i imagine that it’s there on a plate, your whole rendezvous rate

       

So the deal with this week’s blog post is, there are no photos and I don’t even want to talk about the recipe. Because I made it - crispy rice with preserved lime, almonds and cardamom- three days in a row and now I’m so sick of it and can’t even think about it without feeling uneasy, bordering on queasy. Let’s try and go back in time though, to the middle of those heady days, where I simply couldn’t get enough of this incredible dish and ate it with such rapidity that, though thrice did I make it (THRICE! Threefold!) not once did I pause to record the moment. Let’s periodically pause while reading this blog post and pretend there is a photo of a plate of rice with some stuff on it in between every other paragraph. Let’s pretend it’s not today but Wednesday and I’m snarfing bowlful after bowlful of tender basmati rice that has turned crunchy and golden with olive oil and made aromatic by the lemony-gingery breath of cardamom and the warm earthiness of cinnamon and cumin, that has the buttery crunch of a tumble of almonds and sesame seeds and bursts of sharp, salty preserved lime slices. 

I’m genuinely super annoyed at myself for not taking any photos and did contemplate long and hard for like nine minutes about whether or not to even write this but I concluded pragmatically that my photos are deeply hit and miss anyway and it’s the writing that’s the real juicy prize here. 

I spent Sunday night at my best friend Kate’s house, doing what I love best: sitting on the floor by the warmth and white noise of her fireplace, quietly pottering about reading her cookbooks for inspiration while her husband brought me dinner and her dog scooted about scootily. The recipe below evolved from one in either A Modern Way To Cook or A Modern Way To Eat by Anna Jones, both lovely books filled with lovely recipes (sometimes too lovely, for example she has a recipe called “my bright root mash” and I’m like...can you hear yourself here.) Mine is a much more pared down and simplified version of her recipe largely because, honestly, I was pretty broke this week, but you can see how you could extrapolate this out wildly to make it more elaborate, with added herbs, fancier nuts, roasted things to strew across the top, and so on. The preserved limes are just there because I had some following my friend Jen giving me a bag of limes from her tree, but preserved lemons are pretty easy to get hold of and make a chill substitute. The best thing about this recipe is how high reward it is for how simple it is to make. Don’t be tempted to hold back on the final step of pouring more oil onto the rice and turning up the heat - the golden, crunchy base that forms where the rice hits the saucepan is magical. Well it was, till I ate too much of it. 

crispy rice with preserved lime, almonds and cardamom

  • one cup basmati rice
  • three tablespoons olive oil  
  • one teaspoon ground cumin
  • half a teaspoon ground cinnamon  
  • two cardamom pods
  • three tablespoons sesame seeds
  • half a cup of almonds, roughly chopped 
  • four slices of preserved lime or preserved lemon   
  • sea salt, to serve

Rinse the rice in a sieve. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a saucepan and tip in the rice, stirring it so that the grains get lightly toasted. Tip in two cups of water, the cinnamon, cumin, and cardamom pods. Before you throw in the cardamom pods, lean on them with the side of a knife to crush them slightly. Put a lid on the saucepan and let it cook away until the rice is tender and cooked, which should take around ten minutes. At this point, use the handle of a wooden spoon to push some holes in the cooked rice, and pour the remaining olive oil into the holes. Turn the heat up as high as it will go and let the rice cook away for another five or so minutes, creating a crispy crust on the base. 

Meanwhile, toast the sesame seeds and almonds in a dry frying pan until they’re lightly browned. Roughly chop up the preserved lime slices, or lemon if you’re using it, and mix in with the sesame seeds and almonds. Divide the rice between bowls and spoon over the lime and almond mixture, and then add plenty of salt to taste. 

This recipe serves two very generously and aside from me feeding some to my friend Emily during a floor picnic on the third day, I actually ate all of it every single time which is probably why I’m so wholeheartedly sick of it now, but also, I daresay, does speak to its singular deliciousness. If you’re intrigued by the mention of lime pickle, I have a recipe for it on my Frasier food blog which was in itself based on a recipe I posted about back on this blog in 2010. That’s right, I’ll link to myself all! day! long! I will never run out of energy for drawing your attention from me, to further-me, and yet-still-more-me!  

Speaking of, if you’ve got yourself a big bag of rice and are all like “hmm” and “I feel a gentle yet tugging melancholy at reaching the end of this blog post and realizing that my time of paying attention to Laura is thus coming to an end” may I recommend some further recipes from On Here: Buttermilk Risotto with Miso, Capers and Toasted Walnuts; Rice Salad with Mango, Coconut and Peanuts; or Sunday Night Pilaf with Cinnamon, Tumeric and Vegetables.

title from:  Brianstorm by Arctic Monkeys. Alternate title: “...top marks for not trying”.

music lately:  

I’ve been listening to Eyedea and Abilities’ album By The Throat which I love, I guess if I was going to pick a starting point I’d go with Junk or Smile?

Janet Jackson, Rhythm Nation . She is such a LEGEND it’s unreal. I’ve been listening to heaps of her older music and having this one in particular on loop, the chorus is so addictive the way the back up singers’ voices rise up like bubbles in lemonade and the music video is honestly kind of stressful to watch because the level of discipline and work ethic is so laid bare in her incredible and highly technical and NONSTOP dancing. 

 next time: photos and non-feigned enthusiasm I swear. 

rye whiskey makes the band sound better, makes your baby cuter, makes itself taste sweeter, oh boy

I would be filled with consternation and a rage as hot as the fire of a thousand French fries about the monogamous relationship I’ve drifted into with my concussion if doing so didn’t require so much energy. Previously, on the TV show that I self-absorbedly regard my life to be (and please read this in the solemn tone of the “Previously, on” voice over artist of your choice) I relayed the tale of how I fainted and whacked my head and as such have not been up to much at all other than sleeping and going to work, well guess what, I have nothing new to report! 

But I refuse to let this slow me down, achieving such (topically!) Olympian feats as walking two blocks to the chemist to get my passport photos taken before having to go back home for a nap. 

Even previously-er, I mentioned that I was the proud recipient of a place in the finals of the Perfect Blend cocktail competition, held by Beam Suntory; this week I’ve had my cocktail available at work and it’s like...really fun! I mean I love anything where I get the opportunity to draw attention to myself, it’s not often that the opportunity is fairly legitimate and not just me being all, with neither context nor requisition, “look at me!” 

 (Look at me!) (also lol I screencapped this from instagram and there’s still the scroll left dots at the bottom) (also my massively talented friend  Ryan Dominico  took this photo!)  

(Look at me!) (also lol I screencapped this from instagram and there’s still the scroll left dots at the bottom) (also my massively talented friend Ryan Dominico took this photo!)  

Anyway I’ve cooked precisely one (1) thing this week and that was a coffee cake for my Frasier food blog, and yeah you should definitely go read it, but delicious as it was I couldn’t exactly double up on the recipe here, that would be a move lazier than even I could countenance (I was not so lazy that I didn’t end up looking up “the shortest distance between two points is called what” to illustrate this, uh, point, and found an Archimedes quote being all “it’s a straight line”, like COOL STORY Archimedes, of course it’s a straight line, this is not a compelling quote, stick to excitedly getting in the bath, mate.) 

As such I thought I would, since I occasionally foray into drink recipes on here, cocktails being one of my true loves in this life (unlike my frosty and passionless relationship with my concussion!) share the recipe for my competition cocktail - the Wry Aside - with you all. You can now, should you choose, make it yourself at home or indeed, in any location. Yes, it involves some significant legwork and the procurement of several alcohols, but if nothing else I’m hoping this will give a little insight into the building of a cocktail and the process I took to achieve this drink of mine. Plus, having a recipe with multiple sub-recipes nestled within it makes me feel extremely Dominique Crenn-esque, a feeling that can’t be had enough, quite frankly. 

Wry Aside

a recipe by myself

Beetroot purée: 

  • three large, fresh beetroot
  • a dash of olive oil
  • roughly a quarter cup of lime juice 

Set your oven to 180C/350F. Trim the tops and tails off the beetroot, slice them roughly into quarters, and place in a roasting dish. Drizzle with the scantest amount of olive oil and bake for around 40 minutes, although check them occasionally, until they are slightly crisp and wrinkled without and extremely tender within. Using a high speed blender or whatever similar appliance you have on your person, blitz the beetroot with the lime juice (mostly there so that the motor doesn’t stress out completely. Transfer this into a jar and refrigerate till needed. 

 Blackberry and Pink Peppercorn Liqueur 

This is really more of a highly alcoholic syrup, if you want to actually drink it on its own I would add sugar to taste, rather than to my specs.  

  • Two cups frozen blackberries (I mean, I assume this is how you’re going to get them, fresh is A-ok) 
  • Two tablespoons pink peppercorns
  • 600ml overproof Jamaican rum  
  • white sugar 
  • two tablespoons citric acid

Put the blackberries, pink peppercorns, and rum in a non-reactive mixing bowl or jug. Cover and leave for at least six hours or overnight. At this point, give it a good stir, mashing up some of the berries to release as much juice and color as possible; then strain it into another jug. Weigh this liquid and add the same weight of white sugar, plus the citric acid, stirring to dissolve it. Refrigerate till needed.

 Beetroot Garnish

  • one small, fresh beetroot

Slice the beetroot into thin discs. Roast slowly in a hot oven or better yet, place them in a dehydrator until crisp enough to hold their shape. If you’re going to dehydrate them, cut a slit halfway through each slice, if you’re roasting the slices you can cut them when you need them. Either way, this slit then slots onto the coupe glass that you serve the drink in, a bit like a lime wheel or something, y’know?  

To make the cocktail: 

  • 50ml Jim Beam Rye
  • 15ml sweet vermouth (not one that’s too sweet, mind) 
  • 30ml blackberry and pink peppercorn liqueur
  • two heaped barspoons of beetroot purée  
  • 25ml freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 5ml lime juice

Shake everything hard in an ice-filled cocktail shaker or jam jar or whatever sealable vessel you have to hand (I’ve used a biscuit tin once when things were really desperate) and double strain (that is, use a small sieve held over the serving glass to make the texture silky smooth and to remove any bits of beetroot and such) into a coupe glass. Stick a wheel of dehydrated beetroot on the lip of the glass by way of garnish.

That’s ALL you have to do! 

  (photo again, by  Ryan Dominico ) (Thanks, Ryan!) 

 (photo again, by Ryan Dominico) (Thanks, Ryan!) 

So yeah, there’s a lot of prep involved to get to the moment where you actually get to drink the damn thing, but I wanted a drink that was thoughtful and that didn’t have any chance of being replicated previously, as opposed to pedantry for the sake of it. I adore rye - the Sazerac is my favourite cocktail of all time - and I wanted the dry, slight spiciness of the Jim Beam Rye to be met with sweetness and earthiness: the beetroot thing was more about trying to capture the nutty caramelised flavour of roasted beetroot rather than just willfully flinging vegetables at random into a cocktail shaker. I love the gentle warmth of pink peppercorns and the juicy tartness of blackberries, I also liked the dovetailing of similar colours even though obviously the peppercorns don’t actually lend any tint to the liqueur. But anyway! You can read more about the story behind this drink at the World Bartender Day website (you have to enter your date of birth, then click on the Perfect Blend button, then the NZ button, then scroll down to find me but IT’S THERE) as well as checking out the other dazzling finalists and their drinks. There’s a mighty decent number of finalists from Wellington, I’m super proud to be part of it all alongside so many friends. Oh and non-negotiably but only if you want, come get the drink off me at my place-of-employ, Laundry Bar.

The finals themselves are on April 16th, and yes, I hear you gasp, that is the day before my birthday! Whilst I’m like, deeply competitive and winning stuff is definitely a hobby of mine, I also really extremely love public speaking and so like, getting a microphone and an audience? Best birthday ever already.  

Oh and if you are all, I can’t believe this blog post is over! What next for my life? Then may I direct your attention to my blog post about the time I made vegan gin sours with aquafaba; the time I made Fernet-Branca ice cream; or the time I went to Hanging Ditch and tried a ton of their cocktails. 

title from:  Rye Whiskey by the Punch Brothers, a rambunctious and foot-stomping and admittedly cautionary tale via the medium of bluegrass. 

music lately: 

After mentioning that I was going up to Auckland to see Fall Out Boy this March, a customer at work gave me a list of bands I should listen to and like, they were all such good recommendations! To pluck but one from this list I’m going to recommend in turn that you listen to American Football and their song I’ll See You When We’re Both Not So Emotional, which like...lol.

It was Rihanna’s birthday recently and on social media at least it felt like the whole world was celebrating, as well they might be! Love on the Brain is just one of the most beautiful songs on earth. 

next time:  If I’m not feeling more energetic and recovered from this concussion I’m going to do absolutely nothing about it, aren’t I!!!