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. 
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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!
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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.
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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.) 
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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."
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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. 
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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. 

9 July 2015

swallow it down, what a jagged little pill

that cactus is a visual metaphor for how my throat felt, also, juxtaposition! The word that saved me in Art History 101 

Next time you're just hanging about, you know, existing within your corporeal form or whatever, take note of how many times you unconsciously swallow. Turns out humans do it a ton which is super fun when out of nowhere you have a sore throat and it feels like a serrated knife has lodged itself horizontally within your larynx. Every time you swallow. Which, as we've established, is unfairly often! Anyway so I've had a miserable bunch of days (the sore throat came with the free gift of an earache!) to the point where I couldn't even eat soothing stuff like ice cream or soup because it was agony to swallow anything. Even cool, clear water might as well have been a nutritious bowl of sand, because they both would've felt the same to my poor tender throat.

In wonderful news I am now thoroughly improved, mostly due to ibuprofen, rest, and gargling so much salt water and apple cider vinegar that I'm surprised I haven't turned into a pickle. However, I choose to attribute my entire recovery to the incredible bowl of porridge that I fixed for myself yesterday. I'd taken enough painkillers that my throat was tentatively amenable to food, and I wanted to have something aggressively nutritious and filling, but also soft and warm as the underbelly of a rabbit. Oatmeal covers all these bases, as well as allowing me to be irritatingly cute by using the portmanteau of Sore Throatmeal, and I do love to be irritatingly cute.


 rock the oat

I mean, everyone has their own way of making porridge and you can feel free to ignore my method or write it off as garbage (but if so, honestly, why are you still reading this far?) but mine has much going for it - the oats are toasted first, a step that only adds a minute to the cooking time but turns what could be gluey flavourless glue into a richly flavoured, warmly nutty concoction. I also stir in ground almonds, which add a gentle sweetness and swollen softness and richness and also, y'know, almonds put a shine on your coat. You could use any dried fruit you like but cranberries are full of anti-inflammatory and hella-vitamin properties, they also look incredibly pretty, all ruby red against the white cream and pale oats. Similarly, you could use coconut milk or almond milk or ginger instead of cinnamon and so on and so forth; but this is the recipe I made and it is so damn good.

Also I know this recipe looks really long and complicated, it's because I'm talky and like to hold your hand throughout the process just in case there's any small detail that confounds you. Once you sift through all my added nonsense it's really, really straightforward, I promise.

the softest porridge, or, sore throatmeal

a recipe by myself

a handful of dried cranberries 
half a cup oatmeal or finely rolled oats
quarter of a cup of whole oats 
half a cup of water
half a cup of milk
a pinch of salt
quarter of a cup of ground almonds
cinnamon
brown sugar
cream, and lots of it

Place the cranberries in a small bowl and cover with water from a just-boiled kettle. 

Place a smallish saucepan over a medium and throw the oats in, stirring them frequently to allow them to toast - they'll start to smell incredibly, well, toasty, and when this happens remove them from the heat and allow them to sit for a minute just to cool slightly. 

Stir in the water, milk, and salt, and return to a low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking as it heats up and thickens. You want to get it to the stage where it's starting to have big bubbles rise to the surface and burst, like some kind of geothermic mudpool (I think, I mean I have very little knowledge of geothermic...stuff) and at this point stir in the ground almonds and decide whether or not you think it needs a splash more milk or water - I like my porridge a little on the softer, creamier side, but you might like yours thicker. So, either it's ready, or you need to stir it a bit longer with more liquid. 

Once you're done, remove it from the heat, drain the cranberries (I just used a spoon to hold them back while tipping the water into the sink) and stir them in along with a hearty pinch of cinnamon. Spatula all this into a deep bowl (a deep bowl helps it stay warm for longer!) and spoon over as much brown sugar and cream as your mouth desires. 


I took one bite and was literally cured 

On account of this peskily sore throat I've done more or less nothing lately, I've either been in bed or at work; when in bed I've been on a Nigella-watching spree - I mean this in the nicest way, but I don't have to think at all when I'm watching her show, and it doesn't matter if I fall asleep halfway through, and all the stirring and gentle clattering and plummy vocals are utterly soothing to someone like me who adores background noise while I sleep. So you can see how I'm so Hallelujah-chorus rapturous over this porridge, it's pretty much the most exciting thing to happen to me in the last few days. It was so delicious though, that I'm very sure it would still provide some kind of thrill even if you're in full health.
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title from: Alanis Morrisette, You Learn. Remember when this album was the hugest thing in the world? This song has such a strange, meandering, conversational vibe to it that you don't get a lot now, and I remember thinking how subversive and rad it was that her voice was kinda screechy and drawly (I was ten, okay.) 
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music lately:

Fiona Apple, Sleep to Dream. So dark and moody and intense, "this mind, this body and this voice cannot be stifled by your deviant ways,  so don't forget what I told you, don't come around, I got my own hell to raise" - ooof. 

Kendrick Lamar, Alright. I mean the song itself was already amazing but the video is just... *falls over sideways*
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next time: it is SO FREEZING in Wellington right now, so I'll probably be cooking something to try and warm myself up, which at this stage is going to be a bowlful of the earth's molten core. 

6 July 2015

you think it's easy, when you don't know better

*Kanye voice* what she order, fish filet? 

So it has come to this: ya girl has been a combination of too busy, overcommitted, otherwise engaged, and pretty much any synonym for busy that you can think of, to even think of cooking. I haven't blogged for over a week, which, considering my insistence on overachieving, means that I may as well just delete the whole blog and throw my laptop in a river because I have clearly failed and everything is pointless. However, instead of that mildly hyperbolic behaviour, I've decided to just accept the past week as a write-off, and write on the few things I did make myself this week, even though those things are: fish finger butties and marmite-and-chip sandwiches.

I'm not trying to pretend like I invented either of these concepts, or that you need a recipe for them, or that they're high art as far as food goes, but - both were really, really delicious and made me happy, and even if they're embarrassingly easy and simple, to be honest that's good enough for me to blog about. Especially since I have zero other options, but still. Also stupid as it may seem for me to be telling you how to put prepackaged stuff in bread; I feel like if nothing else this blog post can serve as a reminder that these concepts exist. I mean, it had been forever since I'd had a marmite-and-chip sandwich and having revived that combination for myself I am now wanting them at least daily.

I think in some countries fish fingers are called fish sticks, either way they honestly sound terrible

The inspiration for the fish finger butties (ps, buttie is another word for sandwich, and you could just call it that but the word buttie just sounds more celebratory) came when my amazing girlfriend and I needed some sustenance after striding around the zoo in the bracing cold and beholding cute animals. It went like this: we were in the supermarket, she pointed at fish fingers and was all, "we could make sandwiches out of these maybe" and I squawked "you genius!" in total wonderment, because I have a very low bar for being impressed and in awe, to be honest. (I was then like "better get this pack of forty fish fingers just to be on the safe side.")

Whether you prefer to use mayo or butter - and I actually prefer mayo here - the bread has to be the softest, whitest, and thickest you can find. The fewer minerals and vitamins and general health-giving content the better. Similarly, if you can find those fish fingers that are crumbed and have maybe 4% actual fish content in the ingredients, you're on to a winner.

With the marmite-and-chip sandwiches, the chips in question are the crisps that come in a packet, not fries (I don't know why we have such confusing language around potato products, it's very troubling!) and obviously you can use whatever sodium-delivery-spread you like - Vegemite, Promite, English Marmite. I grew up on Marmite and adore it, whereas Vegemite to me tastes like salty dirt and misery. Many of you probably feel the reverse. Whatever, as long as the chips are crinkle cut and the plain salted flavour, you're all good. I ate marmite sandwiches roughly a billion times when I was a kid, but a marmite and chip sandwich - and I have no idea who first came up with the idea - was such an exciting upgrade. And there's nothing like casually eating the food that was thrilling to you as a kid, when you're an adult who can do what they want when they want.


marmite and chips on white bread: you can clearly see how I got my book deal and I should definitely get another

So, the reason either of these sandwiches are worth your time is the magical, transcendently good textural contrast between soft, soft white bread and crunchy filling. It's as simple as that. Bursts of crispness, salty savouriness, and comfortingly pillowy blandness.

fish finger butty

four fish fingers (three for the sandwich, one for snacking on) 
mayonaise 
two slices of the thickest, softest white bread you can find

Bake or fry the fish fingers till crisp and golden. My cunning trick is to put them in the sandwich press, but do whatever is most convenient for you.

Generously spread mayo on both pieces of bread, lay the fish fingers across one slice and top with the other slice, eat the remaining fish finger so you don't fade away between now and eating your sandwich, and then eat your sandwich. 


marmite and chip sandwich

a packet of ready salted chips, ideally crinkle cut
plenty of soft butter
marmite
two slices of white bread, as soft and thick as you can find

Spread both pieces of bread thickly with butter and then thinly with marmite. Pile up potato chips evenly on top of one slice, then gently top with the other slice. Eat. 


                       *Peter in Jesus Christ Superstar voice* I think you've made your point now 

It's kind of hard to photograph these sandwiches in a way that makes them look majorly alluring, I feel like sticking one next to a vase of flowers was not my best work, I guess I'm also pointing this out so that you know that I know. Like I said, I haven't cooked a thing this week and so this is what I'm working with. But honestly, I'm so convinced of the excellence of both these combinations that I'm not even bashful about having blogged about them now, because if you didn't know about them, you've been missing out on a world of deliciousness. I'm not saying I'm a hero, I'm just saying...nope that actually is what I'm saying. 

befriending everyone's dogs and cats is time-consuming okay

So just what have I been doing with myself if not devoting myself to blogging? Working; partying; helping a friend choreograph a tap dance routine for a drag competition; going on cute outings with people from work; loitering with birthday pals; seeing a friend's band perform; recovering from watching Pretty Little Liars; taking up lots of time being amazed at how time has gone so fast and it's July already; dancing wildly; working; berating myself for having achieved nothing this month; that sort of thing. Ya girl is determined to get cooking again though, what with it being my favourite pastime and incredibly dear to my heart and all.
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title from: The White Stripes, Hardest Button To Button. I love these guys so much, that is all.
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music lately: 

Carly Rae Jepsen, Emotion. TUNE. Pop music that is really upbeat but sounds kinda sad is my kryptonite.

Chelsea Jade, Lowbrow. This honey just keeps making songs that are amazing. It's amazing.

Nicki Minaj, Anaconda. Every time I listen to this or watch the video it just gets more and more spectacular and excellent, tbh.
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next time: literal recipes, I promise

24 June 2015

stars in the night blazing their light can't hold a candle to your razzle dazzle



There's nothing like lovingly taking photos of a cake on your camera and then sticking the camera's SD card into your pocket and then losing it somewhere in the street to hinder the blog post writing process; luckily for me should anyone find it there is only cake photos on there and nothing incriminating (all my photos of me holding up signs saying "I just robbed this bank!" while pointing to a bank are on another SD card, phew!) but it was one hell of a pain to try and take photos of the cake again when I'd since demolished so much of it directly into my mouth. I managed to take a few hasty photos of what was left of it and found a couple of grainy-like-sugar snaps on my phone, but yeah, consider yourself warned that these photos aren't my best work, and my best work is in fact dissolving in a puddle somewhere between Newtown and Wellington central.

caught by the fuzz(y photography) 

But at least the cake itself was good, and what a name: Bobby Dazzler Cake. Bobby Dazzler Cake. I found the recipe carefully written in the back of a cookbook belonging to one of my great-grandmothers (a smartly bound Aunt Daisy book with my great grandmother's name embossed in gold on the cover, fancy!) I was utterly smitten with the name before I even saw what was in the cake itself. You know when you hear a word or a phrase for the first time and then suddenly you see it everywhere? That happened to me with didymo, although it only occurred to me recently that it was probably because there were suddenly all these "watch out for didymo" campaigns everywhere and previously there hadn't been (once more for the people in the back: didymo! A satisfying word to say, even if you have to Watch Out for it.) But uh, sometimes it feels like more of a coincidence than that, in this case my excellent girlfriend and I were watching the terrible/amazing miniseries Tipping The Velvet and one character exclaimed to the other, "you're a real bobby dazzler." I was thoroughly taken with this phrase and while I initially assumed it was some secret Victorian-era glasses-waggling code, like "she's civic-minded" or "she stands up on the night train" or "she's remarkable" it turns out it simply means something along the lines of "the cat's pyjamas" which makes it no less delightful. Anyway, mere days after seeing this show, I discovered this recipe, in this book I must have read dozens upon dozens of times, and I knew it was a sign that I should bake it with immediacy. 

the bee's knees

The recipe was written in that type of handwriting that was probably considered terribly neat and full of propriety sixty years ago, and is entirely unintelligible nowadays, not to mention all in imperial measurements - a pound of this and a pound of that - and finally, as was the style of the time, it trails off mysteriously halfway through and doesn't give you any detail about how to mix it, what temperature and how long to bake it for, or indeed what sort of tin to put it in. There was so much that you just had to know back then! In the spirit of trying to just know stuff, I made some presumptions and biffed it into a ring cake tin and baked it for an hour at 180 C, or what Aunt Daisy might've cryptically referred to as "a good oven".

And it turned out splendidly! The mixture contains a resolutely old-timey mixture of prunes, grated carrot, grated apple, and sultanas, as if it's trying to be five different cakes at once, but you get a kind of moist fruitiness that's very comforting, the sort of cake you want to have with a large pot of tea while the rain dashes at the windows (a very easy scenario to come by in Wellington these days as we approach the middle of a neverending winter.) Honestly, when (when! Not if!) I make this again I'll increase the apple and carrot quantity to two, and dice the prunes a lot finer - the former sort of dissolved into the cake while the latter were all like "here I am! Prune! In your face!" I'd also use brown sugar instead of white, just to hold all that fruit together with a slightly more darker caramelliness. But honestly, this cake was wonderful, especially when I spread it with a thick cream cheese icing.

bobby dazzler cake

adapted from a handwritten recipe from my great-grandmother

250g soft butter
one and a half cups sugar
three eggs
one cup milk
one cup sultanas
one cup prunes, roughly chopped
one large carrot, grated
one large green apple, grated
three cups plain flour
one teaspoon baking soda

Set your oven to 180C/350F and generously butter and flour a ring/tube cake tin. I say generously because ring tins always make me a bit nervous, since there's so much surface area for cake to stick to. 

Beat the butter, sugar, and eggs together till soft, light and fluffy. Meanwhile, heat the milk till just below a simmer - hot and starting to wobble but not bubbling - and carefully stir it into the butter. I added a little at first, and whisked that in, then a little more and a little more and then finally tipped the lot in - this makes it easier to mix it all together. 

Stir in everything else, and spatula it into the cake tin. Bake for around an hour, or until firm and brown on top. Allow to sit for about ten minutes before running a knife carefully around the cake and its inner ring, and tipping it onto a plate. Ice with a mixture of around 250g room temperature cream cheese mixed with around half a cup of icing sugar. 


Keeping it familial, and while you're here I may as well tell you, the grey rose-patterned plate that I photographed the cake on used to belong to a family friend's great-aunt (if I remember correctly) and it was given to me as a birthday present years ago. The blue gold-edged plate belonged to my late grandmother on my dad's side. I love new things and new cookbooks but there's something quietly lovely about looking at a cookbook and seeing someone's handwriting on it, someone who only knew you when you were a baby, and thinking about them at your own age; or how a plate that would've had a thousand different cakes on it throughout the years is still getting to have cake on it; or just, I don't know, knowing that these bits and pieces aren't stuck in a cupboard somewhere but are still getting used and loved. It's nice!

oh wow also this knife belonged to the great-grandparents too now I think on it; also this photo is an instagram which is why it's all clean and bright like an eidelweiss

I daresay you could do further things to spruce this up; soak the prunes and sultanas in dark rum before you mix them in, skewer the cooked cake and pour over dark rum; order take-out and forget the cake completely and drink a lot of dark rum; add sultanas or dried apricots or dark chocolate - whatever, really. And then you can look fondly at your cake and say, a la Tipping the Velvet, "you're a real bobby dazzler". 

Almost as exciting as thinking about cake, is the fact that I wrote about important television show Pretty Little Liars for The Spinoff; I am really so proud of this piece that I wrote since this show means so much to me and it took me so long to write and research but was also so fun, not since I wrote an essay about Idina Menzel for a media studies paper in university have I had such joy approaching a deadline. So even if you're all, "this show is about teenage girls and therefore I'm quite sure without really knowing why that it is TERRIBLE and MEANINGLESS" perhaps I can change your mind or at least outrage you by comparing it to The Wire?  
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title from: Old Devil Moon, a song as comfortingly old-timey yet sassy as this very cake that I'm writing about. Judy Garland could break my heart singing the happiest song and as I admire that quality greatly, that's the version I'm directing you to. 
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music lately: 

Idina Menzel covering Radiohead's Creep, live in Manila. Oh wow. I haven't listened to the original of this song (it's one of those ones that you utterly thrash and then it starts to lose all meaning) and I wasn't sure how this would work but Idina is gold here, like, old-timey late early 2000s Idina all sweary and dark and twisty and her voice sounds amazing. I love her.

Laura Lee, Little Too Late. My rad pal has just released a new single, it's gorgeous and dreamy and fun and I love it and am so proud of her! It's a good time to be a Laura. 
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next time: whatever it is I'm gonna take better care of my SD card, that's for sure! 

18 June 2015

i should tell you: spook the horses

Well hello there, and welcome to volume seventeen of I Should Tell You, where I ask cool musicians about food to see what they have to say, or indeed, to see if they'll even answer at all. I haven't done one of these in a damn while, but yay, it's back! 


This time around I'm talking with Callum, Zach and Donnie from Wellington band Spook The Horses, whose sound I would describe as "pleasingly grumbly" but is perhaps more helpfully to be described as the sound of "post-hardcore, atmospheric, doom". Wonderful! If you want to listen to them you could head to their bandcamp site, or you can hear their entire recent album Rainmaker on YouTube. If gruff, dark, moody music that kind of envelopes you and washes over you at the same time when you listen to it really loud tickles your fancy then your fancy will most definitely be tickled by these guys. Look out for them around Wellington as they're always doing gigs here and there, otherwise just immerse yourself in that blissful doom noise.    


Thanks Callum, Zach and Donnie! The interview begins...now. 

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

Callum: I've been done the whole degustation and wine-pairing thing at Hippopotamus before which is always good for some bragging but my go-to place in Wellington is Olive. Olive up and down rules. Consistently good coffee, good brunch vibes and the most chill and peaceful outdoor courtyard ever. It's less of a name-drop and more of a love letter,

Zach: A place that Is always interesting and relaxing to eat at is Duke Carvells. Although I'm not sure if i've earned the bragging rights, as the only time I can afford to go there is when my parents are paying. I enjoy eating somewhere that makes as many of the components of the meal as possible on site. I know they do their own breads, and smoked/preserved meats and sausages. They're all delicious, and are presented in interesting ways.

Donnie: It’s not exactly something to brag about, but I’m a huge, huge fan of pho bò, which is this Vietnamese beef noodle dish, and the best pho I’ve ever had, anywhere, is in this little unassuming fish and chip shop on Bond Street here called the Fisherman’s Plate. It’s one of those places that has burgers, chips, spring rolls all up next to the Vietnamese cuisine, so you’d never guess, but it has some of the best Vietnamese food in the whole city.

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

Callum: Nachos! Alex and I used to live together and made developed the Spook the Horses classic, Nachos de los Muertos, which is probably terrible Spanish and probably also very culturally insensitive (Sorry.) It's a chili delivery mechanism above all else. We all love spicy food so the more different kinds of chili the better. Chipotles and green jalapenos are mandatory. Black beans are mandatory. Watties beans are strictly forbidden. What's not to love about a cauldron of vicious as hell chili?

Zach: My go to solo home cooked meal is probably Putanesca, a pasta dish with a salty and warming tomato sauce. I usually make it because its really quick, and all of the ingredients last for ages - so I always have them lying around. Olives, capers, anchovies, canned tomatoes, etc. Also a lot of people get weirded out about anchovies, so my leftovers never get stolen!

Donnie: I will never, ever pass up the opportunity to make some dope as fuck grilled cheese sandwiches. Love those things. You can chuck anything in them, too. Olives, artichokes, tomatoes, ham, pineapple, corn, mushrooms etc. Two pieces of thick grain bread chucked in a frying pan, buttered sides out, with a ton of cheese in them, and whatever else you’ve got lying around. I think I have to go make one right now.

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

Callum: My dad is an excellent cook and a total outdoorsman, so he grows as many of his own veges and herbs as he can. My fondest memories are of how proud he would be to serve something he grew himself, or seeing him duck out of the kitchen to the herb garden to season a dish on the fly. I have some weird memories too, like my mum telling me the chicken I was eating was actually "chicken flavoured dough" to silence my objections about eating animals. Maybe my occasional flirtations with vegetarianism would have stuck if not for that bizarre lie.

Zach: The most vivid memories of food from my childhood would have to be of Christmas and new year’s time with my family. There were a lot of dishes that were traditional to have for our family, but my favourite one is probably the trifle my parents made. I'm not talking supermarket sponge cake and Watties canned peaches. It was all beautifully homemade sponge, custard, syllabub and fresh berries. Also lots and lots of booze. It's one of those rare times you can get drunk off eating solid food. The other memories that stuck would just be learning about having a healthy diet from my mother. She taught me that you can cook healthily and still have awesome tasting food.

Donnie: My mum is a fucking INCREDIBLE cook. Like, she can walk into any kitchen and just work with what’s there and make a delicious feast for eight people. One dish I was always fiending for was her kedgeree, which is a kind of curried rice dish made with smoked fish. This time when we were camping with a bunch of family friends, she made so much of the stuff for everyone that it filled one of those enormous 50 litre washing tubs. I had like six bowls and still wanted more. I’m pretty sure they had to keep me away by swatting at me with a spatula.

Read previous i should tell you interviews here.

9 June 2015

and ice cream castles in the air and feather canyons everywhere

rum'n'raisin your hands in the the air like you just don't care

I've been really sick this whole past week, and every time I even tried to blog it was like, what if I just lie here and groan throatily instead? Yes, that's a better use of my time. I'm still a little tickly of the throat and having to blow my nose a ton, but things are definitely improved. I pushed myself a couple of times last week - to go to work (alas, no sexy 2005 Lindsay Lohan voice for me but more of an enthusiastic honking goose noise every time I opened my mouth) and to go to the launch party of the Visa Wellington on a Plate festival. I really could've stayed in bed that night of course, but the promise of free wine is a rousing one and reading the new event programme is always exciting and damned if I'm going to let feeling like death stop me from doing some hard mingling and trying to feel like I'm vaguely relevant in the food-related scene, whatever that even is. Upon arriving at the launch my sheer black fringed robe immediately got tangled in a low-hanging plant in the foyer, causing an old man to say in a concerned voice, "This is the Wellington on a Plate launch", as though I'd wandered here by mistake while looking for like, The Quarterly Symposium of Sewer Dwellers, but fortunately my name was in fact on the door and I managed to extricate myself and have a wonderful time. Love a good launch party! And now I have till August to meander through the programme and hedge my bets as to which set menu in which fancy restaurant looks the funnest. 

What with my throat feeling like an actual garbage can and all, I thought the ice cream I made a while ago would be a soothing thing to eat, but unfortunately my stupid nose, with all the functionality of a flickering lightbulb, meant that I couldn't really taste anything. This was distressing. Since this ice cream is honestly the most delicious thing ever. Luckily, I made some well before I got sick, ate the lot in one sitting, then made some more and ate half of that before I got sick, so I have a good frame of reference from which to describe it to you. And I will describe it to you like this: omg it's amazing. 


I don't even like raisins at all, those gritty little scrunched up no-fun ex-grapes, but my swell girlfriend was saying how she loved rum'n'raisin ice cream when she lived in England and never saw it anywhere here in New Zealand. I like a challenge, even if I don't like a raisin, and I adore making ice cream, and actually had never even tried this particular flavour before, so how was I to know if the look on my face I made when I thought about it even matched how it tastes in real life?

I cheated massively and substituted the more tolerable sultanas while audaciously keeping the name, but if you're not averse to the real alliterative thing then by all means substitute raisins for my substituted sultanas. Really though, it's the rum and the coconut sugar which make this recipe particularly magical - I used Cruzan Blackstrap rum which is full of dark, sticky caramel flavour, and anything along those lines would be perfect. I feel like I've gone on heaps about coconut sugar lately, but it's so fudgily butterscotchily good and really gives the custard an intensely, gorgeously mellow flavour (yes, both intense and mellow). Making the custard is a pain - so much transferring between bowls and pans and so much stirring! - but it's forever since I've done this proper method of making ice cream and the soft, dissolvingly creamy texture you get once it's frozen is worth the effort, I think.


And yes, the sultanas themselves are wonderful - all swollen from the rum, and strangely chewy and confection-like once frozen, little bursts of alcoholic warmth amongst all the caramel iciness. 

look at this good ice cream I made


rum'n'raisin ice cream 

makes around a litre/1200ml, depending on how much custard and mixture you eat. 
a recipe by myself. I didn't consult any other recipes so this is literally ice cream that has rum and also raisins in it (I mean, sultanas, but same diff) and I have no idea how similar it is to the established flavour itself, but since I never see it around and have never tried anything but mine I can only conclude that my version is totally superior to everything. 

3 large egg yolks
half a cup coconut sugar, or brown sugar
one cup full cream milk
500 - 600ml cream (sometimes it's only sold in 600ml bottles and if that's all you can find all that happens is you'll get a bit more ice cream, wheeeee) 
half a cup of sultanas, golden if you can find them
dark rum, I used Cruzan Blackstrap

Firstly, place the sultanas in a small bowl and pour in just enough rum to pretty much submerge them. Leave them overnight ideally to absorb as much alcohol as possible, but if you've only got an hour then I'm sure it'll still be okay. 

Slowly heat the milk in a saucepan, till it's almost, almost, at a simmer - you want it to be hot but barely starting to wobble and move around with the heat, if that makes sense? While it's heating up, mix the egg yolks together with the sugar - it might turn into quite a thick paste, don't worry - and then once the milk is hot, remove it from the heat and briskly whisk a few spoonfuls of it into the egg yolks, slowly adding the rest of the hot milk while continuing to whisk. Now spatula all that back into the saucepan and stir this mixture over a low heat - either using a whisk or a spatula - until it thickens up a little, like the texture of a good milkshake. This will take a few minutes of stirring but keeping the heat low prevents the egg yolks from cooking instantly. Once you feel like it's sufficiently thick - less a milky texture and more a creamy, saucy texture - remove from the heat immediately. 

Now all the hard stuff is done, and to turn this into ice cream, all you have to do is: stir the sultanas and remaining rum into the cooled custard, whip the cream until it's thick and aerated but not fluffy and stiff, fold everything together, spatula into a freezer-safe container and freeze, without stirring, until it's solid. That's it.  

 that's it

Also, the person who suggested that I try making this in the first place really loved it, which is excellent. There are so many things I'm not good at, but it's nice to remind myself how amazingly great I am at making ice cream. I mean, I really did eat the entire first batch in one sitting, as if in some kind of delicious fugue state. And so I conclude that raisins are in fact pretty okay, but only if they're actually sultanas. And filled with rum.


Also: ya girl has blue hair now! Although as I type I've randomly smudged some purple and pink into it to see what happens. What will probably happen is I'll forget I've done this and take a nap after I've finished writing this and I'll end up dying my face and pillow but somehow not my hair. But I want to nap so hard right now I'm not sure I even care? Either way, fun times should ensue.

Some other exciting things I've done lately include, appearing on Radio New Zealand to talk about preserved lemons with Jesse Mulligan - I love being on Radio NZ, they are good people - and also I wrote about a local coffee shop for US site Sprudge. Ya girl is doing stuff! Also ya girl is so ready to be completely unsick again. There's only so many times that I can Leslie Knope myself into action, being all "okay I can't actually stand upright okay time to go interact with the public and do the responsibilities" (by "only so many times" I mean "I will do this endlessly and as many times as I have to", but yeah.) On the upside, being sick and having my tastebuds wavering in and out of service means I still have quite a lot of untouched rum'n'raisin ice cream left in the freezer...
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title from: Carly Rae Jepsen, Both Sides Now. The more I see "sacrilege! gasp!" comments about her cover of the Joni Mitchell song on youtube the more amazing and legit it sounds, tbh.
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music lately:

She Cries Your Name, Beth Orton. The opening strings on this are so dreamy and haunting! And then it stays that way! 

Shakey Dog, Ghostface Killah. Speaking of dreamy and haunting, I just looove the sample that serves in place of a chorus here, every time it changes up a chord into that "uhhhhhhh" bit (I'm so great at describing music lol) it's so amazing. Also Ghostface Killah is massively engaging and I love how he always sounds a bit stressed.
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next time: even if I have this cold forever and ever I'm gonna make myself blog sooner, okay? Being asleep all day is no excuse for not writing! 

28 May 2015

i'd have the cheek to say they're equally as bleak

slow cooked beef cheeks with cinnamon and kumara

I have achieved a lot this week, which I'm very proud of, because - as I'll tell you soon as see you - I'm really only awake and functioning for around 90 minutes a day when I'm not at work. None of this changes the fact though, that I'm honestly a bit sad about one thing that I can't achieve my way out of, whether or not I'm awake or asleep or thriving or unthriving: Wednesday the cat has gone. Gone to live at the Cat's Protection League, so she will be a league-protected cat, but it's so sad to not have her stupid wee half-moustached face and crooked broken little tail around. What happened was, the flatmate who was catsitting her had to move out to be nearer to her job (which is also a major bummer since she's lovely) and couldn't keep her, and the rest of us remaining were unable to keep Wednesday so the only real solution was to send her off. If I was around more or was not the sole person responsible I'd adopt ten million cats but I'm just not at home enough to give a cat the attention it needs (and then entirely ignores) so...that's that. 

However, having Wednesday around for just one happy month was wonderful, so let's cue a montage: 

holding paws

boop

arabesque

my favourite look: business cat

Better to have loved and lost than never to have had a cat at all, right? Again, I know this might sound all overwrought (and if there is a thing to be wrought, I'm first in line to do it overly) but Wednesday appeared just when I was reaching the zenith of my climb up Cat-Longing Mountain and the utter blanketing joy of suddenly having a soft little animal around was just just just so lovely.   

Anyway! Life goes on and luckily there will be other cats out there for me and also I have dear friends close by who own animals of varying degrees of willingness to be snuggled, so yeah. This may sound all very stupid and self-indulgently whiny but do you even know how I feel about cats? I FEEL.

*Goodbye To You by Michelle Branch playing on a constant loop* 

Speaking of things that are good to have in bed in the middle of this snappishly cold weather; I recently made my first proper slow-cooked casserole thing of the Winter (it's not even technically Winter yet but Wellington cares not for your seasonal timelines.) Whilst sleepily wandering around Moore Wilson one morning I saw that beef cheeks were incredibly well priced - like, $5! - and I grabbed some, surmising that the time had come for me to get back into cooking such things. I'd never cooked using beef cheeks before but figured there couldn't be much to it, and about this I was highly correct.  



Seriously, the only stressful thing about cooking this is that you need a lot of time. But during that time the house smells so completely incredible, that you can zone out and come to and feel like you've wandered into some enchantingly bucolic French bistro when in fact you're just sitting in your Newtown kitchen playing idly on your phone while wearing tights that have holes in places that are, shall we say, not amenable to being public-facing, and a stained hoodie that you slept in and haven't changed out of yet. So yeah, it takes time, but look at it this way, this is a recipe that you can achieve things to: put it in the oven and then get on your laptop and write, or tidy your room, or do whatever it is that you ought to be doing, and then you are rewarded with a mouth-quiveringly good feed.

I based this recipe on a few things that I found online, purposefully going with a recipe that doesn't use any alcohol, despite how enticing the thought of braising this meat in Pedro Ximenez or a bottle of red wine was. On my current budget I just can't bring myself to the point of tipping a whole ton of wine into a pan, when I could be drinking it. It makes me feel all flinch-y. This recipe simply uses cinnamon - one of my very favourite scents and flavours - and stock, and lets the beef itself do the rest. Leaving any wine you might have to be poured straight into your mouth (or like, use a wine glass, you adorable heathen.)

slow-cooked beef cheeks with cinnamon 

serves two to four people, depending on appetite and what is served with. 

around 300g beef cheeks (or more, whatever) 
butter
one onion
one good size orange kumara, or half a butternut squash
250ml beef stock (ideally from a carton, but use a cube if it's all you've got for sure)
two cinnamon sticks

Set your oven to 150 C/300F. Slice the onion into thin half-moons and dice the kumara roughly. 

Heat an indescriminate amount of butter in a small frying pan (around a tablespoon is fine if you need someone to make this decision for you) and sear the beef cheeks on both sides, for around a minute each side, just to brown them. Once brown on both sides, remove from the pan and sit them in a medium-sized casserole or baking dish. Then, add a little more butter to the pan and gently fry the onion and kumara (you may need to do this in batches) until the onion is softened and the kumara is a little browned and crisped in places. Tip all this into the casserole dish on top of the beef. Finally, pour the beef stock into that same pan and allow it to come to the boil. Carefully pour this over the beef, onion and kumara, nestle the cinnamon sticks in amongst all that, cover with either a lid or tinfoil, and then place it in the oven. Leave for around three hours, and then serve, over rice or some kind of potato situation or simply with plenty of bread and butter. 


It seems almost impossible that a method so simple that you're barely touching the food as you cook it, could taste so deeply delicious, but such is the joy of slow cooking. The meat was so tender I could literally slice into it with the edge of a spoon, and half-heartedly at that. There is a wonderful stickiness to this, from the gelatinously rich meat to the warmth of the cinnamon and the sweet, slightly scorched kumara. Actually I should mention now that beef cheeks have long been a very unfashionable cut of meat and are only really now coming into prominence - in the same way that lamb shanks did a few years back - but honestly they're so, so good and fulsomely rich in flavour that they practically deserve to become overpriced restaurant food. Also, it's all so arbitrary, right? I mean, rump steak is a fancy cut of beef but I mean, it's the rump. You're literally eating a cow's butt?

On that note, I had it pointed out to me by some rakish wag (my dazzling girlfriend in fact) that if you say "beef cheeks" out loud it's weirdly hilarious and uh, yeah, I agree. Beef cheeks! I don't know, but giggles ensue! Immature of me, yes, but in my defence, I am very immature.

More sensibly, you should know that the leftovers of this are quite incredible heated up and stirred through hot pasta - ideally pappardelle for that hearty ragu vibe, but all I had was linguine and the meat, shredded roughly, with the pasta absorbing the gelatinous stock and some extra butter that I threw in because I'm incapable of doing anything else, was sublime. 

Despite living the catless life currently there is still SO much to look forward to: Pretty Little Liars, aka one of the most important TV shows in the Western canon; returns next week and so does the webseries of my heart, Carmilla. Also, next Monday morning (around 9.45am I believe?) I'll be on Radio New Zealand talking to Jesse Mulligan about food, which should be rad as. I love being on the radio! And wherever Wednesday is, I love her too and am glad I got to meet her at all. 

*Don't You Forget About Me by Simple Minds plays on loop* (ps oh man thanks for bearing with me, ya girl is maudlin)
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title from: Arctic Monkey's moody Do Me A Favour. Those guys!
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music lately: 

Walk Through The Fire, from the musical episode Once More With Feeling from Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Yes. I am at the stage with my Buffy-watching where I got up to the musical episode. Verdict: oh I don't know, I think I want to/have to watch it like seventeen more times before I can properly calibrate my feelings on it (what I'm saying is I love it)

VCR, The XX - their music just makes me feel all warm and safe, it's so dreamy and low-key. This is one of my very, very favourites of theirs. 
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next time: I know it's freezing but I made some rum'n'raisin ice cream the other day and it was honestly the nicest thing I've tasted in forever. So I ate it all. In one go. But I'm going to make it again and let it hang around long enough to take photos of this time! 

22 May 2015

it's a little secret, just the robinson's affair

got a secret, can you keep it, swear this one you'll save

In a completely unsurprising turn of events, I fell asleep while writing this blog post and now have a very small window of opportunity - more like a mouse-hole of opportunity, or perhaps a fissure of opportunity - to get it done before I have to take off for work. In fact I have no real proof that I'm not still asleep right now, so please keep this in mind as you read on. What I'm saying is, I coolly absolve myself of any need to make any sense as I try to finish this thing without falling asleep again.

Speaking of cool absolution, I am so chill with being inspired by my own self, which is honestly kind of practical - I mean, I should theoretically like and use the recipes I've created. Last Sunday I was invited to my girlfriend's flatmate's fundraiser potluck for local charity Kaibosh, and with cheerful self-absorption I turned to my own cookbook to browse it for suitable recipes. The recipe for Secret Centre Mini Pavlovas caught my (probably half-asleep) eye, as it is both elegant and awesome yet easy and inexpensive to make.

gonna lock it in your pocket (I'm quoting the Pretty Little Liars theme song here btw)

I was absolutely correct about these chocolate stuffed meringues being easy to make, and for the filling I used Whittaker's caramel chocolate, partly to be obnoxiously excessive and partly because I thought it would taste wonderful. 

However! Diligently I walked from my house to the potluck venue at In Good Company, and about halfway through the journey I came to a long set of concrete stairs. A set of concrete stairs that I once fell down. Aha, I thought, my old foe, we meet again. Luckily I'm going up, not down this time, hey? HEY? And then I fell up the stairs. 

While I was totally fine, with little more than a delicately bruised knee on top of doubtless another bruise that had only just barely healed - the container of meringues that I was carrying dropped and they got all banged up inside. They were still edible but the edges were all ragged and shattery and some of the tops were a bit crushed and essentially they weren't particularly photogenic. So, I decided to forgo my own photos altogether and just use the ones that go with this recipe in my cookbook. I can't remember whether it was Kim or Jason who took these, so a huge thank you to them both just to be safe. 

secret centre mini-pavlovas

a recipe by myself from my cookbook HungryandFrozen: The Cookbook. I just wrote out the instructions from memory rather than copy-pasting what was in the book, even though it's all my own words (I don't know why I did this) but either way the recipe is a lot simpler than the length of this recipe would make it seem - I just kind of overexplain stuff a bit. 

two egg whites
a pinch of salt
100g sugar
filling of your choice - in this case I used caramel-filled chocolate but dark chocolate is a good starting point

Set your oven to 150 C and line a baking tray with baking paper. 

Whisk the egg whites (or use an electric beater if you're more sensible than me) with the pinch of salt till they're white and a little fluffy and when you raise the whisk the fluffy egg white raises up with it and falls down slowly (this is known as "soft peak stage" but in case you needed an expanded explanation, there it is.) At this point slowly whisk in the sugar, initially about a teaspoon at a time, until the mixture becomes thicker and shiny and gorgeous. It should get to the point where it's really very stiff, and if you raise the whisk up out of the bowl the mixture will be thick and dollopy instead of falling in ribbons off the whisk. God I hope these descriptions make sense! 

Place heaped spoonfuls of the thick, gleaming meringue onto the baking tray, leaving a little space in between to allow for expanding. Top each spoonful with a piece of chocolate, and then spoon over a little more meringue mixture, so that the chocolate is entirely encased in white. 

Bake for thirty minutes, although check them at around 20 - 25 minutes in, just in case your oven is more grunty than mine. They should be a delicate pale brown colour on top and appear firm. Allow them to cool in the oven with the door slightly ajar, and then carefully remove them from the paper, peeling it away from their fragile bases, and then all you have to worry about is eating them.


never not dazzled by fairy lights

While my falling asleep constantly or falling up stairs or generally being involved in some kind of falling is barely news, these secret centre mini pavlovas are, at least, notably spectacular. Crisp, dissolving meringue gives way to a burst of chocolate that you wouldn't otherwise know what there unless someone forewarned you. While it's sweetness upon sweetness, something in the mix of textures keeps it fresh - whether the chocolate is still warm and gushes into your mouth or cooled and firmed and crunchy under the brittle meringue. The potluck dinner was so fun and fortunately no-one minded the mini-pavlovas being a little smashed up, and there was a ton of delicious food and lovely people and a very decent amount of money was raised for Kaibosh, an outcome sweeter than a meringue secretly stuffed with chocolate.

Am about to fall asleep again but before I spatula my tired self out of bed to get ready to go, I wish to impart two more pieces of crucial information to you:

Kate and Jason (the stylist and aforementioned co-photographer for my cookbook, but also like, wonderful people in their own right aside from their relation to my cookbook) GOT A BEAUTIFUL DOG and I got to hang out with him today. He's blindingly white and fluffy like a freshly laundered towel and so friendly and silly and I'm quite in love.


 this is Ghost, also a good name for me because I am dead after looking at his face

Secondly, I had another Crush Cake story published in The Toast! The Toast is probably the very best website on the internet, if I was pushed to choose one, and little makes me prouder than being able to contribute to their spectacularly high quality accumulation of writing.


This is a crush cake dedicated to Drake. If you're not intrigued and inspired to immediately find out exactly what this is all about, then...I mean I can't blame you, but that's kind of a bummer. 

bonus! dog! so! blessed!
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title from: Mrs Robinson, that cheerfully weird song by Simon and Garfunkel. I love the punchy yet thoughtful guitar chords. And also the lyrics which sound like they were written by a committee passing notes to each other. 
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music lately:

Ummm so the video for Beyonce and Nicki Minaj's song Feeling Myself is still only available via subscription to Tidal but this 30 second teaser alone is giving me more life than literally anything else right now. Watch it and feel yourself become a better human. 

King Kunta, Kendrick Lamar. Yeah, still can't stop listening to this on repeat eh.  
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next time: I made ice cream so amazingly nice that I literally ate nearly a litre of it in one sitting. Maybe you'll be able to make it soon too.