30 September 2015

i don't need the cheese or the car keys boy i like you just the way you are

*Ring of Keys from the musical Fun Home starts to play as I gaze upon my lunch*

I adore my job as a bartender (indeed, a "prestigious bartender" as my former flatmate's TradeMe ad for her room charmingly described it) - making drinks is the funnest, I like the nonstop stream of strangers to talk to, the team is wonderful, I'm always awake all night anyway, and honestly I dig the attention - being behind the bar is kind of like being on stage. And I love being on stage. However. I really miss making dinner for myself. Scrounging through the pantry, making something out of nothing, bashing flavours and textures together, making pasta or pancakes or slow-cooked-chickpea-bla-bla-bla or some kind of elaborate salad or whatever. And then either a voice in my head or a human nearby (I forget which) was like, "what about lunch". I mean, easier said than done; I'll usually wake up brutally early but not see fit to exit the bed until well after noon. But as it looks like lunchtime is my only chance to make myself dinner these days, I'm willing to throw some energy into it at least once or twice a week. (The rest of the time I'm fervently rewatching The OC like some kind of hypnotised baby seal until I dazedly realise that it's time for me to go to work and/or generally not be sedentary.)

This week I managed to get my act together and make myself a thoroughly fantastic lunch of wasabi cauliflower cheese, the sort of thing that's usually a side dish but is very fun to eat as a meal in its entirety. In an unprecedented fit of activity, I also bleached my hair at the same time. In an even more unprecedented fit of competency, I somehow managed to not eat poison while lovingly massaging wasabi into my scalp. Everything was in its right place: not least, a small vat of cauliflower cheese inside my face.

This recipe was inspired by Katrina Meynink's excellent wasabi mac and cheese, and is a wondrous mix of blanketingly comforting and throat-punchingly zingy. The horseradish heat of the wasabi gets you right in the back of the nose while your lungs fill with the gloriously mellow, thick cheese sauce. The cauliflower, roasted and browned, is nuttily mild enough to carry both these elements with ease. Truth be told you could probably put melted cheese on a tree stump and it would taste good, but it's amazing how the simple act of browning said cheese under the grill elevates this simple dish into heights so good that I've run out of adjectives with which to describe it all. Seriously, this is one hyperbolic paragraph. Luckily for you, what sounds like hyperbole on most people is me just being calmly sincere. You don't even want to know what it's like when I hulk out and actually employ hyperbole.

wasabi cauliflower cheese

a recipe by myself; serves one-ish. Two at best. If you can't figure out how to increase it to feed more people though, then I ruefully cannot help you. 

half a head of cauliflower
40g butter
two heaped tablespoons flour
milk, around 250ml give or take
a heaped teaspoon of wasabi paste
grated cheese, around two handfuls

Set your oven to 220 C/450 F. Slice the cauliflower into florets, and then for good measure, you might as well slice up any remaining stalks and stems since it's all still cauliflower. Throw it all into a small oven dish which will hold the lot snugly, and then put it in the oven to roast for around 20 minutes while you make the sauce. 

Stir the butter and flour together in a smallish pan over a medium heat, till the butter melts into the flour and forms a thick paste. Stir this for a bit longer, then tip in around 1/4 cup of milk, continuing to stir - this first measure will most likely hiss as it hits the hot pan and be absorbed fairly instantly into the flour-butter. Continue slowly adding milk and stirring till you have something that looks like sauce - the amount of milk may vary, but you want to end up with enough to comfortably coat the roasted cauliflower while still being quite thick. Throw in a handful of cheese and the wasabi paste and stir until the cheese has melted into it and the wasabi is thoroughly incorporated. Taste to see if it needs more of anything - some salt, more wasabi, a little more milk, whatever. 

Remove the cauliflower from the oven, spatula the cheese sauce evenly over it, allowing it to sink into the crevices between each floret. Sprinkle over another handful of cheese, and put it back into the oven for another five minutes - at this point you can turn the oven onto grill to brown the cheese on top, although keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn. Eat. 

Obviously I've ranted at length about how good this is already, but just know that I intended to eat half of this and retain the leftovers for the following day; instead I went into a kind of fugue state and galloped through the lot in one sitting, sinuses stinging from the wasabi and eyes damp with the particular joy that melted cheese bestows.

Spring has sprung and it's filling me with this weird sense of optimism - I do love a good solid wallow in icy wintery weather but damn it if the sunshine doesn't manipulate me into feeling beatifically happy. Nevertheless it has been dark and cold for so long that I've forgotten what one even does in nice weather, and I have been spending (some might say squandering) almost all of the sunshiny hours on watching The OC and sighing over how truly good Sandy Cohen is and how literally perfect the character of Summer is, while knitting my way through an enormous Lenny Kravitz-inspired scarf. Thank goodness Sandy Cohen's constant prattling on about bagels left me with such an enormous craving for them that I had to leave the house in search of them eventually, thus not entirely missing the beautiful blue-skied weather: thanks, TV! 
title from: The Way I Are, Timbaland and Keri Hilson's banger from 2007 that I once danced so hard to that I fell onto a bed, bounced off it onto a dresser, and broke my fall with my incisor tooth. Was miraculously fine though: ain't nothing gonna break my stride or my teeth. 
music lately: 

be your own PET, Damn Damn Leash. Their entire self-titled album is bratty gold, the kind of music that makes you want to go kick a letterbox or something, but this early track was the first of theirs that I ever heard and I was instantly hellaciously smitten. 

Faith No More, Epic. Ugh I can't quit this song. It's also gloriously bratty and I love how Mike Patton sounds kinda congested and it makes me wanna dance SO hard.  

My Bloody Valentine, the Loveless album. It's the kind of thing you have to put headphones on and lie on the floor to listen to but gosh damn it's lush and crunchy and dreamy and all good things. It really suits being listened to all at once but I guess if you want an entry point, When You Sleep or I Only Said are wonderful.  
next time: if Sandy Cohen has his way, it will be some kind of bagel stuffed with bagels served upon a bed of bagels. 

22 September 2015

we're so much more than pointless fixtures, instagram pictures

*lou reed voice* shiny shiny 

I've always been one to self-absorbedly imagine that I'm in a scene in a movie while doing otherwise mundane things like staring inscrutably out the window while on a train or sitting inscrutably on a park bench or getting a coffee by myself, inscrutably - I know I'm not the only one that does this! It's like, this is the quiet bit in the indie movie where the camera stays fixed on me for an almost uncomfortably long time while I do something very normal but in an utterly enigmatic way. Right?

Anyway after spending the longest time of only listening to podcasts when getting to and from places, I've started listening to music through my headphones on my phone again (having got the Spotify app and an ad-free premium account) and wow, nothing enhances the "I'm a mysterious and important character in an indie film that you'll guiltily download because you can't stomach spending $25 on a ticket during festival season or waiting forever for it to have a limited-at-best release" feeling like walking down the road utterly immersed in your own personal soundtrack. Sauntering in the dark to Lazy Line Painter Jane by Belle and Sebastian - the lyrics are stupid but the beat and the melody are heavenly and the coda makes the mere act of walking seem like art; striding through the rain to Shazam by Spiderbait feeling like a complete brat as you jaywalk (in my defence the roads in Wellington are ridiculous and there's nothing to do but jaywalk); drifting dreamily, almost floating, through the industrial end of town to Julee Cruise's Rockin Back Inside My Heart. I know this is the most pretentious thing I've written in a long time and I sound like a teenager who has just discovered Morrissey (you should've seen me when I was a teenager who had just discovered Morrissey) but like, it's just so, so, so long since I've done this and it's such a small thing but it's so amazing. That's it, that's the story: listening to music through headphones is nice, did you know?

*freddy mercury voice* hash! Aaa-aah, saviour of the universe!

Speaking of all the small things; I still haven't replaced my lost SD card for my fancy digital camera, partly out of not wanting to spend excess money and partly out of a self-flagellating sense of punishment. As such my phone has graduated from being merely my best friend and confidante to my main camera. Which also makes it slightly harder to get a decent bundle of blog-worthy photos happening for any one dish I've made at any one time. In lieu of that, I've decided to do a wee round-up of some food I've made and quickly instagrammed lately - united they are greater than the sum of their parts, or something. All three of these things - peanut butter cookies; sausage and potato hash; and tomato and feta tart - are stupidly delicious and the recipes can be imparted to you super quickly, so...yeah. No harm done.

peanut butter cookies

one cup smooth peanut butter
one cup sugar
one egg
one teaspoon baking powder
dark chocolate

set your oven to 180 c/350 F. Mix all the ingredients together, roll the mixture into rather small balls (the smaller they are, the less likely they are to crumble) and place on a paper-lined baking tray. Press down slightly with the back of a spoon to flatten them juuuust a little. Bake for about ten minutes, then let them sit for ten minutes (important so they don't crumble...again) before carefully transferring to a wire rack to cool. Melt the chocolate and spoon it over the top of the cooled cookies as you please. Makes many. 

If you're a gluten-free person you will likely have encountered some version of this recipe already a million times but man it's good - soft, chewy, salty-sweet cookies, the throat-coating peanut butter cut through with the crunch of bitter dark chocolate. I'd usually prefer milk chocolate here but using dark makes them dairy-free too - I made these to take into work one evening in a kind of a sustain-the-troops kind of move, and also because I thrive on presenting people with food that I've made whether they want it or not.

sausage and potato hash

four fresh pork sausages
two large floury potatoes
one onion, diced 
dried thyme
oil and butter
two eggs
HP sauce and/or ketchup/hot sauce/whatever other condiment your sodium-caked heart desires

It's fairly uncool but if you microwave the sausages in a bowl of water for three minutes and then microwave the potatoes for three minutes (give both of them a stabbing with a fork first) then your life will be an awful lot easier. Otherwise consider simmering them in a pan of water for a bit first or just plough ahead and hope for the best. 

Heat plenty of olive oil or similar in a large pan. Gently fry the onion until softened and golden. Roughly chop the sausages and tip them into the pan, allow them to sizzle and brown. Then dice the potato fairly small, and add to the pan - try and get as much surface area touching the base of the pan as possible to encourage browning and crisping. Put a lid on the pan for about five minutes to allow the steam to cook the potato through, then remove the lid, turn up the heat, add a knob of butter and the thyme and allow everything to sizzle like whoa. Push everything to the side and crack the two eggs into the pan and allow them to fry till you're quite satisfied. Remove from the heat; divide the sausage and potato mixture between two plates, top with the eggs, and apply as much sauce as you please. 

I made this for my wonderful girlfriend and myself on Sunday when we were both varying degrees of hungover and indecisive (okay, well she fried the eggs - I'm just not that great at eggs and she is) and it was the absolute perfect thing. Cheap, fast, fried, carb-loaded, slightly greasy, sustaining, nourishing, hot, covered in salt and sauce, and the ideal accompaniment to watching 21 Jump Street. From which we can learn two things: one, Dave Franco has ascended to being The Superior Franco, and two, Channing Tatum's acting career is the greatest thing to happen to America this century.

tomato and feta tart 

one sheet ready-rolled puff pastry
half a tin of chopped tomatoes
one tablespoon cornmeal
about fifty or so grams of feta cheese
thyme leaves
a little oil, milk, melted butter or something for brushing the pastry with

Set your oven to 200 C/400 F and place some baking paper on a baking tray. Put the sheet of pastry on top and score a one-inch border around the edge - this is where you use the point of a knife to almost-but-not-quite cut through it, like you're drawing a slightly smaller square inside of it. This is gonna make the edges puff up and make a fetching border once you bake it. Sprinkle the cornmeal over the middle of the pastry, drain the tomatoes well and spread them evenly across, then sprinkle/crumble the feta on top of the tomatoes. Brush the edges with melted butter or whatever if you like, and then bake for about 15-20 minutes until it's golden, puffy and risen around the edges. Sprinkle with salt and strew with thyme leaves. Slice into bits and snarf the lot. 

Look, if you have some ready-rolled pastry in your fridge or freezer then you have the makings of a good time no matter how meagre the rest of your pantry supplies may be. You could literally just bake a piece of pastry and it would still be a charming snack. I mean, I wouldn't be above such things. Tomatoes and feta are obvious pals so don't even make me try to explain it to you, but there's something fun about the tangy feta once it's warmed through and how it contrasts with the relative sweetness of the tomatoes and the buttery, puffy pastry. This is another one that I threw together for my excellent gf and myself one Sunday and it's the perfect lunch for two - cut it into four squares, have two each, put a little rocket or spinach on the side if you're feeling outlandish, and deliciousness shall abound.

*no particular voice* this is a tomato and feta tart

As I alluded to before I'm trying so hard to spend as little money as possible right now, on account of how living paycheck to paycheck is no fun, but I also decided to ignore that rule and hoist myself off to a cafe to write this blog post over a coffee. Also it's payday today! I doubt I'm gonna be able to afford to replace my SD card any time soon, so you'll just have to get used to these phone-photos, but honestly instagram is so great that I'm not even too bothered (that said if you're feeling like you're too rich right now may I remind you that I have a paypal, pal) - somewhat unsurprisingly I love making my life look more dreamy and hazily lit than it really is. Just as I'm massively digging soundtracking my life like I'm the first person who discovered how to do this. Some might say it's whimsical, some might say it's insufferable and not even particularly interesting, but as long as they're saying something I really don't mind.
title from: Queen Beyonce, with her drown-in-the-sexy song Rocket from her incredibly important self-titled album. Don't listen to it unless you're ready to fall over sideways. 
music lately: 

Misterwives, Twisted Tongue. Uhhhh this is such a good pop song, I can't even deal and I frankly refuse to deal. 

Beach House, A Walk In The Park. Another good one to make your way from A to B to. The perfect child of Billy Idol's Eyes Without A Face and The Pixies' Where Is My Mind (a perfect child that I never knew I needed, to be fair.) They've just been announced as coming to Laneway festival next year and I MUST GO. 
next time: I mean technically it's Spring, despite the weather being more appalling than it has been all winter, and I am determined to hunt down some asparagus. 

13 September 2015

i'm just a painter and i'm drawing a blank

lady whom lunch

My dear friends got a beautiful corgi last year, and when they were first doing that thing where you train a dog how to be a nice guy instead of a tiny furry hell-monkey, she would totally resist wearing her walking harness. Like, she'd be scooting around the room happily but as soon as she got the harness on she would stand very still, stiffly refuse to relax or sit down, and just kind of look right through youFor ages. With all due respect to Percy the corgi for me turning her into an analogy; this is what my brain has been doing this whole week. I am all "I have awoken! I've had coffee! I'm wearing soft, comfy fabrics! Time to write!" and then I'll open my laptop and everything pauses in my brain and I just stare at the screen for hours, blankly (admittedly taking breaks to hoon through The OC because if I'm just sitting staring anyway I may as well drink in the sweet, potable waters of nostalgia while I'm at it.) I don't know why! I've done heaps of cool things lately! I've made this incredibly delicious recipe! I love writing! So why is there nothing but the hum of white noise every time I open my laptop? Aside from the fact that I was probably listening to a youtube video of white noise at the time, because I am obsessed with it (in fact I have graduated from mere white noise to this thing called Brown Noise which was a frequency discovered by some guy named Robert Brown, it's the best thing ever.) 

I woke up this morning at a time most would consider brutally early, especially as I'd been at a house party last night. Since I am not blessed with the powerful ability to sleep through anything for hours and hours like some people can (directing this jealously at my gf) I decided to fill up the time by just making myself write whatever came into my head and not stopping till I'd finished this damn blog post. And here I am! Halfway through already. And I haven't even started talking about the recipe! 

See that's why it was so frustrating that I couldn't make myself write this week, because this recipe I made up was so spectacular and deserves more of a showcase than me having to threaten myself with throwing my laptop into a ravine if I don't write about it soon. So, the recipe: I recently became wise to the fact that you can make risotto but with pasta instead of rice. Curious cat that I am, I wanted to try this, and happened to have some risoni in my pantry (by which I mean my designated food drawer in the flat kitchen) but didn't really have much else. Luckily restriction can make the most delicious things happen, and I ended up improvising based on the few ingredients I had by gently frying the uncooked risoni in garlicky butter that I then stirred miso paste into. From then all I added was water and it ended up the most lush, creamy, intensely flavoured thing ever. Seriously. Just stupid old water.

Risotto is totally the white noise of food, because it's almost hypnotically calming to make. You just keep adding water and stirring until it's pleasingly absorbed into the grains, and then add more and stir again, just moving your wooden spoon around and around the pan repeatedly like you're actually a gif instead of an IRL person. Like, if ever there was a recipe that encourages you to zone out and be mellow, it's risotto.

garlic miso butter risoni risotto

a recipe by myself. serves one. 

25g butter
three cloves of garlic
one heaped teaspoon white miso paste
half a cup of risoni pasta

Melt the butter in a wide saucepan. Finely but roughly chop the garlic and throw it into the pan, stirring over a medium heat until the garlic is a little golden and it smells amazing. Stir in the miso paste - it won't amalgamate completely but this will all sort itself out soon.

Tip in the uncooked pasta, and stir it for a minute or so to cover it in the garlicky butter. Add water half a cup at a time, continuing to stir the pasta until most of the water is absorbed before you add any more. Continue in this way until the pasta has absorbed enough water to become tender. Tip onto a plate, strew over some herbs if you like. Thyme is one of my favourite herbs and I happened to have a plant that I hadn't yet managed to kill so I used some leaves from that, and it worked perfectly. 

I love pasta, I love risotto, so putting them together is like trapping myself in a pincer movement of happiness. So if that sounds like your idea of A Good Time, perhaps consider this recipe next time you need to feed yourself. I know I will. 

Thanks for bearing with me through all that, it's like...the more time that passes since I last wrote a blog post the more panicky I get, because this blog is the most important thing to me and I don't want it to have the slightest hint of abandonment or even just falling off the wagon, you know? All of which results in me putting more pressure on myself to write whenever I have the time to, which isn't that often, which is probably why my brain rebelled on me by being all "nope". 

the girl with a pearl face

PS last night's party was themed "Between the Devil and The Deep Blue Sea" and it was a joint birthday party for my dear friends Kate and Tim. I dressed up as a pearl and covered my face in makeup. I wish it was chill to wear this kind of eye makeup all the time, it's so fun. 

PS PS as a final attempt to convey how delicious and wonderful the risotto is, here is me licking the plate after eating it. As well as outlandish makeup, I wish it was more chill to lick the plate in social settings. The tongue is nature's spatula! I can't quite bring myself to finish this blog post with that line, but...at least I managed to bring myself to finish this blog post at all. 
title from: Fall Out Boy, Don't You Know Who I Think I Am? Party like it's 2006.
music lately:

Ummm, more Fall Out Boy, I've Got All This Ringing In My Ears And None On My Fingers is such a tune.

Haim, Don't Save MeWe danced to this last night, I love it so much, I could listen to it endlessly.
next time: Well, I refuse to have as much trouble as I had with this one. I refuse!

1 September 2015

my anaconda don't want none unless you got buns, hon


Well, ya girl is finally not completely sick, which I'm taking as a victory. Considering I've spent the last month battling both the flu and a cold, while they in turn both battled each other for fealty to my body, simply being able to get through the night without coughing with metronome-like regularity is pretty wonderful. 

Somewhat more unwonderful is that I had a book proposal turned down. You all know I want little more than to write another cookbook and start an incredibly hilarious TV cooking show and live out my days as a gloriously rich happy wee celesbian. So in the spirit of doing stuff instead of just talking about it endlessly, last month I approached a publisher with my idea for my next book. And...it wasn't picked up. It's so weird because half of me is unusually pragmatic about it - telling myself that book proposals get rejected constantly and this is entirely normal and also my proposal was probably very badly formatted since I've never done one before; while the other half of me is all dramatically clutching at my heart and wailing "whyyyyyyy but I'm so good why am I not good enough please hold all my calls because I need to take to my bed for a week" and so on. 

So while I'm wrestling between the burning embarrassment of rejection and also the cool, calm acknowledgement that this happens to pretty much everyone who approaches publishers, in telling you all this I'm hoping it lets the cool-calm side win. I like to be stupidly open about myself On Here and just the act of relaying this situation helps it not seem like the worst thing in the world, (I know, there are a lot of worse-er things in the world but I'm incredibly self-centred, okay) and that's a start. Firstly, I was so lucky to be approached by the publishers for my first book rather than me having to go approaching people, and after what happened with my book last year it took a long time for me to even get to this point where I can put myself out there like this, so it's all progress and stuff.  Related: my tarot card for September is all about emotional stability and being highly chill. Look at me go! 

look upon my works ye mighty and despair (I care not that this is probably completely the wrong use of this phrase) 

Meanwhile, in an act that reassured me that I still have something to offer the world, I thought up this bread roll recipe the other day and I'm incredibly pleased with how well it all turned out. I had some cream cheese left over from making another thing and wondered if it might be good worked into bread dough in the same way that you work butter into dough when making brioche. As they smugly tend to do, my idea worked. The buns were impossibly tender and fluffy, with a slight, slight hint of tanginess from the cream cheese. I know I make it look incredibly complicated in the recipe below, but really this is very easy - you just mix some stuff together with a spoon, let it rise, knead in the cream cheese and shape it into buns, let it rise again, then bake it. And then, several hours later, tearful, covered in flour and utterly starving, you have yourself some freshly baked buns for very little effort.

I acknowledge that making your own bread might seem like little more than a way to wilfully make your life more difficult, but it really is weirdly fun - watching the dough rise, feeling the change in texture as you knead it, and most of all when you get to hold up the finished product and be all "I created life! With my own two hands! These hands!" The smell of bread baking in the oven is actual heaven, and busting them open and spreading them with butter, which swiftly melts into every puffy crevice, before rapturously biting through the crisp exterior feels like a reward for living. And frankly we all deserve more rewards for living.

cream cheese buns

a recipe by myself

three cups strong bread flour
one sachet instant dried yeast
one teaspoon salt
25g melted butter (plus a little extra for brushing)
one and a half cups of warm water
150g cream cheese

Firstly, take the cream cheese out of the fridge so that it is soft enough to work into the dough later on. Then: put the flour, yeast and salt together in a good sized bowl, then tip in the melted butter and warm water and give it a rough stir so it forms a shaggy, loose mixture. You may need a tiny bit more water, it all depends on your flour and sea level and the curve of the earth and so on. Cover the bowl in plastic wrap or a tea towel and leave in a warmish place - a room with the heater on, in a sunny spot on a table, in a hot water cupboard, on top of an aging and overheated laptop, that kind of thing - for an hour or so, until it has expanded in size somewhat. 

At this point, use your fist to push it down and deflate it, and now you're going to start kneading the cream cheese into it. If you've got the kind of cream cheese that comes in a block, then cut it into thin slices, otherwise just get small spoonfuls of it. Either leave the dough in the bowl and knead it there (my usual choice for saving on mess) or transfer it to a clean, lightly floured surface, and work the cream cheese in while kneading it by putting the cream cheese on top of the dough then pushing it away from you with the heel of your palm and then folding it back towards you, then pushing it away from you again, adding more cream cheese every time. Does that make sense? Push away, bring back towards you, push away, and with every push and fold you should be able to work the cream cheese further into the dough. Ideally you want to be able to actually get it to become part of the dough itself, but it doesn't matter if there's a few bits here and there. Just keep working it till it forms a springy, smooth ball of dough. 

Pull off bits of this dough and roll them into small buns, sitting them close together on a paper-lined baking tray. Set your oven to 200C/400F and let the buns sit for about 20 minutes to get a final rise, brush with some extra melted butter, and then bake them for around 15-20 minutes until golden brown on top.  

I ate four of these immediately after taking them out of the oven, and then I delivered some to my friend Jen in a pleasingly neighbourly manner, and the remaining ones I ate at around 3am after getting home from work the next night. They are so good. And frankly, I'm pretty alright myself.
title from: the wonderful and important Nicki Minaj and her amazing song Anaconda (although obviously this bit is sampled from Baby Got Back.) If you don't mind ending up on a downward spiral of watching choreography videos on youtube and lamenting your own lack of skills, you should definitely get stuck in a downward spiral of watching choreography videos on youtube because the Tricia Miranda choreo for Anaconda is incredible.
music lately: 

Carly Rae Jepsen, Emotion. I'm SO into her right now. Perfect pop.

If Mama Was Married, with Leigh-Ann Larkin and Laura Benanti from the 2009 Broadway revival of Gypsy. You have to scroll few to several minutes in to get to the song but the harmonies get me right in the heart every time. I watched the Bette Midler version of this recently with my excellent girlfriend and it's just such the musical to end all musicals.

Breeders, Cannonball. Gah this song is so good and there was no one cuter than Kim and Kelley Deal.
next time: I've been making lots of little bits and pieces and instagramming them lately, maybe I'll do a big post about all of them? Also you wouldn't know it from the weather but it is the first day of spring so maybe something....springy. 

21 August 2015

i should tell you: laura lee

Well hello there and welcome to volume eighteen of I Should Tell You, where I ask cool musicians questions about food, pretty much to see if they'll answer me, really, but also because the results are usually interesting as. The same three questions every time, with the likes of Anika Moa, Coco Solid and The Phoenix Foundation giving me their food thoughts - and this time I'm talking to the boo Laura Lee.

Laura Lee is one of those charming babes you might come across in life where you're all like, "hey babydoll, hey bae, hey honeybee" even though you barely know them, because you just end up falling into that kind of familiarity with them right away. We originally bonded over a bunch of stuff (including using the adjective "dreamburgers" to describe a young Leonardo DiCaprio) and I have been a huge fan of her music in all its iterations. She was part of O'Lovely, whose album Constellations had me swooning from the first moment I heard the single Bright Lights - but now she's on her own as Laura Lee.

Little Too Late is her first single which she recently released and it's gorgeous, with that dreamy, sad-yet-upbeat pop vibe that I love. Can't wait to see what she comes out with next...

Thanks Laura! The interview will start...now.

Where's somewhere you've eaten that you kinda like to brag about or drop into conversation?

I can't think of anywhere that I like to brag about but there is someone.. When I've got some spare time in the day I head down to my local cafe called Sam Barnes, there's a baker there who I've now become friends with (not just for her cakes.)

I went in there one day and asked about their birthday cake options, I explained to her that I don't have a sweet tooth and she made me a mixed berry cheese cake. It's one of the best things I've ever tasted. I don't usually get excited about cakes but she's changed me! She's truly an artist. Ever since she made me my birthday cake I brag about her to anyone that is needing cakes or catering because her cakes are like nothing I've ever tasted. 

What do you fix for yourself, or where do you go to eat, when it's just you on your own?

I'm obsessed with popcorn. I started making it everyday after school when I was about 13, at first I think my mum was hoping it was a fad as I'd get home and stink the house out every day, I also like to cook it to the point where it almost starts to burn, at first I didn't know what I was doing so I burnt a couple of pots.... 

These days I don't cook it daily but any excuse to make it and I'll do it. I like to experiment with different flavours. When I was in Melbourne I went through a faze of cooking it in coconut oil with Turmeric and Salt and Pepper. Tonight I made it with honey and salt... I also have to say I'm obsessed with dates, they're right up there with popcorn!! 

What's one of your favourite food-related memories from your childhood?

When ever I see hundreds and thousands it reminds me of being a child, I have flashbacks of going to birthday parties and eating fairy bread. Hundreds and Thousands biscuits have the same affect. They were my favourite  biscuits as a child and probably still are.

The smell of dill is my other strong food-related memories, mum used to put it in rice as it cooked and the whole house would smell amazing. I do it now and then, it's also tasty cooled with a squeeze of lemon juice mixed though. It makes the rice taste just lovely!

18 August 2015

let's go dip it low then you bring it up slow

looky looky I got cookie 

Oh man, I started writing this blog post the other day and concluded that one of the good things about the past week or so is that I haven't been sick for once, and then I woke up this morning feeling all woolly-headed and tender-eyeballed and sniffly and grubby and generally like a pile of dirt with a sad face drawn on it. This has been the sickliest winter, and I'm so unimpressed - can someone with a better sense of authority than I please tell my immune system that it's grounded for the next month with no TV? Am crossing all fingers that it's a shortlived burst of grime-lung as opposed to the return of the flu.

Other than my frustratingly delicate health, things have been thoroughly quite good of late: some working, some cooking, some hanging with friends and their beautiful dog while watching Buffy, a ludicrously late night out dancing, a day spent dozing in bed without - miraculously - getting angry at myself for not achieving anything with my time, and some whisky and movies and pizza and the batty latest season of America's Next Top Model with my girlfriend. The only real thing making me frown (prior to feeling sick again) has been processing my feelings about the mid-season finale of Pretty Little Liars, (if you have feelings about that then friend: I am your girl to discuss it with), plus some unfairly painful cramps. Which were probably brought on by Pretty Little Liars, to be honest.

Importantly, there were also cookies! I made these about a week ago, simply because I felt this wiggly need to bake something. Overwhelmed by the internet when I went looking for inspiration (y'know, it's all either triple backflip oreo stuffed red velvet bla bla bla cookies or raw high-protein dust cookies) I attempted to narrow down what it was I had in mind, which was: just something nice, okay? After some ineffectual writhing I eventually came up with this non-threateningly simple yet wonderful recipe, where they're fairly plain but made with lots of brown sugar and dipped in milk chocolate. The where the end result is a little chewy, a little crunchy, and a little meltingly shortbread-like. And a lot smug-inducing.

zoomed in slightly: still good 

I took some to work to share because I am a literal earth-angel, and gave some to my girlfriend to say "yay it's our six month anniversary but here is a low-key token of my affection or whatever it's no biggie jk jk it's really amazing I am the sincerest"; and ate the rest in bed by myself, and by all accounts, especially my own, they were utterly delicious. It's always promising when the uncooked dough tastes so good that you consider retiring to your boudoir to eat the lot and pretend you can't hear when people ask you where the cookies are that you said you'd make.

chocolate dipped brown sugar cookies

a recipe by myself

250g soft butter
one cup brown sugar
one egg
two cups flour
half a teaspoon baking powder

Set your oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and line a baking tray with baking paper. 

Okay so all you need to do is: mix stuff together, roll into balls, bake it until it's cookies, but I am a talky lass and like to hold your hand through the process. What I'm saying is, the long recipe below might make it look like this is hellaciously complicated but it's not, promise. 

Beat the butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon (or whatever! a rudimentary stick you found in the garden! A 30cm ruler! Don't let me put you in a box) until it's all light and creamy and fluffy and tastes incredibly delicious. Crack in the egg and continue to beat the mixture till it's even lighter, then carefully fold in the flour and baking powder - at this point it's very easy to fling stuff everywhere if you stir too vigorously. My dough looked a little dry and crumbly and like there was far too much flour but if you keep working it and clump it together with your hands it should form a pliant, stiff dough.

Refrigerate for half an hour- which is boring, yes, but this step helps the cookies to not spread too far when they bake. 

Roll the cookies into small balls, maybe around the size of an unshelled walnut, and flatten them slightly using the back of a teaspoon. Bake them for around 12-16 minutes until they're lightly browned. I got a little distracted on the internet while they were baking and so some of mine are more browned than they oughta be, but they still tasted good. However, they will firm up and continue to cook a bit as they cool, so trust your instincts and remove them to a rack to cool when you feel they're ready. Repeat this with the remaining dough.

Melt 250g milk chocolate in the microwave, or however you do it, and dip half of each cooled cookie into it. Sit them on a sheet of baking paper till they're set, then they're finally ready to be eaten. 

bite me 

These would be just lovely on their own but dipping them in chocolate makes them spectacular spectacular - milk chocolate is gently sweet with a creamy, slightly caramel vibe which works so well with these cookies. I know dark chocolate is considered to be the best kind but it's honestly just not that fun to hoof into, all bitter and miserable and throat-coatingly cocoa-dark, and that kind of distraction is not what I want for these beauties. The way your teeth sink through the thin yet lightly crisp layer of chocolate into the crumbling, buttery cookie below generates a feeling that I can only explain by pointing you towards the hearts-for-eyes emoji.

So there you have it, these are easy to make, delicious at all stages, good to give away and perfect to eat in bed as your day's food intake in its entirety. While not eating cookies or galumphing about complaining about how sick I am, I'm working hard on trying to get a million deadline-esque things done - including another crush cake for The Toast, more stuff for The Spinoff, and an interview with the babe Laura Lee for the I Should Tell You segment of this very blog. I'm drinking an aperol spritz as I write though and I can feel it helping me.
title from: Rihanna's still killer debut single Pon De Replay. Who could've known back in 2005 that Rihanna would become Rihanna? Well, we all should've, because this song is so good.  
music lately:

Lana Del Rey, High By The BeachI love this woman so much and am loving the unimpressed vibe her lyrics have taken in this dreamy new song of hers.

Men Without HatsThe Safety Dance. What care I that this song is literally the most dorky thing on earth? I love it so much, it's so earnestly jaunty and happy and also strongly echoes my own feelings about dancing. It's on the work playlist and it's honestly quite dangerous: the first time I heard it I was so excited that I hurled a hot chocolate to the ground, making the title of the song a dark omen brought to fruition, really.
Next time: Another I Should Tell You interview, wheeeeeeeee!

12 August 2015

fancy plans and pants to match: portlander's visa wellington on a plate menu


Well hello there, and welcome to another instalment of Fancy Plans and Pants to Match, where I acknowledge that sometimes nice things happen to me and then try to write about it in a way that's not tooooo teeth-grindingly irritating to read. No point being coy, but also I don't want to sound as though I'm totally used to this kind of thing, because it's super exciting every time. Anyway! Now that I have the requisite self-deprecation out of the way, I can actually get on with telling you what happened. Two things though: first, if you're wondering, this segment is named for a quote from Jimmy James, an abundantly excellent character from the highly slept-on 90s sitcom NewsRadio. And secondly, I've managed to lose both my stupid SD cards and so my camera is now little more than an expensive sculpture, meaning that I have to use my phone to take photos instead. As such these images aren't the highest quality they could be, but I've decided to lean into this by running them through some distractingly dreamy filters. 

I now have the theme song from the tv show Lamb Chop's Play-Along stuck in my head and I also have no regrets...except that this is happening 

so here's the thing: I was invited along to Portlander to preview their menu for Visa Wellington on a Plate Festival.

the pitch: Visa Wellington on a Plate is approaching super fast, and despite all the cool events promised I have to say for me the most interesting bit is seeing what set menus all the restaurants come up with for the Dine Wellington side of things. Portlander is the restaurant connected to the Rydges Hotel, both elegant and yet burger-ly chill and a rare example of a hotel restaurant that really excels in its own right as a stand-alone eatery. Last year Portlander's menu did incredibly well for them and they wanted to run this year's offerings past a few of us before the festival launches - and if there's one thing I love more than food, it's sneaky food. Once the festival starts you can get two courses or three courses plus a beverage for a set price at lunchtime and dinner respectively, but we got to try the whole damn lot.

what happened: myself and another foodwriter were given a special table to ourselves with the lovely Sales and Marketing Coordinator; where we were brought all the various courses that would be available on the set menu and given the chance to share them, wallow in the deliciousness, and then provide any feedback we had.

salmon! some mega deliciousness with your omega-3 

The food went as follows -

Starters: Palliser Bay lamb cutlets with Mediterranean Food Warehouse dried figs, toasted pistachio, cranberries and Prana Greens pea shoots (verdict: an excellent mix of meatily sweet lamb, deeply sweet figs and sour-sweet cranberries.)
Grilled scallops with Zany Zeus smoked yoghurt and Greytown Gold saffron essence with parmesan chips, Prana Greens micro herbs and avocado oil (verdict: scallops feel like such a rare treat for me, they're not something I would encounter more than like, once a year at best, and these were glorious - mellow and tender and bouncy and excellent with the playful pairing of smoked yoghurt.)

Mains: Char-grilled wild venison fillet with Farm Fresh wild mushroom polenta and light truffle jus (verdict: I am a right sucker for polenta in any form so was easily pleased by this gorgeously wintry combination of flavours. The venison was dense and rich and the mushrooms intensely savoury; it was wonderful)
Yellow Brick Road Ōra King Salmon cold smoked with Elaia Gourmet Olives leaf tea and manuka wood chips, crushed potato, housepreserved lemon and Koroneiki extra virgin Greytown Gold olive oil (verdict: the salmon was amazing, with an intriguing, gently smoky flavour that complemented the richness of the coral pink flesh stunningly. Sour salty stabs of lemon and olive flavour, while almost overwhelming, helped keep it balanced. And to literally top it all off the salmon skin, silver like a disco ball, was perfectly crunchy.)

Dessert:Apple Sourz sorbet and RJ’s liquorice individual baked cheesecakes (verdict: I was tickled by the inclusion of the Sourz, which made for a luscious, zingy sorbet. Liquorice is one of the few flavours I avoid in this life, it does absolutely nothing for me, but this cheesecake was spectacular - the flavour was more like the darkest molasses toffee giving way to the barest tickle of liquorice, and the texture was satiny-smooth.)
Housemade shortbread sandwich with Zelati Freezeria peanut butter ice cream and blonde Beer Belly Jellies (verdict: while a little difficult to get into with one's cutlery, the shortbread was buttery and properly homemade-tasting, while the ice cream shone with pure peanut butter flavour that worked well with the creamy texture, and, oddly, the blonde beer flavoured jelly that accompanied it. On its own the jelly was a bit evocative of a country pub's carpet, but as long as it wasn't the only thing on your spoon it was ultimately a daring choice that paid off.)

ice cream sandwich: yes. 

the best bit: our hosts were hugely charming and gregarious, and the Johner Estate wine was plentiful and glorious - admittedly my wine knowledge is like...mostly bluffing, guesswork, and fixed eye contact while confidently telling you adjectives, but this really is delicious wine. However that incredible liquorice cheesecake was the standout for me - such incredible, subtle, deep-toned flavour and swoony texture that got me enthusiastically eating something I professed to dislike. (Outside of this cheesecake though I'm still staunchly not a fan. There's these photos of me on my first birthday, one of me moving stealthily towards my birthday cake to steal a black jellybean, and then one of my horrified and perplexed face when I actually ate it. Not much has changed.)

on a scale of 'one' to 'is this the real life, is this just fantasy': I mean - the very point of these Dine Wellington menus is that they're highly accessible, and it's lovely to know I could have aspects of this meal all over again during the Visa Wellington on a Plate festival. It was thoroughly fun to be dining at our own special table though, and a delightfully fancy evening, so I give it a solid five. (To reiterate, this is rating it for how outlandish and unattainable it is, not how good it is.)

earnest thanks for helping me feel fancy to: Portlander at the Rydges Hotel, corner of Whitmore and Featherston Street, Wellington. For more information call 04 498 3762 or email info@portlander.co.nz.

Read the Fancy Plans and Pants to Match archives here, and giz a yell at laura@hungryandfrozen.com if you want to invite me to your own fancy times. 

5 August 2015

i'm not sick but i'm not well, and it's a sin to live so well

there is a Maori proverb: the kumara does not speak of its own sweetness. I love this proverb, but I do not resemble it, let's face it.

After all my deep-lunging insistence in my last blog post that I want to be quadruply productive, the final week of July was a monumental write-off, as I was dramatically burdened with the literal flu. All I could do was lie in bed all flushed of cheek and starry of eye like some breathily consumptive side character from an LM Montgomery novel who gets struck down with illness as a cosmic punishment for being too "high-spirited". Honestly it was absolute agony, I couldn't even fill the time by watching movies or TV on my darling laptop because looking at screens cruelly made me feel queasy, and aside from hallucinating my way through several shifts at work all I did was sleep or doze fretfully while cursing this good-for-nothing flesh vessel of a body that had failed me so spectacularly and turned me into actual garbage. (I couldn't even watch Pretty Little Liars. It was wretched, I can tell you.)

Needless to say I didn't do any cooking. It's 100% possible that I would've got better sooner if I hadn't expended thousands of watts of energy on being angry and frustrated at how much time I was wasting by being sick - there has never been a more petulant and frowny invalid than I! - but here I finally am, maybe not entirely perfectly better but so improved and ready to exist again.

the blogger never stops speaking of their own sweetness

After spending that week living like my brain had been unceremoniously thrown into a ravine with me left behind to flail helplessly, I also felt like I'd forgotten what it was like to just up and make myself food like it was no big deal. I was, as such, writhing around indecisively being all "what shall I cooooook" yesterday when my flatmate and dear friend Charlotte mentioned that she'd made kumara chips with major success the night before. This suggestion inspired me to make something similar, and my brain finally made itself useful and presented me with the idea of roasting kumara and then covering it with some kind of feta-studded crumble.

It was an absolute, rapturous success - roastily sweet kumara with the crunch of lightly toasted walnuts and breadcrumbs roughly torn from a bread roll, bulgingly soft, tangy feta, and rich fragrant thyme. And not just to eat, but to look at, with the bright-white feta against the sunset orange of the kumara and jaunty pinpoints of herbal green. A damn masterpiece all round, and to make it even more endearing, it's incredibly easy and fast to make.

roasted kumara with feta, walnuts, thyme and breadcrumbs

a recipe by myself

one good-sized orange kumara
olive oil
about 100g soft feta
about half a cup fresh breadcrumbs (I just tore a bread roll into tiny/not so tiny pieces) 
a third of a cup of walnuts
about one tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves
one tablespoon pumpkin seeds

Set your oven to 200 C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Slice the kumara fairly finely into slices of about half a centimetre - accuracy and uniformity is not particularly important here. Lay them on the baking tray and drizzle over some olive oil, using a pastry brush to spread it out evenly. Sprinkle over a little salt and roast them - I put the tray pretty close to the top of the oven - for fifteen to twenty minutes, turning over once halfway through, till they're tender. 

While the kumara is in the oven, combine the breadcrumbs, thyme leaves, walnuts and pumpkin seeds in a small bowl, then crumble in the feta and gently mix it all together. Sprinkle this evenly over the kumara and return to the oven for another five to ten minutes just to toast the bread and soften the feta a little. Eat. 

If you don't live within reach of a kumara, those gourd-shaped orange butternut squashes would be perfect instead, and you could always leave out the feta to make this completely vegan. 

I did do one other thing last week: I spatula'd myself out of bed long enough to go get a haircut, my first since I chopped my long hair off last year. It was nothing dramatic, just cleaning up the layers a bit so I didn't look quite so much like I'd brushed my hair with a cheese grater; and I do believe the results are very cute.

Everything else, all my plans I'd had for Doing Things and Being Productive and Aggressively Achieving had to be put off, but on the upside I did insist on learning absolutely nothing from the experience about letting things go and putting one's own wellbeing before one's own expectations of, uh, one. 

Included in my plans for the upcoming unspecified period of time is reading The Sex Myth by Rachel Hills. I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of it, but unfortunate enough for that to coincide with me being all busy and sick, but it's nice to know it's there, at least. Look at that sprightly cover art! Oh man I want to write another book. 

But let us be irritatingly positive and upbeat: I did feed myself, and it was wonderful. Go me. And if you're feeling ill or been sick too in this bleak midwinter, my sincerest, like, so sincere it almost sounds like I'm making fun of you, sympathies. Get well soon! 
title from: Harvey Danger, Flagpole Sitta. This song absolutely encapsulates for me that back-in-my-day thing of hearing a song on the radio and having to wait weeks to hear it again and having no idea what it was called or even what the lyrics were, in fact not even having heard it enough to satisfactorily hum it to yourself in your own head. It wasn't until late 2000 that I learned what its name was and who wrote it, on some kind of song lyrics forum: yes, I'm kinda elderly. Also this song remains completely brilliant, if you don't feel like springing about the room and singing lustily along with the chorus then I'm not sure we can be friends. (Also: I only just noticed how funny it is that they rhyme "well" with "well" in the chorus. How daring!) 
music lately:

I remain on such a Faith No More kick and am playing the very heck out of their Live in London album on youtube; We Care A Lot is still so so so good. 

Demi Lovato, Cool For The Summer. I am so pro-Lovato, and love how we get all these summer bangers right in the middle of winter when they're most needed. 
next time: I refuse to be sick again, okay? I just refuse. So hopefully you'll be hearing from me sooner rather than later. 

24 July 2015

you want it all but you can't have it, it's in your face but you can't grab it

My highly wonderful girlfriend recently linked me to a story online that she thought I'd relate to - an interview with Canadian writer Fariha Roisin - and while reading it I was nodding so emphatically in agreement that I probably kicked off some kind of like, Butterfly Effect. I mean, look at this:

"I really struggle with the idea of productivity. I hate the fact that I value myself on my own creative produce, and I enact so much frustration and hate onto myself when I can’t, or won’t (due to emotional blockages, etc) create. Recently I’ve felt a great big void in the center of my being. I want to let myself have days off, but I don’t necessarily think I deserve them."

It's oddly calming to read Roisin articulate that storminess just as I would. Like I said in my last blog post, I'm trying to manage my expectations of myself (which are, some might say, a little ludicrously high) in relation to the actual time available to achieve them all, and not getting a particularly satisfactory outcome.

All of this dark-eye-circled self-centredness has really only increased because I have a lot of projects happening where the time to do them seems just out of reach, but I'm not sure if it's the lack of time or if it's just me, you know? And as I blurted on twitter the other day, I really want to make a food show web series, the sort that you watch and think "oh yeah that will definitely end up on TV at some stage", and I want it to be hilarious and excellent and different and not simply pleasant and straightforward like 99% of the existing food-related content out there. The world does not need another pleasant cooking show, but I feel like one that's fun and stupid and properly funny and irreverent without being too laboured and studied is...well, just as unnecessary in the greater scheme of things, but still, I want it to happen and that's reason enough for me. And I don't know how to do this and whenever I've had time to think about it, I've had to sleep, because there's only so many hours in the day. Part of me wonders if I'm letting myself use my busy schedule as an excuse to not have to actually do anything, and part of me is literally asleep right now as I write this, so.

But! I did achieve potatoes! Take that, The Passage of Time! It also happens to be the one single thing I've cooked in the time since the caramel slice in my last blog post, so thank goodness it's monumentally incredibly delicious.

Say what you will about microwaves, but I realised recently if you briefly zap potatoes in one, you can then fry or roast them with extreme haste, and have yourself some kind of carbohydrate-rich dish in significantly less time than it would normally take! And that time always feels endless when you're waiting for potatoes. With this recipe you can have a lusciously wonderful dish of crisply fried potatoes in a not-overly unbearable time. It's not exactly instant, but it's instant-er than you're gonna get otherwise.

I made this up the other day as a pre-work snack, just based on ingredients I had to hand, and it's really as quite-fast as I claim. The time it took for the potato pieces to sizzle into golden crispness was just the right amount of time to go look for my camera's SD card, be entirely unable to find it in the nourishing vegetable soup of possessions that is my bedroom, also realise I couldn't find the bowl I wanted to photograph the potatoes in, declare everything to be literal garbage and I, the luckless raccoon atop it all, then pull myself together and decide to find a different bowl and to use my phone to take photos instead.

Importantly, it tastes incredible.

quite fast garlic and parmesan potatoes

a recipe by myself

three medium-sized floury potatoes, or potatoes that are labelled suitable for frying/roasting
30g butter, or more to taste (obviously I added more) 
a teaspoon or so of olive oil (it stops the butter from burning) 
four fat cloves of garlic, or thereabouts
parmesan cheese for grating over 

Stab the potatoes a couple of times with a fork, and then throw them in the microwave - no need to even put them on a plate or anything, but I guess you can - and cook on high for about three minutes. 

Meanwhile, peel the garlic cloves and very roughly chop them - you're looking for good-sized bits here, not crushed garlic - and put them into a wide saucepan along with the butter and oil. Place the pan on a medium heat, stirring occasionally while the butter melts and the garlic starts to gently sizzle.

Remove the potatoes from the microwave - you might want oven mitts or tongs for this - and very roughly chop them into smallish pieces. If the edges get roughed up and some bits get a little crushed, so much the better. Turn up the heat on the butter and tip in the potatoes, stirring around so they're all evenly sitting in the pan. Let them fry until wonderfully golden, stirring occasionally so all surface areas are against the heat of the pan. This will take about ten minutes. 

Once you're satisfied with the done-ness of the potatoes, tip them onto a plate or bowl and grate over as much parmesan as you see fit. 

Stickily rich garlic, golden crunchy potatoes which are fluffily tender inside, barely melting sharp parmesan, blanketed as thickly as you can be bothered grating it - this is both comforting and beautiful. The quantities of ingredients listed are a little vague, because you can make this as garlicky and buttery and parmesan-y as you please really, and because apparently I like to overexplain things. What I'm saying is, trust yourself and what you want, but what I've given you here is a good starting point.

I ate the entire bowlful and licked the plate (some might say that's an uncouth habit but I say the tongue is nature's spatula) and was utterly pleased with myself, which, given my aforementioned tendency towards sternly growling at myself all the time, was...nice. Of course you can have these as part of a table of brunch food or to accompany steak or a roasted thing or whatever you want, but eaten on their own they're pretty perfect.

Speaking of what is and isn't perfect, I leave you - and myself- with these wise words from Fariha Roisin:
I’m learning to not have conditions attached to myself. I’m unbuckling the belt and loosening the idea tied up to what it means to be a person, or what it means to be me. 
title from: Epic, a song by Faith No More that I may have listened to roughly twelve thousand times in the last few days. This live version is amaaaazing. I just love this song so much. I am okay with this. I am not okay with how great the song is though. How dare it!
music lately: 

Sick, an EP from Allison Stone. She is wonderful and it is wonderful, okay?

Shades, I'll Be Around. This is from...1996? And still goes off.
next time: hopefully I will cook something in the next like, six months - whatever it is, it's all yours. 

20 July 2015

you could have my heart or we could share it like the last slice

so delicious that Pony by Ginuwine starts to play non-diegetically when you take a bite

There's a scene in the important film Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, where Dewey Cox is starting his rapid trajectory towards being a famous rock'n'roll star. He tells his wife Edith, "I'm gonna miss some things, okay? I'm gonna miss some birthdays and some christenings. I'm gonna miss some births, period. It's just unrealistic to expect that I'm gonna be here for every time you have a baby." I'm currently relating heavily to this, apart from, tragically, the bit with the ascension to fame, because I'm week three into working roughly five thousand times more hours than I normally do. Luckily, I adore my job and doing so many hours does make payday fun, but all I've been doing is sleeping and working which doesn't bode well for getting blog posts done, or indeed anything. In fact, I've been trying to write this very one here that you're reading for about seven days now, but every time I went to write I would instead just stare into space and then wake up three hours later, gently spooning my laptop like it was some kind of ergonomically disappointing teddy bear.

Yet finally here I am! With a really wilfully stupid peanut butter chocolate caramel slice! It was in a brief moment of lucidity that I concocted it, taking a base made largely of peanut butter and actual butter, a centre made of condensed milk and more butter and a handful of roasted salted nuts, and a top of melted milk chocolate. Seriously, that's really all there is to it. You pretty much know the recipe now.

hey baby, I think I wanna marry you 

It sounds like it would be stupidly, almost uncomfortably sweet and rich, and while admittedly I have literal syrup running through my veins instead of blood and therefore my bar for the overly sweet is set quite high, I assert to you that it's honestly very manageable to eat. In that you could easily manage to eat three quarters of it before you even realise the knife is in your hand and you're standing at the fridge slicing off thick squares of it.

Oddly enough it's the caramel centre that keeps it in check - you blast the hell out of the condensed milk and butter in the microwave before spreading it across the base, and all that heat reduces it down and brings out the ocean-deep dark toffee flavours present in the sugars. Then the roasted nuts, crunchy as popcorn and covered in salt, add to this. Just in case it starts to sound all too sensible I then cover it in the plainest sweetest mellowest milk chocolate, but with good reason, because dark chocolate would be too punishingly intense and make it a chore to eat.

it isn't too hard to see, we're in heaven

Speaking of important movies and delicious things that make people flustered, my one other accomplishment of recent time is, last night I went to the movies and watched Magic Mike XXL with my girlfriend and her flatmates. But Laura! I said to myself. Aren't you really like...gay? How could a movie about male strippers possibly hold your precious attention? My people, this movie is one of the best pieces of filmmaking I've ever encountered, one of the most joyful, kind-hearted, generous movies, and honestly, a rare film where women of all shapes and skin colours and faces have fun and are celebrated and support their friends and are in charge and are never, ever the joke, even though you keep thinking that's where the movie's gonna go. A film where men are emotional and express their love for each other without once adding "no homo", but also a bisexual character is not seen as a curiosity to be analysed and picked apart. A film where guys listen to women and help them, not in a "you frail stupid woman let me do this better than you" kind of way, but a "I'd like to make things better so you can be happy because that'd be nice" kind of way. Just when you think it's gonna zig, it zags. Honestly I'm getting emotional just trying to write about it.

Oh and if you're into the sight of men and stuff, there's...a lot of abdominal muscles being flung around. But truly, this movie is so very good, in the way that an old dog tied up on the street waiting patiently for their owner is good. Take your mother, take your 300 year old grandmother, take your husband, take your nine year old child, take everyone to see this movie! Put it this way: I came out of it saying that I'd actually love to read think-pieces on it, and normally my attitude towards think-pieces is that they should be thrown into the ocean. So. While I've been berating myself frowningly for not being outstanding in the field of achievement lately, getting this movie under my belt (hey-oh!) makes me feel like I've used my time very wisely.

just imagine another song from the Magic Mike XXL soundtrack here okay

Okay, one more thing about this movie before I get back to that other ridiculously sexy caramel confection: I love that there was more or less zero conflict. The characters were just happy and chill and overcame small hurdles and that was it! I have come to realise that I hate when movies, especially movies about an existing entity are like, what shall we do with these characters that the audience knows and loves - better make them fight and be isolated from each other until about ten minutes before the end. (For some reason A Goofy Movie is what sprang to mind here: hot take, A Goofy Movie was a bit disappointing.) Up with niceness! Okay that's quite the end of my breathless and shrieking thoughts on Magic Mike XXL. On here at least.

peanut butter chocolate caramel nut slice

a recipe that I made by smashing several Nigella recipes together and adding bits of my own thoughts so yeah

200g smooth peanut butter
50g soft butter
half a cup brown sugar
one and a half cups icing sugar

one tin sweetened condensed milk
200g butter
two tablespoons golden syrup
half a cup (or so) salted roasted mixed nuts 

200g milk chocolate

Line a brownie tin - either a 23cm square one or a regular sized rectangular one - with a large piece of baking paper. Use a wooden spoon to beat the peanut butter and butter together, then carefully stir in the sugars (I say carefully, because icing sugar tends to fly everywhere in dusty white clouds at the slightest provocation) until you have a sandy, crumbly mixture. Press it into the base of the baking tin, using the back of a spoon (it helps if you dust it with icing sugar first) to flatten it out fairly evenly. Refrigerate while you get on with the filling.

To make the filling, melt the butter in a decent-sized china bowl (or something else microwave-proof) and then stir in the condensed milk and golden syrup. Microwave for five to seven minutes, stirring every minute or so - it will bubble up angrily but shouldn't overflow, it's better to stir it too much than to let it burn or overflow though - by which stage it should be thickened, and darkened into a rich, but still fairly light, golden colour. Let it sit for a bit to cool slightly, and then stir in the nuts. Pour this over the peanut butter base, using a spatula to get every last bit out and to smooth it out on top, then refrigerate till set and firm. 

Finally, microwave the chocolate in short bursts till it's collapsing, and stir till it's totally melted and smooth. Gently spread across the caramel layer, and allow to set either in the fridge or a cool place. 

Wait, I've achieved two other things lately: I zoomed to a party after one of my shifts and danced my face off with friends and had my sister-from-another-species vibe with Percy the corgi reconfirmed. 

And, I dyed my hair purple. Well, more specifically, I stuck my hands in the pot of purple dye and kind of mussed up my hair (which was at the time a fading blue colour) in a haphazard manner just to see what would happen. It turned out pretty well, I think. In fact there's probably also a metaphor for my life in there (or at least I'm self-centred enough to think that pretty much everything could be a metaphor for my life and indeed, that my life is fascinating enough to warrant multiple metaphors to represent it.) (I'm not sure if that made any sense but in my defense: oh man I'm tired.) 
title from: Drake, Best I Ever Had, which is just...so Drake. "Sweat pants, hair tied, chillin' with no make-up on/That's when you're the prettiest, I hope that you don't take it wrong."
music lately:

Carly Rae Jepsen, Run Away With Me. It's like the best eighties song you don't remember. 

Janet Jackson, No Sleep. It's so dreamy. She's back and she never even left. 
next time: I'm still working a ton more than usual but I'm gonna try so hard to cook for myself one time and blog about it before, I don't know, the next financial year end rolls around.