and if i recover, will you be my comfort

My first recollection of the song One Night in Bangkok, from the troubled yet oddly compelling musical Chess (especially since it’s like two and a half hours of people singing about literal games of chess, it’s really punching up in the compelling stakes) was when I did a dance to it for one of my jazz dance exams, probably around 1994-ish timeline-wise. I can still remember quite a few of the steps, because muscle memory is funny about what it holds on to.

The track that I danced to had been dubbed to cut out what I later realised was there: this long, rather indulgent overture that goes on and on and on rather endlessly until the musical phrasing spins around and all of a sudden the beat drops and there’s a white guy rapping, kind of.

At 4.20 (nice) this morning as I drove in a taxi to the airport with this French guy who I used to work at Library with nearly every single day to farewell him as he moves overseas forever, it made me think of the overture of this song. I was with his flatmate and dear friend, and we were like…we knew this was coming ages ago but how is it so suddenly this very moment? Obviously I’m going to miss this guy heaps but it made me think about missing people in general. You’re going along, in the overture, everything feels fine, its repetitive nature lulls you into thinking well, I guess this is the song. And then suddenly there’s a tailspin and the beat drops and everything is completely different and you’re like, oh man. This is the song now. And the new bit of the song is so different to the overture that you’re like…why can’t I hear that overture right now, how is it so impossibly different to right now, how did it used to be all that there was.

 comfort, food comfort, food

Anyway, the passage of time, wow, it’s a thing, I’m soooooo deep for noticing it. Whether or not the earth turning as it usually does has got you caught up or not, there’s really not much else to do right now but eat comfort food, and in the case of this recipe it’s a foodstuff I turn to often in times of need. Risotto.

I’ve talked about risotto so much On Here that there’s almost nothing new I can come up with about it; I think calling it “white noise in food form” was my highest apex of descriptiveness. It comforts in the making as well as the eating – obviously it’s soft, warm, creamy rice, as bland or as punchy as you want it to be, as close as you can get to actually eating a large fluffy blanket (okay, eating a freshly baked loaf of bread does challenge this notion) but the power of the calming, soothing, endless go-round of stirring hot liquid into the grains of rice and transfixedly watching them swell up slowly cannot be overstated.

A friend and coworker recently told me they were vegan now and I was like “wow, vegan, huh? That makes me think of…the word vegan.” And so I wanted to try and make a creamy as heck risotto without adding any animal products (specifically: my usual butt-tonne of cream and butter); I also wanted it to be fairly gentle and simple and non-aggressive.

It’s olive oil that gives this risotto its magical texture and richness; apart from that there’s just some pistachios and orange interrupting the soft grains. It may be non-threatening but it’s by no means bland though. The olive oil gives this intensity of buttery flavour and merges with the starch released by the rice, emulsifying into the most creamy and pleasingly gluggy finished product. The pistachios add soft crunch and their own almost-buttery flavour, and the orange brightens it all up but in a mellow way. It’s truly delicious, the flavour unfolding in this elusive way that makes you want to chase it with mouthful after mouthful.

This makes a large batch but the leftovers are strangely good cold from the fridge and if you roll them into tiny balls and dunk them in breadcrumbs before frying in some quantity of hot oil, you can get some highly serviceable arancini; crispy on the outside and creamy within.

orange, pistachio and olive oil risotto

a recipe by myself

  • one onion
  • plenty of extra virgin olive oil (soz to be vague, you just need plenty, okay)
  • one and a half cups of arborio rice (the cheapest stuff is fine here)
  • three quarters of a cup of white wine or dry vermouth (sorry this is a lot, but it makes a lot of risotto)
  • one tablespoon dijon mustard
  • one vegetable stock cube or a tablespoon of white miso paste
  • 70g pistachios, roughly chopped
  • one large orange, zest grated off
  • salt and pepper

Heat a generous tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a large pan. Finely dice the onion and tip it into the pan, and fry the pieces gently until they’re a little translucent and soft but not brown. Now tip in the uncooked rice grains and stir them in the oily onion for a minute or two. Pour in the wine or vermouth – it should bubble up merrily for a bit before settling down. This is where the stirring starts. Stir and stir over a medium heat (although I tend to impatiently turn it up high) till the rice has absorbed almost all the wine. Now add the stock or miso and the mustard, plus two tablespoons of the pistachios, and the orange zest, and continue adding water from a recently boiled kettle, about a cupful at a time, stirring and stirring till it’s absorbed and you can add the next one. Every time you add more water, also drizzle in a little more olive oil, about a teaspoon or so. Sorry I don’t have specific measures here, you just add liquid till it’s done, you know? 

Once it’s done it should be creamy and thick, with no granular bite when you taste the rice. Just yielding softness. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste – and indeed, more mustard if you like. Serve drizzled with more olive oil, and squeeze over some of the orange’s juice. More salt and pepper is good here – and finish with a scattering of cheerfully green pistachios. 

It maybe sounds like there’s a nervous-making amount of olive oil in this but there’s not much of anything else, and you’re only adding a little at a time. Some of the cheapest extra virgin olive oils still have massive flavour, so don’t feel like you have to go high end here. Don’t skip out on the salt and pepper either, it ties everything together – salt makes everything taste more of itself, and I never used to like black pepper but it was just what I felt like having here – plus its dull heat helps stop the whole thing being too sleepy.

I know I bang on about comfort food and like, it’s not going to solve everything, but whatever’s going on you still need feeding and honestly, risotto is just the best, I can’t recommend it enough. If you can’t breathe, if you can’t think, if you can’t stand up, I believe that you can make it. The risotto I mean, but like, in general too.

As I said, I have five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred risotto recipes, but continuing in this vein, if you want more maybe try my take on Nigella’s Pea Risotto (which can be made vegan) or this oven-baked risotto if standing and stirring is beyond you right now (and if it is: I get it.)

title from: CHVRCHES affecting-like-whoa song Recover.

music lately: 

My song that I can’t stop listening to this week is Montaigne, Lonely, but beautiful as it is I’m trying to counteract it with taking Love Myself by Hailee Steinfeld repeatedly like it’s medicine. 

Muse, Plug In Baby. Emostalgia. 

next time: well it’s DECEMBER THE DAMN FIRST tomorrow and I’m NOT prepared in ANY way but maybe I’ll start thinking about xmas food. 

you said i must eat so many lemons, because i am so bitter

1. I have nothing clever to say about the presidential election, no one comes to this blog for politics, and it was with massive sorrow and anxiety that I watched the livestream chug on endlessly with a friend (we got so stressed that we had to break for ice cream and then we both felt sick immediately after and I was like OH THIS IS THE LAST STRAW U MADE ME BE NEGATIVE ABOUT PRECIOUS, BEAUTIFUL ICE CREAM) and it was with massive sorrow and anxiety that I found out the confirmed results. There’s nothing exciting or able-to-be-romanticised or hilarious about Trump being president elect and it’s not even my battle by any means but if you’re hurting then I’m hurting with you and if you need support I support you and if you need compassion, I love you.

2. It’s possible that it’s really just a conflation of a million different things and feelings but I’m feeling almost overwhelmingly devastated by the death of Leonard Cohen. It’s weird, like…he was so old. People die. As I said, I guess it’s just the timing, really. But his songs have been so important to me ever since I was around 16 and I was introduced to him when my aunty made an offhand comment about how his music was nice to play when you’re going to sleep. That year I went off to boarding school and I would play the CD of his that I got for Christmas every single night when I went to bed. But only when I was home. His music to me feels like safety and warmth and calm; yet of aching and longing and quietly waiting for something that might never arrive. In 2009 I spent an enormous amount of money on a ticket to see him live – years later I would joke that if I’d known he was going to keep touring every year to pay off his debts I would’ve just waited and spent less money – but now I’m glad I did it. Like I said, he was OLD and it’s hardly the most shocking news, but like, spare a thought for the guy at the supermarket checkout who innocently asked how I my day was going and who had to listen to me tearfully talking going on about it (him: “oh that guy, yeah we sang Hallelujah in my primary school” me: “that sounds right” him: “was he really religious?” me: “well he used a lot of religious imagery…he was kind of a bad ass” also me: “I should go now.”)

3. Last week I travelled with friends to Otaki for the wedding of two of our very good also-friends. Gosh, if weddings don’t make you just THINK about your LIFE, you know? But, it was a happy, lovely, full-of-love day from start to finish and I was super grateful that I got to witness it in all its beauty. And that I didn’t fall out of my surprisingly practical strapless jumpsuit. The couple generously gave away little jars of homemade preserved lemons as party favours and I adore preserved lemons so gathered up every spare jar I could find.

On Monday I halved a bunch of tomatoes and smothered them in a mixture of olive oil, spices, some sliced up preserved lemons, and sugar, and roasted them first at a low heat then at a high heat. They were incredible and I accidentally ate all eight tomatoes in one sitting rather than leaving some for future use because they were just that delicious.

Preserved lemons have a compelling lemony (duh) saltiness; and strange though it seems all you need from each soft piece of fruit is the actual yellow skin – slice off as much of the flesh and white pith as you can (and then inevitably eat it to see if it could be that salty: yes it bloody is.) The remaining zest is full of concentrated sourness and salt, yet it’s somehow kind of mellow too – a bit like how garlic can be rich and sweet and make your eyes water at the same time. Stir it into pasta, use it in anything even vaguely Mediterranean, eat on its own out of curiosity, use it to flavour olive oil. Or do what I did: make these gorgeously scorched little roasted tomatoes, warm with cinnamon and caramelised slightly and stir them into pasta or anything vaguely Mediterranean, or just eat them squashed onto a bagel with some thankfully perfect avocado.

fast slow-roasted tomatoes with preserved lemon, cinnamon and garlic

a recipe by myself

  • eight smallish, ripe tomatoes
  • two big garlic cloves
  • about three tablespoons of olive oil, but y’know, whatever
  • half a lemon’s worth of preserved lemon
  • two teaspoons coriander seeds
  • a pinch of ground cinnamon
  • a teaspoon of brown sugar

Set your oven to 150 C/300 F. 

Roughly chop the garlic cloves or mince them if you’ve got one of those contraptions. Rinse the lemon slices (I’m assuming your preserved lemons came sliced into quarters) and slice off as much flesh and pith as you can, leaving you with just the actual skin of the lemons. Now that you’re finally at this point, roughly or finely slice them as you please. Mix the garlic and lemon slices in a small bowl with the coriander seeds, olive oil, cinnamon and sugar. Taste it – if you want a bit more sharpness, add in a dash of the preserving liquid from the jar of lemons or indeed, another quarter lemon’s worth of sliced lemon rind. 

Halve the tomatoes and lay them, cut side up, in a small roasting dish. Spoon the lemon-garlic-oil mixture evenly over them, scraping every last bit of flavoursome oil into the dish. 

Roast them at that low heat for 20 minutes, and then turn up the temperature to 220 C and continue to roast until the tomatoes are slightly scorched.  

The sweetness of the tomatoes is intensified under the heat and the lemon’s bite works beautifully with this. They taste best when they’ve had some time to sit and lose that scalding heat, which means you can put the whole tomato half in your mouth and allow the seeds to burst, pleasurably, full of garlic and cinnamon and salt, without causing yourself any damage. The coriander seeds have a hint of bitter lemon to them as well but if you don’t have them just leave them out or use cumin seeds instead for a different kind of earthy spiciness. I feel like this would be particularly spectacular with mint leaves scattered on top, but alas my mint plant has died from neglect and I was like, I don’t know if I’m actually ready to commit to another one and I shouldn’t reward myself for my bad plant husbandry by just replacing the erstwhile one immediately. But definitely mint or indeed, basil, would be perfect here.

 what a beautiful wedding what a beautiful wedding

Thanks Vanessa and Reuben for the sour lemons that provided some definite sweetness this week. And also for playing I Want You by Savage Garden at the reception.

If all of this appeals and you want more, I recommend using preserved lemon in my recipe for Slow Cooked Lamb with Cumin, Cinnamon and Feijoas;  or in this Barley, Lentil, Eggplant, Pomegranate and Mint salad; or get high on your own supply with Nigella’s delicious recipe for preserved limes.

PS: thanks for reading, always.

title from: Kate Nash’s debut single from 2007, Foundations. The whole Made of Bricks album that this comes from makes me feel way too many things, I love upbeat songs about sad things and this is a classic example of that genre. 

music lately: 

I don’t even know where to begin with Leonard Cohen but listen to him singing Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye live at the Isle of Wight in 1970 if you dare.

The Saddest Song, from the musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Not even trying to be funny about the political timing of it all, I just can’t stop listening to this song.

Laura, by Girls, which contains everything I love: surfy sound, sad sad sad lyrics set to upbeat music, my name in the title.

next time: well I still have a lot of jars of preserved lemons, guys. 

and when i hit that dip get your camera

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

  super  super

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

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

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

Well that explains my sore stomach, said I.

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

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

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

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

hummus with avocado, pomegranate, pine nuts and pumpkin seeds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

music lately: 

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

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

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

but it sours into a routine deceit

I’m sure I’ve conveyed it somehow, but if you were not aware, I am a fulltime bartender. I personally think I’m good at it. I love doing it. But I don’t tend to talk about it too much On Here apart from to like, flop around and whinge about how tired I am, which is something I’ve done whether I’ve been bartending or working in an office or conversely, working in a different office, throughout the entire lifetime of this blog. Interestingly, I sleep better now than I ever have before, possibly because I’m filling my usual insomnia hours with standing up and serving drinks to people. 

But yeah! Cocktails! So fun to make! I love learning about the classics, especially the truly ancient and sometimes forgotten ones – back when someone would mix cold gin with a wineglass of this and a jigger of that and some cad would lean over the bar and be like “hot jimminy dog! This is swell! And I, Lord Flauntleroy, pronounce it a new sensation! I suggest we kiss now, Bertram.”  On that note, it is fun discovering fascinating bartenders from way back when. Like London’s Ada “Coley” Coleman, who invented the Hanky Panky – a variation on the classic Martini using gin, sweet vermouth and that friend of yours and mine, Fernet Branca. She started working as a bartender in 1899, at a time in England when you were either allowed to be devotedly married or quietly reading Pilgrim’s Progress, but nothing else, let alone be employed in the man-crusted world of night-alcohol.  

Ada “Coley” Coleman extremely doing her thing in like 1702

With that in mind I decided to do an impressively deep, powerful lunge sideways from my usual food recipes today to provide a recipe for something that I spend almost as much time thinking about: cocktails. More specifically, my variation on one of my favourite drinks, to make it vegan. So: Sours are generally a shaken-to-heck mix of a spirit, lemon juice, a little sugar and some egg white, the latter of which creates a gloriously silky texture and frothy layer on top. Raw egg white in a drink might sound un-fun but please, bear with me, as I am currently super into them and compelled to make Everything Sours right now. Including any mocktails I make for the glassie during their shift (the person who washes our glasses on busy nights: as I always say, A Hydrated Glassie Is A Hydrated All Of Us.) Importantly, you neither taste nor smell the egg white – it just wraps its proteins around the molecules of the liquid and floofs everything up splendidly as you shake the cocktail, creating a spectacularly light, foamy drink. 

Whisky sours are probably the most well-known take on this format, but I personally favour gin sours, an occasional amaretto sour and the fairly underrated Pisco Sour. Once you start extrapolating out – and why wouldn’t you spend four hours on wikipedia without realising it – it becomes clear how many cocktails fall into the greater Sour family, being a mix of liquor, sugar, and lemon or lime juice – like Margaritas and Daiquiris. Sours have a gloriously punchy, sweet-zingy taste and lush texture – there’s barely a liquor under the sun that isn’t improved by a little sugar and a little citrus. However I also love sours because they’re quite easy to recreate at home. You only need one favourite bottle of spirits, and the rest is just kitchen stuff. Plus you’re getting a hit of protein and vitamin C with every sip. It’s basically an alcoholic multivitamin. 

 whisky sour

whisky sour

However! If you can’t eat egg white – because of preference, allergy, whatever – it seems a massive shame to be missing out on this entire avenue of cocktail deliciousness. I’m neither vegan nor allergic to egg myself, but I don’t think that’s a compelling enough reason to not explore and reimagine existing recipes to make them available to more people. Or at least: I love thinking up recipes and I like challenges, so this is my idea of fun.

If you’ve not yet heard of it, the solution is slightly leftfield. At some point in the recent past, it was discovered that the liquid from canned chickpeas, called aquafaba, behaves almost exactly like egg whites. As in, the stuff that you normally drain off into the sink, can be whisked with sugar and baked and it honestly looks and tastes like meringue. I don’t know why or how, but it’s enough for me that it’s possible. Having used aquafaba successfully before to make pavlova, I got to wondering how it would work in a sour cocktail recipe. The most perfunctory of google searches reveals that roughly five billion people have already thought of this and tested it and I was like fine, I did not discover this, but in my defence this is the first time that I’ve thought of it. 

 gin sour

gin sour

Who cares about provenance when it works so well! First I made myself a whisky sour using aquafaba, then I made another one, just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, then I made a gin sour, and then I realised I hadn’t eaten yet and I was moderately tipsy. The important thing is though: it works! Look at how frothy these drinks are! I barely shook them and they turned into alcoholic foam immediately! I was honestly so excited. And tipsy. Now, the aquafaba liquid is not entirely tasteless –  it’s hard to explain what quality it brings, which possibly means I’m a terrible food blogger, but it just provides a slight background hint of…dust? Faint notes of literal chickpea? I counteracted this by adding slightly more sugar than I normally would. But as long as you’ve braced yourself for that, you’ve got a delicious drink on your hands that you can easily make sizeable batches of and drink joyfully while doing such activities as entertaining guests or testing cocktail recipes. 

Please don’t in the slightest bit feel like you have to spend vast quantities on bartending equipment which you will possibly never use and only grow to resent and accidentally kick over all the time (curious, as you keep it on top of the fridge.) If you’ve got a clean jar with a lid you can put all your ingredients in there to shake vigorously, and pour it through a sieve into your chosen glass. Some kind of plastic container, even, would work, or just your cupped hands if you want to get super artisinal (fine, I don’t condone this, but I do stand by the alcoholic multivitamin statement.)  

Another thing to keep in mind if you haven’t made your own cocktails before is, Sours usually get what’s known as a Dry Shake, which, yeah, doesn’t sound great, but it’s just where you shake up the ingredients initially without any ice before shaking them up with ice to give the egg white a chance to emulsify and aerate. If your ingredients are all cold enough you could possibly get away without shaking it with ice at all, since this gets so foamy, however a tiny bit of dilution from the water is actually desirable, just to meld all the ingredients together. 

Finally, sugar syrup can be made hastily by dissolving equal parts of plain white sugar and water together. And I figure most people have some kind of shot glass lying about the house from when they went on a Con-Tiki trip ten years ago or were students or whatever, otherwise just work with the fact that one tablespoon measures 15ml and go from there. 

vegan whisky sour

  • 45ml/one and a half shots of bourbon or rye whisky
  • 30ml/one shot of lemon juice
  • 15ml/half a shot of sugar syrup
  • 20ml/just under one shot of aquafaba

Place all the ingredients in either the glass of a Boston shaker or inside a clean, empty jar that you have a lid for. Bang the top of the boston shaker onto the glass, or screw the lid onto the jar if you’re using it, and holding them firmly, give them about ten good shakes – you’ll see the contents instantly become frothy and aerated. 

Remove the top of the shaker or the jar lid, add a handful of ice, lid up and shake again briefly. Strain into your chosen glass, decorate with bitters if you wish, drink immediately. Peychaud’s bitters is more traditional but I happened to have a bottle of Angostura Bitters and so used that instead. Leaving your whisky sour naked is also highly acceptable. 

vegan gin sour

  • 45ml/one and a half shots gin
  • 30ml/one shot lemon juice
  • 20ml/just under one shot sugar syrup
  • 20ml/just under one shot of aquafaba

Proceed as above – shake all ingredients together without ice, then add ice, shake again for a bit, strain into your chosen glass. 

To make the non-vegan versions of these, use around 20ml/just under a shot of egg white per drink. I prefer using the pasteurised stuff that you can buy in packages at the supermarket but obviously freshly separated eggs have been doing just fine for quite some time now. 

Of course, nothing’s stopping you from simply having a G&T or a beer at home, but if you happen to have been given a bottle of gin or something for Christmas or feel like being slightly impressive, well now you have one more option. 

As for the remaining chickpeas, they unsurprisingly have their own merits. Realising quickly that I needed some kind of sustenance, I emptied them into a bowl with a handful of baby kale leaves, some salt, some coriander seeds, some apple cider vinegar and a ton of extra virgin olive oil. Coriander seeds are lemony and peppery and the oil brought out the buttery side of the chickpeas. Kale is healthy! But also actually tastes good. 

 this salad is like a non-alcoholic multivitamin

this salad is like a non-alcoholic multivitamin

If putting one alcohol into another under your own roof appeals, I also recommend you try out my simplified take on the Lee Brothers recipe for something called Purple Jesus, and also this recipe for a Christmassy punch of Nigella’s called Poinsettia, halfway down this verrrrrrry old blog post of mine. 

 or come up and see me, also extremely doing my thing

or come up and see me, also extremely doing my thing

title from: Third Eye Blind with their highly self-indulgent unreliably-narrated but extremely listenable song Losing A Whole Year. 

music lately: 

I have always enjoyed INXS but for some reason this week I’ve become obsessed with them. Is it mostly because the tragically late Michael Hutchence was so hot and charismatic? I mean, sure. Their music is amazing though and if you feel in the slightest bit like writing it off as 80s filler then I urge you to give it your ears again. Obviously all the hits are hits but I have been listening to Disappear over and over again and it just gets to me, I don’t even know, just the dreamy lightness of the verses with the sudden rush into the heady exuberance and promise of escapism in the chorus and the massive drums and Hutchence being in effortlessly good voice. Anyway it’s almost embarrassing how long I could go on about this for but I have 100% been listening to this song and you should too. 

I actually have been pretty exclusively listening to INXS recently but…I did rewatch the intensely 90s movie Go and the soundtrack is just wonderful, so much big beats and trip hop and trance and just the sort of thing that makes you want to put on a pleather knee length skirt and some brown lipstick, and put your hair into Bjork buns, ya know? The film’s remix of Fire Up The Shoesaw by Lionrock is one such excellent example here.

Uh, you should also watch Disappear from INXS’s live show at Wembley Stadium in 1991. Note I said “also”, not “alternatively”. 

next time: I don’t know! I have some pastry sheets in the freezer though, that could be fun. 

and morning soup can be avoided If you take a route straight through what is known as parklife

It has been a bit of a time for ya girl of late, what with – she says vaguely – one thing and another. Notably I spent the weekend firmly swaddled in illness due to kidney problems, which came with bonus excruciating back ache and the admittedly interesting conundrum of being both hellaciously feverish and shiveringly cold simultaneously. I have no idea what it is or what caused it or what its deal is, but something very similar happened to me back in 2007 so I guess it’s just that my kidneys like to act the fool once every decade. Also, when it happened in 2007 it was misdiagnosed as a sprained rib, to which I was like “um, do you even know how unlikely that is and how sedentary I am”, to which the doctor was like “nope definitely a sprain”, henceforth giving me a lifelong suspicion of diagnoses.

Anyway, I read online that tomatoes are really good for your kidneys – on one of those websites that’s all “make a tincture of parsley and sorrel and then when that’s ready six weeks later make a rudimentary poultice and apply it to the hurty bit of you” (I had to spend an amount at the after-hours clinic that was so huge it almost made me cry in order to get a prescription for antibiotics, so you see why I was initially trying to cure it on my own using dirt and leaves and stuff.) The antibiotics have more or less swept away all the pain but I figured it couldn’t hurt to up the tomato quotient in my life, in an attempt to appease my truculent kidneys.

This Ottolenghi recipe for burnt aubergine soup had caught my eye, but I really wasn’t sure when I was going to make it, on account of my opportunities to cook for myself are few and rare. Luckily the hand of fate intervened! I had some appallingly bad nightmares which woke me up at 4.30am the other day, and could not go back to sleep no matter how firmly I squeezed my eyes shut and listened to soothing meditation videos telling me I’m a good person who’s definitely relaxed and sleepy. By 8am I realised I really wasn’t going back to sleep, and in the feverish grips of all that, decided I might as well be productive with all this time. Making soup suddenly felt like a really good use of my morning, so I hurtled to the supermarket, bought the ingredients (hurrah for having spontaneous cooking whims post-payday) and started making it, all before 9am.

I think I say this in every single post about soup that I’ve ever done, but…soup usually really doesn’t appeal to me that much. It’s just a bowl of wet stuff! There’s not nearly enough crispness and crunchiness! You can’t deep-fry soup! And so on. This soup is super excellent though; the smoky grilled eggplant against a backdrop of rich tomato; the fried cubes of eggplant on top providing proper texture and silky oiliness with every bite, the feta being delicious feta.

The recipe below looks horrifyingly long, and I shan’t candy-coat it for you: this recipe does take up quite a lot of time. But it’s so easy! And I just wanted to talk you through all the steps to make sure I had explained it all properly. Really all the instructions you need for this soup are grill, fry, heat, stir, blend, eat.

burnt aubergine soup with fried aubergine, tomato and feta

adapted from a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi. I know we call them eggplants here in New Zealand but the recipe itself calls them aubergines and it sounds more poetic. So. 

three large eggplants
plenty of olive oil
one large onion, finely diced
one and a half teaspoons ground cumin
a teaspoon of sugar
a tablespoon of lemon juice
one can of crushed tomatoes
a stock cube of your chosen persuasion
feta cheese

First, deal with your eggplants. Turn the grill on your oven to as high as it will go, stab two of the eggplants a few times with a knife, and then put them on a baking tray preeettty close to the grill. Leave them there for what will feel like hours, but is probably an hour maximum, turning them occasionally. Don’t worry if they’re all blistered and deflated looking, it’s what we’re going for here. Remove them from the oven, allow them to cool a little – or don’t, if you’re impatient like me – and remove the skin, which should be crunchy and fall away with a little encouragement. I ate the lot, discard it if you like. Place the frankly weird looking eggplant flesh into a sieve set over a bowl, and allow it to sit there weirdly while you get on with everything else. 

Take the remaining eggplant, dice it into small squares, and then in a saucepan that you’ll later make the rest of the soup in, heat up about an inch of olive oil till it’s sizzling. Fry the cubes of eggplant, in batches if necessary, letting them really just sit there in the hot oil so they get properly browned, before carefully turning them over so they darken on the other side. Add more oil before tipping the next batch of eggplant in if need be. Just deal with how much oil this uses. Carefully remove the browned crispy pieces to a sieve over a bowl and sprinkle with salt (this bit is honestly probably not that necessary? Unlike the earlier sieving bit.) And try really, really hard to not eat the lot. 

Okay now you’re finally done with all the damn prep stuff, and you can actually make soup. With the remaining oil in the pan (there should be around a tablespoon or so) gently fry the onion for five to ten minutes till it’s very soft. Add the cumin, the lemon juice, sugar, can of tomatoes, stock cube and then fill up the tomato can with water from the tap and tip that in. Add another can full of water if you like and want the soup to go further. Let all this simmer briskly till it has thickened and reduced a little and, you know, looks like the makings of some literal soup.

Finally! Add the eggplant flesh to the pan (the burnt stuff, not the fried stuff) and either puree it with a hand-held stick blender thingy, if you have one, or do the stressful thing and transfer it perilously to a food processor and blitz thoroughly. I did the latter, and it doesn’t make it entirely velvety but any texture is pleasing, so, whatever. It’s just so much more of a pain to clean and also it might fly everywhere and you might spill it while getting it in and out of the processor bowl, but anyway. You now have your soup. Ladle into bowls, top generously with the fried eggplant cubes and crumble over plenty of feta. 

Serves two-ish. You could add another can of tomatoes if you want it to go further. 

As well as changing some details I reduced the original recipe’s quantities, but if I were you making this I’d increase the quantities of the liquid and the eggplant just because if you’re going to that much damn time-consuming effort you might as well get a ton of soup out of it and feed an appreciatively gasping crowd. Is it worth it just to do all that for yourself though? Of course! There’s no one more important than me. Is what you should be saying to yourself. I know I hear it enough to occasionally believe it. For real though, this soup has such excellent depth of flavour and the fried eggplant bits are so compulsively good: it is so much more than just a bowl full of wet stuff.

A bright firework of light through all this is that today is the five year anniversary of my friend Kate and I meeting each other at Mighty Mighty in a breathless, hand-clasping fashion, and ALSO Lucy Liu’s birthday. We both love Lucy Liu with the fire of a thousand fires so let’s just say it is feeling auspicious up in here. I can’t believe my life has been this blessed for five years now and I also can’t believe I didn’t meet Kim, the third prong in our equilateral triangle of friendship, till halfway through the following year.

one of my favourite photos of Kate and I, this is pretty much how our initial meeting went too. 

All of everything else aside, I know it’s a dull take but I CANNOT BELIEVE it’s literally December now. I’m not ready! Also December always makes me super introspective and I’m already feeling introspective so it’s all just a double helix of feelings. On the upside, the smell of pine sends me into catnip-esque conniptions and we have erected an enormous, splendidly bushy real Christmas tree at work, every time I pass it by I feel more and more seasons greetings-y. Thanks, Pavlov’s Christmas tree!

title via: Parklife! Man I used to have the crushiest crush on Blur’s Damon Albarn. I literally wrote angrily in my diary in 1996 about him dating Justine Frischmann from Elastica; as if their being together somehow made him less accessible to me than he already was.  
music lately:

Turkey Lurkey Time from the 1969 musical Promises, Promises. It’s my own personal Christmas tradition that every time the first of December comes around, then and only then will I rewatch this video of this utterly ludicrous song being performed. Honestly the song is ridiculous but I’m in it for the incredible dancing, especially from Donna McKechnie who blatantly has elastic where her bones should be. It’s hard to explain, but this is just weirdly important to me. The video, not the consistency of her bones, I mean.

One Direction, Hey Angel. I had very low expectations for these guys post-Zayn, but UGH this is such a good song. It is just so big and manipulative and I love it heartily.
next time: hopefully some exponentially increasing xmas spirit and exponentially decreasing introspection. And chilled out kidneys. 

now my life is sweet like cinnamon

muffins! (I say this every time I hear a doorbell and I don’t know why but it’s some weird Pavlovian response possibly from something I saw on TV many years ago?) (That got deep, huh)
I continue to be an utter slattern at being organised and a regular blogger, and the only thing stronger than my conviction that I’m not going to slide out of blogging regularly, is my overwhelming need to nap hard during the day when I’m not at work all night. I mean, I started this blog in 2007 and it’s pretty much the only thing that has remained the same in my life since then, with only a tiny bit of exaggeration. But also being angry at myself for not being organised enough is not going to stop me being tired and making like, toast or something instead of having the time and energy to make real food. I’ll get there though! This blog has been there throughout all manner of tumultuous and/or tired times, and just because I am not as good at burning the candle at both ends as I used to be, doesn’t mean I can’t relearn that (albeit rather terrible) behaviour once more.
I house-sat and cat-sat for friends over the weekend when they went on a mini holiday, and it was so lovely and blissful, like escaping to a cabin in the woods somewhere (a nice one, not the horror-movie kind, way to ruin cabins in the woods, Joss Whedon.) I’ve been weighed down by such cat-longing feelings lately, I mean, I always am, but it has been stronger than usual, so I was excited about the thought of having a cat roomie for a few days. Unfortunately the cat in question was hellaciously skittish and I only saw her for a grand total of twenty seconds over the four days I was there, but she ate her food and didn’t cause trouble so it could’ve been worse. In happier news, the house was just darling, and it was more than enough to gaze rapturously around at it all. I decided on Sunday to make some muffins, since I just felt like baking a damn thing, but also they seemed like the perfect house-sitting foodstuff to make – easily made and consumed, not too taxing on the house-owners’ ingredients or infrastructure, able to be frozen and eaten later (not that it came to this since all but one were eaten by the time I left.)
suspect was catless, repeat, catless

When the weather turns extremity-stiffeningly cold my thoughts turn to cinnamon: how can I make everything around me scented of it? Baking is the obvious way (although if anyone knows of an amazing cinnamon-scented candle that won’t cost as much as a pet pony please give me details) and so I made some cinnamon-orange muffins, inspired by the sight of an orange in the fruit bowl that I could nick for this purpose. I swing wildly between finding muffins dull and basic and finding them tears-makingly comforting and delightful, and I guess over the weekend was a time when I was swinging towards the latter, because I could not have been more content with myself: being in a tiny, adorable kitchen, shaking clouds of cinnamon into the batter, melting butter, flinging flour onto the ground (that bit was not fun), dropping heaped spoonfuls of orange-tinted batter into the muffin tin, waiting around while they briefly baked in the hot oven and the room filled with the smell of warm cake. Muffins! They’re honestly so great.

cinnamon orange muffins

a recipe by myself – makes 12

75g butter, melted
one cup milk
two eggs
the juice of one orange
two and a half cups flour
two and a half teaspoons baking powder
half a cup brown sugar
a teaspoon or so of ground cinnamon

25g soft butter
quarter of a cup brown sugar
half a teaspoon or so of ground cinnamon
the grated zest of the orange
three tablespoons flour

Set your oven to 180 C/350 F and lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tray. Or put little cupcake holders in them if you like, this will certainly save on a lot of washing later. 

In a large bowl, mix the butter, milk, eggs and orange juice till everything is well-dispersed and you can’t see any one ingredient floating about being all individual, if that makes sense. I mean, just mix them all together, that’s all, really. 

Tip in the flour, baking powder, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Very, very gently mix it all together – just turn it around and over a few times with your spoon, not worrying if everything’s still all lumpy and the flour isn’t 100% incorporated. Drop heaped spoonfuls of the batter into the muffin tin until all the batter is used up and the muffin tin is evenly filled. 

Quickly mix together the remaining ingredients – you can either bash it with a wooden spoon or use your fingertips to work in the butter, either way you want to end up with a dusty, crumbly, floury mix. Sprinkle a little of this evenly over each of the uncooked muffins. Bake for about 18 minutes, then allow to sit for about ten minutes before removing and eating, preferably sliced with more butter spread across. Because of the crumbly topping, you’ll probably need to run a knife around the edge of each muffin, but they should slide out easily. 

Look, muffins are so excellent. They take hardly any effort to make – in fact, if you put too much effort into stirring the mixture together they’ll toughen up like an old sponge. A mere gentle prod is all you need to bring the ingredients towards each other, then less than 20 minutes in the oven, and you have freshly baked goods. Isn’t that wonderful though? These are as winningly cinnamon-y as I’d hoped they’d be, with the pinpricks of orange zest in the crumbly topping and the juice of the orange in the batter giving gentle citrussy sweetness. If I had to sum up these muffins in one word it would be: snug. They tasted snug.


by this point I was literally just carrying the muffin around the house being all “here are more pretty things that I can photograph, I’ll just put the muffin on it and not care about whether you’d actually normally consume a muffin amongst a trolley of succulents”) 

It’s my birthday this Friday! Oh my gosh! How audacious of me! I’ve decided that my birthday treat to myself is going to be to break my general mood of grim austerity to buy myself a way cool outfit to wear to the joint birthday party that my flatmate and friend Charlotte are having the following day, and frankly I’m so excited about going clothes shopping. I saw this ridiculously amazing fluffy yellow oversized cardigan in a shop in town which in my daydreams looks incredible on me, so I guess that’s what I’m going to make a beeline for (and may end up looking like a literal bumblebee, or perhaps a small Big Bird, but we’ll see.) But what do I really want for my birthday, I conveniently imagine you asking? My needs and wants are simple, I simply want the following:


~ A pair of Victorian-ward-of-the-state-esque black boots for both work and frivolous times
~ more tattoos, or at least one more tattoo, singular
~ more hair dye in pastel blue, purple, peach, pink, whatever
~ Maldon sea salt and excellent coffee beans
~ a pet cat (c’mon universe, you know I deserve this)
~ the makings of a mighty liquor cabinet – perhaps a glamorous bottle of gin, some thoroughly decent peaty whisky, and a bottle of dry vermouth. Also some Disaronno and port and dark rum and I guess I’ve thought about this a lot.
~ a fake fur coat
~ a little record player so I could finally play all my records again
~ a cinnamon-scented candle, or something similarly glorious
~ some crystals for doing witchy deeds
~ Marc Jacobs Oh Lola perfume, I’ve run out and am utterly too broke to buy more, this is entirely my own fault for repeatedly using it instead of my Nivea roll-on and calling it “baller deodorant” but still
~ a facial but where someone pretty much just pats your hair and rubs the pressure points above your eyebrows and tells you that everything’s going to be okay and makes your skin smell incredible
~ to be financially chill enough to go to brunch more often (slash: at all)


So simple, those needs and wants of mine! I will report back after my birthday as to how successful I was with this list. Fingers crossed! But also I like to think I make my own luck. But fingers crossed as a back-up, in case that’s what the universe arbitrarily requires from me.

title from: Lana Del Rey, Radio. I just love her so much, quite frankly. 

music lately: 

Crucial Conflict, Hay. I found a “top 20 songs” list I made in 1996 and this song was on it, I am pretty sure I haven’t listened to it since that very time? It still goes hard though and honestly should be having its own No Diggity type revival (No Diggity was on the list too, haha)

One Direction, I Would. Don’t talk to me about Zayn leaving, okay? It’s still too soon (but honestly, who could blame him, all that relentless touring must’ve wilted those boys down like a three-day-old bouquet of flowers) (I love this song so so much still though)

next time: I’m gonna try so hard to cook stuff more often and take photos of it more often! Y’know, like, be a blogger. 

and the ice cream’s melted and it’s dripping down my neck

grapefruit curd ripple ice cream 

What the actual what, it’s suddenly October. Evenings are lighter, summer is closer, Halloween approaches, asparagus exists. This has been a tumultuous year and as each month reaches out its hand to the next month I always think this is the one, this is going to be my time. May is going to be chill. June will be good. July! July shall give me that nice mellow status quo. And each month, things stay ridiculous. So my new philosophy is to just go with the flow, let everything happen and wash over me, and just try to be happy. Or at least try to try. 

Something very happy-making: I was given a supermarket bag full of grapefruit from a friend’s relative’s tree recently, which is really exciting. Firstly, living in the concrete jungle that is Wellington (well, it’s quite small, more of a concrete flower patch) you forget what it’s like to just have people with trees overflowing with abundant fruit that needs getting rid of. Secondly: I adore grapefruit. They’re all bitter and intense and relatively under-appreciated and those are qualities I can respect in both my fruit and my humans. All the recipes that I found online seemed a bit bleak (lots of dry-looking vague-coloured grapefruit cakes?) but the good people of Twitter shrewdly suggested grapefruit curd and ice cream. And then I remembered my own cranberry curd ripple ice cream from a few years ago and thought this could be a cool variation. (Cool, get it?) (Sorry) (not sorry.)

Queen Leslie Knope: I am big enough to admit that I am often inspired by myself

The grapefruit curd recipe makes enough for the ice cream and then some leftover to either spoon into your mouth (as I did) or spread onto your toast (I did not make it to that stage but I’m sure it’s good.) Apart from some necessary fear and respect for the grapefruit curd mixture as you make it – it can so easily overcook and turn into scrambled eggs! – this is really, really easy. In fact the only trouble I really ran into was that I kept spilling curd over the side of the pan as I was stirring it. Constantly. Like, I really lost quite a significant quantity of the overall mixture. Being clumsy is not as charming as romantic comedies would have you think it is, I can tell you.

Grapefruit curd is this incredible meeting of silky texture, pure sweetness, and fizzingly citrussy fragrance. The bitterness of the fruit is softened first by all the butter and eggs and then further by being swirled through thick cream, but still hovers in the background like a friendly ghost. The dollops of not-entirely-mixed-in grapefruit curd that freeze amongst the cream give bursts of near-sour flavour and the whole thing is just pretty ravishing. And easy! But importantly, ravishing. I realise the recipe looks a bit lengthy but really all you have to do is stir stuff then stir stuff then stir those together, I just tend to overexplain so you feel completely at ease. (I tend to overexplain literally everything actually, and to be honest putting people at ease is not usually the outcome, but hopefully it works here.)

grapefruit curd ripple ice cream

a recipe by myself

two grapefruit
four eggs
one cup sugar
150g butter, diced very small
one and a half cups cream

Squeeze the juice from the grapefruit into a relatively large pot, and mix in the eggs, sugar, and diced butter. Now stir constantly over a low heat with a spatula – making sure to constantly drag it along the bottom of the pan so that the curd doesn’t settle on the heat and cook too quickly – until the butter has gently melted into everything. Continue stirring over a low heat till it’s thick, or turn up the heat a little as you stir which will speed things up a bit. Either way, keep stirring, keep it moving. 

Once it’s thick, remove from the heat and spatula into a container/bowl and refrigerate it till it’s cool, by which time it should have thickened up even more. 

Whip the cream until it’s thick enough to hold its own shape when you lift the whisk/beater up out of the bowl, but not so much that it’s like, entirely solid. Whisk in one cup of the cooled grapefruit curd, and then spatula this into a loaf tin. Take another half cup (or up to one cup) of the grapefruit curd and spoon it here and there over the cream in the loaf tin, dragging the handle of a spoon or something similar through it a little to ripple it. Freeze for several hours before eating. 

You want to eat this within a couple of days – it’ll still be delicious after that, but will take on a sliiiightly grainy after-texture. This is just because it’s only cream and curd and doesn’t have anything else in it that makes regular ice cream last so long, but the pride you have in making your own damn ice cream will hopefully up the deliciousness.

I’m trying to make the most of eating on the cute little balcony pictured above, because…ya girl is moving house again. The reason this time is fairly straightforward and pragmatic – neither of which are qualities I’m used to embodying, but here we are – I can’t afford to live where I am right now. My rent is too high for what I earn, and neither of those factors are going to change dramatically anytime soon, so I’m just going to find somewhere else. It’ll be stressful, but also: whatever. It’s practical. Delightfully, I’m going to be moving in to a friend’s spare room for a bit while I find my feet (and hopefully find myself) while constantly singing the theme tune to New Girl (even though I maintain I am most definitely Nick, not Jess) (if that doesn’t make sense, you should totally watch the TV show New Girl, starting halfway through season 1. It’s pretty sublime.) So at least I’m already coolly prepared for life to Stay Ridiculous during October.

Stay Cute in the face of everything

PS, I say, in the hushed manner of someone shyly sliding you a note in class, don’t forget you can now only order my cookbook directly through me. My pile of remaining cookbooks is starting to get smaller and smaller…

title from: School’s Out by Regina Spektor (were there ever two sweeter words?) it’s rambling and conversational and sad and happy and I love her voice so much. 
music lately: 

Chelsea Jade, Nightswimmer. Formerly dreamy dreamboat Watercolours, she’s now Chelsea Jade and this song is as much of a swoony trip as ever.

Ella Eyre, Love Me Like You. Ouch.
Next time: Well, I still have a lot of grapefruit. 

fancy plans and pants to match: nautilus estate wines, part two

Bread and Butter Chicken

Well hello there, and welcome to another installment of Fancy Plans and Pants to Match, where I overexplain somewhat apologetically about how sometimes I get cool free stuff because I’m an amazing blogger and cookbook author, and try to write about said free stuff in a way that makes me seem charming and only minimally insufferable. The name of this segment comes from a quote by Jimmy James, a character in the brilliant 90s sitcom NewsRadio.

This is part two of a series of recipes I created for Nautilus Estate wines. Last time I wrote about lemonade pancakes with strawberry sauce and pasta with chorizo and feta and chilli butter, and this time I’ve got more deliciousness for you. I hate to repeat text I’ve already written verbatim but I’m gonna power through the pain anyway, because…everything I said last time is still relevant and I’m not going to try and think of a synonym for every single word I wrote when the original will do fine. But consider yourself warned that (just) the following two paragraphs appeared when I previously wrote about this stuff.

So here’s the thing: Nautilus Estate got in touch with me and asked if I’d like to develop some recipes for them to go with their fancy fancy wines. Oh my gosh yes, said I. I love wine, I love thinking up recipes, I love receiving a butt-tonne of wine in the mail, and honestly it’s just nice to be thought of as someone who could do this, right? And then a whole lot of stuff happened in my life. Finally though, I got around to actually completing my original task. So thanks Nautilus, not only for the wine itself, but for your infinite patience and your “hey it’s cool we can wait the wine will probably be kind of useful right now anyway” attitude.

The pitch: Nautilus Vintage Rose 2011 and Cuvee Marlborough NV Brut. Both fizzy and fizzing with deliciousness. All I have to do is come up with some recipes to complement what they’ve already got going on. Important note: I cannot format a swishy little accent on the ‘e’ in rose/cuvee for some reason so when you read it please pronounce it “rose-ayyyyy” and “coo-vayyyy” in your head

fancy pudding with a fancy wine for a fancy lady who needs a synonym for fancy

What happened: somehow these recipes to match the wines came to me pretty immediately and fully-formed, perhaps because that’s something I am very good at doing (in the interest of being a self-deprecating New Zealander I feel like I should match this boastfulness with one of my failings: I can’t ride a bicycle. Self-deprecation, the wine matching of personal self-esteem!) The rose’s delicate but definite berry sweetness could handle something rich and buttery, and I liked the idea of pairing such an elegant drink with something so hearty and cosy. Not that I wouldn’t serve this bread and butter chicken to people I was trying to impress – it’s still at that level, but also really very easy and plain and comforting. Chicken, butter, bread: all as wondrous as it sounds, and ideal with a sparklingly ripe-flavoured wine like the rose.

butter is really delicious: I’m highly qualified to tell you this

bread and butter chicken

a recipe by myself
recommended wine pairing: Nautilus Estate Vintage Rose 2011

four chicken thighs, skin on, organic and free range if possible because I don’t like to be prescriptive but oh damn they taste so much better
100g butter
three thick slices stale white bread, eg white sourdough, those Vienna loaves, that kinda thing 
½ cup walnuts
fresh thyme leaves, around a tablespoon.

Set oven to 200 C, and place the chicken thighs snugly in a roasting dish. Cube the butter and scatter evenly on top of the chicken thighs. Put the dish in the oven and leave for around 40 minutes. 

Meanwhile, tear the bread into very small pieces, allowing some of it to crumble into breadcrumb dust and some of the pieces to be more crouton-esque. Basically just rip it up and whatever you do will be correct. Either roughly chop the walnuts and tip them in, or just break them up in your hands – they don’t need to be too small. Stir in the thyme leaves. 

Remove the chicken from the oven – it should be very crisp and golden and the juice should run clear when you puncture the thicker end of the thigh with a skewer. Scatter the breadcrumb-walnut mixture evenly over the top, and spoon over plenty of the buttery pan juices (there will be plenty!) so they can absorb it all. Some of the breadcrumbs will stay on top of the chicken, some will fall down into the spaces between the thighs, but it will all taste incredible. Return to the oven for around ten minutes or until the breadcrumbs look crisp and golden. 

I’d serve it with lemon wedges and a salad that has lots of peppery rocket leaves and flat leaf parsley in it, but to be honest I just ate one of the thighs with my bare hands straight from the oven with a glass of wine and it was quite perfect. 

I thought the more crisp, full flavour of the cuvee could happily lift the bittersweet and majorly-sweet grapefruit and white chocolate curds. On that note, I thought making a lemon curd thing but with white chocolate instead would be super fun, and oh, how right I was. I use a particular technique that perhaps in time they’ll call HungryandFrozen’s Unclassic Method, where I just throw all the ingredients in at once and stir over a low heat till the butter melts and it somehow comes together. The white chocolate curd has a rich vanilla-custard flavour and the grapefruit curd has a gentle sharpness, which, with the thick, tart yoghurt, is all so good you’ll want to say “OH SHUT UP” to no one in particular after having a mouthful because you don’t know what to do with yourself. As well as tasting excellent, the texture of the cool, bubbly brut goes well with the thick, saucy sweetness of this pudding.

grapefruit curd, white chocolate curd, greek yoghurt

a recipe by myself. Serves two – four, depending on the size of your serving glasses, I recommend going on the smaller side all the same and eating the remaining ones yourself at another happy time if you’ve only got two people to feed.
recommended wine pairing: Nautilus Estate Cuvee Marlborough NV Brut

two grapefruit
four eggs
three quarters of a cup of sugar
150g butter
100g white chocolate chopped as fine as you can be bothered to
several tablespoons of thick, plain Greek yoghurt

In a smallish pan, mix two eggs and half a cup of the sugar. Squeeze in the grapefruit juice and stir again. Dice half the butter into small cubes and tip them into the pan. Over a very low heat, patiently, stir this mixture constantly till the butter melts and it all thickens. Once it has all come together and is looking thick and saucy, but not necessarily too thick – better safe than sorry – remove from the heat and stick the pan into a sink which has a couple of inches of cold water in it, stirring constantly to lower the heat of the pan’s contents. Spatula this into a bowl and refrigerate while you get on with the white chocolate: whisk together the remaining two eggs and the remaining quarter cup of sugar, then add the cubed butter and chopped white chocolate. Again, over a very low heat, stir it constantly till the butter and chocolate have just melted and it becomes thick and smooth. Stick this pan in a sink of cold water too, just to make sure it doesn’t carry on cooking in the hot pan. Transfer this into a bowl and also refrigerate – ideally for at least an hour, but you can make the two curds a whole day ahead. 

Layer up generous spoonfuls of the grapefruit and white chocolate curd and Greek yoghurt in small serving bowls (125ml or so but larger is fine) and serve. Some mint leaves or chopped pistachios might be nice here, but there’s plenty going on already. 

silkier than a silkworm in fetching silk stockings descending gently to the earth from a silk parachute

bread and butter chicken: still delicious, don’t forget

from a scale of 1 to the entire verse of Once In A Lifetime by Talking Heads: As with last time, still a solid eight – this is so much nicer than the wine I usually drink, and it was sincerely thrilling having so much of it, with my only task ahead something I already adore: developing recipes.

would I do this for not-free? again, as with last time, I mean, I’m not just going to give people content for nothing – wait, I write a food blog – oh you know what I mean – but I would definitely buy this wine off the shelf now if it was on special or I was feeling, oh I don’t know, employed. It tastes excellent and the people behind it are blatantly pretty cool, so go forth and seek it, I say.

earnest thanks for making me feel fancy to: Nautilus Estate! You rule.

finally, some slightly unrelated blog admin: my rent is not your problem, but I can so feel in my bones that there’s at least one eccentric millionaire who reads this blog and is fond of me in a monetary way. What I’m saying is, hi, this is a periodic reminder that you can totally donate to to help me continue to exist and to remain on the fringes of that fancy life. But also I shall not be fussed if you don’t. I’m kind of just trying to trick super rich people into Robin Hooding themselves to me. But also trying to pay rent and buy food and such. Anyway: consider it, if you like!

pretty as a peach, she’s so out of reach

Sometimes, no matter how significant it feels like it ought to be, little changes and developments can tip-toe into your life and establish themselves quietly before you even realise they’re there. By which I mean, it was after having a particularly miserable day recently, that I realised how great this was. My miserable day was caused by things that had happened that day. It had been quite a while since I’d felt really crushingly bleak for no apparent reason. Therefore, I think the medication I’m taking is helping. Since I wrote about it on here back when I started taking it, I thought I’d better, you know, clap my hands since I’m happy and I know it. Not that everything is solved or perfect, I am still reliably not-together, but bodies are such a work in progress at best, that I’m very pleased to have discovered this small but important thing about myself. So there’s that.
There’s also this. I have no idea really, how I come up with recipes so easily – perhaps it’s similar to how I can do the splits easily without ever practicing. The making-recipes part of my brain is as flexible as my hamstrings. (C’mon, being able to do the splits is kind of impressive, allow me to drop it into conversation sometimes.) This morning I woke up and thought about seasonal fruit and the idea for this recipe, which I’m calling peaches and cream, appeared quickly and fully formed. And since today was a Sunday where I’d managed to get my act together and get out of bed and deal with the crowds at the vege market, I decided to just go ahead and try making it. 

Seasonal fruit! Did you know it’s abundant and priced kindly? I really need to get to the vege market more often. 

As I said, it’s Sunday today, so what better day to make yourself pudding on, to try fend off any back-to-school blues you may be feeling, and to greet the new week with a sticky, happy smile. (Your smile might not actually be sticky, I just tend to always end up with with food on my face when I eat.) This requires some attention but not a lot of effort. Just peaches, simmered till soft, thickly covered in lemony cream. Through some mysterious augury the combination of cream and sugar heated together with lemon juice added, creates this satiny, smooth, rich, incredibly delicious substance. The method is based on this recipe I used to make all the time in my teens, back when cooking was starting to become “my thing”. So, you don’t actually have to have the peaches underneath, you could just divide the cream between a couple of ramekins (or very adorable teacups) and still be guaranteed a good time. But! Peaches! So peachy!

now you don’t see it…

now you see it. 

Heating the peaches turns up their perfumed, ray-of-sunshine sweetness, which the vanilla and lemon help bring out too, with their respective richness and tartness. I can’t overhype the cream enough, eating it is honestly like the feeling you get when you’re loitering in a fabric shop longer than your brief errand warranted, and nonchalantly but dedicatedly caressing all the rolls of satiny fabric. (Shout out to my people who do this, please be more than just me.)

peaches and cream

a recipe by myself

two large or three small ripe peaches, roughly diced
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or the seeds from a vanilla pod if you’re feeling baller

300ml bottle of cream 
1/3 cup sugar
juice from two lemons (the mean, supermarket kind, that is. If you have a generous, homegrown lemon, you’ll probably only need one.)

Put the peaches, the tablespoon of sugar, and the water in a saucepan and stir over a decent heat, and continue till the water has evaporated and the peaches are very soft. You don’t have to turn this into jam or puree or anything, just break them down a little. The latter would probably be more sophisticated. But here we are. Divide the peaches – a couple of dessertspoons each, I find  – between two or three 125 ml ramekins or similar. Refrigerate.

In the same pan – maybe give it a quick wipe with a paper towel – bring the 300ml cream and the 1/3 cup sugar to a gentle boil, slowly, stirring constantly. Once it’s bubbling, stir for three minutes exactly, then remove from the heat. It’s science, okay? Seriously, watch your phone (or, I guess, your watch, mine tend to have stopped working and become what I call “sculptural bracelets”) and let that surprisingly long three minutes pass in full. Then, remove the cream from the heat, and stir in the lemon juice. With any luck, the cream should mysteriously yet delightfully thicken up as you do this. Divide this mixture between the two or three vessels of peach, bearing in mind that if there’s three, you’re gonna have less…and refrigerate. A couple of hours should thicken it up properly, but feel free to make it the night before.  

Make it for yourself and your significant other/s, eat it all by your significant self, or make someone pay to watch you eat the lot. If you want more, double the quantity. If you don’t have peaches, use something else. Just, um, don’t bother dusting it with icing sugar and sprinkling over lemon zest, because unless you have tons of it the zest just looks messy and the icing sugar absorbs into the surface but also looks dusty, and you’ll be all “but my food blog!” Luckily it tastes brilliant and also my teacups are cute enough to distract somewhat.

Hark! A new knitting project! It’s eventually going to be a very simple short-sleeved top. I’ve never knitted a garment or with two colours before, so it’s all very thrilling. As thrilling as an activity that involves sitting silently and barely moving can be, that is (hint: super damn thrilling.)

One month down, 2014 has already proven to be strange and fascinating and full of promise. Hopefully February will be even better. I, for one, am prepared.

(this was a conversation I had with Kate. I credit her with coining womanifest before my use of it here, and I credit myself with ordering a triple cheeseburger shortly after sending this txt.)
title from: Jeff the Brotherhood, Leave Me Out. Their scuzzy, gloomy sound suits me.
music lately:

Tegan and Sara, Drove Me Wild. Well, it does.

Ja Rule and Ashanti, Always On Time. I can listen to early-2000s Ja Rule/Ashanti all day (also quite a lot of J to the L-O and Ja Rule) especially this, with its dreamy, rather timeless chorus.
next time: I don’t know why I have this next time bit! I never really know! I just want to entice you into coming back again! There, I said it. 

she wore blue velvet

Last week was big. I flew up home for the first time since Christmas (it’s easy to be wayward when time moves so ridiculously fast, I for one refuse to believe it’s any later than June. And certainly not October) and enjoyed wonderful, necessary quality time with family both immediate and extended, including the cats Roger and Poppy. Who were not entirely averse to my nuzzles.

This is Poppy. She looks like Roger, also a tabby. You can tell who is who though, because Roger’s always studiously trying to be left alone and Poppy’s always fixing to shred you like a confidential document.

I then met with friends on a sneaky weekend trip to Auckland, where we managed to halt the process of time somehow – unless it moves differently up there – and fit in a million different joyful activities, including magnificent brunch and endless coffee at Federal, hanging at Flash City, eating ice cream at The Dairy, drinking lunch beers at Tin Soldier, and trying on fancy beautiful dresses at Miss Crab. As well as that I met up for a coffee with rapper/poet Tourettes, which put the cool in “be cool” and that was all just Saturday, before we had a group snooze and pre-show beers and snacks and then saw WICKED. This was to be my third time seeing this musical, the first momentous occasion happening in London in 2011 and then again in New York City just a year ago. Having bawled so hard that I needed electrolyte replacement previously, I was prepared for more of the same, but managed to stay quite dry-faced for the most of it. Tears appeared, however, in I’m Not That Girl, (ughhh the poignancy) One Short Day (they’re just such good friends!) and verily rained down during For Good (just run away together!) It was an incredible production, the cast was amazing, and – we are a tiny country – it was kinda neat to have such a juggernaut, a real proper modern Broadway show, here in New Zealand at roughly the same scale it should be. And even though I know every beat and tick of this show off by heart, nothing ever prepares me for the said-heart-dissolving experience of the end of Defying Gravity. Okay, I think I cried in that one, too.

I hadn’t been to Auckland since November last year, which seems odd when I say it like that, but it’s just how it has happened. So it was exciting to rush around and take in all the things it has and to feel all bright-lights-big-city (I adore Wellington, but it is wee.) Through some well-earned serendipity and just enough planning we managed to get into almost everywhere we wanted (except Depot – but hey) without delay, there were always carparks and everything we ate, from the swankest brunch to the most rapidly cooling fries-stuffed cheeseburgers with wine and beer at the kitchen table, was so, so excellent.

Speaking of eating excellent things: I had this idea recently, that mixing blueberries with a lot of aggressive yet balanced savoury ingredients could produce something quite delicious. I was correct – blueberries, sitting around in olive oil, lime juice, vinegar, spices, chilli, are so compelling, so head-shakingly correct together, that I nearly ate the lot before I even worked out what they were supposed to be. I called them pickled blueberries, but was it enough to just make them and eat them? I didn’t think they’d work with chicken, steak and fruit is a derisive no, lamb – not quite, duck – too expensive, salmon – maybe? And then I had the idea to pair them with a chickpeas, their similar shape appealing to me, plus lots of creamy, rich, sharp feta, and to just build a salad from there. And it was the nicest thing ever.

But: don’t feel you have to have a montage of self-discovery to make these, I mean, they really would’ve been perfect simply eaten out of the bowl till they were gone, and I still think they’d be swell with salmon, so if you want to make them and just do that: cool. There are no wrong answers. (Unless you serve it with steak. That is wrong.)

Blueberries have a particular sweetness, different to the jamminess of strawberries or the particular sour tang of raspberries – it’s more subtly floral and muted. So, slightly unsettling though this recipe might sound, they actually work so well with all these strong flavours and textures, their blue juiciness bursting in your mouth with a rush of salt and sourness.

pickled blueberries

a recipe by myself. I wasn’t sure if these actually counted as being pickled or whether they were just marinated or even just “blueberries with stuff” and was I just unconsciously buying in to some overarching pickle trend and then I was like “well this is just what I’m doing.”

  • 1 cup frozen blueberries (or fresh, get you with your seasonal fruit)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, the best you can handle
  • 1 large red chilli, deseeded and sliced finely
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • Juice and zest of one lime
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • a dash of cinnamon
  • As much salt as you please

If the berries are frozen, allow them to defrost in a bowl, otherwise simply mix together all the ingredients, taste to see if you think it needs more salt, sugar, oil or vinegar, then leave to sit for at least ten minutes at room temperature before eating. They last around a week in the fridge, although the texture of the oil goes a bit odd when it’s that cold it’s certainly still very, very, thrice very edible.

I then stirred about 1/2 a cup of the berries into a salad along with 1 drained can of chickpeas, a few handfuls of handful of baby spinach leaves, one finely sliced and overpriced capsicum, an entire damn packet of feta, roughly crumbled, plus some more olive oil and coriander seeds and a generous spoonful of fried shallots from a packet. It was a wondrous combination – crispness and crunch of the juicy, fresh kind and the fried, brittle kind; the sweet blueberries against the creamy salty feta and the bite of chili against everything, really.

Am still delighting in being a real cookbook author. In fact, I’m currently trying to organise an Auckland launch party for my cookbook, so get in touch if you want to give me a ton of premium champagne for free. If not: don’t bother (oh my gosh, kidding, I’ve had so much lovely feedback and correspondence from people about the cookbook and it’s the sweetest, kindest, heart-swellingest thing ever. Much sweeter than champagne.) Am still also not winning the gold medal for sleeping decently, in fact am somehow getting even worse at this sleeping regularly thing. But: getting there, slowly. One day at a time.

title via: Blue Velvet. Obsessed with Lana Del Rey’s cover of it.

music lately:

The never-not-astounding Lorde’s 400 Lux. Got a lot to not do.

Icona Pop’s Just Another Night. I love the way the singer’s voice breaks a tiny bit when she sings “it’s just another night, on the other side.”

Sky Ferreira, You’re Not The One. I love the enormous drums and spaciousness and general perfection of it all.

next time: after a week away, I kind of have no idea…