15 December 2014

if you are the ghost of christmas past then won't you stay the night?

My own xmas cake recipe. Boozy and nostalgically delicious, just like your, um, favourite food blogger used to make.

Well, I sniffed a pine tree and it did make me feel more Christmassy. I also watched Love Actually and once I'd stopped ranting at how horrible it is to its women characters, many of whom are barely, at best, one-dimensional props who exist only to help a man realise something important about himself (and those things they realise are usually "I like this hot chick rather a lot") I did notice that in said movie, everyone keeps going on like, "well since it's Christmas I'll tell you the truth/finally acknowledge that I love you/run after you in an airport/generally make an enormous sweeping gesture at great risk to my reputation in the name of love." Far be it from me to suggest that we should be inspired by Love Actually as such, but I am an all or nothing gal who enjoys a good solid enabling every now and then. Since everything is so ridiculous and high-drama and fraught at Christmas, you might as well make things more like this if you've got the inclination, y'know? 

 Candy Cane Bark: for those who want to put candy crush where their mouth is
  
Unsure quite where I'm going with this, I guess I just have a lot of feelings about Love Actually and also Grand Gestures. I'm honestly not in a delightful headspace right now, which is just neat because it coincides with me doing little in the way of actual blogging and everything in the way of rounding up for you, curating, if you will, a list of recipes I've already put on here that would make great Christmas present ideas. Aren't I wonderful! I've done this for the past few years and logically it grows every time. I happen to be a staunch believer in the joy of giving and receiving edible stuff as a present, and so, if you feel the same this list might be of some use to you. Oh sure, you could go onto Pinterest or Buzzfeed or even go old-school and make a Google search to find a zillion such lists, but none of them are going to be as self-absorbedly devoted entirely to my own content. For...for what it's worth.

Berry Chia Seed Jam: it's almost too healthy, and there's always someone that you have to buy for who digs that kind of description. 

Worth noting that whether or not Christmas is a significant thing for you or passes you by completely, these are obviously all nice recipes for a present for anyone. For any reason, at any time of the year. Just because Christmas is the overwhelmingly unavoidable societal status quo doesn't mean you can't enjoy Candy Cane Bark in the middle of April. 

Category One: Things in Jars.

Jars are cute. Jars are everywhere. Jars are gonna save you this Christmas. 

Orange Confit (This is basically just slices of orange in syrup, but is surprisingly applicable to a variety of cake surfaces. And it's so pretty. And so cheap.) (vg, gf)
Cranberry Sauce (this is stupidly easy and you should make it to go with your main meal anyway) (vg, gf)
Bacon Jam (Best made at the last minute, because it needs refrigerating) (gf)
Cashew Butter (vg, gf) (just don't drop your wooden spoon into the food processor) 
Red Chilli Nahm Jim (gf)
Cranberry (or any-berry) Curd (it involves a lot of effort but it's so pretty. Just like me.) (gf)
Rhubarb-Fig Jam (gf)
Salted Caramel Sauce (gf, has a vegan variant) (I knowww, salted caramel is so boringly pervasive these days but a jar of it all for yourself is still the greatest thing ever) 
Apple Cinnamon Granola (vg)


Peach Balsamic Barbecue Sauce: give a fusspot a pot of fussy stuff. And if anyone makes any calls about barbecues being the domain of men, kick them to the curb and enjoy some chargrilled goods in peace with this delicious sauce. 

Category Two: Baked Goods.

Make your house smell glorious, eat some cake batter, wrap the baked things you haven't eaten in rustic-looking brown paper and tie it all up with string, then toast to your own productivity and excellence.


First of all, my Christmas Cake is amazing. It just is: deal with my lack of coyness. Even if you decide at the last minute to make it on Christmas Day itself, it will still taste so great. 
Cheese Stars (make twelve times the amount you think you need because these are addictive and also great to serve alongside the inevitable copious liquor that happens this time of year)
Coconut Macaroons (gf)
Chocolate Macaroons (gf)
Gingerbread Cut-out Cookies (vg)
Coconut Condensed Milk Brownies
Salted Caramel Slice (hello again Salted Caramel! Your persistence is as admirable as your deliciousness!)
Fancy Tea Cookies
Chocolate Olive Oil Cake
Also, if you click on the link to the Orange Confit above, you'll see a recipe for the easiest, fastest fruitcake loaf. It makes an excellent present, for the sort of person who'd like to receive fruitcake. And 'tis dairy free.

Mars Bar Cornflake Slice. I have nothing funny to say about this. Its deliciousness requires seriousness.

Category Three: Novelty!

This is mostly either homemade recreations of things you can buy from the corner dairy for fifty cents, or sticky-sweet things where you melt one ready-made thing into another. It's frankly the best category and you know it. 

Moonshine Biffs (like homemade Milk Bottles!) (gf)
Raw Vegan Chocolate Cookie Dough Truffles Candy (vg, gf)
Lolly Cake
Peppermint Schnapps (vg, gf) (this is some harsh moonshine but also SO FUN. Weirdly, more fun the more you drink of it?)
Candy Cane Chocolate Bark (No effort, vegan - well, I think candy canes are vegan - gluten free, amazingly delicious, just store it carefully so it doesn't melt)
White Chocolate Coco Pops Slice 

Chocolate Cookie Dough Pretzel Things: I ain't delivering them to you anymore so make your own! Everyone will love you eternally, and buying peoples' love with gifts is what Christmas is all about.  

Because I am an actual darling, I also give you a bonus recipe which I made for myself on the hop when some plans I'd had fell through and I'd also had two large craft beers. I had more or less nothing with which to scrape together a meal, and then was all What Would I Do? in that same way that people might ask what Beyonce would do. After all, I wrote a cookbook with a chapter full of food you can make yourself when it's getting late and you're feeling seedy. And thus, with only three ingredients, was born the following: 


Spaghetti with Buttery Breadcrumbs.

Cook as much dried spaghetti as you wish to eat in a large pot of boiling water till tender. Meanwhile, take three slices of white bread from the packet and kind of crumble and rough them up in your hands till they have all broken up into irregularly sized crumbs and bits and general bready rubble. Melt around 50g butter in a large pan and once it's sizzling, throw in the breadcrumbs and stir them around till golden and crisp and fried. Drain the spaghetti, stir in the crumbs, eat.  

I've heard of a similar method of topping your pasta dish with breadcrumbs referred to as Poor Man's Parmesan but that is both ickily classist and misleading. Crunchy, butter-soaked breadcrumbs don't need to be hidden by pretending to be something else. They'll make your pasta taste utterly fantastic and so that's why I'm calling them what they are. Plus all those carbs will both act as blotting paper to anything you've had to drink and will zap you into a calming, mellow stupor. Which is so necessary at this time of year and also always. Happy holidays to you all, but also just, like, happiness to ya too. 
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title from: the splendid Regina Spector and her song Ne Me Quitte Pas. It's French, for don't leave me! 
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music lately: 

Turkey Lurkey Time. DUDE. No wonder I wasn't feeling Christmassy, I forgot to watch this! It's a scene from the 60s musical Promises Promises and features a spectacularly rubber-limbed Donna McKechnie and also just the most stupid lyrics you'll ever hear. But the dancing is incredible and I don't quite know why but the end makes me all gaspy and faster of heartbeat every single time. 

Beyonce, XO. It's a full year since Queen B simultaneously blessed us and messed with the music industry by dropping her actually perfect self-titled visual album. It has been the soundtrack of my year in many ways and this song still gives me that headrush feeling of giddy happiness that it did upon first listen. 

Oh Land, Sleepy Town. I've been listening to so much Oh Land lately, her music is so dreamy and yearning and poppy. 

Tove Lo, Habits (Stay High). It just gets to me. 
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next time: I don't know what I'm gonna make but I will be blogging again before Christmas for sure. Fa la la la la! 

7 December 2014

we live in a wheel where everyone steals but when we rise it's like strawberry fields


December is really dissolving like a sachet of colourfree raspberry flavoured Raro juice powder into a litre of water, huh? For some reason this year I've barely heard Christmas music or been exposed to any other trappings of the season. I've seen like, one Christmas tree. For all I know it could still be mid-September. I clearly need to find a pine tree to lean into and reverently sniff and then to play thirty two renditions of Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You, y'know, basically method acting that it's this time of year until it sinks in that it really is this time of year.

Somewhere in the middle of all this seasonal denial I made breakfast for my roomie Kate, who was being a bridesmaid, as well as for the bride herself and the rest of the bridesmaids. That same weekend I was also feeding a friend's cat while they were away. How unlike me to be so selflessly helpful! How like me to tell everyone about my good deeds and blow them way out of proportion! I made a large jar of Strawberry Jam Granola,  and then chopped up some actual strawberries and a mango and sprinkled them with sugar and put them in the fridge overnight to let the flavours sort of get to know each other better, and then there were also grilled croissants with brie which Jason made and I therefore cannot take credit for (I swiped some and they were so, so delicious.)



The recipe comes from my cookbook, and you should know that I still have copies left and it makes a really, really good Christmas present. The thought of them all being finally gone fills me with a weird kind of foggy dread, because the book itself isn't being reprinted and so these are the only remaining copies left in the world. Just one year ago I was in a glowing bubble of joy from being freshly published. I exist in the pages of those books. Once they're gone, that's it. It won't be available anywhere, to anyone. Oh wow, so I'm doing a truly appalling job of encouraging you to buy my book from me, but yeah, I unyieldingly believe that my cookbook is a brilliant read that you all deserve to own. If you do want to order one of the remaining copies from me - and my stocks are dwindling rapidly, so better hustle - then completely ignore all my existential angst and confidently email me (my email address is in the sidebar of this blog).

This granola is very, very easy and fairly adaptable - I doubled it without any difficulty and always use the cheapest jam I can find when I make this. The strawberry jam gives the oats a sticky-sweet summery flavour while making them pleasingly clumpy, and the almonds and linseeds bring their own toasty crunchiness. Add other nuts or seeds if you like, but I find almonds and strawberries to be particularly friendly together.

strawberry jam granola

a recipe by myself, from my cookbook Hungry and Frozen

one and a half cups whole oats
one and a half cups rolled oats
three tablespoons linseeds
70g almonds
50g brown sugar
half a cup strawberry jam

Place everything except the jam in a large saucepan and stir over a low heat till lightly toasted and warmed through. Stir in the jam and continue stirring over a low heat till it's sticky and slightly clumpy. Allow to cool then transfer to an airtight container or jar.


The gloriously lipgloss-like scent of the strawberry jam slowly seeps into the milk, making this a highly perfect breakfast (especially with fruit and a large mound of thick Greek yoghurt) but I also like to just grab a handful from the jar at any time of day to snack upon carte blanche. 

The granola itself would also make a swell Christmas present - personally all I ever want is wine, food, or money, (or something so meaningful and so deeply from the heart that it makes me cry as soon as I see it, no biggie!) so giving someone a jar of breakfast cereal doesn't seem in the slightest bit weird to me. Put it in a cute mason jar, since they're everywhere these days, tie a cute ribbon around it, you could even write the recipe out on a cute notecard for the person. Cute! 

Other than being uncharacteristically helpful I've been either stupidly busy and running amok from one end of town to the other, or concrete-limbed with exhaustion in bed, or at work, or going to gigs and also writing a novel (I haven't written fiction in so, so long but it's all I used to do with my time and it's massively fun. And I just feel like writing a novel. So I'm gonna.)

hard twee

Also on my agenda lately: being cuter than a jar of homemade granola. As if playing some large scale game of Whimsy Bingo, I found two flower crowns at work. This was a timely discovery, since there's not much I can do with my hair now that it's short, and also I love free things. And as always, I'm trying to befriend the neighbourhood cats (this neighbourhood has neighbourhood cats in abundance, I can tell you.)

 
this one definitely wants to be my friend

Once more with feeling, in case you haven't quite absorbed what I'm trying to impart because I am far, far too wordy while trying to get my point across: if you want to buy a copy of my cookbook for a Christmas present then there's no better time than now. Considering it's like, not yet Christmas. It's yours for the taking while my stocks last! Give the gift of literary perfection! (Well, so far I'm the only person who has described the book like that, but I think I'm a fairly trustworthy source.)
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title from: Bush, Glycerine. I remember when I first heard this on the radio when I was maybe eight or nine and did not get it at all, pronouncing it boring and gloomy and pointless. For what it's worth, Bush, I quickly realised I loved grungey music and that your song wasn't that pointless after all. (Gavin Rossdale: "well thank goodness for that")
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music lately: 

Sky Ferreira, I Blame Myself. This song is really, really perfect. That is all. 

Belle and Sebastian, The Blues Are Still Blue. I always thought the only Belle and Sebastian song I liked was Lazy Line Painter Jane (which I could listen to over and over and over again) but yay, I found another one! This one is so simple but also zigs just when you think it's gonna zag. 

Janet Jackson, I Get Lonely. Damn, though. 
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next time: Gonna try and be more Christmassy! And might make a list of lots of food-present ideas and recipes. 

29 November 2014

down with love, with flowers and rice and shoes


I have a day off today and approached it with gleeful anticipation of writing a blog post with diligence and discipline, but instead I had a terrible sleep last night (the kind where you just wake up at irritatingly regular intervals for no good reason) and I'm assuming it's that which has left me staring listlessly at the screen unable to think of anything cool to say about this rice pudding.

So then I had a break and spontaneously danced around the lounge, free-limbed and embarrassingly passionate! I leapt and did high kicks and sank into the splits and twirled! And now I'm back on the couch sitting under my laptop and I'm still tired and uninspired but like, dancing was fun, I guess. But if doing enthusiastic self-flinging to Inside Out by Eve Six and Problems by ASAP Rocky and Honey to the Bee by Billie Piper can't help inspire one to talk about rice pudding, then, well. What is there.

But now that I think about it, having worn holes in my socks from pirouetting on carpet and exhausted my lung capacity from doing powerful leaps, this rice pudding was really, really good. I don't even consider myself someone who considers rice pudding...at all. But I had some at a cafe recently and was, upon eating it, filled with profound thoughts like "This is so exemplary, I might make my own damn rice pudding some time."


The rice pudding I've made is part of a mighty enough English tradition of milk-based puddings, with this being rice cooked slowly in said milk till it has swollenly absorbed the lot and turned all creamy and soft and comforting. Numerous cultures worldwide have their own similar version, presumably with everyone coming to the same culinary conclusion around the same time many years ago. It can be utterly vile, and worse, boring, but when made right it's pretty brilliant. Rice has its own subtle flavour and texture which suits the aggressive creaminess, and as a prop for other flavours - in this case, sesame-tinted caramel sauce and sugary blackberries - it's excellent.


I was determined to avoid any troubling blandness here so used a mixture of full cream milk and water plus milk powder, which seems counter-intuitive for the sake of it, but if there's one thing I enjoy, it's seeming counter-intuitive for the sake of it. But also I do like the vanilla-salt-kick that milk powder gives, and have this vague and unfounded scientific feeling that a mixture of milk and water makes for better liquid absorption. The rice itself releases its starches slowly, making it stupidly creamy all on its own, and then you can pour over as much actual cream as you like once it's cooked. The sesame seeds aren't super necessary but their warm toasty nutty flavour makes things more compelling, and works oddly well with the particular tartness of the berries. And when you're making a pudding that you're not entirely sure you're even that enthused about the concept of in the first place, "oddly well" is a highly respectable result.

rice pudding with blackberries and sesame caramel sauce

a recipe by myself. Serves four, although I ate the lot entirely alone (in two sittings, not that I'm entirely concerned what you think about my portion-related decisions) This makes honestly about seventeen times more caramel sauce than you need but it's nice to wake up the next morning and drink the remainders of it while standing in front of the fridge. I'm assuming you've got frozen blackberries here, but by all means use freshly picked ones if you've got them, you princess of the meadow.  

three cups full fat milk
two cups water
four tablespoons full fat milk powder
two tablespoons sugar
a pinch of salt
three quarters of a cup of arborio rice

one cup of frozen blackberries
one tablespoon caster sugar
one teaspoon vanilla extract

one tablespoon of sesame seeds
50g butter
half a cup of brown sugar
half a cup of cream
a small pinch of salt

Place the blackberries, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl and leave to sit while you make the rice. 

In a large pot, bring the milk, water, milk powder, sugar, and pinch of salt gently to the boil. Pour in the rice and stir it, lowering the heat to a simmer. Allow to simmer, stirring often, for around thirty minutes or until the rice is swollen and soft. You may need to add extra water if it's looking like this will never happen. I did. There was totally a point where I was like, 'wow, I guess I'm never going to have rice pudding ever', because the rice just would not soften entirely. You just have to keep stirring and tasting (don't bother tasting till most of the liquid is absorbed though) and eventually it honestly will be cooked.

Let it sit while you make the caramel sauce - toast the sesame seeds in a small pan till they're browned, then quickly tip them into a bowl (quickly, because they will burn swiftly if left unattended) and in the same pan, melt the butter and brown sugar together. Once it's bubbling, tip in the cream and stir vigorously, then remove from the heat. It might look all weird and separated but stirring will bring it together! Tip the sesame seeds back in along with the salt and stir them through. 

The blackberries by now should have defrosted into the sugar and be all glossy and syrupy. Spatula the rice into a serving dish, fling the berries and some of their syrup over the top and then spoon over as much caramel sauce as you like. Serve with more cream and caramel sauce for pouring over. Should you have leftovers, it's worth knowing that the rice near the berries will turn an unpromising blue colour, it's all good and all still plenty edible. 


Describing rice pudding as comforting might seem a bit obvious, but sometimes things are obvious for a reason. It is just so soft, and creamy, and mildly sweet, and warm, like eating that particular feeling where you pull a pile of laundry out of the dryer and then lie down and pile it all on top of yourself like a cosy mountain. The caramel sauce pierces all the plainness with its dark sugary salty toffee vibes, and the blackberries bring some pure fruity sweetness which feels necessary in the face of all that milk and starch.


And importantly, the berries also look so pretty against the snowy white rice.

Aside from trying to write this post I've spent the weekend thus far rewatching Skins, reading up with terror and horror on Ferguson (I recommend this brief but devastating piece by Roxane Gay), making a pre-wedding breakfast for a bride and bridesmaids at my flat (my roomie Kate being one of those bridesmaids), lying in bed willing myself to go buy iron pills, and anticipating December with trepidation. My tarot card for November was all "it's over, let it goooo" and "get lots of hugs" and I'm not sure that I've quite lived up to the potential of it but I mean, I did cut my hair.
I still have short hair! And that was the weekly Laura's Hair Roundup

So the thought of December being amongst us is making me a little nervous - this will be the first ever Christmas I don't spend at home with family, because I'll be working, and also there's just that weird thing where the end of a year makes you consider every damn moment that's led up to this point and what you could have done differently and what it all means and who you are and where you're going with life and stuff. But my tarot card for December is Queen of Wands, which is a super rad one to have, being all about things like creative vision and achieving goals; enjoying the limelight; acting upon feelings; and, according to one site, potentially finding love by meeting someone through a light-haired friend (am I that light-haired friend to myself?) Cool, yes? Well, whatever the cards say could happen, as long as I thrive aggressively and be 100% successful in all aspects of my life and get intimidatingly rich and radiate pure happiness, I'll be quietly satisfied. 
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title from: Down with Love, by that queen Judy Garland. Up with love, I say, but the song's sentiment is pretty understandable sometimes. Especially if Judy's singing.
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music lately: 

Eve 6, Inside Out. Erm yeah I listened to this about nineteen times yesterday, whatever. 

Lorde, Yellow Flicker Beat, live at the AMA's. The last five seconds, chills through my heart. 

En Vogue, Don't Let Go (Love). The lyrics to this are blisteringly good. "Have the right to lose control", omg. This is the kind of song that gives me false nostalgia about the nineties. Actually, so is the Eve 6 song. Damn it!
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Next time: I might blog about the granola that I made for the bridal kids? It's delicious stuff and looked pretty, and those are my usual requirements covered. 

18 November 2014

she takes your voice and she leaves you howling at the moon


I started writing this trying to compare my approach to food with Alice in Wonderland's love of pretending and supposing and imagining and the comparison didn't quite fit and so I deleted it and started again and deleted it and started again, along the way learning a valuable lesson: I subconsciously just wanted to show that I could use the word "adumbrated" confidently in a sentence (as in, I was going to say that I had adumbrated Alice's words since I couldn't remember where I had actually packed my copies of the books in order to quote them directly.) Long story short, I am pretty annoying and I have lots of ideas about food. 

Long hair short: this also happened. I may be pretty annoying, but am also pretty, comma, annoying.

My hair has never been shorter than shoulder length, and even that was only once. Many years ago. So: the smaller the hair, the bigger the deal, really. And I like it! It was terrifying having it happen, especially when it was really only spurred on by a vague sense of needing a change and also one time I tied my hair into a low bun and thought I looked alright without much hair going on, but I remain all or nothing and so was not going to settle for a mere bob or even an aggressive trim. I'm very happy with the results. It's a whole new Laura! I now have so many new looks! Like "meanest girl in the 1960s boarding school" and "girl in a 1990 edition of Dolly having the time of her life" and "trying very hard to look like Edie Sedgewick" and "Justin Bieber". In case you're wondering, yes, I did keep the ponytail. I plan to plant it under a tree which I imagine will quickly flourish and bloom and grant wishes to passers-by who are true of heart. 


So yes, this salad came about because of an Alice-esque flight of fancy of mine - supposing there was a salad that was mostly made up of the sort of things that normally garnish a salad? As opposed to stupid vegetables? Lettuce leaves and cherry tomatoes were thus combined with the following good things: very buttery croutons, homemade basil almond pesto, fried sage leaves, toasted pumpkin seeds, crumbled feta, and pea shoots. I would've added avocado but none were ripe, but just know that it is supposed to be there also. I mean, this is essentially just "a salad", really, but it's fun to think of it as being comprised almost entirely of garnishes. So that's how I'm going to pretend it is.

I know this is the same dish I used in the photographs for the last blog post, I understand if you never want to read this blog ever again now. 

garnish salad

a recipe by myself. Serves two with seconds, or four one time. 

one or two heads cos lettuce, roughly torn
a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved (sorry to be a monster, but they do go further this way) 
a third of a cup of pumpkin seeds
three pieces of slightly old white bread
lots of butter
a cup of fresh basil leaves
half a cup of sliced almonds
about 25g parmesan cheese
olive oil
a handful of sage leaves
about 50g feta
a handful of pea shoots

Make the croutons first, and while they're cooking, get onto the pesto. Tear the bread into chunks around an inch wide, although it really doesn't matter. Throw them into a baking dish with about 25g butter (or more) diced and dotted over the top, and bake at 160 C till browned and crisp. 

Meanwhile, using a large knife, roughly chop the basil, almonds, and parmesan till it forms a herbaciously fragrant rubble. Transfer all this into a bowl and stir in enough olive oil to make it a kind of pesto-resembling paste. Set aside. Melt a knob of butter in a heavy frying pan, and once it's sizzling, throw in the sage leaves, removing and setting aside once they're darkened and crisp. Finally, in the same pan, toast the pumpkin seeds until lightly browned. 

Now: put your lettuce leaves, croutons, most of the pesto, the feta, oh my gosh literally everything okay just put it all in a salad bowl and stir carefully so that it's mixed together but not flung out of the bowl. Add a little extra olive oil to what remains of the bowl of pesto and spoon it over the top, and then serve. 

 we've curated the finest artisinal garnishes, just for you

It's easy to make fun of salad, especially since the Simpsons gave us the truism that you don't win friends with it, but when it's as aggressively loaded up with as many good things as this it would be silly to deny its complete and utter deliciousness. Crunchy seeds and nuts, marvelous cheese and other cheese, sweet bursts of cherry tomato and dissolvingly buttery sage leaves. The lettuce has its place too, much as I'd happily eat a bowl of croutons on their own the fresh crispness of it helps bolster everything else and bring it all together. This is one of those things where you could make changes depending on what you have to hand or can find - use sunflower seeds instead of pumpkin, use walnuts instead of almonds (or use actual pine nuts but they're monstrously expensive), use parsley instead of basil, increase or ignore quantities that sort of thing. Salad! It's SO good. Or at least, this one is. 

So, I made another episode of Bedtime with Hungryandfrozen! This time about my love of grapefruit popsicles. I also obviously but totally recommend the first two videos, about cornflakes with chocolate milk and steak, respectively. I do get a little stressed about like, good grief, what am I doing with my life, shouldn't I be doing something super successful in the field of being seen to be talking about food in a media capacity and instead I'm in bed making grainy videos about cornflakes, but...they are pretty fun. 
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title from: Linda Ronstadts' sad, sweet cover of Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues. Leaves, lettuce leaves, yeah? My blog, my puns, okay!
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music lately

Zara McFarlane, Police and Thieves. Dad emailed me a link to this saying it was very cool: his opinion was correct. A little jazzy and a lot gorgeous. 

Fiona Apple, Across the Universe. So, so dreamy. 

Taylor Swift, Blank Space. Far out I love this song. The way she says "they'll tell you Iiii'm insane" is so great. 
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Next time: I haven't done any baking in a while and every time I have it has sort of screwed up in some way - fallen apart, overcooked, that kind of thing. So, I wanna counteract that by being brilliant. If that works, you'll see it here first. 

4 November 2014

suburban trees suburban speed and it smells like heaven

look what happens when you move to the suburbs: brunch!

Ah, the suburbs! I say, with arms wide open like Maria Von Trapp on top of a mountain doing an impression of Scott Stapp from Creed in their song With Arms Wide Open. It has been a true rollercoaster ride of being ignored by the neighbour's cat, taking slightly longer to walk to work, and picking fresh herbs from the garden to use as garnish. For real though, I've been cooking so much more than I have done in a long time, and it is good for that soul of mine. And also for inter-flatmate relations, since there's nothing like being plied with brunch. On some recent morning (I forget which, I've been working day shifts as well as night shifts at work and it completely messes with my sense of what day or time it is at any given day or time) I made this for Kate and I  - a kind of improvisational thing vaguely based upon the Middle Eastern dish Shakshuka, using what I could find around me. Those things being tomatoes, a can of 'Moroccan-style' chickpeas, and some eggs. 


Pulling it all together was some impossibly thick Zany Zeus Greek yoghurt (seriously, it has the texture of buttercream icing) mixed with sumac, dried thyme and sesame oil, with olive oil pooling on top along with torn mint leaves.


If Marmite on toast is the most adventurous you get for breakfast (and that's cool, because oh man marmite and butter and toast together are sublime) then this might sound a little dubious, but obviously it's going to taste amazing, so deal with it and expand your horizons. On the other hand, if you're used to actual proper Shakshuka, this is a not-bad variation on that theme, I guess. Either way, it's thoroughly delicious, with the softly baked eggs melting into the buttery tomatoes and spiced, grainy chickpeas. The tart yoghurt lifts up all these flavours and stops it being too, too rich, but also kind of adds to the luxuriant feel of it at the same time. If you're only inclined to get hold of one herb then mint is what I'd recommend - its icy fresh-sweetness is perfect. But spicy basil and adorable pea shoots also help, if you happen to have some to hand like I did.


baked eggs with roasted tomatoes and chickpeas, also yoghurt with sumac and olive oil

a recipe by myself, but it's not overly original, serves two to three people

four tomatoes
butter
olive oil
a pinch of ground cinnamon
a pinch of smoked paprika
about a tablespoon of brown sugar
one can of Moroccan style chickpeas, or just one can of regular chickpeas and about half a cup of tomato puree
one teaspoon ground cumin
three eggs
basil, mint, fancy pea shoots if you've got them

half a cup or so thick plain Greek yoghurt
one teaspoon sumac
one teaspoon dried thyme
one teaspoon sesame oil
olive oil 
a pinch of salt
more mint

Set your oven to 200 C/400 F. Halve the tomatoes and arrange snugly in a roasting dish. Sprinkle over a little cinnamon, smoked paprika, and the brown sugar, and put like, a teaspoon/small square of butter on each tomato half. Finally, drizzle with a little olive oil and then roast for about 20 minutes, then tip in the chickpeas and the ground cumin and return to the oven for another ten minutes. Crack the eggs one at a time into a small cup or bowl and then carefully tip them into the roasting dish (or just crack them straight in but it's a little easier this way. Return to the oven and lower the heat to 180 C/350 F, and bake for another ten to fifteen minutes until the eggs are juuuust cooked. Remove from the oven and scatter with your herbs and then serve. Oh wait, the yoghurt: mix the yoghurt, sesame oil, thyme and sumac together. Sprinkle over some more sumac, drizzle over some olive oil - a couple of teaspoons - and sprinkle with some torn up mint. 


(this is Kate's instagram. I kinda wanna vow that my next cookbook, when/when it happens, will *only* have instagram photos. Because look at this, seriously.) (Aside: ohhh how I want to write another cookbook.)

When I'm not cooking I'm being fed like a queen by Kate and Jason too, so it's all pretty blissful. (Examples: apple fritters, handmade pasta with roasted butternut, cheese and tomato mousetraps, fried asparagus) I mean I'm still me, y'know, where am I going with my life, why am I so broke (likely answer: dating. It makes you broke), how do you be a human without making it look as though you've read a book called How To Be A Human, will I ever get another cookbook, what's the deal with self-esteem, that kind of thing. But I'm reeeeally well fed. And making progress with the cat!

magnanimous kisses from princess Ariel

What else has been happening lately? I managed to pull together two costumes for two massively fun Halloween parties in a row this weekend, with only things found in my wardrobe (Baby Spice and Andrew WK, if you're wondering.)

(bonus cyberspace me at a recent galactic-themed party. Everything I wear I think of as a costume, but I really love literal costumes too.) 

I also posted a new episode of my super-necessary web series Bedtime with HungryandFrozen.  It's not that great, but I'm personally a bit endeared by it which means statistically at least one of you might enjoy watching it.  And that's all I have for you today, on account of it's kind of hard to type when your arms are flung wide open and you're rapturously yet patronisingly shouting "the suburbs!" to no-one in particular. 
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title from: Modern Lovers, Roadrunner. I am straight up obsessed with this song and have been since the moment I heard it. I'm gonna listen to it about twelve times in a row right now. One, two, three, four, five, six!
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music lately:

Boom Clap, Charli XCX. Just so, so sweet.

I Could've Been Your Girl, She and Him. Zooey Deschanel's voice, I love it. This song, I love it. 

Good Kisser, Usher. Sleek. 
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next time: I made this amazing Ottolenghi pistachio soup, but am not sure if the photos turned out that well...so...?

23 October 2014

maybe if i knew french i could tell you more than i shall do

halloumi for my roomie

First blog post from my new home! Despite being stridently anti-suburb my entire life, including when I grew up in a tiny rural village - I knew at the age of like, two months that I was destined to live in the city - I've adjusted faster than a bra strap to my new life in Newtown. 

(My New Life In Newtown: the spin-off TV show from the TV show I already imagine my life to be.)

I live with my best friend Kate and her also-rad husband Jason, I am practically neighbours with another best friend, I've made friends with the guy who works at the corner dairy already - I actually nearly cried when he said "welcome to the neighbourhood, I hope you're very happy here" but it had been a long day of moving house and I desperately needed an ice cream, so that may have had something to do with it. I live with Ariel the beautiful peach of a cat who I am slowly befriending, and my heart feels so full from simply having a cat around all the time. And I now have a super cool kitchen with a gas burner oven and natural light and a ton of general aesthetic cuteness going on! Yesterday I had my first go in the kitchen, by making halloumi and apple French Toast for Kate and myself. 

fried cheese for my main squeeze

Microwaved Cheese and X sandwiches were a mainstay of my childhood eating (them, golden syrup sandwiches, canned spaghetti and two minute noodles) the most prominent being microwaved cheese and marmite, followed by microwaved cheese and tomato sauce (I know. But: pizza vibes!) One day after reading an American cookbook I'd got out of the library, I discovered the magical combination of cheese and apple together, and the sandwich-related part of my life was changed irrevocably. Something in the sweet, nuclear-waves-softened apple slices and the melting, nutty cheese tasted impossibly good to me, and while this isn't surprising now - I mean, cheeseboards always come with some kind of fruit accoutrement, whether it's fruit paste or crisp slices or just something fruity - at the time it was a pretty radical concept to my unsophisticated rural tastebuds.

So yeah, it was nostalgic thoughts of those sandwiches that inspired this brunch. Brunch is my favourite (well, breakfast eaten at a slightly later hour, basically) (that said I love breakfast any time of day, especially night) (I'm so fascinating!) and so it seemed a good way to break into the kitchen.

french toast for my mensch host (I am nothing if not committed to this bit) (and also apologetic)

My nostalgia was totally correct - this was completely delicious. I mean, halloumi is boundlessly astounding, and the buttery meltingness of it went quite perfectly with the soft, caramelised sweetness of the apples and the squishily fried bread. Cool hits of mint livened it up a bit and made it look better in the photos, and as well as being a pleasure to eat, it was really quite straightforward to make. I mean, I felt a bit nervous promising a lush brunch, it being my first time in this new kitchen and a recipe I'd made up on the spot, but it emphatically worked. Cheese and apple! Together at last, again.

halloumi and apple french toast

a recipe by myself/serves two

this will be easier and everything will stay hot if you make the French toast in one pan and the apple/halloumi in another, but it still worked fine all done quickly in the one pan. Up to you/your resources/ability to deal with doing more dishes. 

four thick slices from a loaf of white bread - slightly stale is good
three eggs
half a cup of milk
a pinch of ground nutmeg
four slices of halloumi
one apple
butter
mint leaves

Mix the egg, milk and nutmeg together until you can't tell where the egg starts and the milk ends. Heat a pleasingly-sized slice of butter in a large pan until it's sizzling, and then carefully dip the first two pieces of bread into the egg and milk, allowing both sides to soak up plenty of liquid. Transfer these to the hot pan and fry on both sides till very brown (I use a spatula/flipper thing to lift them up slightly to have a look underneath, it always takes longer to brown than you think it will. 

Finely slice the apple while the toast is cooking - you don't have to use the whole thing but more is better. I cut off one side and then slice that into semicircles, and then carry on all round the apple till it's all used up. In case you needed to know that.

Remove the cooked French toast to a plate and repeat with the remaining bread. You may need to add a tiny bit more milk to the egg mixture if there's not enough - that bread is absorbent stuff. 

Fry the apple slices in more butter until softened, then scatter them over the two plates of French toast. Finally, briskly fry the halloumi slices on both sides till golden brown, put them on top of the apple-topped French toast, scatter with mint leaves, and placidly eat. 

fresh outta rhymes, to your relief

Other cool things about the 'burbs: I mean, first of all for all my righteous posturing, Newtown is so close to Wellington city, the two neighbourhoods are clasping hands with fingers lovingly intertwined. Also, there are local cats. 

this is moustache cat, whose detectable personality traits thus far appear to be "lurks" and "poses obligingly"

I think I'm going to be very happy living here. 

Oh, and: despite having too many projects and commitments for my laughably small hands to carry, I've decided to start a little web series. Emphasis on little. A few years ago I tried doing some youtube videos and I never really liked them, but did them anyway, but this feels a bit more fun and chill and low-key and me? Anyway, if you like eating food in bed then you might want to watch because that's all that really happens. Normally I'm quite upfront about telling you if I think something I've done is amazing, so this isn't false self-deprecation for the sake of it, but the video is really not that great. But it's something! And that's something. 
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title from: First Aid Kit's quietly twinkly little tune Valse
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music lately:

Emily Edrosa's self-titled EP. It's all rumbly and moody and I love it so much and can't stop listening. 

Banks, Goddess. You shoulda crowned her, cuz she's a goddess, you never got this. Really feeling Banks at the moment. 

Mya, My Love is Like...Wo. Bedroom dance party perfection. And she TAP DANCES in the music video. 
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next time: omg I don't even know but you can look forward to more photos with new interesting backgrounds and also me borrowing all of Kate and Jason's super cool plates to put my food on!

14 October 2014

i had fifteen people telling me to move, i got moving on my mind


All of a sudden, this is the last blog post that I'll be writing from my little apartment that I only just moved into. It's a tiring thought, that I'm moving house again this Friday, but I'm also pretty chill about it. Well, relatively chill considering my usual lack of it. My tarot card for this month was all "look at the facts" and "don't follow your feelings, follow the facts" and "hey: facts" and with that in mind it's easy to look at this move as simply a practical thing that needs to happen and that is going to make things easier in the long run. Also, I absolutely cannot wait to live with my dear friends and their pet cat. Who will be kind of like my pet cat. I actually can't quite comprehend that there's going to be a cat around me all the time, it's a dizzyingly exciting prospect for someone who has wanted nothing more than to just be in the presence of a cat regularly for sooo long. 

Also pleasing: the house I'm moving into has a lovely, lovely kitchen. I can't wait to cook in it to take photos in it (no offense to my current apartment. We can't all be photogenic.) 

 crispy eggplant: it's super. 

So anyway, the last blog post from where I currently hang my hat is crispy eggplant and smoky beef tacos. I made them to impress a girl, but really the girl who I'm most concerned with impressing is myself, and luckily, I was personally way taken with these tacos. I should add, I call them tacos but it would be more accurate to call them "stuff in corn tortillas" since they're not in the slightest bit traditionally Mexican, but yeah.

Honestly, the only bit of this recipe that I really care about imparting to you is the crispy eggplant, which I'm very proud of. It's so crisp! So delicious! And the rest is mostly assembly. But I'll give you the whole lot because, well, mostly because it sounds cooler and slightly more credible this way.  

crispy eggplant and smoky beef tacos

a recipe by myself. (Sorry that this recipe requires liquid smoke, which is a very specific ingredient, but it'll still be delicious without it. Just not smoky. Surprise.) 

one large eggplant
a third of a cup of flour
quarter of a cup of cornmeal/polenta (ideally the coarse-ish stuff, not the super powdery stuff, but whatevs)
olive oil
-
200g steak, some kind of non-terrifyingly expensive cut 
one tablespoon olive oil
one teaspoon cumin seeds
a pinch of ground cinnamon
half a teaspoon liquid smoke
-
corn tortillas
50g feta (or more)
finely sliced cabbage, or green of your choice
sriracha or chilli sauce of some persuasion

Set your oven to 200 C/400 F. Drizzle some olive oil into a large baking dish, and mix the flour and cornmeal together on a plate. Dice the eggplant and toss it in the flour/cornmeal mix, so that all the cubes are finely dusted on all sides. Place the eggplant in a single layer in the baking dish, and drizzle with some more olive oil. Put it in the oven and leave it for around twenty minutes, until all the eggplant cubes are crisped and brown - it may take a little longer or a little less, depending on your oven.

Meanwhile, slice the steak into strips, and mix in a bowl with the olive oil, cumin seeds, cinnamon and liquid smoke. Fry briefly in a pan over a high heat till decently browned. Finally, either microwave the tortillas or sit them in the oven for a bit to warm through. Layer them up with cabbage, the smoky beef, the crispy eggplant, and a handful of feta, then drizzle with sriracha. Or do what you like, it's just stuff in a tortilla, there's no strict order to proceedings. 



The eggplant is the star here - each little square of it beautifully crispy and crunchy on the outside, blissfully melting and soft within. The beef is perfectly nice, but I'd happily have this with just the eggplant. Or in fact just a bowl of the eggplant itself. That said, the spicy, cumin-y meatiness of the steak is a delightful contrast, and feta just makes everything more fun. (Considering testing this theory by taking some feta to my next dentist appointment.) And there's something sort of pleasing about food you can assemble according to your own sense of proportional decency, and then eat with your hands.

well, I was impressed by me. Although I'm both easily impressed and in possession of strong feelings about tacos.

As well as living with a cat (oh my gosh, living with a cat), I'll also be significantly closer to this particular dingus. All that animal closeness and also friend closeness is most definitely going to be a worthy reward for the actually ridiculous amount of packing I still have left to do.

We both just heard Kim say "dinner!" She was saying it to Percy, my reaction was all Pavlov's Dog. Or maybe Pavlov's Dog's Friend.

Oh hey guess what, I was on Radio New Zealand recently talking about a couple of recipes, it was highly fun, I love being on the radio so much. Which is weird because I tend to prefer to have an audience, but I guess just having peoples' ears is also still gratifying. Anyway, feel free to listen to it, it's only short! And excitingest of all, I had another Crush Cake story published on magnificent important website The Toast. It was for Lucy Liu, who is the ultimate queen of my heart, so it took forever and a ton of thought to write, but I'm proud of it.

Finally, I say this all the time, but forget ye not that if you want to get your hands on a copy of my cookbook, you can only do this by ordering it directly through me. It's a reeeeally good time to buy a copy, since it will be one less thing for me to have to cart over to my new-house-to-be...but also it's a good time to buy a copy because it's a seriously wondrous cookbook. And I'm the author, so I would know.

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title from: White Stripes, Hotel Yorba. This band is really important to me and this song is delightful.
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music lately: 

Sky Ferreira, Everything Is Embarrassing. It really, really is. 

Lykke Li, I Follow Rivers. Such a perfect, moody, intense love song, I love it.

M.I.A XXXO. This song is underrated I feel, I love how it's so oddly mournful sounding yet so upbeat at the same time, and the chorus fully reminds of The Real McCoy.
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next time: New kitchen, new house, new Laura! 

2 October 2014

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

grapefruit curd ripple ice cream 

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


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

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

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


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

grapefruit curd ripple ice cream

a recipe by myself

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

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

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

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


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

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

Stay Cute in the face of everything

PS, I say, in the hushed manner of someone shyly sliding you a note in class, don't forget you can now only order my cookbook directly through me. My pile of remaining cookbooks is starting to get smaller and smaller...
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title from: School's Out by Regina Spektor (were there ever two sweeter words?) it's rambling and conversational and sad and happy and I love her voice so much. 
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music lately: 

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

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