swing from high to deep, extremes of sweet and sour

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While food blogging is mostly just quietly writing recipes and then being largely ignored but feeling a modest sense of peace at your own unswerving constancy and excellence; now and then a recipe comes along that makes you quite sure everything is going to change as a result of it. You’ll one day tell your grandchildren, or someone else’s grandchildren, or your small dog, that this was your origin story, the recipe equivalent of being discovered loitering in a shopping mall by a roving talent scout. I had that feeling with the caramelised tomato spaghetti and the vegan carne adovada this year, I had that feeling in 2013 when I’m quite sure I personally invented halloumi fries, and I’ve got it now with this vegan lemon curd recipe. To be fair, my instincts have never served me particularly well – my mind tells me “all who shall eat this will surely fall in love with me” like I’m some kind of fairy godmother hovering with purposeful menace at Sleeping Beauty’s christening; in reality it’s more like, literally nothing happens and life goes on, and perhaps the feeling of certainty that a recipe is truly next-level amazing is its own reward. (But you know what’s even more of a reward? Actual rewards!)

All delusional entitlement aside, let’s talk about this recipe. Lemon curd is immensely scientific for something one artlessly spreads on toast – the precise meeting point of liquefying solids and solidifying liquids. So how do you achieve this without the usual eggs and butter? In this recipe I’ve employed cornflour and coconut oil for thickening and enriching, but that’s not the part that excited me most. The real key ingredient here, the maverick game-changer, is…

Pineapple juice.

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I’ve long thought pineapple evoked a buttery vibe, without knowing quite how or why – something in the way its flavour fills the mouth – and had planned to eventually do something with this idea. While researching a piece about cocktails with pineapple juice in them for Tenderly, I asked Facebook why the juice goes frothy when shaken up (short answer: it just does, that’s why!) and a bartender friend informed me that both butter and pineapple contain butyric acid, and like Homer Simpson with the ideas of “dental plan” and “Lisa needs braces” swirling around in his head waiting to connect to each other, I suddenly saw before me what might be possible, and this lemon curd recipe jumped into my brain, fully-formed. And I could not possibly be happier with it.

Vegan Lemon Curd

A recipe by myself

  • 1 cup/250ml pineapple juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • Juice of one lemon (roughly 1/4 – 1/3 cup)
  • 4 teaspoons cornflour
  • 4 tablespoons refined coconut oil
  • 2 drops food grade lemon oil (optional, but good)

 

Note: the pineapple juice can come from a bottle, but make sure it’s more or less 100% pineapple juice, without any added sugar or like, cut with apple juice. You can of course add the zest of the lemon if you wish, it’s a very good idea, I was using frozen fresh lemon juice so didn’t have any zest to work with. Refined coconut oil means that it’s flavourless. If you can only get unrefined it will still work, but there will be a slight coconutty flavour to contend with. The lemon oil is optional but really boosts the fragrant lemon flavour, obviously. The finished product sets to a soft, spoonable lemon curd, if you want it thicker add another teaspoon or two of cornflour.

Bring the pineapple juice and sugar to the boil in a small saucepan, and let it bubble away for two minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat.

Mix the cornflour and lemon juice together – this helps prevent the cornflour forming lumps – then tip this into the pineapple mixture. Return the saucepan to a low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens – it will still be liquidy but should have some gelatinous body to it. Remove from the heat and thoroughly stir in the coconut oil, and the lemon oil if you’re using it. I found a small whisk ideal for this part as it takes a minute to incorporate the solid coconut oil into the liquid.

Allow to cool slightly then pour into a hot, sterile jar. Refrigerate for at least four hours, or overnight – it will thicken as it cools and the texture will appear more creamy and opaque. Makes one jar, around 300ml.

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The pineapple juice gives you heft, as in, provides the bulk of the volume, and its acidic juiciness dovetails perfectly with the sourness of the lemon without distracting – the lemon is still absolutely the star. The coconut oil with the cornflour-thickened juice gives a rich, satiny texture, but somehow combined with the pineapple juice, and its intense sunshine lusciousness, the whole thing genuinely tastes like lemon curd, and I can’t stop eating it from the jar with a spoon in wonderment at just how tart and sweet and velvety and decadent and completely lemon-curd-like it is. Perhaps even better? Honestly, I think this is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever made in my twelve years of food blogging, and I have nothing else to say about it because that’s all there is to it, really.

title from: Sit Down by James, this song is just so jangly and bittersweet and nice, isn’t it!

music lately:

Destroy The Heart by House of Love. I do enjoy an upbeat song paired with a gloomy vocal, it’s the real sound of the summer. There is this amazing guitar riff that sluices through the melody halfway through, never to reappear: I salute its mysteriousness.

I Wanna Sleep In Your Arms, by The Modern Lovers. I think if I could only listen to one band for eternity these guys would be the main contenders for the role. I love the grubby urgency of this song’s guitar riff and the sheer endearing-ness of the lyrics and Johnathan Richmond’s slightly congested singing voice, with its ad-libs and occasional charming slide into speak-singing.

As If We Never Said Goodbye, Diahann Carroll, from the musical Sunset Boulevard (based on the incredible film.) This is such a perfect musical theatre song, full of resolute controlled triumph, it’s simple, yet completely out of reach for most vocalists. The “I’ve come home at last” line at 3:20 absolutely kneecaps me, such a masterstroke of putting one note in front of the other – part of me wishes that the whole song was just that refrain. The late Diahann Carroll performs it beautifully with richness and vibrato, but I absolutely urge you to also watch Broadway legend Betty Buckley’s exquisite performance – if you jump to 8:04, I got full body chills at the effortless way she held the note on “home” so long that the audience spontaneously started applauding mid-song.

Next time: Now that I’ve tackled lemon curd I think I’d like to try making vegan fudge.

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, the opening sentences of the novel I wrote.

yesterday I woke up sucking on a lemon

 

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If you thought my Old Fashioned Lemonade recipe a few weeks ago used up the bulk of the lemon supply then you are deeply mistaken; I live in the countryside now and lemons are like, how we communicate. If you shake someone’s hand and there’s not a lemon that has been furtively passed from person to person via that handshake it’s tantamount to a slap in the face. If you wake up and there’s not a bushel of lemons anonymously placed in your letterbox then you might as well move to a new province. People will give you lemons soon as look at you. People will give you lemons and then you’ll give those lemons back to the giver in the form of lemonade. I’m exaggerating for comic effect, but only slightly. Am I exaggerating about how slightly I’m exaggerating though? Slightly.

Anyway, when mum mentioned that it might be nice to have something baked for a quickly-pending afternoon tea drop-in; I was like right, that sounds like my idea of fun, but what: it has to be something reliable, delicious, and that uses existing abundant resources since there’s no shops nearby to get ingredients from. Naturally: the answer was lemons. To be specific, this lemon syrup cake, which is wonderfully delicious and impressively big, mixes together in five seconds, and can be served still-warm from the oven to your arriving guests – although given time to cool its flavour and texture is even better.

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This recipe is adapted from one I blogged about seven years ago; that recipe was adapted from one I found on a site that appears to no longer exist; so while today’s cake is basically my own I had some help getting there, I’m just not sure who from anymore. Since I first blogged about it in 2011 I’ve made numerous versions of it and have found it to be a most versatile and resilient cake – it can adapt to any tin shape or size, lasts for days and everyone always loves it. And it happens to be vegan, which like is not necessarily something I need to announce at this point aside from the fact that my Google SEO is already so woeful, so let me just be clear, person to algorithm: this is a vegan lemon syrup cake.

My aim with this iteration was to make a traditional style iced/lemon drizzle cake, but I was thwarted by the whole lack of proximity to shops thing: we only had a bare amount of icing sugar left, so I had to switch tactics and make a syrup instead. In the end I think it worked out for the best, because we could eat the cake right away and the syrup made everything stickily luscious, and once cooled the sugar granules formed a wonderful crunchy carapace on the cake’s surface.

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Vegan Lemon Syrup Cake

A recipe by myself

  • 1 x 400g can coconut cream (or coconut milk if it’s all you can find)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • the zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Syrup

  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons icing sugar
  • zest of a lemon, to garnish

Set your oven to 180C/350F, lightly grease a 22cm springform cake tin and line the base with baking paper.

Whisk together the coconut cream, sugar, lemon juice and zest, oil and vanilla till combined. Sieve in the remaining ingredients and stir briskly to form a thick batter.

Spatula the batter into the caketin and bake for around 1 hour although you might need longer – I found this took precisely one hour and 5 minutes and I covered it loosely with tinfoil from around 50 minutes in to make sure the top didn’t brown too much.

To make the syrup, bring the lemon juice and sugars to a good robust simmer in a small pan, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat.

Remove the cake from the tin and transfer to a serving plate. Stab the cake with a skewer in several places and spoon over the syrup (you may not require all of it.) Sprinkle over the second lot of lemon zest. Ideally allow the cake to cool completely before serving, but it is good warm – just be aware that if you do it might get a bit crumbly/fragile, so proceed with caution. Once it’s cooled it becomes a lot more solid.

Although there’s an entire can of coconut cream in the cake the flavour is barely discernible, it’s just a lemon hegemony from first slice to last. However, you could point up this aspect by stirring through a cup or so of shredded coconut into the batter before baking; there are also any number of other directions you could take this in: lemongrass in the syrup, blueberries in the batter, different citrus juice – although if you’re using orange juice on its own I’d add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar just to make sure the necessary acid content is present. If you have any food-grade citrus essential oils a drop of one or two of them in the syrup once it’s removed from the heat is a very good idea; you could also let the cake cool completely and pour over the lemon icing that I never managed to make. Finally, leftover slices are great heated up and served with ice cream, tasting comfortingly like a steamed pudding.

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Lemons!

Now that I have your attention; allow me to take you on a brief tour of where you can find me on the internet other than here: upon gloomily discovering that Campari isn’t vegan I wrote about some different options for fans of the classic Negroni cocktail for Tenderly; I also for Tenderly tried making the best mac and cheese that I could conceive of motivated entirely by the tweet of a celebrity. I also wrote a piece that I’m very proud of about Catherine O’Hara’s singular performance as Moira Rose on Schitt’s Creek for The Spinoff. Finally, I wrote a blog post about caramel walnut slice for my Patreon subscribers; if you wish to access it you can do so for one literal dollar, doing so will also directly support me and my writing.

title from:

Everything In Its Right Place by Radiohead, from their 2000 album Kid A which is my absolute favourite of theirs but also, I freely admit, the last new album of theirs that I’ve actually listened to. This song is amazing, somehow foreboding yet feeling like the sun rising at the same time.

music lately:

Young Ones Everywhere by Stephanie, as in, Princess Stephanie of Monaco, daughter of Grace Kelly. Turns out she was a singer for a while in the 80s and while I’m not sure if she’s the most technically gifted vocalist, her music is GREAT, like, with a dusting of highlighter this song – coldly synthy and vaguely yearning despite its fairly pointless lyrics – could literally be Carly Rae Jepsen.

Change The Beat, by Fab Five Freddy, and its famous b-side, both equally magnetic with languid French rapping over a lush, lush beat.

Give It To Me, Miya Folick. My dear friend Kate recommended this to me and it’s…perfect. Emotional in a combative way, sorrowful in a wild-eyed way.

Next time: I’m really keen on making my own seitan but can’t seem to find a definitive through line in the recipes I’ve seen online, so if anyone can recommend me one I would be most appreciative!

got some lemons, make some kickass lemonade

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In an entirely wholesome state of affairs, my mother and I made this lemonade together using lemons from both the garden and the neighbours’ garden, a recipe from an extremely ancient cookbook originally made to provide proceeds to returned servicemen from World War I, and bottles of it were given to family members and the neighbours who gave us the lemons. I’m surprised local bunny rabbits didn’t materialise to help us stir the mixture while bluebirds tied ribbons in our hair.

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The cookbook that this recipe came from is one of those stalwart and somewhat interchangeable publications that flourished in the early part of last century: they all boasted hundreds of recipes, delivered without ceremony, which makes them a real pleasure to read in this era of extreme hand-holding. Which is not to speak ill of hand-holding; I myself try to make my recipes as full of detail as possible to account for all confidence levels, and while the vagueness of the recipes in these old books is amusing in its way, one could assume that the built-in knowledge of its contemporary readers was because most of the women buying these books got locked into a lifetime of cooking from roughly twenty minutes after they got married until roughly twenty minutes before they died whether or not they had any interest in doing so.

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My great-grandmother’s food weights

On the upside you can open any page and have a hearty laugh at recipes that time has not been kind to: Brown Soup, Boiled Ox Heart, Mock Omelet (curiously, the recipe includes egg), Cowslip Wine, and a remedy for throat infection where you literally cover a piece of toast in tobacco, then tie it to your throat with a rag. Side note, I find it hilarious whenever anyone gets starry-eyed about the simple, chemical-free lifestyle of the past, all “just like grandma used to make,” when these cookbooks all but tell you to glaze your hams with lead paint and give your sickly nephew asbestos lozenges.

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This lemonade, however, is timelessly delicious and calmly simple. You just steep the juice and peel of several lemons in some boiling water with sugar and citric acid, and then chuck it into some bottles. It couldn’t be easier, not if there were small woodland deer peeling the lemons for you. You end up feeling almost deliriously positive while making it too, due to the the vigorously uplifting fragrance of lemon permeating the air. This recipe book was published not long after World War I, which is perhaps why they recommend an austere tablespoon of cordial per glass of water – I recommend a couple of tablespoons, but it’s obviously up to you. I prefer it in a glass of sparkling water but it’s very personable in regular water, and it has a clean, pure, sunshine-on-a-rainy-day lemon flavour to it that’s wonderfully appealing. I suspect it would be very good in a gin and tonic.

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Old Fashioned Lemonade

Adapted from a recipe in the Success Cookery Book, 1925

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 4-8 lemons (the book specifies four but eight is very comfortably accommodated)
  • 4 teaspoons citric acid
  • 3 and 3/4 cups boiling water

Get as much of the yellow rind off the lemons as possible, avoiding the white pith. I started off with a mini grater but a vegetable peeler is a lot quicker and as it’s getting strained out it doesn’t matter how big or small your rind is.

Place the rind, sugar, citric acid, boiling water, and as much juice as your can squeeze out of the lemons in a large non-metallic bowl. Give it a good stir to get the sugar to start dissolving, then cover – a tea towel is fine – and leave until it’s completely cool. At this point, strain through a sieve and funnel into clean bottles. To serve, use two tablespoons, or to taste, in a glass of water or sparkling water.

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The cookbook says that this keeps for months, I see no reason not to believe them. The book also calmly lists things that every family medicine cabinet should have in the manner of a comedian, perhaps Seth Morris, doing an escalation bit: “Court Plaster. Ginger essence. Gregory’s mixture. Gripe water for baby’s colic. Ipecauanha wine for croup. Linseed meal. Lunar caustic for dog bites. Mustard.” If you put a microphone and an audience in front of me and told me to humorously invent some old-timey remedies I honestly couldn’t come up with better than this genuine real list.

While it’s always a good time when I’m online, it’s been a particularly good time for me online lately. Allow me to list for you – in the manner of an old-timey cookbook telling you about what quasi-medieval healthcare methods you oughta know – my latest online achievements.

If you are also excited about my writing and want to support me so I’m able to create more and more and more, then I encourage you to sign up to my Patreon account, where for a mere singular dollar per month you can access content made directly and solely for you.

title from: Livin’ Large by L7, just pleasantly chunky late 90s not-too-deep guitar stuff.

music lately:

Girlfriend by Christine and the Queens featuring Dâm-Funk. Of all the music trying to sound like it’s from twenty-seven to thirty years ago, this is amazing – it has this airy smooth sophistication to it, especially that gorgeously chill chorus, and the keyboards genuinely could’ve come from a Janet Jackson track. Somehow the oddness of the translated-French lyrics add to its appeal.

Memory, by Laurie Beechman. It feels like the entire world was engaging in discourse after the Cats movie trailer dropped; the only Cats-related content I wish to engage with currently is this video of Beechman, who tragically died in 1998, singing the musical’s big hit on the Phil Donohue show, I cannot watch it without crying despite the song’s ubiquity, her voice had this incredible power and metallic fragility simultaneously and honestly if you care about me in the slightest you will watch this video.

Next time: asbestos for all!

Salvatore can wait, now it’s time to eat soft ice cream

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I don’t pretend to understand the economy or much of anything really but the day before I left Wellington there was a fruit and vege shop selling mangos for 99 cents and I thought to myself my lord I’d better buy one, at that price they’re practically paying me to have it, and then I didn’t have time to eat it before I flew back to Waiuku, but I was like, for 99 cents it’s just nice to know it’s there, but I also hate wasting food, so I put it in my luggage and it flew up with me, and then damn it if mangos aren’t 99 cents up here as well! I had it in my head that mangos were a summer fruit but I’m not going to question their inexpensive and incongruous presence at all because winter seasonal offerings are otherwise like, onions, parsnips, leeks, and one small, reluctant pear.

I figured I might as well go full out-of-season and make ice cream with the mangos since their elusive flavour, which tastes like running towards the sun in a dream, like a distant popsicle, like passionfruit and mandarin had a child and then sent it to boarding school at the age of five, is so suggestive of summer and heat. And it actually has been sunny here this week, although providing little tangible warmth, since, you know, it’s the middle of winter.

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Unlike my previous ice cream efforts I was happy to take a simpler path this time, and used a couple of cans of coconut cream for the base, as its flavour dovetails so beautifully with that of mango. I also added some fresh lime zest and juice because, after a coffee with my nana and other family, I was given some fresh limes straight from the tree – such luxury! Thanks Denise! If you can’t get hold of a lime then bottled juice will work okay but there’s nothing like that intense sour green freshness of the real thing. All that this requires is a food processor, although you could use a blender or some other similar implement if that’s what you have. I prefer coconut cream for this because its higher fat content gives a better texture, and aside from that there’s just a little vanilla and sugar and not much else. It couldn’t be easier. The second go in the processor is a bit of a pain, admittedly, but it really improves the texture – it’s a bit rock-hard without it. The important thing is, you don’t need an actual ice cream maker and not one of my recipes has ever required one and frankly even if I ever become financially stable I would still never buy myself one on principle because you just don’t need them to make amazing ice cream.

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So the flavour of mango is already holding you at arm’s length, and when you blur it with creamy coconut and add sharp lime it becomes even more mellow and yet you can still sense it, a kind of gentle tropical-ity, because the coconut backdrop somehow buffers out under the lime’s strident influence as well – in case you were concerned it would taste too much like coconut, it doesn’t. It’s so balanced, refreshing yet delicate, soft yet summery. And very delicious, if my weird metaphorical language wasn’t making that clear. It’s delicious.

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Mango Lime Coconut Ice Cream

A recipe by myself

  • 2 large ripe mangos
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 lime, zest and juice
  • 2 x 400ml cans coconut cream (look in the ingredients list for 90% or more coconut extract)

Slice as much mango flesh as you can from each mango – it’s a messy and unwieldy job, I grant you – and place in the food processor bowl with the cornflour. Blitz into a puree, using a spatula to scrape down the sides if need be. Add the sugar, vanilla, salt, lime zest and juice, and then blend again to combine.

Open the cans of coconut cream and empty them into the food processor, and blend again till it’s a smooth, creamy, pale mixture. Spatula this into a tin or container about one litre in capacity, then freeze for four hours. At this point, empty everything back into the food processor (and you might as well hold off on doing the dishes till this is done), blend until very creamy and smooth – this might take a while – then spatula it back into the container and return it to the freezer. After another two or so hours it should be ready to eat, although you’ll want to take it out of the freezer about twenty minutes before you need it, because this stuff gets pretty rock solid. 

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As I said last time, starting this month – my god, it’s July already – I’m going to be contributing regularly to Tenderly, an online vegan magazine that’s launching on the 8th, so I’ve been writing and preparing and testing lots of stuff for that, and unfortunately I’ve also become burdened with a head cold that’s possibly the flu and encroaching with maddening slowness – just get it over with already! I don’t have time to be sick! The germs in my head are extremely disrespectful! But fortunately ice cream is extremely soothing to a tender throat. As I also said last time, I will be also doing fewer blog posts on hungryandfrozen.com and will be instead uploading some exclusively for my Patreon supporters on a monthly basis, just to maintain some balance in my life in the manner of a well-flavoured ice cream – if you want in on this just-for-you content you can do so for a mere singular dollar.

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If you’re also fired up to make ice cream in the middle of winter for no good reason, or if it’s the middle of summer where you are, may I suggest further reading: my Rosé Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream; my Vanilla Ice Cream, and my Black Salted Caramel Ripple Ice Cream.

PS: No cats in the background this week, every time I looked up Poppy was staring at me intently and unsettlingly with hate and disdain in equal measure radiating from her yellow green eyes and rather than prod that hornet’s nest I thought I’d just leave her alone. This is called personal growth.

title from: Salvatore by Lana Del Rey, this song sounds like it was put through a Lana Del Rey Songmaking Machine (“la da da da da….limousines…la da da da da…ciao amore”) which is not to say that it’s not any good; it’s excellent! Syrupy and cinematic and nostalgic and lush and sad, just like a good Lana Del Rey song should be.

music lately:

Istanbul Is Sleepy by The Limañanas featuring Anton Newcombe, who seem to be doing their very best to sound like The Velvet Underground, which is obviously not a terrible aspiration, and as a result this song is gorgeous, layers of droning sounds and pounding drums and persistent guitars and detached vocals all with an oddly uplifting mood to it, it’s really, really good.

Make My Dreams Come True by Lontalius, this is thoughtful and mellow and lovely, like being a passenger in a car on a road with not one single bump on it (a rare treat in New Zealand) with the sun low enough in the sky to make you feel like a moody character in a film but not so low that it gets in your eyes.

If He Walked Into My Life, by Jennifer Holliday, she takes this number from the musical Mame and tears it to pieces effortlessly – her belting is astonishingly huge at all times and yet she’s so in control, she has this song in the palm of her hands, it’s such an incredible performance. The song itself is basically Women Who Love Too Much: The Musical but when she’s like “did I give too much, did I give enough” and then “did I stress the man, and forget the child,” and then “were his years a little fast-uhhhh” I have chills. A definitive interpretation.

Next time: if mangos are 99 cents this week, who knows what will be in season next week, in the middle of winter! Strawberries? Christmas?? But I also feel like I haven’t blogged about anything savoury in ages so will have a think about that.

feeling like a bowl of spaghetti, not knowing what to give

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Look I’m telling you right now that this doesn’t taste exactly like parmesan but it evokes a certain mood that if you’re generous and tilt your head to one side and you haven’t eaten actual parmesan in like nine months so your doltish tastebuds don’t know any better, is generally very pleasing. As you can tell by the equally generous “”””” around the word parmesan in the recipe’s title, like I’ve climbed up a small step-ladder before launching into exaggerated air-quotes. I am just a firm believer in being honest with you and making sure that you have all the information you could possibly need and indeed all that you absolutely don’t need as well before you consider embarking upon this recipe!

It’s also extremely and sincerely delicious. I’d had this recipe shuffling about my brain for a week prior but could never seem to square up actual convivial times to cook food (eg 2pm, 6pm) with when I was actually ravenously hungry (always around 11.48pm or 1.20am for no good reason at all!) This detail is, I grant you, extremely not interesting, but I needed to get it off my chest because it was literally just a whole week of me being like “I’m satisfied with a small bowl of cereal for lunch” and then hitting the hay at midnight suddenly unable to think about anything other than this pasta and it was highly frustrating! In all honesty there was some self-discipline involved in me making it at last; one afternoon I’d walked back to Newtown from my friend’s house in Brooklyn – one suburb over – following the maps app, which sounds straightforward but may I remind you how simple tasks like this cause my brain to warp like an old cassette tape and I rapidly got very lost, or at least it felt like it, I was in truth a mere handful of metres away from recognisable land when I fell into this predicament, and there’s no real way to convey the fear I felt and before you ask yes, I was looking at the map app and yes, for some reason it was now refusing to tell me where I was, possibly for haunting-related reasons, and no, it wasn’t Google maps, and yes, going off-brand is possibly to blame for the misinformation, and no, I didn’t realise that the app that came with my phone wasn’t Google maps already, and yes, it took an hour and twenty minutes to do a walk that was, according to the off-brand maps app, supposed to be thirty two minutes, and after enduring that I really just wanted to lie down but I was like Laura, you’ve got to get this recipe idea out of your head and onto a plate and to the people, and so that’s what I did and now you too can finally relax because I’ve finished telling this necessary yet wholly pointless preamble.

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So the sweet and nutty ground almonds have this wonderfully soft-yet-granular texture which truly emulates that of finely grated parmesan clinging to each al dente strand of the spaghetti as you twirl it round your fork like it’s a curly telephone cord winding around your fingertips; the fresh lemon cuts through everything with its golden shine but also echoes the acidic nature of that absent cheese; nutritional yeast is, I shruggingly concede, an obvious ingredient, bringing its crowd-pleasingly cheese-mimeographing savouriness. Don’t hold back on the olive oil, as it makes everything buttery and rich, and the splash of pasta cooking water may sound unusual but, bringing with it the starches that have leeched out of the spaghetti itself, it helps emulsify the sauce and make it surprisingly creamy. You know, considering it’s just mildly floury water.

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I hate to be firm with, well, anyone really, but I really want to insist upon the importance of the thyme’s presence – you can use bottled lemon juice instead of fresh stuff, you could still have a good time if you don’t have nutritional yeast, absolutely use regular olive oil if that’s what you’ve got but the fresh thyme gives you everything: pugnaciously herbal savouriness…resiny richness…a far-off murmur of citrus…gentle sweetness…thyme flavour.

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Lemon “””Parmesan””” Spaghetti

A recipe by myself.

  • 100g dried spaghetti
  • 2 -3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • grated zest of a lemon
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (or as much as you can get out of it)
  • 1/3 cup ground almonds
  • 2 heaped tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard (any is fine, I used Dijon)
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • a pinch of ground pepper
  • a pinch of garlic powder (optional, but worth it)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

Bring a large pan of water to the boil – it feels obvious to be explaining this to you but it always goes a lot faster if you boil the jug first and then pour that into a pan and bring that to the boil rather than just waiting for the pan of water to boil itself. Once it’s at a rolling boil tip in a generous pinch of salt (it’s hard to oversalt pasta water so don’t be scared) and cook the spaghetti for ten to twelve minutes or until it’s, you know, cooked.

Meanwhile, mix the olive oil, lemon zest and juice, ground almonds, nutritional yeast, mustard, salt, pepper, garlic powder and thyme leaves together in a bowl along with about a tablespoon of the cooking liquid from the pasta. The second time I made this I used bottled lemon juice and found that some extra olive oil counteracted the slight bitterness of the juice, I also just like a lot of olive oil. As with all recipes, taste to see what you think it needs more of. 

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it thoroughly and mix it into the lemon-almond sauce. Drizzle with a little extra olive oil and sprinkle over some extra thyme leaves because why not, and then serve.

Makes enough for one.

P1180735(Ghost’s face, when I’m really firmly like “𝘩𝘦𝘺 buddyY, this pasta is for big boys only, not for small good boys, is that okay with you ??? ? ? ? big idiot boys only. . . .not gȏod flṻffy smâll boys. . . 𝕤𝕠𝕣𝕣𝕪 bëbé. . . but in this world- oh he’s göne.” )

Pasta is my favourite and this is my favourite kind of pasta – simple, elegant, a small amount of sauce quietly shadowing it but not overshadowing it. It’s perfect as it is, but it could, however, also hold its own while holding up something else on top – perhaps some sleekly roasted eggplant slices or a customarily meatball-shaped thing.

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Speaking of words like favourite and perfect, look at this stunner tattoo I got done with my perfect favourites Kim and Kate for my birthday by Jade at Sumi Tattoo, by which I mean, we all have matching tattoos now! It represents the Three of Wands tarot card which we all kept being unconsciously drawn to over the years and the collective interpretations of which read like a bullet-list of our journey together so far and it’s really pretty and we’re each like a supportive side of the triangle! I love stuff that’s symbolic and literal at the same time!

PS: As per and as always, thank you to my Patreon patrons for supporting me and my writing, you are each and every one of you seen and appreciated. Should you wish to join this perspicacious cadre of patrons yourself, then you may sign up here. A couple of dollars or more per month directly influences my ability to write more and gets you exclusive content in return, like book and film reviews or what star sign I believe each character from Gavin and Stacey is or a recipe for the best vegan scones.

title from: Casper, a sweet and woozy song by Daniel Johnston.

music lately:

Comfortably Numb, specifically from Roger Waters’ hilariously overblown 1990 concert performance of The Wall held on land where the literal Berlin Wall itself had fallen eight months prior, like a snake eating its own tail while frantically yelling “this is GREAT!” to anyone who will listen. When Pink Floyd cleft themselves in twain in the 80s you were left with the excellent, if occasionally ponderously dour songwriting of Roger Waters in one camp and the lovely singing voice, strong melodies but very bad lyrics, (and, I suspect, slightly sunnier disposition) of David Gilmore in the other. So what’s a scamp like Waters to do when faced with the concept of putting on an all-star concert version of the album that was the bombastic undoing of his very band: why, he went all star. And so we have Van Morrison AND The Band in the David Gilmore vocals, and where Gilmore was icy, Van Morrison is like a heat pump warmly gusting towards you with The Band’s country-flavoured harmonies over that gloriously soaring chorus somehow creating the absolute sense that, despite this song actually being about swiftly-creeping dread, you are both safe and loved. To really drive this home they, in an uncharacteristically commercial bone-throwing exercise, give us another repeat of the delicious chorus at the end after Snowy White’s long and crunchy guitar solo. You bet Levon’s Helm’s trucker cap that I’ve listened to this pompous magnificence like twelve times this morning alone.

Sailin’ On, by Bad Brains, for a far more economical yet no less effective use of guitar solo. I love how scuffed up this track sounds and its headrush speed and the oddly adorable “ooooh” vocals that start in verse two, or are they saying “mmmm,” it’s hard to tell against all that noise, but still: oddly adorable.

Next time: I had some smashing cupcakes when I went to my book group today and because I’m highly suggestible I now have a singular urge to make cupcakes; it’s certainly been a while.

i set out to disappear and out there i found a new home

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Since we last talked a lot has happened, so let’s recap! I loved many things about my job as a bartender but I was also like, I could accidentally carry on working round the clock for another year and a half and not actually confront myself with any real life decisions, and so my final shift was last Sunday; as for the moving house bit, well my lease was coming up for renewal and the rent was hiked upwards to a height so dizzying even in this current economic climate that it would give you a nosebleed just to countenance it, and I was like honestly I can’t condone this behaviour from the landlords so I bowed out and am now temporarily but delightedly mucking in at the house of my lovely friends Kate and Jason.

I spent roughly five days in the lead up to moving house entirely consumed by fretting about packing, and doing packing (in that order), aided considerably by my stalwart pal Charlotte who managed to briskly pare my enormous wardrobe down to the point where the pile of clothes I was getting rid of was bigger than that which I kept (and to her credit sat gamely through such dialogue from me as “it’s, you know, just an everyday classic practical see through top, a real wardrobe staple” and “this coat-hanger has been in my family for generations.”) This is the first time I’ve moved house since acquiring an ADHD diagnosis, by which I really mean, this is the first time I’ve moved house with the aid of Ritalin and months of hard work on being slightly less of a liability, and I must say while it was a novelty being so relatively organised in advance I was also hit like a fleet of bicycles by anxiety about how disorganised I’d been in every single moving-of-house hitherto. But – I managed to send the movers that I’d booked to the wrong address in case you were concerned that I’d made too much progress.

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So now I live in Newtown! I made dinner for Kate and Jason and also our friend Jen on Wednesday night – cooking dinner is something I can easily do in order to be a good houseguest, but also something I haven’t done with any great sense of routine in absolute years; on top of which I’ve been feeling a bit detached and weird and nonplussed and whiplashed since leaving my job and moving house and getting rid of 2/3 of my precious, practical, see-through clothes which is of course totally normal for such circumstances but I’m trying to get a grip on myself and on my sleep cycle and on my use of time and on, well, everything really, and just when I was feeling like none of this was going to happen, I was flicking through one of Kate and Jason’s Ottolenghi cookbooks and saw this recipe and felt filled with inspiration to make it and I was like, well, this is a start.

Ottolenghi is so talented at making any old pile of vegetables feel exciting and exuberant, this is because his recipes are really good as opposed to any deeper level of witchcraft than that; but I mean he’s just such a great read if you’re feeling a bit culinarily blank and it’s also the middle of summer and you want the kind of meal that holds at least two components that are in danger of getting stuck in between your two front teeth, by which I mean, greens.

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The salad recipe I present to you is a lazy version of the original one in his book, Plenty More. The key components all have their place: the dense granular mildness of the chickpeas, the oily and caramelised fried cauliflower, the sweet summer brightness of the mango, and it’s all just very delicious and simple and straightforward. The curry powder has such a nostalgic quality to it, and its sweet earthiness against both the vibrant and the calmer ingredients is so good, don’t overlook it. Mangoes just sing of summertime, don’t they? I urge you to seek out a pertly bulging specimen, ripe but not fermentingly soft, you want it to be al dente for want of a better word. (Also? I love mangoes but their flavour is so elusive, like trying to move towards a rainbow, that I feel as though I need to eat twelve mangoes in order to experience the power of one actual mango’s flavour? But also matching them with all these savoury elements really makes them come to life?)

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Ottolenghi’s Chickpea, Mango, and Fried Cauliflower Salad

adapted slightly from a recipe in Plenty More

  • 2 cans of chickpeas in brine
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • indiscriminate quantities of olive oil (not extra virgin) or other neutral oil for frying
  • 1 small cauliflower, broken and sliced into small(er) florets
  • 2 large, firm, ripe mangoes
  • sea salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 50g baby spinach leaves
  • a handful coriander leaves, roughly chopped 

Drain the chickpeas and place them in a large serving bowl with the cumin, curry powder, mustard seeds, and sugar, and stir well.

Heat up a tablespoon of oil in a saucepan and fry the onion till softened and golden, then stir into the chickpeas.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to the boil and cook the cauliflower in it for one minute, then drain thoroughly.

Heat more oil in the same saucepan that the onion was fried in – a couple of tablespoons will do – and once it’s really hot, fry the cauliflower in it in small batches. Don’t overcrowd the pan, and let the cauliflower sit for a few minutes before turning it over, to allow it to get golden and brown. Transfer the browned cauliflower to the bowl of chickpeas and continue till all the cauliflower is done.

Chop the mango into chunks and stir into the chickpeas along with the lime juice, the spinach, the coriander, a good drizzle of olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

I liked this even better the next day when the spices and lime juice had soaked into everything, it didn’t look as good but it tasted more intense.

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In case you didn’t see my last blog post, my reason for making all these drastic life changes at the expense of all involved is that I am going to write, just like, so much stuff, with this in mind and also my unemployedness – not that it’s anyone else’s responsibility but my own, but it could be yours if you wanted! – I direct you confidently towards my Patreon where you could get in at the ground floor on supporting what I do and receive exclusive content in return. And that really is my plan, to recover from the whiplash of this all-change and to write, well, that and to be as good a house guest as I can possibly be. (I just realised as I type that there’s a double meaning to “write, well” – wow I’m doing great already.)

title from: Baltimore Blues No. 1, Deer Tick. Moody.

music lately:

Walk Away, Sisters of Mercy, they sound, as I described to the long-suffering Charlotte, as though someone is trying to convey jauntiness while trapped underwater (by which I mean, obviously, I love it)

Morning Terrors and Nights of Dread, Shilpa Ray, it starts off surfy (good) and ends up surfy and howl-y (very good!)

Blue by Rico Nasty, she is incredible!

Next time: I tried making some macarons with the leftover aquafaba from the canned chickpeas in this salad and they were delicious but super fragile, but I presumably have the energy now to nail the recipe properly.

well I see you there with the rose in your teeth

I have some fascinating developing news for you: firstly, did you know you can get sparkling rosé by the can at the supermarket for like $4? Secondly, I’m leaving my job and devoting my life to my writing! Seriously! $4!

Vegan Rose Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream

But first. You don’t come to Wellington, the city I’ve lived in for 13 years now, for the weather, you just don’t. You come here for, I don’t know, the coffee and “vibrant Cuba Street” and to behold the moustache-to-face ratio with appalled disdain and reluctant respect in equal measure. But in summer 2019, with the chickens of global warming coming home to roost, Wellington is hot as BALLS. And so I felt it would be timely to make some ice cream, not only because it’s my favourite food but also to try and bring down my general temperature and perhaps yours by proxy. The heat has homogenised us and it’s all anyone can talk about now.

Rosé raspberry ripple ice cream sounds, I grant you, like it belongs on those Facebook videos with a wine glass that can hold an entire bottle of wine yet not an ounce of personality, but! The rosé has merit here outside of its pastel-coloured populism. This ice cream is distinctly lush, heavily swirled with blisteringly pink, sherbety, sour-sweet raspberry rosé sorbet. The rosé gives it a kind of biscuity, dry finish while dovetailing beautifully in both blushy colour and blushy flavour, and the oat milk is the perfect inobtrusive yet creamy backdrop for everything.

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The recipe is moderately fiddly, but not in a taxing way, and the only really annoying thing about it is that there is an undeniable quantity of dishes (I don’t know why or what moralistic properties I’ve assigned to individual kitchenware items subconsciously but for example, a bowl? I can calmly wash that. The blade of a food processor? I must lie down with a cold compress over my eyes now.) I like to be relaxed about people swapping ingredients to account for availability and affordability, but I do think oat milk is the best option here, it has a real fulsome mildness similar to actual milk in flavour. Probably soymilk would be the next best thing. If you don’t have custard powder then cornflour is a near-perfect dupe, and I would definitely consider using frozen strawberries instead of raspberries. The use of chickpea brine will either be old news to you or absolutely horrifying but here’s the thing: it acts exactly like egg whites, I don’t know why, it just does, so when you whisk it up it goes thick and creamy and holds its shape and is just an absolute blessing for vegan cooking. And having the actual chickpeas to use is no great burden – blend them into hummus, roast them with some spices, or just coat them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and stir through some rocket.

(And I’ll be honest with you, I’m not saying the rosé was entirely an aesthetic conceit, but if you left it out for whatever reason – financial, non-alcohol-consumption – the ice cream will still be both absolutely fine and delicious. But at $4 a can, can you afford to not buy it?)

Vegan Rose Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream

This really just tastes like summer, the fruity sourness tap-dancing up the side of your face and your skull hurting from the cold, the fragrant, juicy, lipstick-smeared-on-the-side-of-a-glass pink blast of the berries and the creamy, softening properties of the vanilla.

Rosé Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream

a recipe by myself

  • 2 cups (500ml) oat milk
  • 3 heaped tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons custard powder
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) aquafaba (liquid from a can of chickpeas in brine)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 vanilla bean (or one teaspoon vanilla paste/two teaspoons vanilla extract)
  • a heaped 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) sparkling rosé (or unsparkling will do)

Heat one cup (250ml) of the oat milk gently with the coconut oil and custard powder, plus about half the sugar. Don’t let it get to the point of boiling, but just to where the coconut oil has melted and the sugar has dissolved and the custard powder has thickened it somewhat. Run a sharp knife down the centre of the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the oat milk mixture, whisk in the second cup of oat milk, and then set it aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, start whisking the aquafaba briskly so it becomes thick and airy. Slowly add the remainder of the 3/4 cup of sugar, a little at a time, as you continue whisking. Once the sugar is all whisked in and the aquafaba is thick and meringue-like, add the sea salt and then gently fold it into the oat milk mixture. Spatula all this into a container of just over a litre capacity and freeze for about four hours.

At this point, take the ice cream out of the freezer, scrape it all into a blender or food processor, and process till creamy and smooth. Before you do this there’s a good chance that it will have separated somewhat in the freezer and appear all ice-crystal-y, but a quick go in a blender will make it come together again easily so fear not. Spatula it back into the container and return it to the freezer while you get on with the ripple.

Give the blender or food processor a half-hearted rinse, then process the raspberries, icing sugar and lemon juice to form a thick, bright pink frozen paste. You may need to add a couple of teaspoons of water if the raspberries are very frozen solid. Carefully stir in the rosé. Take the vanilla base back out of the freezer and dollop the raspberry mixture into it large spoonful by large spoonful. Give it the most cursory stir to move the separate parts around a little – you don’t need to mix it in too much and it will naturally form layers and ripples as you scoop it out. Return to the freezer for about six hours or overnight, then it’s all yours.

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Now that we’ve all got our vicarious chills, let’s talk about me. So: every now and then I like to get all irrevocable just to see what happens. This particular shake-up takes the form of two things happening in the near future: I’m leaving my apartment and moving in with my dear friends Kate and Jason for a while and leaving my job as a bartender, with the distinct aim of (a) avoiding burnout and (b) focussing on my writing and (c) yes, working out how I’m going to support myself as a writer but also (d) not burning out!

Though it may sound like a madcap lark, an imprudent caper, I am in fact acting upon what I talked about at the start of the year – I really really wanted to throw myself into my writing this time around the sun and I had this convergence of a ton of writing ideas crystallising at once, my lease coming to an end, and just desperately needing a break from hospitality, intoxicating though it is. I mean I’m genuinely fairly spooked at the contemplation of not being a bartender, it’s been my life round the clock and a large chunk of my personality for the last five years! This is not a decision I came to lightly or suddenly but man, there’s something incredible in a sandblastingly intense kind of way way about actually making a decision with clarity instead of letting life wash over you, isn’t there?

And I know, I can’t just not work, like, mate, I don’t think I’m above capitalism, if anything, I am capitalism. By which I mean, with my life upheaval in mind I’ve updated my Patreon to tell you about the exciting writing projects I’m going to be working on soon and how you could directly be supporting them. So if the notion of contributing to the existence of, for example, a novel that is (very reductively, but for the sake of brevity!) Dazed and Confused meets Kitchen Confidential or a cookbook about what to cook when you’re too depressed to cook sounds like something you’d like to claim early adoption of, then consider becoming a Patron of mine!

(Benefits to being a patron include exclusive monthly content made just for you, like, this month I reviewed every book I read and film I watched in January. Sample text: “Rachel Weisz could kick me in the head and I would thank her for it.”)

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You in turn can comfortably expect not only more blog posts from me but also more energy expressed therein, as opposed to me complaining about how tired and lacking-in-time I constantly am. On top of which I will be using my newfound spare time to get back into freelancing and pitching ideas at people so if anyone has any leads, please! Get in touch. Sometimes you have to lose money to make money, as the saying goes!

title from: Famous Blue Raincoat, Leonard Cohen. “It’s four in the morning, the end of December“, is such a captured mood, isn’t it? This song is so utterly miserable and downbeat but just when it seems too much to bear, it gently but firmly unfolds into this incredibly optimistic major key for what I guess you could call the chorus but then! Just as quickly! Retreats in fear and the second verse is somehow even more unhappy. Cohen, you maven of misery, moving tears from duct to cheek like an efficient shepherdess.

music lately:

1080p, by Sammus, a rapper, producer and PhD student from Ithaca, this is beautiful, I love the cadence of her voice, how it has a slight break to it, and there’s so many sharp lines (“we never talk yet we still share a f**ing Netflix”…”glad I took my ass to some therapy/Now I’m seeing the world in 1080p“)

I Woke Up In A F**ked Up America, Lonnie Holley. This is about as intense as you’d expect from the title, I love the record-skip repetition and layered horns and the vibrato of his voice and yeah, the intensity. Holley has had quite a life, I recommend looking him up on Wikipedia.

On My Own, Frances Ruffelle, from the Original Cast Recording of Les Miserables. There’s such a Bernadette Peters-esque porcelain-and-steel quality to her voice and I love the angle of her vowels and the way she leans into her consonants – see also the way she says “HMmbut he never saw me there” in One Day More – but also consider listening to Kaho Shimada, singing the same song from the 1988 Complete Symphonic Recording of Les Miserables, I will never stop telling anyone who will listen about how Kaho Shimada didn’t speak any English and learned her lines phonetically for this recording and her voice SOARS on the big bit near the end (you know the bit, “all my life, I’ve only been pretending” it’s the bit you came for.) I think there’s some kind of echo effect that’s been layered on it as well which makes it sound particularly as though it’s being carried on eagles wings and I don’t know what it is about high summer but it seems to compel me to devote my life to playing the same seven to nineteen Les Miserables clips on YouTube.

Next time: Something extremely from my storecupboard as I’m trying to avoid spending as much as possible between now and my last shift.

forever green, I know she’s here

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Wednesday was so momentous in a way that I’m not sure I can accurately convey other than to hope that as you’re reading this you’re trying to understand what it means to me: I met Nigella Lawson. I was always into food in an opportunistic way but it was seeing her TV show in 2001 that showed me for the first time that food could be a cause of real happiness for not just the eater but also the cook. Without a doubt I would not have started food blogging if not for her, I probably would not have achieved much of anything in fact. If you’ve been reading this blog for even a minute you’ll already know this, but again, it’s just so big for me! This has got magnitude! It needs big mise-en-scène!

How it came together, and I still can scarcely believe that it did, was that Nigella has been on a tour where she will sit in front of an audience and be cushily interviewed and receive questions (not, as I kept accidentally calling it, “in concert”) and Mum and Dad (it was Dad’s idea) displayed the most absolute incredible parenting skills in getting me a ticket to her Wellington date for Christmas.

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Ever since I was a child I’ve always been comfortably and righteously convinced that whatever I’m obsessed with, there is none more so than I in possession of said obsession, and I am afraid to say that I was in this same frame of mind when I sat in the audience, selfishly feeling that my very presence there was so tightly packed with intensity that there should be a secondary audience watching me being in the audience in a Marina Ambracoviç-esque performance art piece. I’m not afraid to admit that I genuinely started crying when Nigella Lawson walked out on stage, before she’d even said a word. And once she did, she was – of course – wonderful. So generous, so clever, so good at making the least of the questions appear to inspire these witty and expansive answers, so warm and lovely and confident and just everything a person could hope for in someone so long idolised.

A couple of days ago I took a plate of food to a potluck dinner at a friend’s house and we spent much of the night staring off their thirteenth-floor balcony, beholding the Super Blood Wolf Moon scooting across the night sky. Now, I love the moon (I have no less than three tattoos of the moon on me and at one point was like “I hope the moon is impressed by this” and didn’t even stop to qualify that I was being humorous or whatever because honestly I think was being sincere) and without wanting to sound like a dick it genuinely felt quite momentous to be in its presence on this night, the moon so swollen and golden and we so relatively insignificant.

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I had this same feeling in the presence of Nigella Lawson, like I was somehow gaining power and energy from her, and while it was probably a combination of hype and restless energy and also lack of sleep – does it make sense to you though? Do you ever see someone and suddenly think “I could achieve anything I want, I need never stand for anything less than what I deserve, and what I deserve is good things, and I could kick a hole in the sky?” If not, have you ever tried standing in front of Nigella Lawson? Is it a coincidence that I saw her in the same week that I saw the Super Blood Wolf Moon? Do coincidences even exist? Will I ever sleep? (I should’ve probably mentioned this sooner but, I wrote this in middle of the night so please bear with me, or continue to at this point.)

Just in case I threaten to float away like a vainglorious novelty balloon, I share with you the following photo which cracks me up but at the time was just seconds away from ruining everything: so, when you line up to get your book signed by Nigella Lawson (as you can see below, that I did), there was a guy standing there to take your phone so he could photograph the moment. But the guy in charge of this important yet straightforward job, somehow thought that the person standing in front of me was my friend, and started to take a photo on their phone. And I was like no, wait, here is my phone, but also don’t you dare distract me from my brief moment with Nigella Lawson don’t you understand my entire life has been mere prelude to this point you actual imbecile – but I didn’t say any of this verbally, not wanting to cause a scene, instead, as you can see below, it was just kind of written on my face instead.

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A beautiful moment.

Luckily I managed to put my own phone in his hands and captured a more sanguine shot of Nigella Lawson and I talking, and for all this talk of being charged with power I was honestly so overwhelmed by being face to face with her that all I managed to do was murmur “you’ll never know how much you mean to me” which to her credit, probably from years and years and years of this sort of carry-on, she received cheerfully, before being hustled away from her glowing, tide-pulling presence.

I brought this week’s recipe with me to the aforementioned potluck dinner; the green beans are but a delicious conduit and the sauce is the real point of the exercise here: you could use said sauce on noodles (udon, I reckon), you could pour it over roast vegetables, you could employ it as a dip, you could mix it with rice, you could use it in a potato salad – but before we get too carried away with its potential, what actually is it? Well, it’s a sauce, that’s green, hence the name Green Sauce. I initially considered it to be both a coriander and peanut pesto and a green satay sauce but also surmised quickly that that would be simultaneously wildly insulting to both Italian and Malaysian cuisine. So: Green Sauce. It does hinge entirely upon your feelings towards coriander, admittedly – I love the stuff, its fragrance somehow earthy yet citrussy at the same time with so much grassy flavour from the stalks. Blitzed into a puree with nutty (of course) peanuts; plenty of rich olive oil, and the caramelly saltiness of miso, this makes for a compellingly punchy and near-instant sauce.

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Green Beans in Green Sauce

a recipe by myself

Green Sauce

  • leaves and stalks from one of those supermarket coriander plants, or from a large bunch of coriander
  • half a cup, ish, baby spinach leaves
  • 1 cup unsalted peanuts
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (though be prepared to add more)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon white miso paste
  • 1 heaped teaspoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice (or lemon if you don’t have lime)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple syrup or similar
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • Plenty of salt and pepper to taste

To serve

  • 2 cups frozen shelled edamame beans
  • 1 cup long green beans, topped and tailed and halved

Place all the sauce ingredients in a blender and blitz till it forms a thick green paste. Add a little extra olive oil or water (or both) and blend again if it needs to be more liquid. Taste and see if it needs more salt or lime juice.

Steam the edamame and green beans (I put them in a colander balanced on some chopsticks over a pan of boiling water but in fact feel free to simply simmer them in the water itself) – and don’t worry about defrosting the edamame. Once the beans are lightly tender, remove from the heat and run briefly under cold water, allowing them to drain thoroughly.

Tip the beans into a serving bowl, stir through the sauce, and that’s it really. Garnish with a few extra peanuts or reserved coriander leaves if you wish.

As discussed it has plenty of applications but the way I used it – with a double-billing of edamame and long green beans – is delicious, not only do you get the pleasing dovetailing of colour, but the bright, buttery soft crunch of the beans against the fulsomeness of the sauce is wonderful.

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So long in the making, so important.

title from: Velouria by Pixies, not my favourite of theirs but! What a lovely song.

music lately:

I Wanna Sleep In Your Arms by Modern Lovers. Title says it all, really.

The Angel of Death by Hank Williams, its calming waltz time signature belied by the lyrics’ gentle yet sinister persistence.

The Look, by Roxette, a song that is deeply silly and that I also find intoxicating. I remember first hearing it when I was really young and something in the minor key progression and harmonies in the chorus made me feel almost queasy but in a very good way? You know how music does that to you sometimes? (I can’t quite put my finger on why, other than maybe the minor key just genuinely messes with me, but like, for example, Shampain by Marina and the Diamonds has a similar buzz for me.)

Next time: two cocktails!

PS as I mentioned in my last post I have started a Patreon page where you can have the distinct honour of supporting this blog in as small or as large a capacity as you feel like and in return I will create even more content just for you and you’ll be genuinely helping me get by!

New Mexico ain’t bad Lord, and the people there, they treat you kind

Vegan Carne Adovada

Despite having lived a substantial quantity of my life before social media ever wrapped its tentacles around me in a way that felt like love, no one could deny that I’ve thrown myself quite whole-heartedly into it since. Nevertheless I was like, how do I explain the premise of this week’s recipe? Inspired by a tweet I saw? That wasn’t even directed at me? But I guess it’s pretty simple, really, because social media is EVERYWHERE. When I went home for Christmas Mum and Dad were talking about a local Facebook group that is like Craigslist, community noticeboard, judge-jury-and-executioner and then some all in one that started off as a simple meme page. And I was like yeah, there’s one of those where I live but it’s the reverse, initially for students to offload their Psych 101 textbooks and now it’s kind of a Wellington meme page YET also the only conduit I could or indeed would fathom of for like, getting rid of a mattress. And I’m pretty sure every town has one now!

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I count myself lucky to follow so many people on Twitter who seem genuinely incredible, most of them women, and who will so casually drop the kind of powerful or powerfully hilarious tweets that entire teams of television writers would weep hot tears of jealousy over. And while Minka, the person who wrote the tweet that inspired this week’s recipe, is 100% in this category, the tweet itself was highly innocuous. It was December 4th, it was Minka tweeting to someone else the simple words “IMAGINE VEGAN CARNE ADOVADA” – that’s all! I’ll be honest, I was not feeling particularly wonderful that day and definitely not feeling imaginative. But the tweet stuck in my head, to the point where I would literally hear it as if it were a song’s lyric, and at last I decided to actually, well, imagine it. Am I saying Minka’s tweet cured my depression? I’m not not saying it?

Vegan Carne Adovada

Vegan Carne Adovada

a recipe by myself but inspired directly by this recipe of J.Kenji López-Alt and this recipe from I Am New Mexico.

  • 4 dried ancho or poblano chiles (I used 5 large dried Anaheim chiles as this was alas all I could find), seeds and stems removed
  • 4 whole chipotle chiles, canned in adobo (I used the La Morena brand)
  • Zest and juice of a large orange
  • 5 prunes
  • 3 cups vegetable stock (by which I mean, use your preferred stock powder to make this) plus 1 cup extra
  • 1 heaped tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or similar
  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 can of jackfruit in brine
  • 1/2 cup of flour or cornflour (use the latter to make this gluten-free)
  • plenty of olive oil, for frying
  • 1 large onion, peeled and roughly diced
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or date syrup
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Plenty of salt and pepper to taste
  • Warmed tortillas, coriander, rice, to serve

Step 1: The Sauce

Heat up the dried chiles in a large frying pan, till they are aromatic but not smoking. Add the prunes, the zest and juice of the orange, the canned chipotles (don’t rinse them), the vinegar, the nutritional yeast and three cups of the vegetable stock, and bring to the boil. Let it bubble away for ten minutes, and then remove from the heat. Carefully blitz the lot in a blender to form a thick red sauce, and then transfer this to a large mixing bowl. You might find it easier to scoop out all the solids and blend them with a small quantity of the liquid before adding the rest, either way just be careful about blending hot stuff. Stir in the cumin, oregano, maple syrup, bay leaves, and a good pinch of salt and pepper, and set aside.

Step 2: The Stuff in the Sauce

Wash and dry the saucepan and heat up about three tablespoons of olive oil in it. Trim off the stem and then cut the eggplant into rough cubes and chunks, and fry them in the hot oil till dark golden brown on all sides. Tip them into the bowl of red chile sauce and return the pan to the heat.

Now, gently fry the onion and garlic in the same pan, perhaps adding some more oil if it needs it, stirring occasionally and allowing it to soften and turn golden.

While this is happening, thoroughly drain the can of jackfruit and using your hands, pull the pieces of jackfruit into smaller segments. Don’t throw away any seeds or whatever, it’s all good stuff.

Transfer the onion and garlic into the bowl of red chile sauce with the eggplant and get on to frying the jackfruit. You want to heat up another few tablespoons of olive oil in the same pan, and dip each piece of jackfruit into the flour before throwing it into the pan. Your aim here is to leave the jackfruit for long enough that it caramelises and turns golden on all sides – this will take some patience and the flour will go a bit scungy in the oil but it’s worth it for the end result. When the jackfruit pieces are golden brown and the fibrous edges look good and crisp, throw the whole lot, including whatever flour-oil gunk is in the pan – into the bowl of red chile sauce.

Step 3: Marinating, cooking, actually eating

Cover the bowl of red chile sauce and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight. When you’re ready to cook it, set your oven to 150C/300F and transfer the carne adovada into a baking dish. Give it a taste to see if it wants any more salt or anything. Use the extra cup of vegetable stock (or honestly just tap water is fine by this point) to sluice around the bowl that you’ve been marinating everything in, to catch any remaining sauce, and tip this over the contents of the roasting dish.

Bake for around an hour, or until everything looks rich and saucy and a little caramelised from the oven’s heat. Serve however you like – heated up tortillas, coriander, and rice is a good start.

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Without exaggeration, I honestly think this is one of the greatest recipes I’ve ever tasted and were it not for Minka’s tweet I’d have missed this opportunity completely. I’ve never been to New Mexico (where the dish originates) and am by no means familiar with New Mexico cuisine; I had in fact only hirtherto heard of Carne Adovada via Minka’s other tweets about it. With this in mind, I strenuously emphasise, that while I created the recipe that you see above, it is completely and directly based on the recipes that I linked to – one quite complex, one very simple – and I’m just a culinary tourist from a far-away land, rather than any kind of expert in this particular field. Nevertheless, allow me to respectfully explain myself.

In order to emulate the pork that is normally used in Carne Adovada (and I know carne means meat but I’m not about to do something gross like calling the recipe “car-nay”) I went for a double-pronged approach: darkly fried cubes of eggplant, oily and melting and rich; and then jackfruit, coated in flour and fried till golden and crisp: this provides that mild sweetness and, for want of better words, meaty fibrousness. Jackfruit is (a) a revelation and (b) really inexpensive and pretty easy to find these days, however on its own it felt a little un-luscious, hence the pairing. Both of these were marinated overnight in a ketchup-thick sauce made hot with papery, blood-dark dried chiles and smoky little canned chipotles and aromatic with cumin and oregano. I used prunes to sweeten the sauce because it’s what I had and I also felt they had a kind of meatiness to them, but you do what suits – one of the recipes I referenced used raisins, while the other recipe didn’t include any sweetening agent at all.

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The final slow bake in the oven makes the sauce so, well, saucy, and it’s all smoky and hot in this complex-yet-straightforward way and the eggplant and jackfruit melt and pull apart in your mouth and it’s all full-bodied and lush and while there’s a few steps involved it’s unbelievably rewarding and almost meditative to prepare each part of it. Now, when I try to make an existing recipe vegan my aim is more to evoke the abundance that meat or animal products provides rather than “this tastes like meat”, but…it doesn’t not taste meaty, you know? By which I mean I think this would and should be happily received by absolutely anyone. Thank you, Minka!

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Speaking of social media and providing spectacular content for free; this seems as good a time as any to tell you that I’ve started a Patreon page for my writing. Patreon allows you to be a modern day Patron of the Arts, magnanimously bestowing your literal money upon those of us who create in return for (a) a certain glow that I can merely assume only comes from having money and (b) the promise of exclusive content for your trouble. There is no sense of obligation or expectation placed upon any of you individually, it’s just sheer opportunism – like, if I can get money off someone then I might as well get money off someone, you know? And it’s a whole lot easier to be inspired, by tweets or otherwise, when you can comfortably pay rent. So, I entreat you to consider joining this exclusive band of money-havers, but if you don’t I’m not going to like, stop blogging, I would however like to stop talking about money just one time.

title from: White Freight Liner Blues, by Townes Van Zandt, whose despondence is to my ears like electrolytes are to, well, wherever they go – the blood?

music lately:

Last Week in HTx by Megan Thee Stallion, look her up!! She has so many good tracks but I love the way the “bitch I’m from Texas” line in the hook anchors everything in this song.

Thursday Girl, by Mitski, this song literally ruins me and YET I’ve also made a playlist on Spotify that only has this song on it and no one has stopped me, so. I’m obsessed with the nineties singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant buzz on the fourth refrain of “tell me no” in the chorus.

Venus in Furs, Velvet Underground. So throbbing and hypnotic! I’ll never forget the look on my boss’s face when I was playing it really loudly at the tiny German bakery that I worked at in 2006 and they walked in and without saying a word turned it off and then left and got in their car and drove away.

Dues, by Ronee Blakley, from the amazing Robert Altman film Nashville. Blakley performed this in the film as her character Barbara Jean but she actually wrote it herself in real life, and while several of the songs from the film are meant to be satirical of the country genre, this is just a beautiful and achy waltz and very, very real.

Next time: possibly a cocktail but also it’s been too long since I’ve made ice cream, right?

and I can start a book, I can make some mac and cheese, I can sleep twelve hours

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Last Saturday I had the good fortune to appear on Radio New Zealand to talk about recipes for a tight yet manifestly fruitful eleven minutes and three seconds; as a result I had a whole lot of new people sign up to get my blog posts emailed to them. And I was like maaaan I hope I impress those who signed up in all innocence who don’t know that I’m constantly talking about my mental health and even worse, how I use the word “like” as verbal filler even though I’m writing and not like, talking out loud and therefore in need of said fillers, like, how is it that my written words somehow manage to have vocal fry?

I was also hoping to get this blog post done sooner in order to impress said new kids and indeed, literally anyone, but I’ve been SO TIRED which you either know or shall come to learn is like 67% of what I talk about, but in my defence, this week feels next level, as though all I’ve done is work or try to sleep and infuriatingly be unable to do so; you know that particular tired where the skin under your eyes feels like hot scratchy lace and there’s an egg-shaped queasiness in the centre of your ribs?

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(Speaking of eggs I last appeared on this same segment of the Radio NZ show a few years ago and at the time confessed to host Charlotte Graham-McLay that I did not know how to poach an egg, or more specifically: I knew how, but I was never successful at it. Before my appearance on the show again last Saturday, sitting outside the studio, she asked me if I was still unable to poach an egg and I was like “well yeah nah, yeah but I’m vegan now so I don’t have to worry about it.” And then I paused and was like “that’s not why I became a vegan.”)

Despite my frantic-making tiredness I’ve been productive in a gritted-teeth kind of way; I’ve somehow managed to read three books (and am halfway through another), I’ve watched twelve films (insomnia is good for something at least), I’m halfway through a knitting project and I made myself food. Specifically, this recipe for Roasted Carrot Mac n Cheese!

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Roasted Carrot Mac n Cheese

a recipe by myself

  • 7 (or so) carrots from a bunch, the kind that are smallish and have lots of green on the end and look like something from a Beatrix Potter book; or about three regular big normal carrots
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup roasted salted cashews
  • 1/3 cup oat milk, almond milk, or similar
  • 2 heaped tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dijon or American mustard
  • a pinch of garlic powder or one clove of garlic
  • a pinch of ground cumin
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  • a pinch of paprika, preferably the nice smoky kind
  • a very small pinch of turmeric
  • salt and pepper to taste (I prefer sea salt and really dusty cheap ready-ground black pepper, personally.)

To serve

  • 100-200g small dried pasta for example, but not exclusively, macaroni (I used something called Cavatelli)

Optional:

  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Set your oven to 220C/430F. Slice or pull the leafy tops off the carrots and place them (the carrots, that is, not the leafy tops) in a shallow roasting dish. If you’re using regular carrots, slice them in half across the middle and then slice each half lengthwise in half, if that makes sense. Drizzle liberally with olive oil (just regular stuff is fine) and sprinkle over a little salt. Put them in the oven for around twenty minutes, or until they’re thoroughly roasted, you know, all soft and caramelised and a little shrivelled (I can’t think of a better word for it, sorry.)

Allow them to cool, then place them in a high speed blender with the oat milk, olive oil (plus tip in any olive oil that is left in the baking dish), the cashews, the nutritional yeast, mustard, lemon juice, the spices, garlic, and a little salt and pepper. Blend it thoroughly until it’s thick and creamy and there’s no trace of actual carrot or carrot remaining, then taste to see if it needs anything more – perhaps some more salt (don’t be shy) or a little more milk, just trust your tastebuds, basically. At this point, you can either spatula it into an airtight container and refrigerate it for up to a week for further use, or set to with stirring it into some pasta. In which case…

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil (I always boil the kettle first and then tip that into the pan, which saves a ton of time) and cook your pasta for around ten to twelve minutes, or until it’s tender. Drain thoroughly, then mix through the sauce. If you want, you can at this point blitz up the slice of bread with the sunflower seeds and nutritional yeast in a food processor or blender, sprinkle it on top, drizzle it with olive oil and grill till the top is browned and crunchy, but serving it just with the sauce is completely fine too.

Serves 2, or 1 with leftovers.

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I feel that a lot of vegan cooking is like playing that game where you have to describe a noun like “pencil” or “John McEnroe” or something without actually naming it, which is not a dig, I excel at such games. So here I use the words “mac n cheese” to evoke a mood rather than to convey anything literal (which to be fair you could like, reasonably expect from a recipe title, but) and everything that goes into it has its own specific purpose in the game to get you closer to imagining that which the title suggests. The spices – earthy cumin, nutmeg brings sweetness and also tricks you with its cheese-sauce familiarity; the mustard and lemon give tang and the turmeric and paprika give colour and a little back-of-throat smokiness and the high speed of the blender’s blades force salty, buttery cashews and rich, nutty, oily almost-sweet roast carrots to relinquish any commitment to their current cellular structure in order to become creamy and thickly, billowingly pureed. And of course nutritional yeast, which really does taste pretty similar to cheese and is therefore a completely obvious addition and there’s no need to get weirdly poetic about it.

The carrots are the real heroes of the piece here and I’m delighted that my idea for using them thusly worked so well. I urge you to find those cartoon-like bunches of smaller carrots bound together by their almost fluffy, leafy green tops: they simply have a ton more character and flavour than a regular-ass carrot, but if that’s all you can find then don’t let that stop you by any means. If I had my time again I’d honestly probably make double the quantity of sauce so that the pasta could get really truly submerged but as it was, modestly coated and with the crunchy sunflower-seed-breadcrumb topping (and you could just use breadcrumbs, I just decided to really lean into this whole, you know, thing), it was completely delicious.

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Through appearing on the radio (which I adore doing by the way, not much makes me happier than having a microphone in my face especially if I’m talking about myself and I encourage anyone else who’s looking for such a person to consider me) there was another pleasing side-effect: my Frasier food blog got unprecedented (by which I mean like, seven) views and I received three separate notifications that literally essentially just said “wow someone is actually reading this, end of notification!” Even my blog platform, inanimate though it is, is excited! All of which – talking into a microphone, new readers, the whole thing – makes me feel optimistic and excited! I’m admittedly approaching a somewhat anxiety-inducing fork in the road as my apartment lease comes to an end in February and I don’t know what I’m going to do about it yet and I feel like I’m never going to stop reeling with exhaustion but, with such tangible achievements already achieved in this young year, I’m okay to rest briefly on my laurels. And hopefully even sleep on them at some point.

PS new readers, one final thing I’d like to have noted for posterity is that the photo of me on the Radio New Zealand page is really old.

title from: The Frug by Rilo Kiley. A quiet and slightly odd but sweet little song from way back in their back catalogue, it does feel very of its time, by which I mean a song written in 1998 that appears on the soundtrack of a Christina Ricci film, yes it’s a genre.

music lately:

It Takes a Muscle To Fall In Love, by Spectral Display, it’s so calm and yet so beautifully momentous at the same time. It bears some of that same hypnotic energy as Scritti Pollitti’s Sweetest Girl but is less sinister. I adore them both.

Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime, by The Field, it’s one of those songs that’s so bordering on ambient that it almost blends into the background but suddenly the minor key cracks open into a major key and it feels like the sun is rising in your face.

Legend of Pat Brown, by Vandals. There’s an appealing matter-of-factness to the singer’s voice, and it’s just a great song, okay.

Oh, and some time after I published my eleventh anniversary blog post I thought it would be funny or fun something to make annual Spotify playlists of every song (that I was able to find on Spotify, that is) that I mentioned in this bit of the blog. I started doing this bit two years in which is why the playlists for each year’s songs start from 2009; anyway it’s just kind of nice and occasionally horrifying, potentially for me and me alone, seeing what I was listening to in any given year, like a little time capsule. If you want to check them out, and indeed, any of my other playlists of varying quality (by which I mean, from good quality to really good quality), I’m here on Spotify.

Next time: I intend to be (a) less tired and (b) that’s it really that’s as far as I’ve got.