what does the dish taste like? As the title claims, it’s pretty simple: roasted cherry tomatoes, with a few unroasted tomatoes plucked out and whizzed up into a peachy-yellow dressing with lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil, then poured back over their friends, so you get this mix of summer-sweet, glorious intensity from the roasted tomatoes and glibly fresh, raw zestiness from the raw tomatoes in the dressing and all that lemon juice. The two opposites meld together gorgeously, aided by the dusky richness of basil leaves bobbing handsomely on the surface like boats in a harbour at sunset. It’s a soft, messy dish with a lot of sauce between that which springs from the tomatoes in the oven and all the dressing, should you not know quite what to do with it I’d just get a spoon and some bread and use the two to empty and wipe the roasting dish completely of every last drop. Looking at that mess of red, yellow and vivid green, it’s easy to forget that tomatoes are more expensive than diamonds and it has rained every single day of 2023, tasting it solidifies this even more so.

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Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Cherry Tomato Dressing

Simple and gorgeous, tastes like a rising sun, and ready to eat on its own or to be stirred through pasta. Recipe by myself.

  • 2 punnets cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Dressing

  • 6 cherry tomatoes (from one of the above punnets)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • hearty pinch of salt
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves, to serve

1: Set your oven to 210C/420F. Remove six cherry tomatoes from one of your punnets and tumble the remaining cherry tomatoes into a shallow roasting dish into which they fit fairly snugly. You can halve some of the tomatoes if you want — I halved roughly a third of them before losing interest. Drizzle over the tablespoon of olive oil and roast the tomatoes for fifteen minutes or until they’ve softened and buckled in on themselves a little, at which point they’ll also release a decent amount of juice into the roasting dish.

2: While the tomatoes are roasting, get on with the dressing. Halve the six cherry tomatoes that you set aside earlier, and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. (A slightly fiddly job and I apologise! But you do get to eat the seeds as you go, at least.) Throw the halved and emptied cherry tomatoes in a blender with the peeled garlic clove, the two tablespoons of lemon juice, the four tablespoons of olive oil, the half teaspoon of sugar and a good pinch of salt. Blend it up into a frothy, pale-orange dressing, and taste to see if it needs any balancing of salt, sweet, or sour.

3: Once the tomatoes are done in the oven, pour over the dressing — you don’t need to stir it, but if you want to go for a mere nudge and lift, rather than a vigorous folding — and scatter over the basil leaves.

Serves 1—2, though it depends on how you dish it up. As a side dish, it could serve three to four, but more if there are a lot of dishes; or two to three when stirred through pasta or spooned over polenta, et cetera.

Notes:

  • Weirdly I could not find lemons at any supermarkets near me, which just adds to that feeling of losing grip on reality that confronts me whenever I do groceries; if you can get hold of one I would encourage you to strip off the zest before juicing it and to scatter it over the tomatoes at the end along with the basil.
  • If you only have a really large blender you might struggle to whizz up such a small quantity of ingredients, in which case a stick blender would be a lot easier, if you have neither then you could try pushing the tomatoes through a sieve or just really finely chopping and mashing them along with the garlic clove before stirring in the remaining ingredients.

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music lately:

Sleep Walk by Santo and Johnny. There’s something about a beautiful instrumental piece of pop that occupies the same space in my brain as a beautiful piece of classical music; it evokes a mood and suggests a story with nothing more than notes and chord progressions, and listening to this glorious tune — and even if you don’t recognise the name, you’ve probably heard it — spins dozens of different stories, all poignant and atmospheric.

Manchild by Neneh Cherry, when those synths come in like a shiver up the spine, yes! To say nothing of the prescient lyrics!

Blues From a Gun by The Jesus and Mary Chain, part of the genre of music that I would describe, in this current economy, as “irresponsibly exciting”.

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 every month. There’s no better time than right now — your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Chickpeas Diabolique

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We are truly working overtime down in the Just Gotta Get Through This Week salt mines this year (where we spend all day txting each other “just gotta get through this week”), though if the inexorable passage of time has taught me anything it’s that the universe or fate or whatever force is responsible for all this does not care that you’ve made it through this week/month/year! All of which is to say, the external stresses in my life are really externally stressing me this week, and so I’m reproducing a recipe some of you will have seen already last year in the small but mighty island nation that is my Patreon; but in this economy, I’m saying outfit repeating is not only cool, it’s the responsible choice.

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Joking about being a thesis replicant has rather backfired on me since upon reflection an actual replicant would be much better equipped to deal with trials and tribulations than I am; at the very least a replicant wouldn’t suffer pain in their thoracic spinal region from slumping over a laptop like a collapsed circus tent for eleven hours at a time in the library. But I can report one thing that is literally good: on Friday, I handed in my thesis (roughly 80k words all up, and on time!). Despite, if not because of everything else going on, I am very proud of myself, grateful to those who supported me along the way this year, and relieved to be typing again without the watchful chaperone of APA 7 referencing guidelines. This recipe for chickpeas diabolique is just the sort of barely-laborious cooking you can do when you’re half-conscious at best, and its rip-roaring red-orange hue reminiscent of molten red devil marbles, and surprisingly feisty cayenne heat will help make you feel full-awake.

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This is my reworking of a Belgian scampi recipe; the chickpeas are not in the slightest bit intended to be a 1:1 analogue for seafood, it’s more that I thought this sauce and preparation would suit the legumes keenly, and I was correct. In fact, this is possibly my favourite chickpea recipe ever — so far — as much for its speed and ease as its dramatically delicious results from such a simple list of ingredients. Something remarkable, flavour-wise, happens somewhere between the tomato paste sizzling and caramelising and the vermouth hitting the hot pan and rising up again like a magician’s puff of smoke, and it tastes like you’ve done an awful lot more than you really have. It’s sticky, it’s messy, it’s rich and decadent but rustic and unpretentious, and it tastes amazing.

@hungryandfrozen

chickpeas diabolique, probably my favourite chickpeas of all? recipe at hungryandfrozen dot com 🤠 #chickpeas #vegan #cookingvideo #fyp

♬ The Dark Of The Matinée – Franz Ferdinand

Serving the chickpeas with bread to swipe at the lurid, lycopene-rich sauce makes sense, as does serving the dish as part of a table of mezze or small plates, and it goes without saying — but nonetheless, for the record — this would be wonderful stirred through pasta. I’d choose a ridged shape, to catch the sauce; I do like the idea of pappardelle with this, like a playground slide for the chickpeas, but something with more structural integrity would probably be a better choice, like bucatini or fettuccini. Any leftovers (I ate about 75% of what was in the enamel dish in the photos and refrigerated the rest) are strangely good cold, but probably best kept as a solo snack unless reheating. I still very much just gotta get through this week, but this recipe is another tick in the somewhat lonely “literally good” column, and will long continue to be.

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Chickpeas Diabolique

Easy, fast, messily delicious, and with very few perishable ingredients you can keep the means to make it at any time safely in your pantry. Recipe by myself, but adapted from and inspired by the Belgian dish, Scampi Diabolique.

  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • olive oil, for frying — a couple tablespoons
  • 1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste, heaped is fine
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup dry white vermouth (or dry white wine or dry sherry)
  • 1-2 generously heaped tablespoons vegan aioli, plain vegan yoghurt, or anything else rich and creamy — even hummus or thick coconut cream
  • salt and pepper, to taste

1: Finely dice the onion and garlic cloves. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a wide frying pan and gently fry both alliums over a low heat till soft but not browned. Tip in the chickpeas, stirring to warm them through, along with the teaspoon of smoked paprika and pinch of cayenne.

2: Turn up the heat and stir in the 1/4 cup tomato paste, continuing to stir to let the tomato paste coat the chickpeas and get stickily caramelised in the heat.

3: After a minute or so of this, pour in the 1/2 cup dry vermouth, which will hit the pan with an enthusiastic hiss, and stir it in, along with the tablespoon or two (and I lean towards two), of aioli. Let this warm through, still stirring, then remove from the heat. Season and taste, add a splash of water to make it saucier if need be (or, indeed, more vermouth), and serve.

Serves one as a hearty snack, or two with accompaniments. Could stretch to three if stirred through pasta.

Notes:
I assume confidently that the “diabolique” part of the name refers to the heat of the cayenne. If you’re serving this to kids, perhaps leave it out, but up to you — the dish is more punchy than truly spicy, but cayenne gets exponentially hotter pretty quick so if whoever’s eating it is not spice-confident, add with caution.

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music lately:

Out Here On My Own by Irene Cara, another shining star extinguished by this cruel year. I can’t begin to describe what the film Fame means to me, nor shall I try, so instead let’s just celebrate her singular talent — that delicate yet raw, gorgeously emotive voice, that vivid, vulnerable screen presence — in this, one of the most beautiful and perfect ballads of all time. If you feel like wallowing then you might follow it up with I Sing The Body Electric, an unhinged and extraordinarily joyous song that never lets you guess its next move, and which is often unfairly left out of the rightful praise heaped upon this film’s soundtrack.

Dragnalus by Unwound, seems like only yesterday I was recommending my little brother music to blow his mind and now he recommends me music because I am old and set in my ways and only listen to the same seven tracks over and over. Fortunately, this is music recommendation catnip for me: it’s old enough to rent a car, it’s obscure enough that I missed it first time around, and it sounds like angry chickpea tin cans fighting in the bottom of a council skip.

Nobody by Keith Sweat feat. Athena Cage. Even when playing over the speakers of the Chemist Warehouse, with its fluorescent lighting and narrow aisles closing in on you, surely the least amenable and most incongruent environment to hear this song, still a seductive slow-dance air pervaded between those disorientingly jammed shelves.

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 every month. There’s no better time than right now — your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Tomato, Bread, and Olive Hash

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Each bracketed stretch of 365 days is unusual and burdensome in their own uniquely spiced way, but 2022 really does have more infinitely nihilistic, all-bets-are-off flavour than most. What is it this time, you ask? Well, I finally got Covid, and for nine days was pinned to my bed with all the force of a brick hurled into a paddling pool. On the upside I retained my sense of smell and taste, on the downside — brain fog. I feel so stupid, and not in the usual administrative ways that I’m used to. Unfortunately I’ve tied my entire personality and sense of self and worth into various acts of writing and it’s no fun having that gigantic part of my life become an arduous struggle, and I apologise if this is evident in today’s blog post. On the whole I’m grateful I got Covid when I did (post-vaccinations), am very grateful that I was taken care of, and I know my experience is comparatively tame, but still: 0/5 stars, would not recommend.

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So it’ll be no surprise that I’m coming back with a purposefully simple recipe, this Tomato, Bread, and Olive Hash — I mean, just the word hash lets you know that there’s little visual or structural expectations at play here — three main ingredients, a little frying, that’s all there is to it. This recipe is more or less the same as Nigella Lawson’s in her book At My Table, but I’ve added olives coated in flour for a little extra encrispening (although you could skip this step if you’re impatient) and while I wouldn’t expect to pay forty dollars for a plate of this at a restaurant, its pastoral unfiddliness is reassuring, and a comfort both to regard and to eat.

Simple it may be, but not bland: the tomatoes, just bursting and collapsing in the heat, soak into the oil-crisped cubes of bread, the almost meaty (almost, let’s not get carried away here) olives unite the tomatoes and bread with their briny salinity. I left out Nigella’s specified shallot and let the chives do the talking, allium-wise, and added the rosemary simply because I had some from Mum’s garden, but its earthy richness is always welcome. Something in the textural state of flux makes every mouthful of hash a thrill (specifically, will this piece of bread be crunchy or soggy?) and making, eating, and now writing about it makes me feel closer to being myself again.

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In happier news, hungryandfrozen.com is fifteen years old today! Having squandered all my brainpower on the preceding paragraphs I’ve got nothing clever to say about this momentous occasion, and wish I had the energy or resources to do something celebratory, but when it comes down to it I’m glad I started my blog and I’m glad it’s still here and to everyone who has ever taken time out of their day to read it: thank you.

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Tomato, Bread, and Olive Hash

Simple, comforting, easy, beautiful. Feel free to glance at the quantities specified and then just use as much of any ingredient as you want; if you add more tomatoes it will be more tomato-y, and so on: you really can’t go wrong. Adapted from a recipe in At My Table by Nigella Lawson.

  • 1/3 a crusty baguette, or one to two good-sized ciabatta or sourdough buns, depending on appetite
  • 70g pitted green olives
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chives, snipped
  • the leaves from one stem of rosemary
  • salt and pepper, to taste

1: Slice the bread into rough cubes and chunks (about an inch an a half in length, but it doesn’t matter) and set aside. Briefly chop the olives so that some are left whole and others are in bits, and toss with the two tablespoons of flour in a small bowl. Finally, dice your tomato into pieces about the same size as the bread cubes.

2: Heat the olive oil in a wide frying pan and once it’s good and warm, tip in the bread cubes and let them sizzle away until golden and crisp and crouton-y. This requires patience but vigilance, as the cubes will first appear to be doing nothing and then they’ll rapidly toast up all at once, so be ready with the tongs to remove them to a bowl (or to your eventual serving plate, if you want to save on dishes). There should be a little oil left in the pan, but if not, pour in another tablespoon or so and fry the olives until all dusty traces of flour on their surface has cooked and they’re a little browned and crisped in places. Leaving the olives in the pan, tip in your chopped tomatoes, and stir for another minute or two, until the pieces of tomato start to collapse.

3: Return the toasted bread cubes to the pan, give it a stir just to amalgamate and to allow the bread to start absorbing the tomatoes, and then remove from the heat.

4: Pile everything onto a serving plate, and scatter over your chives (you can finely chop them on a board but I prefer to hold a handful over the plate and snip them with scissors) and the rosemary leaves. See if it wants any seasoning — probably more likely pepper than salt, since the olives are already salty — and eat.

Serves 1.

Notes:

  • I got some green olives that had been marinated in garlic which, as you can imagine, was a fine addition to the dish. If you can only get olives with the stone in them, remember that they’ll add extra weight, so you might want to use 90g instead of 70g (but also, those quantities are really just a guideline, add as many olives as you want.)
  • I know you’re not supposed to fry with extra virgin olive oil but everything is so expensive these days and it’s easier just to have one kind of olive oil on the go. If you have regular olive oil then use that for sure, but the olive flavour is important, so I wouldn’t recommend replacing it here with any other kind of oil like sunflower or rice bran.
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music lately:

Beautiful Briny Sea by Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson, from Bedknobs and Broomsticks. And we’re back to bad news: After Stephen Sondheim, Angela Lansbury’s was the inevitable death I’ve most been dreading. She was a continual and immensely comforting presence in my life and someone with even a quarter of her astonishingly diverse career could consider themselves a high achiever. Any number of her songs matter to me but I was raised on Bedknobs and Broomsticks, taped off the TV onto a VHS and watched and rewound till I could practically act it out for you off-book. I’m still not sure if there’s a higher form of wit than cartoon and live action characters interacting, and I love that Lansbury was allowed to become a major musical star with such an off-kilter voice. I’m sorry she’s gone — I’m glad our lifetimes overlapped for a while.

Out on the Floor, by Dobie Gray. This song radiates happiness, no, elation, and with every “hey-hey-hey” it feels like sunbeams are shooting out of your outstretched palms.

Hail Holy Queen from Sister Act; while in bed with Covid I wasn’t up to watching anything challenging but even so I’d forgotten what a balm this film is, with every minute of its runtime swaddling you, telling you it’s all going to be okay. Whoopi Goldberg is so charismatic yet grounded, and Dame Maggie Smith could do generic disapproval in her sleep but you truly feel the searing rays of her vexation, and this song — with its fake out initial verse leading up to the beat drop, Sister Mary Roberts’ riffing, and the punchy Latin bridge, makes me wildly emotional. I sang this once with my primary school choir, and it’s every bit as exhilarating to perform as it is to watch, let me tell you.

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!

The Annual HungryandFrozen Edible Gift Recipe Round-Up 

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To egregiously paraphrase Dickens, though I’m sure he’s quite used to it by this point: you there! What day is it? Why it’s my annual edible gift recipe round up! 

In case this doesn’t make any sense, let me explain: each December I gather a list of recipes from my prior blog posts here on hungryandfrozen.com which I believe would make ideal edible gifts, in case you want some kind of prompting in that direction, despite having the entire internet already at your disposal. It’s a self-serving action, yes, but hopefully helpful in some way – and all I ever really want is to be useful, but to also draw attention to myself in the process. I’ve kept a lot of the text in this post the same as last year’s as there’s only so many ways you can launch into this thing, and appreciate your understanding.

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This time last year I was naively hopeful that once 2021 drew to a close COVID-19 would be behind us but instead, it’s managed to get on top of us in new and innovatively terrifying ways. Just last week, after a quarter of the year spent in lockdown, I was (somewhat dramatically) not sure if Christmas would be happening at all, even now it feels like a bit of a mirage and I’m somehow overthinking it yet entirely unprepared at the same time. All of this is no reason not to cook though, if that’s what you like doing. If you’re confined to a relatively small circle of people, there are still neighbours, the postal service, any number of people nearby who might be cheered by a small jar or box of something in their letterbox, or on their doorstep (perhaps also with a note reassuring of your vaccination status if they’re a stranger that you’re giving something to). But even just you, alone, are reason enough to bake a cake.

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As for the financial pressure of this time of year – I won’t lie, between the ingredients, time, electricity, storage and wrapping, homemade edible gifts aren’t necessarily that cheap, and there’s no moral superiority in making your own jam. It is undeniably delightful to receive something homemade – but if this is too strenuous, stick with the food concept and do your Christmas shopping at the supermarket. Chocolates, candy, olive oil, fancy salt, spices, peanut butter, curry pastes, hot sauce, olives, a complicated shape of pasta – even just food you know someone eats a lot of. They love beans? Get them beans! I guarantee they’ll be pleased. Basically, we cannot escape capitalism but giving an edible gift of any kind has so many upsides: it’s delicious, it has immediate application, it will eventually cease taking up space in the receiver’s house, it makes you look like a really great person.

I realise to heaps of people Christmas is – quite reasonably – just another day of the week! But generally, there will be some point in your life where giving a gift is required, and almost all the recipes listed below work beautifully year-round (though I personally can’t eat candy canes out of season.)

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Anyway, let’s get to the list. I’ve grouped the recipes into three categories, and have also included some of the recipes I wrote for Tenderly over the years.

Two caveats: some of these recipes are from absolute years ago, as will happen when you have a fourteen-year-old food blog, but while details and contexts and locations and motivations have changed, the deliciousness remains constant. Also, I feel like it’s worth pointing out that anything involving an ingredient that either could melt or has been melted, should be stored in the fridge rather than under the tree.

Also – all these recipes are vegan.

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The Annual HungryandFrozen Edible Gift Recipe Round-Up 

Category One: Things In Jars

No matter how uncertain the world we live in, you can still count on Things In Jars. From relish to pickles to the unsinkable salted caramel sauce, it’s always well-received, looks like you’ve gone to arduous levels of effort, and makes an ideal gift for everyone from your most marginally tolerable of coworkers to the most highly specific love of your life. For added personal flair – although this could just be my neurological predisposition for over-explaining – I suggest including a gift tag with recommendations on ways to use the contents of the jar.

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Savoury:

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Sweet

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Category Two: Baked Goods

They’re baked! They’re good! While biscuits and cookies are more commonly gifted, don’t rule out a loaf, perhaps wrapped in baking paper and then brown paper – the banana bread and ginger molasses loaf below keep well (especially the latter) and would make a charmingly convivial offering. At this busy time of year, having something to slice and eat with a cup of tea or a snifter of whatever weird liqueur you can find in the back of the cupboard is nothing if not a stroke of good fortune. I’ve made the first three (four, technically, since the Christmas Stars and Hundreds and Thousands Biscuits are basically the same) cookie recipes in this list a LOT this year and recommend them the most enthusiastically out of the biscuits on offer.

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Category Three: Novelty, No-Bake Sweets, and General Sugary Chaos

The best category, let’s be frank. Whether it’s dissolving candy canes in bottom-shelf vodka or adding pink food colouring to white chocolate for the aesthetic, sugar is the true reason for the season. And since dentists wildly overcharge us for their service, you might as well make them really earn it. Note: unless you can find overproof vodka, the passionfruit and mandarin liqueurs won’t be ready in time for Christmas; either give the intended receiver an IOU, or save it for their birthday – or next Christmas.

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music lately:

Turkey Lurkey Time from the 1969 Tony Awards performance of the musical Promises, Promises. If you’ve been here a while you’ll know that I have a small tradition where I wait till December and then watch this extremely grainy video of a very goofy song being performed and CRY. (Here I need to really emphasise that this is absolutely not a song you’re supposed to cry at.) It’s Donna McKechnie’s rubber spine, it’s the diagonal thing they do at the end, it’s the anticipation, it’s Christmas, it’s everything.

Fun Lovin’ Criminals, by The Fun Lovin’ Criminals. Why am I consistently drawn to rap rock? Because it’s fun and great, that’s why!! (When does rap rock become nu metal? Not here, but I’m very happy on either side of course.)

The Only Heartbreaker, by Mitski. Anxious and beautiful and synthy! I don’t know what it is about synths, specifically, that makes me all “this song sounds like it has already existed. How can this be a new song” and here I am again saying that this song sounds like you already know it. I don’t mean that it sounds derivative of anything – I mean that it sounds like it was your favourite song from a long time ago and you’ve only just heard it again for the first time in forever. I guess the obvious answer is that synths sound like they’re from the eighties and it tricks my brain into thinking I’ve already heard it but I think it’s something more in the neon yearning quality of synths themselves? Anyway, I love 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!

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!

tomatoes and fried mint (vegan)

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Prevailing modern wisdom suggests the best way to cook is by taking the highest-quality seasonal ingredients and doing as little as possible to them. Which is fine, admirable, whatever, but I would go one further and propose that the best thing to do with these seasonal ingredients is to fry them. How better to show your respect to anything than by dousing it in hot fat? Especially if, like the Spanish inquisition, the frying is unexpected! We’ve all heated up a tomato. Have you ever tasted fried mint?

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We’re blessed with several containers of glowing-ripe tomatoes from the garden, which magically refill as soon as they’re emptied, and I kept thinking about these tomatoes with fried mint, about how the leaves would go crisp and crunchy and the oil they’d sizzled in would become infused with their heady scent. It’s very possible, highly likely in fact, that I read about fried mint somewhere and internalised the idea – but it appeared in my head out of nowhere, compellingly, and I had a feeling it would be spectacular. That feeling was confirmed. I hesitated before including this recipe on here – I say recipe, it’s more of a vaguely-realised suggestion, a bullet point in the notes app of your phone at best, but it tasted incredible and it’s been forever since I’ve posted savoury, and as the late, sorely missed Anthony Bourdain said in Kitchen Confidential, “Good food is very often, even most often, simple food.” (For some reason I always misremember that book as being called Secrets and Knives, in fact, I was convinced one of his publications had that title; if there’s a doctor in the house I’d love to know if “constantly getting kneecapped by the Mandela effect” is something I can get a pill for.)

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With a recipe so simple as to be almost nonexistent you need good tomatoes, sweet and pendulous, the kind to make your eyes fly open as you bite into them, perhaps followed by an exclamation of “hell’s bells!” I wouldn’t really recommend making this in the shrivelled dead of winter, but right now is that hemispheric sweet spot where we in New Zealand have the last glorious crops of tomatoes coming through while countries up north are starting to post “hot girl summer” captions thus implying tomatoes are moving back into season.

But what about the fried mint? You’d think, freshly chopped and stirred into tomatoes, it couldn’t be improved upon, but this is exquisite – the leaves grow translucent and as shatteringly crisp as filo pastry, their cool heat deepened and made more savoury, more lush. The leaves and their seasoned oil coat the tomatoes with a glossy slick of darkly fresh flavour – it’s sensational, it’s captivating.

Also – and I’m truly not going to do this every time – I made a little tiktok video to go with this. 

@hungryandfrozen

recipe for ya: tomatoes + fried mint 🍅 super simple and lush 🍃go to hungryandfrozen.com for more 🤠 #vegan #recipe #recipes #foodblog #summer #fyp

♬ Cheree – Suicide

This recipe, as I said, is really, really simple, and I just ate it alongside a short length of baguette – but as with anything tomato-based, it’s amenable to variety. Stir it through hot pasta for an instant sauce, pile it onto couscous and scatter with toasted seeds, add leaves and turn it into a salad, the usual ideas. You could also apply the fried mint and its oil elsewhere – for some reason I’m thinking ice cream, but obviously couscous and so on would benefit – but as it is, the red-and-green symphony (my final hyperbolic adjective I promise) of this recipe is perfect unadorned, eaten standing up in the kitchen because it’s so delicious you’ve forgotten to sit down.

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Tomatoes and Fried Mint

There’s hardly anything to this little salad – but it’s incredibly delicious – so here it is. Recipe by myself.

  • 1-2 handfuls ripe cherry tomatoes, depending on how much you want
  • 1 handful fresh mint leaves (roughly 15 leaves?)
  • 2 tablespoons rice bran oil or something similarly neutral like grapeseed or sunflower
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon malt vinegar, optional

1: Halve your tomatoes and place them in a bowl. If they need it, wash the mint leaves and pat them dry with a clean tea towel.

2: Heat the rice bran oil in a large saucepan and once it’s hot, throw in the mint leaves and cook them for a bare minute or so, stirring a little to coat them in the sizzling oil. Try to keep the leaves more or less in a single layer. I lifted a mint leaf from the pan and crumbled it in my fingers, its brittle, crisp texture was how I knew they were done. I don’t expect you to have the same cavalier attitude towards naked heat, but basically, these should be ready somewhere between thirty seconds and a minute in. Turn off the heat.

3: Spoon the mint leaves and their oil over the tomatoes. Add the extra olive oil and salt to taste. Stir. I also like to add a little ground white pepper, I can’t help it, I love the stuff. If you want to add the vinegar, here’s a good time – I like it both with and without, which I appreciate is not helpful for your decision-making.

Serves 1, possibly more, depending on how you’re using it. Don’t forget to drink the minty tomato juice which pools at the base of the bowl.

Notes:

  • If you don’t have access to a mint plant – and why should you – get one of those mini potted ones from the fresh herb section of the supermarket – the sort which are always overpriced and die almost instantly – and rip off every single leaf.
  • In case you’re wondering why there’s two oils, rice bran oil is better for frying, the dash of extra virgin olive oil at the end is for flavour, and not suited to high heat. I free-pour both and encourage you to do the same.

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music lately:

Blank Generation, by Richard Hell and the Voidoids. Is this the best song in the world? No, that’s Roadrunner by Modern Lovers. But also: yes it is. My methodology is watertight.

Bad Religion, Frank Ocean. This song is nearly ten years old (?!!) and yet it’s still too powerful! Like, imagine listening to this while walking down the street to buy toothpaste. There’s those opening church organs and those devastating, late-in-the-piece drums and that sudden falsetto howl, and suddenly you’re sobbing into a courier van, dental hygiene forgotten. Absolute folly.

A Boy Like That/I Have A Love by Chita Rivera and Carol Lawrence from the Original Broadway Cast recording of West Side Story. I’m always listening to Sondheim but since it was his birthday the other day I decided to listen to everything he’s done in chronological order, and twelve hours later I’d made it to…1957. Anyway – the film version of West Side Story is unsurprisingly what everyone thinks of first, but the original is also glorious – I love Chita’s throaty, knowing voice against Carol’s clear soprano, and those harmonies at the end are just stunning.

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.

vegan penne alla vodka

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The subject of vodka raises ire within me, frankly I turn into a real killjoy when I talk about it. Then I feel bad and overcompensate, which extrapolates into me just yelling “It’s STUPID! And that’s VALID!” while people rapidly vacate the room. I say this with a former bartender’s hubris, and the absolute humility of someone who – on this very blog! – once sincerely referred to a vodka soda as a “sneeringly dry drink.” In my defence, 2009 was a simpler time and being exposed to fewer ideas meant you could garner unearned braggadocio alarmingly easily.

My issue with vodka? Its purpose is to not exist; a vodka soda might as well just be a soda. There is nothing else it can possibly taste like. If you sincerely want to make your juice alcoholic without the burden of experiencing flavour then that’s fine, go right ahead and add vodka, but I don’t understand the appeal of prestige brands – there is bad vodka, there is competent vodka, and beyond that, there’s not a lot to discern them. My one exception is Zubrowka, but that’s because the bison grass flavouring makes it delicious and actually recognisable, as opposed to the base spirit itself.

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However. Where I begrudgingly – no, blatantly! – acknowledge this otherwise dullard spirit coming into its own, is in the Italian-American dish, Penne Alla Vodka. Everything about this recipe is pleasing: its drawly, Appenine-via-the-Baltics title, the simple joy of tomato sauce spliced with cream, and, yes, the vodka, which provides sinewy, vigorous richness. Pouring vodka into your pasta might suggest novelty, but a splash of white wine in a hot pan will improve any sauce, so switch out a far higher ABV in the form of vodka and you’re rewarded with even more intensity.

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My version is vegan, so there’s obviously no cream involved. The richness instead comes from coconut yoghurt – the sort that’s so thick you can genuinely stand your spoon up in it – and a little pasta cooking water. Unlike Penne Alla Vodka, which first emerged – unsurprisingly – in the 1970s, the notion of using the starchy water from your pasta as an emulsifier dates back to the Roman Empire. Don’t leave it out, it somehow thins and silkily thickens the sauce simultaneously. The yoghurt lends tangy luxury, and yeah, you can taste the coconut to a certain extent, but coconut becomes your zero point when you’re vegan for a while. And anyway, its unique mellow sweetness works beautifully with the acidic tomatoes.

More than just the same old pasta with tomatoes you think you know, Penne Alla Vodka has a dishevelled sexiness to it, a dish you could make for someone you’re trying to impress while also doing your best to appear artless and nonchalant. And if you don’t have the titular vodka in your liquor annexe? You can always use instead that most gratifying of flavoured vodkas – gin.

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Vegan Penne Alla Vodka

A recipe by myself.

  • 100g dried penne pasta
  • 4 ripe tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 spring onion
  • a pinch of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vodka
  • 2 tablespoons unflavoured coconut yoghurt
  • salt and pepper
  • Olive oil, to fry and serve
  • chopped parsley, to serve

1: Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling, well-salted water. This should take around twelve minutes, give or take.

2: Halve the tomatoes, cut off the green stalky part, and scoop out the seeds. It doesn’t matter if some are left, and you can just eat them if you’re aghast at the wastefulness, I did. Roughly chop the remaining tomato flesh. Finely chop the spring onion and garlic cloves.

3: Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan, and cook the onion, garlic and tomato – all together at once – over a medium heat till the tomato has broken down a little. Add salt and pepper to taste, plus a small pinch of sugar. If you’re using crushed garlic from a jar, leave the sugar out.

4: Add the vodka and let the sauce bubble away on medium for another minute, stirring constantly.

5: Once your pasta is nearly tender and cooked, scoop out two tablespoons of the pasta cooking water and mix it into the coconut yoghurt. Stir this into the tomato sauce, and turn up the heat a little to get it bubbling. Stir until the sauce has thickened, then remove from the heat.

6: Fold the cooked, drained pasta into the sauce. Drizzle with more olive oil if you like, and sprinkle over chopped parsley.

Serves 1. If you want to make this for two I’d double the pasta but you can probably just add half the ingredients – like, another two tomatoes and another tablespoon of vodka.

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music lately:

Brand New Love by Sebadoh. Oh, what a song! You think it’s going to be fast and then it’s slow, you think it’s going to be slow and then it’s GINORMOUS. And I will never ever get over how 53 seconds in it sounds exactly like the Defying Gravity coda, like, Stephen Schwartz should be paying them royalties (seriously, please indulge me, the coda starts at 4:28 in Defying Gravity. It’s also, incidentally, my ringtone, and receiving phone calls makes me anxious, which has now made my relationship with this song super weird, although I guess my relationship with it was demonstrably already kind of weird for a grown woman.)

Wimp, by The Zeros, the A-side to their better-known 1976 song Don’t Push Me Around. It’s a great track, but I prefer Wimp’s sludgy, Stooges-y, fulsome brattiness.

Next time: As you can see from the photo above – a small sample! – we are overrun with tomatoes, so they will probably feature.

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.

to play for peanuts in a dive and blow his lungs out

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You might have noticed that this has been a quieter month as far as receiving blog posts from me goes, obviously I was in Wellington for two weeks at the start of September, but – immediately upon arriving back on the bucolic scene with my parents, my laptop started having fainting spells and gasping urgently for its smelling salts with all the purposeful hysteria of Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. Considering I’ve had this laptop since 2011, considering I’ve dropped it from a great height onto concrete, considering I don’t think I’ve turned it off manually once in nine years, I feel it had a good innings – but even in light of this noble service it was nevertheless an enormous financial and emotional (because of the financial) outlay getting a new one. I was in fact quite petulantly distressed because I’d just for the first time in absolute years managed to get together a semblance of a savings account and was planning to do things with that money and now instead I had to make a large quantity of it disappear and start from scratch again. I know it’s like, literally how life goes that you have to spend money on stuff you wish was free and then you die, but does this mean I can’t be grumpy about it?

In an unprecedented fit of maturity, once I’d acknowledged and held space for that petulance, I decided to reframe the situation in a positive way. My laptop is my livelihood so there’s no question of not getting a new one. It just is what it is. And furthermore, it’s great that when something goes wrong I have the means to fix it myself! This time last year I would not have been able to afford a new laptop, I would’ve had to resort to writing these blog posts in my own blood on a wall and then inviting you all one by one to read it while I solemnly ate a biscuit in the corner, saying “this is a statement…about my bank statement” or something, and tried to remain conscious. Instead, here I proudly am with a new laptop that weighs as much as a tic tac, ready to write until its keys are worn away to a smooth nub. I mean they’re already pretty smooth due to the ergonomic design but…you know what I mean.

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Cooking when my parents aren’t home means an opportunity to put a lot of chilli in everything – not that I actually have an enormous tolerance for heat, but my tastes are exponentially more spicy than my parents, many of you out there can handle exponentially more than me, and so on. I made the African Peanut Stew from Rachel Ama’s Vegan Eats – I’d been thinking about it since I first got this cookbook. It’s a recipe from Sierra Leone and a favourite of Rachel’s mother, whose father is from there, and Rachel made this vegan version for her. Sometimes when you’re anticipating making a recipe you end up accidentally over-hyping it, but this one exceeded all internal excitement from the tastebuds of my brain’s imagination.

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Rachel Ama’s African Peanut Stew

A recipe from her book Rachel Ama’s Vegan Eats.

Paste

  • 2 onions
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek
  • 1/2 – 1 fresh red Scotch Bonnet, deseeded
  • pinch salt

For the stew

  • 1-2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 500g sweet potato, peeled and cubed (I used orange kumara)
  • 1 x 400g tin black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 fresh red Scotch bonnet chilli, whole but deseeded (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste or puree
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 500ml (2 cups) vegetable stock)
  • 125g natural peanut butter
  • 200g spinach, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Coriander, chopped spring onions, extra chilli, to serve

Note: my local supermarket is not terribly well appointed; in place of black-eyed peas I used canned black beans, in place of fenugreek I used a teaspoon of curry powder, since it contains fenugreek and overlaps with some of the other spices, and in place of the chillis I just used plenty of chilli sauce.

First, place all the paste ingredients in a good processor and blitz into a coarse paste.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or frying pan. Spatula all of the paste mixture into the pan and stir it over a medium heat for about ten minutes. It should looks a little thickened and caramelised.

Add the sweet potato, canned peas or beans, the extra chilli if using, and the tomato puree and stir it all together. Then pour in the canned tomatoes, vegetable stock, and peanut butter, season with salt and pepper and stir to combine it all thoroughly. Cover with a lid and bring to the boil, then lower the heat and let it simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. I found that it spluttered quite a bit over the high heat and one of those mesh guard lids was ideal for letting it cook away but without bubbling over.

Remove from the heat and stir in the spinach, letting it wilt in the stew’s heat. To serve, stir in the lemon juice and any extra seasoning you think it needs, and sprinkle over coriander and sliced spring onions and chillis. As you can see from the photos I only used coriander, you can of course suit yourself.

Rachel recommends serving the stew with a salad, or with slaw and plantains, I had it just on its own and it was perfect but I absolutely co-sign her suggestions.

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This stew is so delicious, it’s substantial and rich with rambunctious flavour from the spices and chilli and ginger but also this mellow, sweet earthy creaminess from the peanut butter, and fresh sprightliness from the coriander and lemon. It’s so easy to make – all in one pan – though there is a food processor to clean – and fast, but it tastes like you’ve spent days slowly creating it. Naturally, it tastes even better the next day, in fact I ate some cold with a teaspoon while standing in front of the open fridge just now (you know when you kind of zone out and then come to in front of an open fridge with a mouth full of food?) and it still tastes incredible in that state. If you don’t have the spices already there is definitely a bit of shopping involved, and it uses a lot of peanut butter, but once you’ve got all those things stashed in your pantry this is a fairly straightforward and relatively inexpensive way to make an enormous hearty meal that feels – and tastes – like a feast.

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If you’d hitherto been on the fence there has now literally never been a better time to directly support me and my writing through my Patreon; joining allows you access to exclusive monthly content written just for you including the archives of what I’d been writing before you joined up, being responsible for me being responsible for myself, could there be a more responsible choice than that?

title from: Cornet Man by Barbra Streisand from the Funny Girl stage musical (the number was rudely cut from the film adaptation.) There was an Idina Menzel version that she did at a live show that was removed from YouTube but which I listened to so many times I can still hear it in full in my mind, but Barbra’s original is wonderful, a real showcase of her showstopping voice in its prime, with all her best quirks – a conversational self-deprecating tone, her incredible growl on “can’t take the place of a horn,” her silky vowels stretching like melted mozzarella and her effortless belting.

music lately:

Some Things Last A Long Time, by Daniel Johnston. RIP ❤

Let Me Be Him, by Hot Chip. Do you remember in the 90s when you heard Tell Me When by Human League for the first time on the radio and you were like “wow,” well this soaring and lush song has similar exhilarating energy but without the nineties production that to our discerning current-day ears now sounds a bit like music from an educational video game for children. Also if you hated Human League in the 90s that is also valid and you should still listen to Let Me Be Him. I myself have no real feelings towards Human League and didn’t even know that Tell Me When was by them until like a year ago when I googled it after remembering that I really enjoyed listening to it on the radio in my cousins’ car literally one time because they lived in Auckland and could actually get radio reception and that is the true 90s experience!

We Care A Lot by Faith No More, the earlier Chuck Mosley version – Mike Patton is good but Mosley’s sludgy congested vocals go straight to my veins and I love that messy guitar riff and surly drum beat, this is just such a fantastic song, somehow hostile and rude yet welcomingly dance-able at the same time.

Next time: I also have all the ingredients recipe to make Rachel Ama’s Jerk Mushrooms and Caramelised Onions, you might well be seeing them here.