we’re gift-wrapped kitty cats

I’ve talked a whole lot on here about how unskilled I am at sleeping. In a pink hardback baby book charting my first few months of existence, there’s a passage in my mother’s neat handwriting that tells – from my freshly birthed point of view – about how “I seem to require less sleep than everyone else” and “have already cried a lifetime’s worth of tears”. How completely prescient! Not that I have a ruthlessly raging case of colic as an excuse these days!

As I’ve also recounted here, my ADHD superpowers (having good ideas, absolutely sucking at every other aspect of life) came into play one night when I had trouble sleeping, and blessed me with this concept: what if I took thinly peeled slices of potato and wrapped them around other food and then roasted it so that the potato went all crisp and golden? (Thus neatly encapsulating three of the overarching themes of this blog: I never sleep, I was a small jerk of a child, with great mental health issues comes tiny, tiny kickbacks in the field of creativity.)

I figured this simply had to work, and wanted to try it with the new season’s asparagus. Being extremely pre-payday I had pretty much no money in my bank account, but after fossicking like a tenacious raccoon in all my pockets and the dark corners of my tote bag, I found enough coins to go down to the Cuba Street Fruit Mart. I purchased 1 (one) potato, and a handful of green beans, since asparagus isn’t actually out yet, handed over my pile of carefully counted out twenty cent coins, and went home to make my sleepless dreams a reality.

Guys, this was like...unreal. SO delicious. I could not be more enraptured with myself. Getting on a roll with achieving satisfactory lengths of peeled potato strips takes some work, but any extra bits can be roasted alongside the beans to be snacked upon leisurely (I recommend one of those peelers that’s kind of V shaped as opposed to a regular one.) What you end up with is slightly scorched beans, the oven’s heat giving them a kind of caramelised nutty juiciness (which is the worst thing I’ve ever written) encased in, essentially, a big kettle chip. The fried golden crunchiness of the potato against the beans is superb. I smashed some basil leaves into rock salt with a pestle and mortar just to point up the green taste of the beans, but just regular sea salt with chopped up basil or just salt on its own would be absolutely fine.

I feel like this would make an ideal starter for a dinner party, or you could make heaps and serve them with drinks. I guess they could also act as a fancy side for some kind of larger dish. They’re also vegan AF which is like, nice!

potato-wrapped green beans with basil salt

a recipe by myself

  • one floury potato
  • a handful of green beans
  • olive oil
  • one teaspoon of rock salt (or sea salt flakes)
  • three basil leaves

Set your oven to about as high as it will go – this is usually around 240C/480F. Pour some olive oil into a shallow roasting tray – the shallower the tray, the less oil you need to use, but whatever – so that it’s generously slicked. This is not a time to hold back. Place the tray in the oven so the oil heats up while you get on with preparing the ingredients themselves. 

Peel the skin from the potato (keep it to make vegetable stock or something if you’re virtuous) and then carefully peel long strips of potato from it. I found it easier to go lengthwise, and it took a few goes, but it gets easier, and any scraps can be thrown in with the beans and roasted till crisp for a delightful snack, so no harm done. Wrap the beans, in little bundles of three, with a long strip of potato (as per the picture) and sit them with the tail end tucked underneath. Generally potatoes have their own natural glueyness so you don’t have to worry about them unravelling wildly and flying about the room like a pulled out tape measure.

Place them carefully in the tray of hot oil, and roast for roughly twenty minutes, turning halfway through. However, you mostly want to go by eye here – when the beans look scorched and the potato wrapping is getting golden is when you want to turn them. At this point, add any other peelings and scraps of the remaining potato to the tray – seriously, they’ll turn into kettle chips and taste amazing, plus what else are you going to do with that remaining potato? 

In a pestle and mortar, bash the salt and basil leaves till they form a deeply green dust. If you don’t have this implement, just roughly chop the basil and sprinkle it and some salt over the finished beans. 

Remove the wrapped beans to a plate when you’re quite satisfied with their done-ness, sprinkle over some salt, and eat em. The remaining scraps are particularly good with some smoked paprika and the remaining basil salt.  

I roasted strips and scraps of the remaining potato and then sprinkled them with the remaining basil salt and some smoked paprika which was also ravishingly good. From one potato, sprang forth so much joy. I’m keen as to try this potato wrapped method on other foods – the asparagus of my initial intentions, halloumi, already-roasted beetroot, big red chiles stuffed with feta, maybe some kind of beef…thing…and I was even like, could I wrap potato in potato? Would that work? Am I the greatest genius whomst ever lived?

Well, no: another insomnia-idea was that I thought it’d be cool to roast pears stuffed with chocolate and then dip them in cake batter and bake them, so that they’d be encased in a layer of cake. The cake batter slid off and I ended up with two pears stuck in a large biscuit, which still tasted essentially fine, but was not something I’d recreate in a massive hurry. You can’t win em all, most of the time you can’t even win anything and in fact end up losing dramatically, so I’m quite content with this progression of events.

Back to the lack of sleep thing, before you all start a letter-writing campaign of great concern to your local government about my wellbeing or something, it’s not like I’m not working on it, and I do have naps during the day. I have a prescription for these amazing sleeping pills, I just keep forgetting to go get it filled out. I’ve got all the meditation and rain sounds in the world on YouTube, magnesium tablets, chamomile tea, yoga, you name it. Actually nothing makes me want to drop into a stupor like a gigantic meal of carbohydrates, so maybe potatoes are the way forward. Whether I’m sleepless and thinking about them or sleeping because of them: they are so good.

 any colour you like

any colour you like

A callback for the fans; in my last post I went on a rose-coloured rant about Millennial Pink, and I decided to make a cocktail embodying the colour as well. Plantation Barbados 2000 rum, Peychaud’s bitters, Aperol, thyme bitters, sugar and cream, makes for an alluringly-hued and impressively tasty drink. Just in case you thought I was anything less than totally exhaustingly all-or-nothing.

Finally, if you like Things With Potatoes, you might consider reading some of my other blog posts, including recipes for Halloumi and Hash Brown Potatoes; Potato Dominoes; or a Fried Potato Toastie.

title from: one of the greatest pop songs of all time, Love Machine by Girls Aloud. Also worth listening to is the ebullient Arctic Monkeys cover.

music lately:

Old mate Chelsea Jade released a woozily sweet video for her stonkingly good tune Ride or Cry. Yay!

City and Colour, Northern Wind. Feeeeheeeeelings.

Harry Styles, Sign of the Times. Feeeeeeeeee *sobs* eeeeeeee *literally throws up* eeelings!

next time: I made pulled jackfruit and I’m effing obsessed with it. 

do you love me ’cause i can mash potato?

So I spent all of last week extremely bedridden and in unreal amounts of pain while recovering from my wisdom teeth coming through with all the haste and frantic energy of a character entering the room from stage left in a farcical French play about a dinner party gone lightly awry. I’m a very like, impulsive type idiot and so it was almost equally as painful to have to go from living in the moment to living in the bed, and on top of that food bearing any kind of texture whatsoever was out of the question as I could hardly open my mouth and the slightest attempt at chewing caused dagger-stabs of pain right into the very core of my gums. My one solace was that the Tramadol I’d been prescribed, while it didn’t do much whatsoever for the pain, was an extremely good time.  

And so, that’s why I’m blogging about mashed potato. Not because I invented it, or think you don’t know how to make it, and not even because I’m labouring under some kind of delusion that my recipe below is particularly revolutionary in any way, but: it’s what I ate last week. My other options include “half a container of yoghurt, consumed tearfully” and “a bowl of strawberry jelly that had ‘serves four’ on the package”. 

I think I absorbed this method from Nigella Lawson, which makes sense since for most of the week all I could handle concentrating on was her old TV series on loop on youtube – the pop culture equivalent of mashed potato (and pop culture consumption is almost as important as food consumption to me.) It’s very simple – you just throw whole potatoes in a hot oven and bake them, then scoop out the fluffy interiors and fork through as much cream and butter as you wish. Like seriously, I’m not even giving you quantities in this recipe because only you know how much you both desire and can handle. I much prefer this method to boiling the potatoes on the stove top, as there’s no peeling or waiting for the water to boil or draining and also cooking the potatoes without moisture results in, I believe, a far superior mash. 

The only thing I really feel strongly about is that your mashed potato should have some freshly ground nutmeg on it – it gives such a warm, cosy note of spice in the same way cinnamon does on top of, say, porridge, just a tiny hint of subtle depth against the blanketing blandness of the potato. Also my specification for six potatoes is just a guess, really – if you use more potatoes or bigger ones you’ll get more mash, that’s about all there is to it.  

mashed potatoes

  • around six medium sized floury potatoes
  • cream
  • butter
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • nutmeg

Set your oven to 220C/450F, and scrub the potatoes if need be, but don’t peel them. Place them directly onto the rack in the oven – like, not on a baking tray or anything – and let them sit for around half an hour or until they’re extremely, 100% tender when you pierce them with a knife. 

Halve them lengthwise and scoop the soft flesh out into a bowl. Squash it all about with a fork, stirring in as much butter and cream as you like, but if you’re completely unsure start with a few tablespoons of the former and about 20g of the latter. Obviously I added more. If you heat it up it’ll be easier to add in and won’t lower the temperature of the potato. 

Sprinkle over plenty of salt, pepper, and a little freshly grated nutmeg. Dive in. 

Don’t throw out the be-scooped potato skins – if you sprinkle them with grated cheese and I don’t know, some smoked paprika or something and blast them under the grill till the cheese is bubbling you are in for a very good time. Unfortunately, as previously discussed, anything even remotely textural was off limits for me so I tearfully and apologetically hoofed them into the bin. 

The mashed potato itself though: good god. So soft. Eating it is like the feeling of lying on the carpet and being warmed by sun streaming through the window. Like turning off your alarm clock and being wrapped in a thick duvet. Like coming in from the cold and turning on a fan heater and just shutting your eyes and listening to the gentle humming noise it makes. Cream and butter are a simple conduit to happiness (presuming you like, enjoy the taste of them) and every last granule of potato seems to swell fatly with the richness of these ingredients. Salt and the aforementioned nutmeg stops everything from being too plain, and it’s all just very calming and delicious. I ate the whole bowl in bed and then fell asleep. 

Thanks to the magic of antibiotics and bedrest I eventually improved, which means I’ve been back at work this week and I could not be happier about it. My first shift back I honestly got the stupidest grin on my face while making my first cocktail of the night, and all that aside it’s a joy to just be around people again. The errant teeth are going to be pulled out on July 3 though, so we’re not entirely out of the woods yet. My teeth have been so extremely well behaved my whole entire life so I’ve never had any real dentist experiences before – and I apologised to my dentist for being such a cliche but – I’m super nervous about it. So, I’ll probably be revisiting this recipe again many times during that week. Till then, gonna eat so many crispy chewy foods while I can. It’s crunch time! 

title from: Liz Phair, Easy Target. It’s grumbly and whiny, like me! 

music lately: 

Lorde, Writer in the Dark. WHAT IS SHE PLAYING AT ??? How DARE (I’m obsessed with this album if you can’t tell.) 

Lash, Take Me Away. This song is from 2001 or something and it really feels like it production-wise, this band went absolutely nowhere but this is such a bop still, like, that chorus!! 

Polly Scattergood, Wanderlust. This song is so extremely everything I look for in pop music – fizzy and dreamy and a little melancholic. 

next time: something aggressively crunchy before settling back into post-operation pain-fuelled soft foods!!

these girls fall like dominoes

I would describe my demeanour this week as Literal Zombie But With Slightly Worse Hygiene. The reason I have not blogged up until the very moment that you’re reading this is that I have been working on an enormous freelance project with a big company, it was a brilliant opportunity that I would’ve been an idiot to turn down, it did however take up every waking moment when I was not at work. Okay, I’m exaggerating, on Wednesday I took 30 minutes to eat a sandwich and do some thoroughly decent selfies. As I said, I’ve been working my usual hours too and on top of that am also attempting to deal with my personal life in that unspecial everyone-has-their-own-struggle way that we all are, so as a result my brain is FORLORN. But I got the project done and I’m proud of myself for it and I’m delighted that I was considered to do it: something had to give though and alas it was writing this blog post. 

I’m already a bit daft at the best of times – I interpret stuff in a verrrry face value way (April Fool’s Day is honestly so embarrassing for me) and also sometimes forget a simple term and can only elaborately describe my way around it. I’m Occam’s Razor on Opposite Day, basically. This week it has been amplified x a squillion, for example: the recipe below involves cutting potatoes into a particular shape and I could not, just could not recall what the name of that shape was. I googled it, all I got was talk of shapes with names like decadocadecoflipagon which was all too spooky. I took to Facebook to ask: it turns out out the shape I was trying to name was…a cube. I forgot what a cube was. What about a long-ass cube though? I asked. A brick? Suggested my friend Charlotte. Reader, I hung my head. 

 

Later this week I happened to look at my hand and was noticed, idly, that I had got something blue on it. I was wearing blue eyeshadow and it’s no surprise for the makeup on my face to migrate to the rest of my body in streaky patches as I go scruffily about my day. When it wouldn’t wash off however, I started silently freaking out. I messaged my two best friends Kim and Kate to say I was highly nervous because a vein on my hand had grown wide like pappardelle pasta and were the rest of my veins going to follow in this fashion and bust out of my stupid body, and as if I have time for this right now because I have this massive freelance project to finish. Kim was like “it sounds like a bruise” and Kate was like “yep it’s a bruise” and I was like “ohhh yeah. Bruises.” 

Amongst all this one needs to feed one’s self, and also to stop referring to one’s self as “one”, probably. Ever since reading about them on Food52 I’ve been completely entranced by Potato Dominoes, a method of roasting potatoes where you cut all the rounded edges off and then slice the remaining potato verrrry thinly in a brick shape (or a long-ass cube, if you will, this is also the point where I got into a spot of bother with mathematical terms) and push them over slightly – hence the domino name. It all sounds like a lot of faff for very little result but kindly believe my hype. Slicing them all thin creates a ton of surface area and edge bits to get almost hilariously crunchy and crisp, whilst providing a solid base to get all creamy and soft and lush. Is it worth it? Let me work it. Also yes, yes it is worth it. 

Even if they fall apart they are still wonderful (the title of my new pop punk album?) but I nevertheless suggest making them for yourself a few times to get the hang of it before you feed them to, I don’t know, an ambassador’s husband. They’re not difficult, just a tiny bit fiddly. Before you get het up about the utter wastefulness of slicing all the rounded edges off the potatoes, I’m not suggesting you throw them out the window or anything. You can keep em to add to stews or soups or stocks, or do the obvious thing: roast them alongside the potato dominoes and eat them too, as a kind of sneaky chef’s treat. 

Here I’ve used a ton of butter, which melts over the potatoes under the blasting heat of the oven, however I made them again with olive oil in the interests of vegan possibilities and simple curiosity. They were, unsurprisingly, equally excellent. If you don’t have any in the house, the thyme and capers aren’t crucial to the proceedings, but! Thyme’s resiny, sweet herbal flavour is beautiful with the buttery, nutty potatoes, and capers are so salty and good and get as crunchy as the edges of the potatoes that they’re adorning. 

potato dominoes with thyme and capers

adapted gently from a Food52 recipe, which probably has way more helpful instructions than mine. 

  • two big, evenly sized potatoes
  • butter, around 75g OR a plenty of extra virgin olive oil
  • a tablespoon of capers
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme

Set your oven to 220C/450F. Slice all the rounded sides off the potatoes so you end up with a potato brick/cuboid thing. Slice crosswise (I think that’s the word? Not lengthwise, basically) through the potatoes, as thinly as you can muster. Push them into place so they hold their brick shape even when all sliced up. Use a spatula or pancake flipper to transfer them to a baking tray, and push them over slightly so they are like a pile of tipped-over dominoes, or a spread of cards, or a pile of books on a lean, that kind of thing. Surround them with the off cuts of potato if you like. Generously layer slices of the butter across the top of each potato, and use any remaining butter to dot on top of the off cuts, if you’re using them. 

Roast for around 20 minutes, although much will depend upon your oven and the type of potatoes you’ve got. The more waxy and watery the potato, the longer it will take. Scatter with the thyme and capers, eating a few offcuts on the way to test for done-ness, and return to the oven till the capers are crisp and the potatoes are cooked through and thoroughly golden on the outside. 

I fear I have not emphasised enough how delicious these are. They’re SO CRISP. But SO SOFT underneath. It’s SO NOT a huge deal to have to slice them up all funny. All I could find was stupid waxy potatoes that seemed to be filled with water and they STILL turned out gorgeously browned and crisp. I have SO MORE CAPITALISATION where that came from. Anyway I was eating a big plateful of these the other day and my brain was at a particularly low ebb, like the tide carrying any knowledge had washed away out to sea and I was too tired to chase it, or indeed, to come up with a better metaphor, and I was looking at these beautiful, golden and brown, crunchy crisp potatoes, and I got the theme song from Friends in my head and for one rather silly second I attributed the qualities of being there for you when the rain starts to pour and like they’ve been there before to these potatoes and felt comforted. It’s like the potatoes gave me the supportive words I needed but it turns out those words were in my heart all along. 

 Omg this beautiful woman! Lucky London. 

Omg this beautiful woman! Lucky London. 

Speaking of words that were in one’s heart all along, I found myself doing karaoke last night for the second Saturday in a row and it’s amazing how good for the soul it is (apart from wondering, injuriously, why there is no audience out there who wants to hear a moderately terrible singer and thus I can never become a pop star.) All my emotions were slammed around anyway because it was the leaving party for my dear, beautiful friend Charlotte who is bereaving us of her presence but blessing the lesbians of London by moving there for good; on the other hand my angel friend Kate had just returned after a month overseas. Considering I was already at the point of feeling like I was receiving bolstering messages from a bowl of potatoes, you can imagine the near-hysteria in the air last night. Why not add lusty singing into the mix? It was a wonderful night though, so full of support from actual humans and hugs and laughter and new friends and bottles of Rose wine which kept appearing out of nowhere and – once I’ve finished my shift at work that I’m about to head off and do – I made it through this week. Thanks, potatoes.  

If you, too, are on a potatoes vibe then may I also suggest checking out my recipes for Quite Fast Garlic and Parmesan Potatoes, Baked Potato Salad, and/or Halloumi, Fried Potato and Raw Fennel Salad

title from: Nicki Minaj’s wonderfully sweet and pro-woman song, Girls Fall Like Dominoes. We are so lucky to have her. 

music lately: 

I don’t know if it’s indicative of where my head’s at but I’m all “no time like the present to develop an odd obsession with Roxette”, specifically the song The Look which I’ve listened to at least fifty times this week, conservatively estimating. It’s horrifyingly intoxicating. I’m listening to it right now. 

Mr Big, To Be With You. Lol, idk. 

next time:  I made AMAZING white chocolate and burnt butter ice cream and I’m very excited about it. I just have to get photos of it before I eat it all, thus far a losing battle.