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! 

tell me what you saw, there was a crowd of seeds

Sometimes I’ll make a recipe and it seems so bordering-on-nothing-y that I’ll hesitate to put it on here, but the truth of the matter is that this week I made myself a gigantic quantity of dukkah and that’s what I’ve been eating, and what I’ve been eating goes on here, so here it is. I remember first having dukkah with my aunty who lived in Hamilton, which seemed extremely cosmopolitan in comparison to the small small small town I was from. She was like, you have your bread, your oil, and the dukkah – a mixture of seeds and nuts and spices – and that’s the meal. As someone for whom a meal was either a microwaved pie or meat, potatoes, and microwaved broccoli, this was a damn exciting revelation. There’s something so wonderfully leisurely about just slowly eating bread and some kind of unguent, and I’m super here for it, especially since my weird working hours (as a bartender) mean my eating habits can be reflectively weird as well, like I might not desire food till 4pm or I might be wanting a six course meal at 4am (and unfortunately, they’re mighty hard to come by at that hour) so food that drifts with me like this is ideal. And to circle back to my original point, honestly who am I to proclaim this old school Middle Eastern dish as nothing-y anyway? It’s substantial and substantially delicious.

I don’t do anything particularly revolutionary with my recipe, since in all honesty it doesn’t need any further flourish. The spices are earthy cumin, lemony-gingery coriander seed, and the warmth of cinnamon, and then it’s just loads of sesame seeds and some walnuts, which have a soft, buttery crunch under the tooth. Pistachios would be wonderful but they stay prohibitively expensive, and besides I had some walnuts leftover from the recipe I made last week. Feel free to play with proportions as you wish though – this makes a sesame-seed heavy mix but add more or less, muck around with spices, follow your dreams, live your truth, look inside your heart and find the answer there, etc.

dukkah 

  • two tablespoons cumin seeds
  • two tablespoons coriander seeds
  • one teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • one cup sesame seeds
  • one cup walnuts
  • salt and pepper
  • Bread and olive oil, to serve

Heat up a large pan and gently toast the cumin and coriander seeds, stirring often, till they’re fragrant but not browned. Tip them into a pestle and mortar and smash em up, then tip this into a large mixing bowl. Tip the sesame seeds into the same pan and stir them until the seeds are lightly browned. Transfer them to the mixing bowl with the spices, and finally, tip the walnuts into the pan and stir around till they’re lightly toasted. You can either bash up the walnuts in the pestle and mortar or roughly chop them, but either way stir them into the sesame seed mixture. Add the cinnamon and plenty of salt and pepper and stir to combine, and that’s it. Transfer to an airtight container or like, eat the lot. 

I completely acknowledge, by the way, that my photos this week might be kind of rubbish – I was extremely taken with the stark sunbeam across the table as I was eating but there is every chance that what I saw and the photos I took do not exactly match up. Nevertheless, it’s what you’re getting. Anyway frankly who cares, when the food is so delicious it can speak for itself. I’m huge on texture and absolutely love anything crunchy and so the juxtaposition of soft, soft bread dipped in oil and then in turn into the bitey, nutty, warmly spiced coating of dukkah is incredibly pleasing. I highly recommend it.

And, if you’re in the mood for other bread-and-stuff type recipes, may I recommend further reading in the form of  my recipe for hummus, or Tarator (a walnut dip), or Cambodian Wedding Day Dip (they’re also all vegan, if that’s of interest.)

title from: Gold Lion by Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I love the opening drum beat so much, it reminds me of that iconic Be My Baby opening even though it’s not actually anything like it. 

music lately:  

Okay so I watched the film Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping the other day and it was like, fine, and pretty amusing, and I have a lot of time for Andy Samberg because I have an inexplicable crush on him, but I found one song from it in particular got completely stuck in my head, and then because the internet is wonderful, someone has uploaded to YouTube precisely what I actually wanted to listen to: not the song itself but the background, which samples a song from the 60s by the Marcel’s called Heartache: basically it’s like incredibly obnoxious and I want ten hours of it on loop. So here it is: So Humble, the instrumental version, which I physically cannot stop playing.

Upon recommendation I’ve been listening to a band called Idles and! They’re so good! I love shouty punky stuff and if you do too I recommend starting with their song Mother.

Fenugreek by MF Doom always makes me feel so, SO happy, I extremely recommend it.

Finally: following some longterm strenuous recommendation I finally watched The Lost Boys, an 80s film which ticks all my boxes: 80s, ensemble cast, disaffected young men, banging soundtrack. Naturally, I cannot stop listening to its suuuuper dreamy theme song, Cry Little Sister. 

next time: I want to get into feijoas while they’re still in season! 

it was ice cream headaches and sweet avalanche

On the one hand, I absolutely hate tough love and would much rather live in some kind of constructed reality where I’m relentlessly coddled and never need face up to hard truths, on the other hand if I was on top of my game at any given areas of my life, tough love and hard truths wouldn’t need to be a constant burden to be avoided, yeah? Anyway to my great aggrievement, I had to tough-love myself and acknowledge that there is just no feasible way that the ticket to Lana Del Rey’s concert in Melbourne at the end of this month that I bought for myself in a burst of hopefulness earlier this year is going to get used by me, not in this economy. (Although I have best friend and economy expert Kim to thank for getting me to this point, she was essentially like “have you decided what you’re doing” and I was like “I’ve decided to flail endlessly” and she was like “what are your incoming and outgoing funds” and I was like “lol as if I’m supposed to know that kind of thing” and then I kind of investigated and she was like “well there’s your answer.”)

Part of the reason that it was so hard to give up the idea that some eleventh-hour miracle might happen is that I haven’t left the country in six entire years, partly because of life getting in the way of life, mostly because of the old incoming-outgoing paradox, and while traveling for the purpose of pleasure in no way makes you a more interesting or worthy person, I was like, I’m an adult, aren’t I? Why can I not perform this small display of adulthood in the manner of so many other adults? But also being kind to myself in the face of defeat but also not pinning my entire hopes and worth upon one single star when there’s a whole galaxy out there waiting, is also something of a display of adulthood, I GUESS.  (Related: if someone wants to purchase one GA ticket to Lana Del Rey’s concert in Melbourne on 31 March kindly get in touch.)

Meanwhile, I made some ice cream. I would regard ice cream as easily one of my favourite foods; as I’ve said before there’s something about its creamy frozen-ness that is a perfect blank canvas upon which to paint flavour, I love its billowing softness, its glacial richness, its melting sweetness, its, um…I just really like ice cream. My love for ice cream possibly exceeds my ability to talk about ice cream reverently, and you know I store vast reserves of reverence within my brain, like a camel of overexcitement.

Initially when I started making ice cream, well over ten years ago now, I would either do the traditional method – gently cooking egg yolks and cream into a rich custard – or Nigella’s swift method, literally just sugared whipped cream – but my current favourite base recipe that I find it impossible to extricate myself from because it’s so easy and makes perfect ice cream every time, is a mixture of condensed milk and cream. So this time around my idea was tahini and honey – tahini is a thick, rich paste of ground sesame seeds, with a really wonderful toasty nutty flavour and the texture of peanut butter. Even if you’ve never bought any you’ve probably had it before as it’s an ingredient in hummus.

This makes for a really lovely, slightly unusual flavoured ice cream – there’s an almost savoury quality to all that sesame, but its toasty nuttiness, and I’m sorry to re-use adjectives but there’s only so many bloody ways to say it – is just wonderful against the thick, soft, creamy backdrop of the ice cream. The honey adds gentle sweetness and all in all it’s a very mellow, mild ice cream, the sort that would be ideal under lots of toppings – some toasted pine nuts or walnuts, a further drizzle of sticky, slow-moving honey, some dark, dark melted chocolate, or as I did, a scattering of sesame seeds, for obvious reasons.

tahini honey ice cream

  • 50g butter
  • three heaped tablespoons tahini
  • thre heaped tablespoons honey
  • one can sweetened condensed milk
  • 600ml cream  
  • sea salt  

Stir the butter, honey, and tahini together in a saucepan over a low heat until the butter is melted and it’s juuuust at the ghost of a simmer, like, remove it from the heat just when bubbles start to form on the surface. Stir in the condensed milk and a decent pinch of sea salt. Whisk the cream in a large bowl till it’s just thickened but not whipped – thick enough to be kind of billowy and bordering-on-solid but not actually in stiff peaks, you know? Mix the cream into the tahini honey mixture any way you like – I poured half the cream into the tahini and whisked it and then poured that into the remaining whisked cream and folded it together but honestly literally, whatever.  

Spatula all this into a container of roughly 1 litre and freeze overnight or until solid. 

For me the most difficult part making of ice cream is probably waiting around for it to freeze solid enough to be eaten, other than that hardship I assure you that this recipe, as I hope for all my ice cream recipes to be, is really pretty easy and requires nothing more than a spoon, a pan, and a freezer-safe container. Something about the density of the sweetened condensed milk (or it could be any other scientific reason beyond my comprehension, the point is, it works) prevents any ice crystals from forming, meaning all you have to do is bung the mixture in the freezer and leave it alone, without any stirring or blending or further agitation until the blissful moment of actually eating it.

Gloomily accepting my lot in life aside, I did have a high-achieving week: I flew up home to Waiuku to spend two nights with my parents, catch up with an awful lot of family all at once, be roundly ignored by the cats, and pick up some total clothing gems at the local op shop, before scooting briefly up to Auckland to see Fall Out Boy in concert, the result of a ticket I purchased a long time ago and completely forgot about until quite recently. It was lovely to go home and see everyone, and the concert itself was just wonderful, such naked earnestness (luckily the nudity remained metaphorical only), such whoa-oh-ohs, such specificity of lyrics that it’s like, how dare you.  Just in case you thought I was exaggerating about well, literally anything earlier, the only way I was able to spatula myself on a mere visit to Auckland was with financial assistance from my parents for the flights, but one out of two concerts in one month isn’t bad, I guess. And if nothing else there’s no better music to listen to when you’re feeling sad about Lana Del Rey than Lana Del Rey, she is to sad moods what like, salt is to tomatoes.

And if nothing else, I did manage to finally get my application for my passport sent off, including an injurously bad photo that I refuse to acknowledge is an accurate representation of me in the slightest, considering my current passport expired in 2014 (I’m literally grinning in the photo inside it, can’t do that anymore) I’m mildly proud of myself.

While we’re talking ice cream I have any number of other recipes to recommend to you if you’re interested, but instead I offer you some recipes with which to use the rest of the jar of tahini – such as Green Tea Soba Noodles with Tahini Satay Sauce; Ottolenghi’s Roasted Butternut with Lime, Yoghurt Tahini Sauce, and Chilli; or this truly incredible Halvah Shortbread.

title from: Carpal Tunnel of Love, by Fall Out Boy, as I am nothing if not topical.

music lately:

A nice thing about working at Laundry bar is that there’s regularly DJ sets to bop to, and the very last song on Saturday night just got me right in the heart, it was a remix of Beth Orton’s song Central Reservation and it just filled me with euphoria, which, at the tail end of a long shift is like, a cool feeling. I haven’t been able to find the exact version that I heard but this one will do in the meantime.

Another song that stopped me in my tracks at work was when one of the DJ’s just casually dared to drop Rez by Underworld, like, did they not realize that when this song is playing I am capable of naught but standing with my eyes closed and waving my arms around in what I hope is roughly a graceful fashion, interrupted only by some jumping up and down with little regard for objects or people around me? This song is just magical.

Deftones, My Own Summer. Respectfully, shove it.

next time: Well, I still have half a jar of tahini left.

we can make it if we try, for the sake of you and i

Me: new year, new me! Anything could happEn!!

Also me: sets my alarm really early in the morning to make a birthday cake for someone dear to me, goes and buys ingredients, makes a ton of buttercream, puts the cake layers in the oven, realises the oven is broken, because OF COURSE, eats a not insignificant quantity of the buttercream, accepts own fate of being inescapably unable to escape own fate.

Luckily the birthday person in question found this hugely amusing.

Despite largely failing without fail, one thing I did without failing this week was make myself a small, serene jar of pickled radishes. There’s something about preserving things that’s so soothing and self-care-y; I guess maybe because you’re literally investing in your own future? The world cannot end if you have to allow for some vinegar-soaked thing quietly maturing in the fridge for not-quite-yet consumption, yeah? It’s also an act of resourcefulness (would it be more resourceful to not spend my scarce money on radishes in the first place, probably, but whatever) which feels good, and things twinkling away in jars are pleasing to the eye, and therefore, the soul.

Plus, these pickled radishes taste completely fantastic. I used Nigella’s easy recipe for quick-pickled carrots in her book Simply Nigella as a starting point. Indeed, I used Nigella’s enthusiasm for pickling things altogether as even more of a starting point, even though the tone of Simply seems a little more muted and subdued compared to her previous entries, her delight in this particular area of cooking cannot help but be infectious. On the other hand, I’ve always been all “how high” to her “jump”, so who really knows, the point is: I made some pickled radishes and it was easy and good.

I decided it might be fun to replace the water in the pickling liquid with sake, as in, Japanese rice wine, feeling that its clean, granular flavour would complement the clean, icy-peppery flavour of the radishes. I used plain old apple cider vinegar because that’s what I had, but next time around – and there will be a next time – I reckon I’d also spring for rice vinegar. The sake itself is not expensive stuff, I literally just was like, which one is cheapest and good for cooking and got pointed in the direction of a modest bottle for a mere $9.

sake pickled radishes

a recipe by myself, inspired by a recipe of Nigella’s. 

  • Like…six? radishes? Enough to fill a small jar once sliced? How is anyone supposed to know this
  • 125ml/half a cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 125ml/half a cup of sake
  • two teaspoons sea salt flakes
  • two teaspoons honey
  • one bay leaf
  • a few coriander seeds

Thinly slice the radishes into coins, and pack them into a small, clean jar of about 300ml. Put the rest of the ingredients into a small pan and heat till just boiling. Remove the bay leaf from the pan and then carefully tip the liquid over the radishes in the jar, put the lid on, and refrigerate them till cold. 

The fuchsia-coloured skin of the radishes merges into their icy white flesh once they’ve been sitting in the jar for a while, giving you sour-sweet crunchy disks of breathtaking millennial pink. Use them to adorn sandwiches, salads, tacos, bowls of rice (my preference), as part of a cheeseboard or charcuterie platter, whatever you fancy. The bright pink pickling liquid is nice used in a dressing with some soy sauce and sesame oil, nothing need go to waste.

It’s obnoxiously humid currently in Wellington and honestly I wish I could submerge myself in liquid and store myself in the fridge; till the technology comes to make that viable I’m stuck eating cold things instead to try and regulate my soaring temperature, for which these pickles will do quite, quite nicely.

If you are feeling exceptionally pickled-minded (ha) then may I also interest you in some other blog posts I’ve done on this very subject: like this recipe for taco pickles, this recipe for pickled blueberries, and this recipe for lime pickle, that is, limes done in the same way as preserved lemons.

title from: a slight reach here with this…I want to say heteronym? But nevertheless I’m never sorry about drawing your attention to Don’t Let Go (Love), an absolutely impeccable song by En Vogue.

music lately:

Green Grow the Rushes O, an earnest English folk song that dates back at least to the mid-1800s, mentioned frequently, (and inspiration for the title of) Jilly Cooper’s novel Rivals. I first read this book well over ten years ago but only just decided to actually look up the song. My verdict: it’s a banger!

So Alive, a 1989 song by Love and Rockets that is far more sultry than it has any business to be.

Nobody Needs To Know, sung by Norbert Leo Butz from the cast recording for 2002 off-Broadway musical The Last Five Years, filed under “songs I can only listen to occasionally due to the ensuing feelings!” The slow build and the squalling violins (or whatever it is) and the mood of what I once read somewhere described as “regret bordering on horror” makes for intense listening, and Norbert and his hard “r” pronunciation are right there to carry you through it all.

next time: well I have a LOT of buttercream, still. 

came to my senses and i chilled for a bit

Well I for one went from being aggressively employed on December 31 2017 to aggressively unemployed on January 1 2018, giving the whole “New Year New Me” ethos an unsettling spin. There’s no such thing as long story short with me, but to bring you quickly up to speed in a “previously, on Laura’s Life” kind of fashion, the bar that I ran – Motel – closed for good and I, as such, am now a bartender without a bar. There’s this scene in an episode of Parks and Recreation where Leslie Knope has been suspended from work and nevertheless scurries in to grab folders with the aim of running the entire faculty from home; I myself am wary of the fact that I might break into my friends’ houses and start furiously polishing their glasses and attempting to sell their own cups of tea back to them at any minute. If a shark stops swimming it dies; and I don’t know how to stop swimming. However, unlike the shark, I’m going to be fine. I am blessed, dubiously, with idiotic serendipity – like I’ll get hit by a bus but I’ll find $2 on the ground as I lie there bleeding out, that kind of thing. As such I have faith that I’ll land on my feet, even if I bounce around for a bit first.

It’s hard though! The 11th hour number of the Broadway musical A Chorus Line is called Music and the MIrror, where the character Cassie is at her wits end because she just wants a part in the show, to be allowed to dance, and instead she keeps getting told that she’s overqualified, she’s too old, whatever. Her monologue is heartbreaking. “God I’m a dancer, a dancer dances” is where I’m at right now (and her insisting of “I’ll do you proud” makes me tear up every time) but also I’m trying really hard to actually genuinely relax since I know I need it. I’m not interested in playing Burn Out Olympics, but I definitely was running on empty for a while there and this enforced break surely must be good for me. Basically I’ve decided to see this whole thing as the universe handing me a new chapter, unasked for though it was, and to embrace the excitement of the fact that anything could happen. Anything at all!

In the meantime, there is no reason, other than the jet lag levels of lethargy I’ve been experiencing since halting production suddenly, why I can’t devote a whole lot more time to this blog. The weather has been just staggeringly sunny and warm and so cooking is not a massively come-hither activity, but I made myself a chilled soup for lunch and can envisage this recipe making several encores should the weather continue thusly. At this point I acknowledge that every time I talk about soup on this blog I always have a preamble about how boring soup is and none but THIS recipe has ever turned my head, maybe I need to come to terms with the fact that I do kind of like soup.

The recipe comes from the glorious 1954 Alice B Toklas cookbook. Probably best known as the partner of repetition-inclined poet Gertrude Stein (who wrote a poem for her called Tender Buttons, hello) Toklas is an engaging writer in her own right and collected a wonderful range of recipes with the most fabulous names. Sheharezade’s Melon. Pink Pompadour Bass. Chicken In Half Mourning. A Fine Fat Pullet. A Hen With Golden Eggs. Raspberry Flummery. Roast Beef For A Rainy Day. A hilariously un-coy recipe for “Haschich Fudge” (“It might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies’ Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the D.A.R”) (“two pieces are quite sufficient.”) The anecdotes are marvelously glamorous. Of soup itself, Toklas gets to this recipe by way of explaining the different regional soups that bear relation to each other – “surely the calle de las Sierpes, the liveliest, most seductive of streets, would produce the cookbook that would answer the burning consuming question of how to prepare a gazpacho.” Heavens!

Chilled soup though, what a revelation! In this weather any extraneous movements will overheat you, so free yourself from the punishing labour of chewing and instead just drink in this bowl of iced silk. Eggplant has a total lusciousness already, purée it and it somehow becomes even more satiny and lush. Thick Greek yoghurt adds body and tangy lightness, and I like to eat it with a river of olive oil gouging its way through the surface and plenty of sea salt. Plus, I admit, I added some toasted sunflower seeds for texture so there actually is some chewing involved, but for the most part you can consume this with your eyes closed. More importantly, you can make it in an equally closed-eyed fashion as well.

Tarata (chilled eggplant and Greek yoghurt soup)

Adapted from a recipe in the Alice B Toklas cookbook. 

  • one eggplant
  • one red or yellow capsicum
  • two tablespoons of olive oil
  • two garlic cloves (or more, I ain’t stopping you)
  • 250ml/one cup thick plain Greek yoghurt
  • sea salt
  • extra virgin olive oil, chopped fresh mint, etc (to serve, optional) 

Peel the eggplant (easiest to do this lengthwise) and remove the stem and core from the capsicum, roughly chop both. You could just bin the purple ribbons of eggplant skin, but I fried them till crunchy and ate them sprinkled with salt, it was pretty good. 

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and gently fry the eggplant, capsicum, and the garlic cloves (no need to chop them or anything) until all softened and just barely browned. 

Allow this to cool a little, then purée it in a blender. Add a fat pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil, plus the yoghurt, and blend again to combine. You could actually eat it now at room temperature and have a good time of it, but otherwise refrigerate it till it’s ice cold and then consume at your nearest convenience, adding more olive oil, salt, and anything else you fancy.

This makes enough for two servings. Alice B Toklas makes six times the amount of this, if that’s how much you fancy then by all means go ahead. I kept the garlic proportions the same as her original six-person recipe, but that’s just how I feel about garlic. If it thickens up too much from its time in the fridge just add more yoghurt.

So what am I going to do next? Continue with this relaxing lark while attempting to hustle a fresh new bartending job are my two main objectives. With any luck, I’ll be able to have the headspace to do more on this blog while I’m at it.

I just realised that the first thing I blogged about in January 2017 was cold soup too (cherry tomato gazpacho) which makes sense from a seasonal point of view, but like….cute. Looking back over that blog post I am just in SUCH a better place than I was. Case in point, this time last year I posted an article about my struggle with the NZ mental health system, and this year I published an impassioned essay about the film adaptation of the musical RENT. (It’s niche, but it’s really well written!) Oh sure, I’m still not entirely brilliant and the things I need to resolve within myself could melt steel beams but I’m still genuine light years ahead of this-time-last-year me, I feel more full of potential and capable of good things and aware of myself and I’ve learned so much, lots of which wasn’t fun to learn, but I’m…yeah. Potential is the word that I keep alighting upon. Anything could happen.

title from: Salt’n’Pepa, ShoopA classic! 

music lately:

I’ve been listening to a lot of Alice Coltrane, who was prolific and immensely talented. Spiritual Eternal from 1976 is so shamblingly joyous and uplifting, and then Om Rama, recorded in the early eighties but released just this year, is hypnotic, electrifying, stunning.

I cannot stop consuming Les Miserables. I’ve been jamming a lot of Who Am I – Colm Wilkinson, who created the role of Valjean, has the most chewy, rich voice, like his mouth is full of artisinal sourdough. The stirring build to that ludicrous note at the end of the song is just wonderful to have blasting when you’re walking down the street. I’m also obsessed with Kaho Shimada’s performance of On My Own on the Complete Symphonic Recording. Skip to 3 minutes in and just try to not faint.

Deadflowers, Might As Well Get Used To It. The power of suggestion…

next time: If the weather stays like this it’s gonna be a recipe for ice cubes, I swear.

oh i wish i had a pizza and a bottle of wine

There’s this movie called Wet Hot America Summer, released in the summer of 2001 to very little attention or acclaim. It’s become notable in the ensuing years for how immensely high profile most of the ensemble cast has gone on to become (Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Elizabeth Banks) and the deliciousness of seeing them in their career infancy. People also finally started to appreciate how stupidly funny it is, and it gathered a lot of steam in a cult-hit kind of way. Anyway, I really love it and it’s one of those movies where whatever is happening in your life, it feels like nothing bad can happen when you’re watching it. I have similar feelings about the One Direction movie.

There’s also this bit in the movie where one of the characters tells the girl that he has a crush on, “I’ve really grown up a lot since before dinner when we last talked”. Due to my live-life-ten-seconds-at-a-time haphazardly whimsical and exhausting persona I have always related to this moment since I first encountered it, but I am like, really feeling it currently.

 actual footage of me actual footage of me

As I said in my last blog post, I’ve started on some new medication for my anxiety and whatnot. It’s been a trip. My doctor was all, there might be some weird side effects, and I was all, ma’am, respectfully, my whole LIFE is a side effect, I’m just keen to try something new. There’s some massively positive stuff, the most of which is that I’m now so UNNERVINGLY calm in comparison to the spiky, nervous tumbleweed of buzzing wires and thorny branches and barbed wire that I was hitherto rolling along in the guise of. I mean, I’m still me, that can’t be helped, but I feel much more able to process information quietly, make decisions, and anticipate things without a constant sound of wasps in my ears and sirens in my stomach.  I feel more able to stand my ground whereas previously I would’ve just panicked. It’s not perfect, but it’s really something observing myself being this person. So yeah, I’ve really grown up a lot since before dinner when we last talked.

Bad side effects are some morning sluggishness and some nighttime head-spins, but in the middle I’m afforded at least a few hours of intense, clear-eyed activity. Which is how, on Monday morning, I found myself making this entire damn pizza from scratch and then eating it within the space of an hour and a half.

I’ve had potato pizza on my culinary to-do list after having it at brunch at Loretta with a friend a while back; theirs had darkly beautiful purple potato slices and I could only find, at best, red-skinned potatoes, but no harm done. On a whim I decided to use fresh yeast instead of the usual instant dried stuff, and I’m a fan! Having not tried this particular recipe, which I made up on the spot, with anything other than fresh yeast, I couldn’t tell you precisely how it’s different to the dried kind but you should know that it’s very little effort, requires barely any kneading or rising time and tastes magical.

Potatoes on pizza is a classic Italian combination, and there’s nothing quite so comforting as carb on carb. The dough is tender and puffy, the potatoes are sliced so thin that they’re almost translucent and so they crisp up quickly under the oven’s heat. I draped slices of nutty, sweet Emmentaler over the pizza, but you could definitely use Gruyere if you can stomach the price. A schmeer of rich, creamy mascarpone with mustard, chilli, and cider vinegar spikes the bland calmness of the other ingredients and the resiny pungency of thyme is just, I don’t know, I really love thyme and like putting it on everything.

Scared though you may be of tackling any kind of yeasted dough from scratch, this one comes together with a few brief stirs, prods, and a rise time so fast you don’t even have to have a TV show cued up to watch while you wait. I suppose there’s more olive oil in it than you might normally expect but I feel that it adds to the soft, puffy texture and the flavour. Plus, you make enough dough for some pizza now, and some pizza for future-you. Planning for the future? ME? Whomst even am I?

 yoink yoink

potato pizza

a recipe by myself

dough:

  • one heaped teaspoon fresh yeast
  • one tablespoon golden syrup (or honey, or maple syrup) 
  • 500ml (two cups) lukewarm water
  • 80ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
  • six cups high grade/strong/bread flour
  • two teaspoons sea salt

the on top stuff:

  • one medium red potato
  • 150g mascarpone
  • one tablespoon chilli oil
  • one teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • one teaspoon dijon, english, or similar mustard
  • 150g emmentaler, thinly sliced
  • fresh thyme leaves

Set your oven to 250C/480F and put an oven tray (or if you have it, a pizza stone) in to heat up. 

Place the yeast, golden syrup and warm water in a large bowl and leave it for fifteen minutes till it’s a little frothy on top. Tip in the salt, oil, and flour, and stir together till it forms a rough, sticky dough. Give it a really quick knead, adding just a little extra flour if you need to, till it’s a smoothish coherent ball. Cover with a tea towel and leave it for fifteen minutes till it’s puffy. 

While this is happening, mix the mascarpone, mustard, chilli oil, and cider vinegar in a small bowl. Use a vegetable peeler to make thin, thin slices out of the potato. You won’t need the whole thing, but just throw the remaining potato in with the pizza as it’s cooking and then eat it or something. Sit the potato slices in a bowl of cold water. This will bring out some of the starches and make it roast quicker. 

Cut the dough in half and place the remaining dough in an airtight container in the fridge to use another time. Place the dough on either a nonstick silicon baking mat or a sheet of baking paper and using your hands, gently push the dough out into a rough rectangle shape. If it seems like it won’t stretch as far as you want, let it rest for a few minutes and continue to shape it. 

Spread the mascarpone across the pizza base. Drain the potato slices and pat them dry with a clean tea towel. Layer the potato and cheese over the mascarpone and finally sprinkle with a little more sea salt. Leave to sit for ten minutes. 

Carefully lift the baking sheet or piece of paper and place it on the hot oven tray or pizza stone. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown and the edges are crisp. Scatter with thyme leaves before eating. 

Pizza is so unfathomable, in that if you cut this rectangle into eight large squares then you could give that to eight people, but you could also QUITE comfortably eat at least half of this yourself and then reheat the other half later, or share it between two people but still be kind of hungry? It’s this strange loaves-and-fishes alchemy that I’ll never understand. Unsurprisingly though, I was in the half-now-for-me, half-now-for-later category of consumers. However you slice it, this pizza is stupidly delicious.

If you’re on a DIY dough buzz, may I suggest some further reading from my archives, such as no-knead Challah, Fougasse Bread, or Nigella’s Maple Walnut Bread.

Till next time…I guess this is growing up.

title from: this surfy punky bratty band (I LOVE surfy punky bratty bands) called Girls, and their song Lust for Life. 

music lately:

SO another weird side effect of the medication is that I’m feeling music on a hellaciously deep level, like I was listening to Meadowlark as sung by Liz Calloway the other day while walking down the street and nearly threw up and fell over sideways from the intensity of it all. I’ve always had the proclivity to y’know, cry at songs and feel like they were written for me and me alone, but this is next level.

I’ve been hitting the Les Mis pretty hard and folks, I’ve never felt more pumped for 1800s Frenchy War Stuff in my life. To pluck but one example from the air, literally every time I watch this clip from the 2014 Tony awards I genuinely cry and get full body shivers (particularly at the revoltingly beautiful face of Ramin Karimloo and Kyle Scatliffe’s monumental voice and Will Swenson’s appealingly nasal Javert) and I’ve been watching it a LOT.

Also been seriously feeling the Meat Puppets lately. Lake of Fire, famously covered by Nirvana, is so sludgy and about to topple over with its own heaviness, but then you’ve got like, Up On The Sun or Aurora Borealis which are just really, really nice grunge.

next time: IT’S DECEMBER! What? Whomst? How? That’s all I have to say about THAT. 

my heart’s a tart your body’s rent

Don’t get me wrong, everything is DIFFICULT. Life is hard. A genuine slog. I’m not even talking about in a global bees-are-dying-ice-caps-are-melting-america-is-political-hell way, I’m talking very much in the personal, up here in my head kind of context. But I’m not going to focus on that today! Lol I’m ADHD, I can’t focus on anything! Kidding: I’m instead going to talk about some lovely things that have happened, because no matter what’s happening, if you don’t stop and acknowledge good things and hold onto them they might disappear, like a dream you can’t quite remember even though you can picture frames and fragments of it. (Side note though: last night I dreamed that I composed an incredible pop punk song, and in my dream I even wrote down, well, not the notes because I don’t know how to write them, but I drew a line that depicted which directions the melody went in, because I was like I’m going to want to remember this, and then I woke up and all I had left was a few flashes of the accompanying music video and like, there goes my definitely burgeoning and inevitable music career.)

But anyway? What’s good, you ask? Last week I found out I was a national finalist in a cocktail competition. Isn’t that amazing! I’ve been feeling a tiny bit shaky about my abilities of late but it was a shot (ha) of confidence that I needed and honestly just such a wonderful happy feeling, that a cocktail I created out of my own brain resonated with someone. I’m so excited and happy to be involved and cannot wait to present it to the judges because if there’s one thing in this life that gives me joy, it’s having an audience.

On Saturday I had the supreme joy of going to the wedding of two dear friends of mine. I’m gonna be straight up with you, one of said people getting married was Tim, who I used to talk about on this blog a lot on account of he was my partner for some time. It was such a wonderful thing to be there to witness and share the special day for him and his now-wife, and the whole time was so filled with happiness and love and good friends and literal puppies because they held it at the SPCA (thus setting the gold standard for any future weddings I shall attend: will there be puppies?) I’ve been to some fairly dull weddings, this one was pure nonstop goodness and a golden high point of my week.

Last week I also got to be squired to dinner at Shepherd, a fancy restaurant of the kind that I could only go if someone was indeed squiring me. My two best friends, Kim and Kate, and Kate’s mum (the one whomst squired us) drank champagne and ate amazing food and I left replete and happy. I don’t get to go out to dinner, well, honestly ever because I’m either broke or working, so this was a rare treat and to share it with my favourite people was just perfect. On that note, if anyone ELSE wants to squire me out to dinner, you need only but giz a yell.

I’m trying out a new medication in order to temper the wild grunty cantering boar that is my anxiety and the leaden-weighted lead weight that is my depression, and while it’s making me super sluggish I’m kind of excited to be doing something new and to have a doctor who listens to me and is trying to take practical steps to help me out. Thus far the sluggishness is a bit deadening but on the upside I’m too sleepy and gluey of brain to be truly anxious, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens when it starts to even out a bit.

And! The other night, in a CLASSIC me move, I thought up this recipe whilst unable to sleep. Ironically, I was so excited about it that all I wanted to do was go to sleep so that I could wake up and buy the ingredients to make it. As with most ideas, it appeared in a rush – a fig and feta tart with layers of spiced butter brushed on each sheet of filo pastry in the base. I figured it would be elegant, with the filling all tart and salty and darkly sweet, and that the delicate buttery bite of the filo pastry would be excellent against the grainy figs and creamy feta. As is so often the case, I was correct.

Even if the idea of just up and making a tart sounds like too much admin, this one is supremely easy – no one on earth will ever, nor should they, expect you to make your own filo but damn if it doesn’t look fancy once it’s all baked up. The rest is more or less literally just feta and figs, no actual real filling to worry about, and the spice-studded butter gives it immensely good depth of flavour and stops it being, you know, too uncomplicated.

feta, fig, and spiced butter filo tart

a recipe by myself

  • one package of filo pastry
  • 50g butter
  • one teaspoon ground cumin
  • half a teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • half a teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • 250g – 300g feta cheese (look for one that’s soft and creamy – happily, this is usually the cheapest one)
  • 100g figlets or dried figs, but ideally the uh, soft and damp kind, if that makes sense? Not those rock-solid crystallised ones. 
  • one tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • one tablespoon olive oil
  • one teaspoon Dijon mustard, or any mustard that you fancy
  • pink peppercorns and thyme leaves, to garnish

Set the oven to 200C/400F. Melt the butter and stir in the cumin, cinnamon, and chilli flakes. 

Using a pastry brush, paint the base and sides of a 20cm pie dish or fluted tart tin with the spiced butter. Place a sheet of filo pastry on top of it, pressing it gently into the inner rim of the dish. Paint it with butter and layer with another sheet of filo. Continue in this manner for roughly ten sheets of filo, pressing them snugly in to fit the tin as you go. It’s honestly up to you how many layers you do really but once you run out of butter that’s as good a time as any to stop, I guess. Trim any major overhang from around the ruffly, layered edges. 

Take 2/3 of the feta and mash it roughly with a fork along with the olive oil, vinegar, and mustard. Spatula all of this into the filo-layered pie dish, spreading it gently and evenly over the base. 

Slice the figlets in half and place them more or less evenly on top of the feta, then sprinkle over the remaining 1/3 block of feta. Drizzle with a little olive oil and then bake it for about 20 minutes, or until the edges of the pastry are a deep golden brown. Sprinkle with pink peppercorns and thyme leaves, and some more balsamic vinegar if you like. 

PS: if all you can find is really dry hard mean figs, try soaking them in some boiling water first to plump them up and soften them somewhat. 

The textures at play here are wonderful and even though it’s a modestly filled disc of pastry, the buttery richness and punchy flavours make it extremely satisfying. That said, I reckon two people could demolish this quite qualm-free. It would be easy enough to make it bigger – just use a bigger pie dish and more butter, feta, and figs. I feel like pistachios would be a wonderful addition here, not least because of their colour, but anything at all really. Filo pastry is so lovely – almost dissolving under the weight of your teeth, so fragile and crisp and delicate and butter-absorbing. If you’re feeling like a fancy person this would happily translate to individual tart tins for a dinner party or something too.

Guess what, something ELSE nice happened – I was interviewed by Re: about my ADHD (ADHD is an acronym that stands for “I Will Literally Never Let This Slide and Will Reference It At Every Given Opportunity”) and it was a really fun experience because as I said, I love attention! And also drawing attention to mental health issues! We ended up talking for about ninety minutes but it got sliced down to a snappy four minute clip that you can watch here if you like. Also I woke up about nine minutes before this interview was taken and got dressed in a panicked frenzy and was not happy with my outfit that I ended up choosing; please make any snap judgements with this context in mind.

Also, you’re on a total pie buzz may I also suggest the following for your consideration? Quince tarte tatin, Tomato and feta tart, Chorizo Wellingon, or Scone Pizza.

title from: Every Me Every You by Placebo. Deliciously whiney. Imagine getting to be the first person who wrote about this band for a magazine or whatever and getting to be the first to use the title “The Placebo Effect”. I wonder where that person is now. 

music lately: 

Marystaple, Labourer. I was obsessed with this song during its major rotation on Channel Z back in like….I wanna say 2000? 2001? Anyway if the lead singer still looks like that and is reading this, CALL ME. Either way, the song is still extremely good after all this time.

Alan Alda, You Are Not Real, from the 1966 musical The Apple Tree. Yeah, as in Hawkeye. He sings, too. This song is weird to listen to out of the context of the story that it’s telling but also so weirdly compelling in a romping, bawdy, kind of way that you could just have it come on shuffle and be quite happy to leave it on. I like it, is what I’m saying.  

Tricky, Evolution Revolution Love. This is another 2000-y song, and it’s like, really lovely. Even if old mate from the band Live who features feels toooo earnest. We were all so earnest back then!

next time: Here’s another nice thing, I have had TWO perfect avocados in the past week. So maybe I’ll tempt fate and get more. I mean, to make something with, I’m not saying the next blog post is going to just be a picture of an avocado.