three, that’s the magic number

For the last week or so I’ve been sick with a really rough cold that I’m juuuust coming out the other side of, mostly due to a drinking game that I call “take lemon honey ginger every time you cough”, a game with a sub-rule of “strawpedo Robitussin at any and all opportunities” which is curiously followed by “the floor is now lava.” I’m well aware that my last blog post was essentially a bowl of nuts and the blog post prior to that was pasta and now, what is this blog post about but a bowl of PASTA AND NUTS but as I said – I was sick! An unfailingly watertight excuse! I’m sorry I bailed on you, I was sick! I’m sorry I stole your car in the middle of the conversation we were having and then drove it into your other car, I was sick!

My tastebuds have been woefully muffled from having a blocked nose, but I woke up this morning not only feeling a lot better, but also thinking, “what if pesto, but with three different kinds of nut instead of just one” and decided, as I do with most of my thoughts regardless of content or consequence, to act upon it immediately. I feel that pesto was to 2003 what halloumi was to like, 2013, I remember being absolutely obsessed with it and having it feel hugely unattainable, and so I’d try and incorporate it into as many of my cooking class modules in high school as I could get away with (I really didn’t do well in cooking in high school but I think that’s because being a freewheeling spoon-licking pre-ADHD diagnosed idiot didn’t mesh well with teachers trying to get to grips with the assessment regime and a minimal budget that didn’t allow for just like, snorting mounds of pesto.)

But wait, who am I to think I can improve upon pesto? Well I’m me, but this isn’t a one-up so much as a side-step; I’ve subtracted the cheese and instead added knotty, sinuous walnuts and buttery pistachios to the original pine nuts. Which means yes, this fairly plain dish of pasta will cost you roughly $90 dollars, on top of which, even though the quantities of the recipe look huge it really doesn’t make that much pesto because it all reduces down to nothing in the blender, but in spite of all of these red flags may I offer you this one counterpoint! Here it is: it’s really, really delicious.

Walnuts give the mixture body and a bitter smokiness, pistachios give creamy richness and added green, the pine nuts are all…you know, they’re pine-nutty? And when thrown through glassy olive oil and basil leaves at great speed it produces the most incredibly wonderful-tasting freshly-mown-grass-looking paste to stir through pasta or to be consumed however feels right.

pasta with three nut pesto  

a recipe by myself

  • one third of a cup of shelled pistachios
  • one heaped half cup of walnuts
  • one third of a cup of pine nuts
  • one garlic clove
  • a squeeze of lemon juice (roughly a tablespoon) 
  • sea salt
  • the leaves from one of those supermarket basil plants, roughly three loose handfuls of leaves I guess? But seriously, use all the leaves, you know that no matter how diligently you try to water the plant the it’s gonna die immediately and like, how is it that they can stay alive in the supermarket but die so fast once you take them home? What’s going on there?)
  • three quarters of a cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 100g dried spaghetti or similar

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add plenty of salt, then cook the pasta for about ten minutes or until it’s like, cooked, then drain the pasta and set aside. I always use the water from a freshly boiled kettle in the pan because it goes way faster than just boiling it on the stovetop. 

In a large frying pan, gently toast the nuts over a high heat, stirring often, until the pine nuts are lightly browned (they’re the easiest to see the color on.) Tip the nuts into a food processor or high speed blender along with the garlic clove, lemon juice, a large pinch of salt, the basil leaves and the oil, and process until it’s a thick, dark green paste. Stir a couple of spoonfuls through the drained pasta and put the rest in an airtight container in the fridge.

Honestly, this stuff is just spectacularly good and makes the simplest pile of pasta feel like a monumental treat. You can do millions of things with pesto though – stir it through roasted vegetables, spread it on toast, thin it with olive oil and drizzle it over fried halloumi for a real galaxy-brain type combination, add a spoonful as a garnish to brighten up almost any soup, whatever your tastebuds decide, follow them in the direction they’re heading.

And if you’re on a permanent pasta buzz as I seem to be, may I direct your attention gently but firmly from me, back to me, by way of these old blog posts if you want some further recipes, eg something I called Sexy Pasta; Nigella’s Pasta with Marmite; or turmeric pappardelle with brioche crumbs.

title via:  De La Soul’s The Magic Number, I love how shambling and lo fi and almost big beat the production is on this old school (I mean old school, not like “here’s one from back in the day in 2009”) track. 

music lately:

Mogwai, Take Me Somewhere Nice. Just shut your eyes and listen.

Gaslight Anthem, Here’s Looking At You, Kid. This band was recommended to me and I now in turn recommend them to you because I love them, and you will too if you like heart-on-your-sleeve, Bruce-Springsteen-influence-on-top-of-your-heart-on-your-sleeve vibes.

Bizet’s Pearl Fishers Duet, sung by Jussi Bjorling and Robert Merrill. It was probably the Robitussin in my system but as the sun streamed through my window this morning I swear this song was literally playing and I don’t know, it’s just kind of magical and soaring and you too should listen to it really loud while lying down in a dark room where the light is starting to creep in.

next time: my friend Jen gave me a bunch of limes from her tree so I’m gonna do something with them. I don’t know what yet though but having that many limes, in this economy, is very exciting! 

no postcode envy

My patriotism has never manifested itself in any particularly outrageous fashion. I treated rugby, our national sport, with all the disdain that someone who had panic attacks on athletics day and got picked last for teams can muster; leaving aside two brief dalliances: my thumping great crush on Doug Howlett during the world cup final of 2003 (there wasn’t much else to do at boarding school) and the appreciation of the sensually clashing thighs and men raising other men towards the sun using only their bare forearms that was all flagrantly on display, without any kind of PG 13 warning, during the last world cup final.  I’m not much into like, getting out there in the nature and stuff so our beautiful landscapes kind of leave me cold. I mean I’m not a total psychopath, we have those good mountains that everyone bangs on about but much like sports, I’m happy to let other people do it and leave me alone. The Lord of the Rings movies are really, really boring and someone should tell Peter Jackson “no” for once. Our national anthem is emphatically not a banger. 

So what gets me going? Lorde’s entire existence makes me jazzed to be a kiwi. Maori culture is unique and precious and should be both protected and elevated, especially since the whole awkward colonialism trampling of it and then half-assedly making vague stabs at acknowledging it aren’t exactly a stellar reflection on, well, anyone, and not much makes me feel quite so heart-swellingly of this place than anything that celebrates this crucial part of us. I’m one of those dinguses who gets really excited when we’re mentioned in pop culture, like that episode of Full House when they accidentally board a flight to Auckland, New Zealand, instead of Oakland, California (a ludicrously impossible premise but how thrilling to hear the actors say our country by name!) I heard yesterday that some rugby player is dating Hollywood actress Shailene Woodley and was genuinely like, “how exciting for us all!” So there’s that.

 mate 

mate 

And then there’s onion dip. And Marmite.

The former, a genius and oddly American-style combination of packaged onion soup powder, canned reduced cream, and vinegar, which produces the most face-punchingly compulsive thing you’ve ever dragged a crisp sheet of deep fried potato through. The latter, an oddly good and polarising inky-coloured salty paste that you spread thinly on your buttered toast to make sure the fine crust of sodium caked around your arteries isn’t in any danger of dissipating. 

I love them both. When I eat onion dip I come close to having the slightest understanding of why Americans are so obsessed with their flag. (I mean, I don’t really. It’s a bit of fabric. What’s the deal. Admittedly with a dope design, maybe if ours was less embarrassingly dull I’d care about it too.) If you were like “Laura you can have everlasting happiness but you have to sacrifice Marmite, what’s it going to be”, I’d be all “Marmite IS everlasting happiness, sicko” and drop-kick a piece of toasted Vogels at your head. 

Anyway. Over artisinal mimosas ($10 sauvignon blanc from the dairy and Just Juice bubbles) my friend Emily and I devised a mac and cheese so patriotic it would make Helen Clarke weep. I’m going to be honest, I think most of it actually was her idea, but no one else was there in the room where it happened so I’m taking at least partial credit. And I was the one that actually made it, so. Equally bringing stuff to the table. It started with the revelation that her grandmother used to crush up salt and vinegar chips on top of her mac and cheese. That alone nearly made me faint. Then somehow in a crescendo of overactive brains it all came out at once – what if we put onion dip in the sauce? WHAT IF WE ADD MARMITE? IT’S UMAMI! DARE WE? 

We dared. 

It might all sound kind of horrifying, and too much, and maybe even bordering on that clownish style of social-media friendly cooking where it’s all doughnuts stuffed with bacon wrapped in rainbow layer cake but guys. Guys. It tastes incredible. Upon eating it we were struck into sybaritic silence for a good twenty three minutes, which is astonishing for either of us given our tiny collective attention spans. 

Let me break it down for you: pasta and cheese sauce are both comfortingly gentle of texture and flavour. Soft, bland, creamy, blanket-y. Adding the packet of onion soup powder to the sauce gave it a depth of flavour without compromising these factors – onions themselves being one of those base-level ingredients that assist rather than steal thunder. Reduced cream gave it more richness and a pleasing note of almost-sourness. The marmite, slowly whisked in tentative spoonful by tentative spoonful with me frantically yelling “ANOTHER!” after every taste test, gives beefy, brothy saltiness and savouriness, in other words, old mate Umami. The salt and vinegar crisps crumbled up on top are charmingly crunchy and the hint of said vinegar, tingly on the mouth, stops it being all too throat-cloggingly rich.  

Upon tasting it, I finally understood why people care about rugby for reasons unrelated to thighs. I was like, my country did this and no other country could. 

So can you. 

 MATE. 

MATE. 

chip and dip mac and cheese, aka mac and sleazy

  • 500g macaroni elbows, pasta shells, or other small friendly pasta
  • one tablespoon chilli oil
  • 50g butter
  • four tablespoons plain flour
  • milk (I guess two cups/500ml?) 
  • one to two tablespoons of marmite
  • one package onion soup powder
  • one can reduced cream
  • one and a half cups grated cheese
  • one bag of salt and vinegar chips

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, and then tip in the pasta. Let it boil away for about ten minutes or until the pasta is tender,  then drain and toss with the chilli oil. Don’t be tempted to leave this out, it just gives the slightest hint of heat at the end of each mouthful. 

While this is happening, melt the butter in a large saucepan and stir in the flour, so that it forms a thick paste. Continue to stir this over a medium heat for a while, just to allow the flavours to develop, and then slowly, slowly add the milk, a splash at a time at first (it will absorb pretty instantly) and then continue adding more and stirring it into the butter and flour till it looks like thick pancake batter. If it looks lumpy, switch to a whisk. Tip in the onion soup powder and stir it in, then add the can of reduced cream. Continue to stir for another few minutes until you’re satistfied with the texture, then whisk in the marmite, small spoonful at a time, tasting it as you go, till you’re happy with the flavour. You’d be surprised at how much marmite it can take, and the pasta will soften the flavour, so don’t be shy. 

Stir in the drained pasta and half a cup of the grated cheese, and set your oven to 170C/330 F. Transfer the contents of the pan into a baking dish and pop it in the oven for about half an hour. Finally, crush up the salt and vinegar chips (just smash the bag around with your hands, should do the trick) and take the dish out of the oven. Sprinkle the pasta with a layer of cheese, then a thick, even layer of potato chip crumbs, and then top with one more layer of cheese. Return to the oven and change the setting to grill, turning up the temperature to 220C/450F. Let it sit there till the top is golden brown and scorched in places. And there you have it. 

 MAAAAAATE. 

MAAAAAATE. 

Bonus Marmite content: If you melt butter and mix it with a spoonful of marmite and then liberally apply this to chicken and roast it, you have yourself a truly good and delicious time. 

Speaking of patriotism! Had a tender moment of feeling like the country doesn’t suck when Jacinda Adern of Labour suddenly became prime minister this week (I’m not explaining the process to you, look it up, it happened is all you need to know), after two weeks of us sitting around under the impression that National had won the election. The last time National wasn’t in power was 2008 which was actually a million years ago in so many ways, and while I have reservations about a ton of things, it’s low-key thrilling to be here in a time of change. I honestly didn’t have faith in New Zealand this time around that the left would be able to take the lead, so it’s not only pleasantly surprising, it’s like…for the first time in ever so long, I’m excited as opposed to filled with dread to see what policies are enacted.  

Eat the rich!….tasty macaroni and cheese. 

title from: our Lorde! Her debut Royals is still pretty jaw-dropping no matter how over-exposed to it you may be. 

music lately: 

Fiona Apple, Across The Universe. You wanna sob self-indulgently? Of course you do. Better than the original, in my correct opinion. 

Her Space Holiday, Something To Do With My Hands. You wanna sob self-indulgently? Of course you do. 

Limp Bizkit, Faith. You wanna sob self- okay lol. It’s uh, not better than the original but it is an indelible part of my life. 

next time: I actually totally missed my blog’s tenth birthday by an entire week due to my inability to remember, well, anything, but I’m still determined to mark the occasion somehow.

it’s only comfort, calling late

I wrote this entire blog post last night and then it disappeared somehow, which more or less didn’t bother me since a life of breaking and losing things constantly does nothing if not really prepare you for a life of breaking and losing things constantly. The only unfortunate thing is I can’t exactly recapture the magic since I was writing it in a certain location: on the floor of a friend’s house, by a merrily humming heater, in a dimly lit room, with a beautiful dog wandering around and occasionally booping me. In this deleted blog post I talked about the nature of things that bring comfort – because for me, sitting on the floor in the dark next to a heat source that’s emitting white noise is literal serene heaven – and now that I’m rewriting it, I’m in a completely different place. I don’t know if I can recreate that comfort, but in a way all attempts at comforting yourself is just trying to artificially recreate comfort, yeah? Long story short: back your stuff up and press save often, people.  

Included in the thoughts I put forward was the idea of comfort food, which I write about on here often: in this case, it takes the form of gnocchi, a pasta that’s made from potatoes and therefore gives you carb-on-carb comfort, like sleeping with a thick blanket on top AND an electric blanket underneath at the same time. It’s the middle of winter, we’ve all got sniffles and iron deficiencies and debt, the very least we can do for ourselves is cook something warm and moderately stodgy. Normally gnocchi involves peeling and boiling and draining and mashing potatoes like someone with seven years of spare time and a non-tendency to burst into tears at the slightest provocation, but here I shorten the path from A to Carb by using instant mashed potato flakes, and m8888, they are a revelation. Sacrilegious? Sacrelicious! 

When fried in hot oil you end up with these little pillowy puffs that are golden and gratifyingly crispy on the outside and marshmallow-soft within, like the love child of a roast potato and a bowl of fettuccini. Fried brussels sprouts give sprightly green crunch, rosemary adds sex appeal (possibly highly niche sex appeal: I can’t help that I find the scent of fried or flamed rosemary deeply attractive) and pine nuts are just nice as hell. On top of which I made this for myself after having had literally forty minutes of sleep the previous night, so like, you got this. 

fast fried gnocchi with brussels sprouts, rosemary and pine nuts

a recipe by myself

  • one cup instant mashed potato flakes
  • half a cup (125ml) recently boiled water
  • one cup flour
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • a handful of brussels sprouts (idk, six?), halved lengthwise
  • a sprig of rosemary
  • two tablespoons of pine nuts
  • olive oil

Mix the potato flakes, boiling water, and salt together in a bowl, then stir in the flour and knead it a few times (just push the dough away and then pull it towards you and then push it away again, basically emotionally abuse it) till it forms a smooth-ish ball. Add a splash more water if it’s really not coming together. Roll it out into a square about half an inch thick, then slice horizontally and vertically in parallel lines to form a bunch of small rectangles. Roll the back of a fork over them, to press some indentations in, (sort of rolling them lengthwise as you do it) and then set aside.

Heat a good amount of oil – at least three tablespoons – in a large saucepan, and fry the brussels sprouts, cut side down, till they’re browned. Turn them over for a bit just to heat the other side, then remove them to your serving dish. Add some more oil if need be and then tip in the gnocchi, frying them on both sides till they’re golden and crisped. Remove them to the serving plate, and then finally, strip the sprig of rosemary of its leaves and throw them in the hot oil till they’re sizzling, and then finally briefly toast the pine nuts. Tip all of this on top of the gnocchi and sprouts, and then eat it. 

As someone with hardcore, spine clenching anxiety I’m always trying to keep abreast (ha) of the stuff that (I take back that “ha”, so immature) gives me some semblance of calm and staunches that feeling that the veins in your arms have slithered up your shoulder blades and wrapped themselves around your neck. Obviously nothing in particular is going to cure it, but if rain noises or whatever make me feel 9% calmer then that’s still 9% calmer than I was before. (Also, I retract the retracted “ha”, abreast is a funny word and I stand by it. I stand abreast with it, even.) 

Look for comfort where you can. The world kind of sucks. These gnocchi look like they’re all giving you a supportive fist bump, or at least that’s how it looks to me in the photo at the top of this post. And that’s something. 

 Pavlov's Good Boys

Pavlov’s Good Boys

(Evidence that the tableau I described did happen.)

title from: Placebo, the name of one of my favourite bands and also one of my favourite effects, with their nasal goth hit Every You Every Me. 

music lately: 

Spook the Horses, Footfall. Deliciously heavy. 

Laura Lee Lovely, Hot Blood. I got to meet this absolutely beaut person for real recently after years of us exchanging heart emojis on each others instagram selfies, and she’s just released a dreamy banger of a tune. If you like music that makes you feel happy and sad at the same time, give it a hoon. 

next time: Whatever it is, I’m pressing save VIGOROUSLY the entire time I write it. 

choking down her pasta that she always oversalts

Before I talk at length about myself let me briefly draw attention to myself: uh, I am not thoroughly enjoying this eternal pattern of not having the energy to blog for what seems like ages and then writing long apologetic blog posts about it (I mean like maybe it happened one time but a week of inactivity On Here feels like seventeen dog years in my mind.)  I’m going through a phase of Intense Career Busy-ness which is wild and fun and there’s also just a lot of noise in my already noisy brain right now and let’s not forget that the renowned jerk planet Mercury is in retrograde which at least means I can blame everything on it; also my tarot card was weird this month and the curve of the earth and the flapping of a butterfly’s wings and so on.

It’s just so boring and annoying though and it’s something I’m going to work on! I need to be all like, more disciplined and better with my time but also nicer to myself! That is all.

You know what’s very not boring and only moderately annoying though? Homemade pasta.

 like a bowl of lil snakes  like a bowl of lil snakes

As with many recipes on here that appear vaguely complicated, I’m like, guys: if I can do this, you most definitely can. When I’m cooking for myself the odds are enormous that I’m half asleep, wearing clothes from the bottom of the laundry pile, face streaked in my own lipstick that has migrated from my mouth to my cheeks during the night, and have my hair tied up with a gstring because I can’t find an elastic band despite buying packets and packets of them. If you’re even somewhat upright, you’re winning and you can do this. Not to glorify this whole “I’m so useless and can’t take care of myself and it’s hilarious” thing, it’s just like, literally sometimes we’re all kinda messy, and it’s no reason to not make ourselves pasta using our own two hands. (Also: if you want a lipstick that you can really sleep in, let’s just say there’s a reason why Rimmel Provocalips rhymes with “will survive a nuclear apocalypse.”)

I’ve got two recipes for ya: one is Matcha Spaghetti con Cacio e Pepe, which is pretty directly based on this recipe from the beautiful food blog Lady and Pups. From here I was inspired to make Turmeric Pappardelle and serve it with buttery, fried brioche crumbs; It’s essentially one recipe two ways.

The first time I made this, with the matcha recipe, I accidentally used high grade flour, the kind you’d use to make bread. It still tasted really good although it was a little bit tough, and the rolling out process pretty much gave me carpal tunnel syndrome after three minutes. When I used regular plain flour, the pasta practically made itself. So uh, pay attention to your ingredients. The delightful thing about this recipe though is that the ingredients are almost nothing – a bit of flour, one stupid egg, a half-hearted dribble of water, and it comes together to make satiny, dense, perfect ribbons of pasta. You don’t even need a pasta machine. Yes, you can use one, and my flatmate actually has one, but I decided to try using just a rolling pin so that as many people as possible could also try this recipe, and honestly it was easy and fine, and kind of fun – like playing with playdough.

And of course, you can make this just plain, without matcha or turmeric or any other flavourant! But if you happen to have these ingredients kicking about, you’re in for a good time: the matcha tints the pasta a soft, dusky sage green and offers a mild background note of grassy bitterness which works beautifully with the rich blandness of the cheese and the throat-kicking pepper.

The turmeric, on the other hand, stains the wide ribbons of pasta a glowing, sunshine gold colour, and gives a more pronounced earthy flavour. The golden buttery crumbs pleasingly echo the colour, and also taste wonderful as they get wrapped up in the thick pappardelle strands – nutty crunch against soft bite. I mean, you could put fried brioche (or any kind of bread) crumbs on like, a sock, and it would probably taste good, but I do believe it works particularly nicely here.

matcha spaghetti con cacio e pepe  

adapted from this recipe on Lady and Pups

  • one tablespoon (or more) matcha powder
  • one egg
  • two tablespoons water
  • one and a half cups plain/all-purpose flour
  • shaved parmesan cheese, other grated cheese if you like, butter, olive oil, freshly ground black pepper

Mix the matcha powder, water, and egg together in a large bowl with a fork or something, then throw in the flour. Knead it briefly till it forms an unpromising looking ball – it is entirely normal for it to be a little under-hydrated looking and crumbly, but it should come together easily enough still. Try to avoid adding extra water if you can help it – just keep pushing and kneading till it comes together. Nevertheless, the size of your egg and the curve of the earth and so on may affect things, so also don’t feel too scared to add more water, just go really slowly, y’know?

Wrap the dough in clingfilm and leave to rest on the bench for an hour. Get a sheet of baking paper and divide the dough into four portions (or however many, four just seems to make things easy.) Roll each portion out as this as you can manage – a couple of millimetres is ideal. The thing with having four portions is that as you roll each one out it gives the previous ones times to rest, which means when you give them a second rolling out the dough will be more relaxed and be likely to roll further. Don’t be afraid to rest it for a good ten minutes if it seems to be not yielding much. Use a pizza cutter to slice rough, thin ribbons from the sheets of pasta (or roll them up and take thin slices out if you don’t have a pizza cutter) and cook in a large pan of boiling, salted water for about two minutes. Drain the pasta and stir in grated cheese, butter, olive oil and black pepper in quantities that suit you. Divide between two plates and eat immediately. 

turmeric pappardelle with brioche crumbs fried in butter

a recipe by myself

  • one tablespoon ground turmeric
  • one egg
  • two tablespoons of water
  • one and a half cups plain, all-purpose flour
  • a couple of slices of brioche, or one brioche bun, or any kind of bread at all, really
  • 50g butter
  • a little olive oil

In a large bowl, mix the turmeric, water and egg together using a fork or something. Add the flour and stir briefly with the same fork till it forms rough crumbs. Knead inside the bowl using your knuckles and the heel of your palm to fold and push it until it forms a roughly coherent ball of dough, a little dry and cracked maybe, but a ball nonetheless. 

Wrap it in clingfilm and allow it to sit at room temperature on the bench somewhere for an hour. 

Divide it into four and roll out each portion as thinly as you can on a sheet of baking paper.  Feel free to let the dough rest for a bit after rolling it out, as this will allow the gluten to relax and let you roll it further. Using a pizza cutter or a very sharp knife, slice thick ribbons from the sheets of dough, and cook them in a large pan of boiling salted water until done – this will take a few minutes, tops. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large frying pan and crumble in the bread (roughly chop it first if need be), stirring every now and then till the crumbs are golden and toasted. Drain the pasta, divide between two bowls and drizzle with a little olive oil, then evenly spoon the golden crumbs on top. Season with salt and pepper if you life and eat immediately. 

I say it a lot, but pasta is one of my very favourite foods – the texture and simple, calm flavour is so comforting, and it acts as a conduit between yourself and the most delicious ingredients quite easily. I also love that you can put something so simple on it – like, just black pepper and cheese, or an old bun that I found in the freezer along with some butter – and it both looks and tastes spectacular and entirely complete. Any food can be comfort food, but pasta is my comfort food, which is why making it from scratch two days in a row feels like no big deal and a good time – especially when homemade pasta just has this particularly magical taste that bought stuff can’t quite replicate.

If you, also, are on a pasta buzz, may I suggest checking out my recipes for Beetroot Baked with Cream, Balsamic Vinegar and Cumin with Spaghetti, Thyme and Pine Nuts; Pappardelle with Chili Butter, Chorizo and Feta; and from a week or two ago; Very Simple Tomato Spaghetti.

I also suggest checking out the most important thing that will ever happen to any of us: I dyed my hair again.

 dying is easy young man, living is harder

dying is easy young man, living is harder

It has been a truly busy week, with events at work and lots of big nights, and my mum and her best friend in town for the first time in ages (which was lovely!) and seeing my awesome brother for the first time in ages; and the birthday of one of my beautiful best friends Kate; and so much going on! But as I said, I am enormously determined to not let this blog slide down the scale in terms of Things I Can Do. Can’t wait.

title via: the deliciously overwrought song No More from the amazing and quite under-the-radar 2006 off-Broadway musical See What I Wanna See, sung by my hero Idina Menzel. It’s not on YouTube, tragically, but you can definitely find it on Spotify. The title track is on YouTube though, so maybe just listen to that instead? 

music lately: 

Red Sex, by Vessel. This track is so good, just such a persistent driving beat, it makes me want to run around the room.

Emily Edrosa, Corner of the Party. I am in love with this song, okay?

next time: no apologies for taking ages to blog, and also this amazing Crunchie Bar slice that I’ve been making a whole lot of. 

sometimes i can’t function, my heart’s spaghetti junction

I think a lot about comfort, and comfort food, and self care, and everything in that soft little bubble. It’s sort of stupid – yet predictable – that the more you might need self-care, the more inclined you are to curl up into a small spiral and hide under a blanket for hours; the more you are needing of comforting food the less you have any energy to cook it; and the more you want general comfort at all the less you remember how on earth to find it. If, however, you’re bouncing around like the little ball in that atari-type brick-busting game that was on all computers in the 90s and feeling aimlessly ready for comfort food but don’t know what exactly: mate, I heartily recommend this spaghetti recipe that I’ve got for you. On that note, I’ve been watching a whole lot of the Netflix series Chef’s Table and aside from wanting to marry Chef Dominique Crenn soooo badly; just watching a beautifully made show about people passionately making beautiful food is super calming without having to actually do anything about it myself.

Watching TV to chill out and finding pasta to be comfort food: how revolutionary, I know. For someone who is pretty convinced that they are a complicated mystery woman I’m actually a pretty simple human. I guess it’s about catching myself in the act of doing really obvious things and then congratulating myself disproportionately for them?

Pasta – along with ice cream – is just straight up my favourite food, so I generally want it always, without any further existential context around it. This particular recipe for Very Simple Tomato Spaghetti uses a different method to how we’re usually told to cook the stuff – in an ocean of boiling salted water – instead you add a scant cup or two of water and let the pasta slowly absorb it in its entirety. I know! I grew up eating pasta cooked by microwaving it in a pyrex jug of water for 12 minutes so you should definitely trust me. My logic being, someone who has lived through such bad pasta like me would definitely know really, really good pasta too.

With this recipe, everything happens in the one pan. The starch from the pasta releases into the remaining liquid, and when you stir in some tomato paste it all becomes near-on preposterously creamy and rich. I know all the butter I hoof into it has some kind of effect as well, but the starch is important, honest. I came by this recipe in a roundabout way – I was thinking about cooking spaghetti in the same way that I’d make a risoni risotto, and then I came across a recipe on Food52 that confirmed the process for me; I had a tin of tomato paste that I’d bought because it was out-of-date stock and going super cheap and stuff that’s on special because it’s past its use-by date is aggressive me-bait; finally I required both lunch and comfort: thus this recipe was born.

 i took a photography course one time last week and now i think I can get away with this  i took a photography course one time last week and now i think I can get away with this 

You add the butter at three stages: first to gently fry the uncooked sticks of spaghetti in, secondly to add flavour to the cooking liquid, and finally to rich up the tomato paste. As with all my recipes, I’m thoroughly desensitised to what constitutes “a lot” of butter, but this tastes like the exact right amount. The tomato sauce thickly coats each soft strand, and any fresh-from-the-tin acidity is softened completely. It’s rich, it’s luscious, it tastes like you spent hours reducing it down in a cast iron pan under the Tuscan sun using fresh tomatoes that a handsome, floppy haired man picked for you as a gift shortly before you ignore him for the rest of his life and he goes on to write bad poetry about it using the tomatoes misguidedly as a metaphor. It’s delicious.

very simple tomato spaghetti

a recipe by myself

  • 50g butter
  • 100g dried spaghetti
  • one and a half cups recently boiled water
  • one small tin of tomato paste; or around four tablespoons
  • herbs and cheese to serve, if desired

You add butter at three different stages, so begin by slicing the butter into fairly even thirds. In a wide saucepan – ideally wide enough to hold the spaghetti lying down, although you can break the strands up if need be – gently heat the butter over a medium heat and add the dried spaghetti, stirring to coat the sticks in butter as they spin around the pan. 

Add the water and the second measure of butter and turn the heat up high. Continue to stir occasionally as the water bubbles away, cooking the pasta as it reduces down. Taste a strand occasionally to test if it’s done. If need be, add a little more water. 

Once the pasta is cooked and the water has reduced down to a few tablespoons – it will happen! – stir in the tomato paste and the final measure of butter. Stir over a lower heat until the butter has melted and it’s all thick and saucy. Remove from the heat and serve. 

If you look up the word “comfort” in the dictionary, there is, by way of explanation, this picture of me sitting cross-legged on the floor of my best friend Kate’s house while she and my other best friend Kim are just out of frame, we are drinking wine and the fire is warming my back. The lights are low and there’s an extractor fan on making blissful white noise and a small seal pup of a dog is in front of me trying to kiss my nose. In lieu of being able to recreate this exact picture for yourself, pasta is a decent option. Especially when that pasta is so simple and takes hardly any time or ingredients and rewards you with a bowlful of creamily dense sauce coating each strand which you can strew with herbs and cheese such as thyme and feta if you like but it’s perfectly perfect on its own, looking like an upended can of spaghetti but tasting five zillion times superior. (Now, I used to bloody adore canned spaghetti but I am convinced that the recipe has been changed and it’s not what I used to be, I’m not just being snarky about it for the sake of it.)

And if you’re after more pasta-related comfort, maybe try my Garlic Miso Butter Risoni Risotto or Spaghetti with Chilli, Lemon, Capers and Olive Oil.

title via the immensely cool Elastica’s Car Song. If we all try really hard we might be as effortlessly cool as Justine Frischmann one day, but I doubt it. 

Flume ft Tove Lo, Say ItIt can’t be good for one to listen too much to Tove Lo’s song Habits too often so I’m glad this exists as well.

Look, I’ll tell you when I’m sick of listening to INXS’s song Disappear, okay? Till then just assume I’m listening to it on a constant loop.

next time: I have been craving cookies lately??? Perhaps something will come of this.