10 February 2016

you got the peaches, i've got the cream, sweet to taste, saccharine

moving house = new background surfaces in photos on the blog

No matter how many times I dramatically fall over and hit every surface on the way down, one thing I can count on is how I almost always land on my feet one way or another. Alas, I'm only talking metaphorically here, because when it comes to literal fallings-over my kneecaps have a 100% hit rate with the ground.  

By which I mean: oh wow I finally, finally, found an apartment! I knew I would, and that the right place would appear at the 11th hour, but the lead-up to that was still such a stressful overwhelming time (and, as I noted in a previous blog post, it was also a heinously sweaty time schlepping about town to flat viewings.) My new place is everything I want though: It's up high, it's in the middle of the city, it has those exposed-brick-New-York-Loft vibes that I just can't quit (seriously: if you were all, "Laura you can live in this perfectly lovely villa or you can hold this one singular brick in your right hand and sit in a ravine" there is a ludicrously high chance that I'd take the brick) it has an elevator out of a noir film about murder, there's excellent light for food photography, and I've only got one other flatmate and they seem very cool and nice. I'm so happy! I really am! Like, so damn content! What is this feeling, so sudden and new

The actual moving process was hellishly exhausting (I acknowledge that I got movers in to do most of the legwork but there was definitely a point while packing where I was like what if I just lie down and shut my eyes eternally and let my possessions eat me alive) but now that I'm properly installed in the new place and have, at least, made my bed and hung up my clothes, it does feel like it's all starting to work out. 

As a moving-in treat I bought myself the new Cuisine - a local food magazine which for years I would collect with religious ferocity. I haven't picked it up in a while, but there's nothing like living in a new space to get me all renewed-vigour-y for cooking (obviously not the most practical way to get one's vigour renewed, however it is what it is.) At first I was slightly aghast that Ray McVinnie is no longer at the helm of the Quick Smart segment, an entertainingly rapidfire list of recipe ideas based around a theme, but I quickly got over that when I saw reliable replacement Ginny Grant's suggestion for Peach and Mozzarella Panzanella.  I do love a salad where it's essentially a process of buying five nice ingredients and putting them all on a plate together, and this is an excellent example - really rather removed from the original Tuscan recipe for panzanella, but whatever. It's the combination of the peaches, all crisp and fragrant and summery, with fresh mozzarella, all aggressively mild like Ned Flanders, which makes this special - crunch and sweetness plus pillowy softness plus the oiled, toasty bread...you may not personally consider salad a thrilling time, but this one: it thrills.  

peach mozzarella panzanella

adapted slightly from a recipe from the January issue of Cuisine magazine. Serves two-ish, but I could eat all of this quite joyfully and only be mildly uncomfortable afterwards. The quantities are kind of vague, please deal with it. 

half a loaf of ciabatta
two crisp, firm peaches (I went for a variety called Elegant Lady literally because of the name)
one tub of bocconcini mozzarella (or one big ball of it, I just find the smaller stuff easier to slice up) 
one punnet of cherry tomatoes (around a cupful I guess? Or 300g? Just like, get some tomatoes.)
a few handfuls of salad leaves of some description
olive oil
red wine vinegar

Set your oven's grill to high. Slice the bread and then tear the slices into rough cube-type things, and place in an oven dish. Drizzle with plenty of olive oil, and place under the grill till lightly browned. 

Slice the peaches, halve the tomatoes (a pain, I know! But it makes them go further and gets all the tomato juice out) and finally, slice the mozzarella and then tear it into smaller bits. 

Mix all of this together with your salad leaves in a large bowl, then drizzle over more olive oil and around a tablespoon of vinegar. Add plenty of salt and stir again, and leave to sit for about an hour if you can, but even if you just do all the clean up first before eating that should allow some time for all the flavours to start moving.  Feel free to pour over more olive oil and add more salt once you've served it - salads can never be too oily or too salty in my opinion. 

I love this table at my new apartment, prepare to see it plenty in the future

This salad really benefits from sitting around for a bit first before you eat it, as the tomato juice and the olive oil soaks in to everything, making the bread deliciously soggy (I know, two words that don't seem like they should go together) but if you have to eat it all right away I understand.

setting up my wardrobe is my favourite part

things that also benefit from sitting: me, when I'm unpacking 

It has only been two days and already I'm blooming like a flower from living in the centre of town again (also wilting like a flower from the heat! That's right: I pledge to you, on bended knee, that I will never ever stop complaining about the weather.) It's just lovely to be able to walk out the door and be immediately in the middle of the city, then to go home again without having to take forever catching expensive busses, it makes everything feel easier and more fun. And I'm just moments from work! I am absolutely going to miss Newtown - my bedroom there was so sweet, and there were countless gregarious neighbourhood cats...but I'm happy to be back here. Less delighted about unpacking, but the promise of my bedroom becoming more and more of a haven is greatly motivating. (She says, immediately launching into another barely-justifiable nap.) 

PS: I can't be the only one who thinks Peach Mozzarella Panzanella is totally a name you want to check into a hotel with when you're a famous celebrity trying to travel incognito?
title from: I mean, it's a Def Leppard song that has an unparalleled success rate for getting me on the dance floor, but for me Tom Cruise's appallingly sexy Stacee Jaxx in the Rock of Ages movie does the definitive version
music lately: 

Is there anything worth talking about other than Beyonce's brand new song Formation? It's incredible and it's powerful and she's incredible and powerful. Watch it, I implore you. 

That said, I am super obsessed (obsessed anew, I should say, since I loved these guys when I was three) with You Got It (The Right Stuff) by New Kids On The Block. Till One Direction came along I fully believe there was no other boy band song that came even close to this one. Those oh-oh-ohhh's! So good! 
next time: there's this coconut-crusted fried eggplant recipe in the Cuisine magazine that has majorly caught my fancy. But also I am planning to make some ice cream! Either way: yay new kitchen! 

3 February 2016

you were rubbing both my hands, chewing on a candy bar

mutiny on the bounty

I, like Homer Simpson, am the highly suggestible type. If you need someone to rob a bank with you, just ask me: not because I am particularly stealthy (although I can do the splits with ease which I imagine would be useful for getting around laser light security) or inclined towards a sexy danger crime life, but simply because I'll probably be like "ummm yeah why not, I haven't got much on tonight" without even thinking about it too deeply. Indeed, the other day when my friend Jen was all, "My kingdom for a bounty bar!" I was all, "you know what? My kingdom, also, for a bounty bar!" And then I thought it would be way more fun to go to great effort to make my own, rather than just walking 200 metres to the dairy to retrieve one in a matter of moments. Jen is also currently crashing at mine, which means I was able to get both of us bounty bars while neatly using only one kingdom as bait. Or...something.

okay sure I could've tried to have been neater about this but the chocolate could've tried too

These are, charmingly, entirely vegan and really pretty cheap to make, although I confess I am a milk chocolate-adoring heathen and so used that to coat them, but all you have to do to keep them vegan is use a dark chocolate like Whittakers which has no milk solids in it. I found this recipe online and basically didn't change a thing; but it's worth keeping in mind that chocolate-dipping stuff uses sooooo much chocolate.

It might seem like far too much trouble to go to for a mere chocolate bar dupe, but there is a significant motivating factor: these taste so, so, so incredible. The coconut is all damp and squishy (there's no better way to describe it sorry) and the feeling of the firm crunch of chocolate giving way to it all is straight up heavenly. I truly don't want to be one of those people who are all "it's practically health food!" because that kind of talk makes my teeth feel like I've just bitten into tinfoil, however, as these are blessed with twelve hundred different types of coconut by-product, you take one bite and you can practically feel your hair getting shinier.

homemade bounty bars

from a recipe on healthyeah.co.nz (which is a v cool site!) 

one cup full-fat coconut cream (I like Fia Fia which has the texture of whipped cream and the highest percentage of actual coconut that I could find, according to the ingredients list)
three cups dessicated coconut
two heaped tablespoons coconut oil
pinch sea salt
two tablespoons golden syrup or maple syrup
two 250g blocks of dark chocolate (or chocolate of your choice!) 

Put the coconut cream, coconut oil, and golden syrup into a small pan and heat gently, just till the oil is melted fully. Stir in the salt and coconut and remove from the heat. Spatula into a baking-paper lined brownie tin (y'know, one of those regular sized rectangular baking tins) and refrigerate the mixture till it's firm. Then slice into even rectangles or squares and freeze (or if your freezer is tiny like mine and won't fit a damn thing in it, just put it back in the fridge and hope for the best.)  

Once you're quite convinced that the mixture is as solid as it's gonna get, gently melt the chocolate in a small pan, and carefully dip each coconut block into it, coating it on all sides, before resting it on a fresh sheet of baking paper to harden. Unfortunately the best way I can think of to do this is to literally sit each slice of coconut stuff in the chocolate and spoon more chocolate over the top, but you do you. Transfer the slices to the fridge once they're all coated. It's probably easier to melt the chocolate in two separate batches, just to prevent it burning while it melts. 

So very worth the effort. Honestly, can not emphasise hard enough how good the bit is when you bite through the hard chocolate into the soft coconut.

Literally nothing of significance has happened in my life since my last blog post since all I've been doing is apartment-hunting and taking the distressing heat of summer very personally. I mean, I do love summer! I do not, however, love being all "why is someone pouring water down the back of my neck how rude oh my god it is my own sweat, how vulgar and embarrassing...better tweet about it." But seriously, it's so, so hot. Sweaty is my one personality trait. Wait, there's a back-up personality trait: joy at having eaten a good 75% of this bounty of fake bounty bars that I made, while gaining mountains of praise for the mere 25% that other people managed to get their hands on.
title from: Blood Bank by high-pitched gentle-mongerers Bon Iver.
music lately:

Eliot Sumner, After Dark. Am 100000% in love with Sumner (fun fact: child of Sting and Trudi Styler!) and their music.

CHVRCHES, Lies. It's so fizzy and atmospheric and the beat is addictive and I'm soooo bummed that I couldn't go see them at Laneway on Monday.
next time: let's all keep our fingers crossed that it's some kind of cleaning-out-the-pantry type activity on account of I've finally found an apartment and need to, like, clean out my pantry. 

25 January 2016

now she's eating chocolate to induce sleep, in a chemical world it's very, very, very cheap

It seems completely unfair that so many property leases come to an end in January/February in New Zealand. It's the middle of summer, and we should all be in the throes of some popsicle-fuelled montage of laughing on the beach, ruefully standing in front of an electric fan, prancing about under sprinkler systems on the front lawn, punting an endless cavalcade of volleyballs into the top-right corner of the camera frame, and, I don't know, resting icy-cold cans of beer against our foreheads as the sun slowly goes down, letting the condensation run down the side of our faces and drip onto our jorts. 

Instead, thousands of us are staggering about in the humidity going from flat viewing to flat viewing to compete for underwhelming rooms against the forty-five other people at the viewing and wasting the best hours of our lives refreshing the flatmates wanted/for rent pages online. It is so stressful! And then if I even manage to find somewhere to live, I have to pack up all my belongings which is a deadly combination of boring and tiring; then there's the matter of funneling every last dollar you've ever breathed on into the bond for your next flat, then you either have to get charged for moving companies or you have to literally break every bone in your body moving yourself, and then you have to unpack, but also you have to do all the other things you would normally be doing in this time while doing all that, like going to work and brushing your teeth. 

Hoofing a large quantity of white chocolate gingerbread brownies is not going to help with this in the long-term, but it does offer a brief and delicious respite. I recommend it whether or not you're apartment-hunting, but for those of us in that boat, I really recommend it. 

Let the record state that I think white chocolate is easily the superior chocolate, followed by milk chocolate, then dark chocolate. White chocolate tastes of vanilla seeds, of pure creamery butter, of having a lucid dream that you're into the air and sinking down upon a thick, fluffy cloud which supports your entire body weight for an uninterrupted meta-nap. Dark chocolate tastes of obligation and charcoal being rubbed against your two front teeth. It's fantastic to bake with! I just don't want to eat the stuff en masse.

So with these brownies I took my beloved white chocolate and decided to pair it with ground ginger and brown sugar to create a kind of caramelly, gingerbready vibe. And the warm spiciness of the ginger against the gentle sweetness of the white chocolate is, I'm not gonna sugar coat it for you, an amazing combination. Like, just when you think the sugar is going to blowtorch your teeth into nothingness, the ginger comes in and lifts everything up, and just when it threatens to burn your throat with its intensity the white chocolate and cakiness softens everything.

On top of that these are really, really easy to make. Which, when you're feeling all fragile, is worth taking into consideration.

white chocolate gingerbread brownies

a recipe by myself

200g butter, melted 
one cup brown sugar - press down to make sure it's firmly packed in
two eggs
100g white chocolate, roughly chopped (or more! I just ate over half the 250g block that I bought for making these and so was like "i guess this small remaining quantity is what's going in the recipe")
one tablespoon ground ginger
one cup plain flour
one teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt

Set your oven to 180 C/350 F and line your usual brownie/medium-sized rectangular tin with baking paper. 

Mix the melted butter and sugar together, and - making sure the mixture isn't at all hot at this point - beat in the eggs. Fold in the remaining ingredients, and spatula the lot into the baking tin. 

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until it's firm and golden on top but still appears to have some below-the-surface squish. Allow it to cool a little and then slice it up. 

I was so delighted by these that after making a batch and leaving it for my flatmates (after inhaling like five pieces at once) I made a second batch to take to work for fun snack times, and even though I overcooked it slightly it was still really, really, really good. White chocolate and ginger, I ship them heartily.

Speaking of really, really, really good, the other thing this week distracting me from the horrors of abode-seeking is that, and it's really hard to not gasp until I faint while I type this, I made and wrote about a Crush Cake for Peter Gallagher's O.C character Sandy Cohen on The Toast, and Peter Gallagher himself read it and tweeted me to say thanks! I realised that is actually an incredibly obscure and vague run-on sentence, so let me distill it down to: I adore this celebrity, I wrote about this celebrity, and then this celebrity actually read what I wrote and thanked me for it. WHAT!

Isn't that just THE MOST, to say THE LEAST? But even if Peter Gallagher hadn't blessed me with his bestowal of gratitude, I would still have been perfectly content, because writing for The Toast is a majorly excellent achievement for me in itself and I feel like the story I wrote about Peter Gallagher/Sandy Cohen is the best one I've done yet.

But also: aaaaaaah!

And also-also: for those of you also schlepping about trying to find somewhere to live instead of living your truth this summer, kia kaha but...please don't take the room I want.
title from: Blur, Chemical World, from their 93 album Modern Life is Rubbish. Damon Albarn is frolicking about in a field in the video and there is a bunny present and just like, get out of here Damon Albarn. And take your beautiful face with you. 
music lately: 

DNCE, Cake By The Ocean. Who knew that a former Jonas Brother singing the aggressively jaunty chorus refrain of "Cake! By! The! Ocean!" would skewer my heart like this? I seriously can't stop listening to this song and even though I'm not sure if it's even that good I can't possibly bring myself to care. (Oh wait, it's definitely amazing.)

Lisa Stansfield, All Around The WorldSuch a damn classic and one of the very best bridges in songwriting history.
next time: I finally, finally bought another SD card for my lovely camera so can start using it for food photography again instead of using my phone. Knowing my luck I've probably completely forgotten how to use it, but I'm looking forward to reacquainting myself. 

19 January 2016

to loving tension, no pension, to more than one dimension

So I watched this video on quantum physics dimensions (yes, times are strange lately) and it explained how humans live in the third dimension, as in, we are 3D, and basically each following dimension eats up the previous dimension like The Very Hungry Caterpillar until you're at this stage where you've got all possible timelines and outcomes to the point of infinity but even that can be shrunk down to a small dot containing all the previous dimensions. The last week has been kind of like this. Things just kept happening that would absorb what had happened the previous day - David Bowie died, Alan Rickman died, I was a bridesmaid in a wedding, Pretty Little Liars returned...and that's just the stuff I feel like going into. I'm not sure if I'm explaining any of this very well, least of all the dimensions of quantum physics which I begrudgingly concede might take more than a quick youtube video to properly understand. Basically: wow, lots of stuff, every day. 

I hadn't been a bridesmaid since 2004 and this time around I was there to support a dear friend from high school. It was such a long, surreal day, but really genuinely beautiful and lovely and all the good adjectives and it was an honour to be part of it. I was away from Wellington for three and a half days; during which time my main achievement was discovering that for some reason during this visit Poppy the cat was outraged at how much she likes hanging out with me. 

the face of a cat who has just realised they've given too much information away

such begrudgement 

waves of disapproval emanating 

I made myself this noodle-y thing the day before I left for the wedding, but I was thoroughly naive in believing I would have time to write about it before then. This recipe was born from me running round the supermarket and being all "I crave garlic" but also "I really don't feel like trying very hard at anything right now". All this comprises is noodles and a series of things all fried briefly in the same pan. Calling the tahini sauce "satay" is a bit of a stretch, and indeed, feel free to use peanut butter instead if you want, but you get the idea.  

Green tea soba noodles have the barest hint of grassy bitterness to them which keeps things lively, tahini is all sesame-nutty, and the bursts of golden, sticky garlic are frankly the universe rewarding you for existing. 

This is one of those recipes that you can add a million different things to - a seared salmon steak laid across it would be wonderful - but is also extremely satisfying in its simplicity. I enjoy recipes like this, where it looks like there's not much going on but you get whammed in the tastebuds with flavour and texture. PS: fresh garlic is a little different from the usual stuff, it is all youthful and mellow and usually has a trimmed green stalk at the top; regular garlic is of course still good. And if you want to use different noodles, it's not going to ruin anything. 

green tea soba noodles with fried garlic and edamame beans, and tahini satay sauce

a recipe by myself 

45g/a handful of dried green tea soba noodles
three large cloves of fresh garlic, or four of regular garlic
a handful of frozen podded edamame beans
olive oil
two tablespoons of tahini
one tablespoon soy sauce
one teaspoon sesame oil
a pinch of brown sugar
a dash of chilli sauce
sesame seeds, to garnish

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, drop the noodles in and allow them to boil away till the noodles are soft and cooked through. Drain them in a colander or sieve and run some cold water over them. Set aside. 

While the noodles are cooking, slice the garlic cloves into thin slivers and gently fry them in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Carefully remove them from the pan and set aside and then tip the edamame beans into the same pan. Let them fry briskly till they're heated through and a little scorched in places from the heat. Finally, remove the beans and set aside, and proceed to make the sauce - throw the tahini, the soy sauce, the brown sugar and the chilli sauce into the pan and stir over a low heat. Add water about half a cup at a time and continue stirring - it will be all weird at first but it should thicken fairly quickly. Continue to add water till you're pleased with the consistency, and taste to see if it needs more salt, sugar or heat. 

Arrange the noodles between two plates, pile some sauce on top, then scatter over the fried beans and garlic pieces. Spoon over more sauce if you like, and then blanket with sesame seeds. 

Noodles! So good. This whole thing is kind of at its best at room temperature, eaten immediately, otherwise the tahini gets all thick and solid. If you have to eat it cold the next day from the fridge in a giant gluey mass it'll probably still be more or less excellent though.

Going back a few dimensions, the whole David Bowie thing hit me really hard, he was one of those artists that was present and meaningful throughout my entire life, you know? Labyrinth was the first movie that really had a proper impact on me at around three or four (and I maintain that Bowie in that was my first crush) and from then on he was just everywhere. I'm barely exaggerating when I say he gave off immortal vibes, like if he'd been all "yes I've low-key been an immortal alien this entire time and I will never die" I'd be like, yeah that checks out. But there he went. I have nothing particularly intelligent to add to the obituarial chorusing but through his personas he explored and played with ideas of gender presentation while being one of the coolest people on earth because of it, not in spite of it - we were lucky to have him.

found another cat at the wedding to befriend, in your face Poppy (love you Poppy)

If you need me, I'll be over here lying down while trying to process how every possible outfit I could choose to wear tomorrow morning counts as the start of its own potential timeline. I told you I understand quantum physics. 
title from: La Vie Boheme, Act 1 closer to the indefatigably ebullient and important-to-me musical RENT (from which this blog gets its name) 
music lately:

Craig David covering Justin Bieber's Love Yourself. Welcome back to the singer so smooth he's basically a human creme brulee. Actually that implies crunchiness, but the bit under that is really smooth, okay? And this cover is amazing.

Scritti Politti, The Sweetest Girl. Such an unnerving and stunning song, the sort that I will listen to on a loop five times in a row quite happily, even though not a lot happens in it.

Sia, Chandelier. It's not new but I've been listening to it a bunch lately, if you haven't seen the video but watching unsettlingly incredible dancing and choreography raises your heartbeat then I strenuously recommend you watch it.

Cold War Kids, First. It is just so, so, so good.
next time: I'm way overdue something sweet, tbh

9 January 2016

it is a new year I should be happy that I am still here

Yeah that's right, I ended 2015 and started 2016 with a blog post about a salad. On that note, happy new year to you all, I would've got this blog post out sooner in this infant year, but instead I've been involved in such rich, vibrant activities as "staring into space silently berating myself for not blogging" and "working a lot" and "staring blankly some more while unhelpfully self-flagellating."

But when I get it right I damn well get it right, as this salad shall attest. I worked New Year's Eve and the following day, which was all good - I have very strong feelings about money and getting it, after all - but it did mean I didn't get to see my two best friends Kim and Kate, who keep more traditional hours. We decided to solve this by having a get-together on my next day off, wherein we drank the literal champagne (Moet! And I know it!) that had charmingly fallen into my lap over Christmas, and toasted to ourselves and the year ahead. We also got to debrief about our 2016 tarot cards (sometime between closing at work on New Years Eve and opening at work on New Years Day I managed to fit in the world's quickest reading with them both) which was heartening because several cards made me nervous...but my card that represents the entire year is all about not being so insistent on doing everything by myself and not being afraid to ask for help and seeking out mentors and such which certainly has a soothing vibe to it that helps counteract the other cards with their subtext like "You ruin everything!" and "must you continue to ruin?" 

Earlier that week on a whim - the only way to fly! - I purchased a block of paneer, a South Asian cheese that delightfully holds its shape after being fried and has a fresh, calm flavour and a distinct lack of saltiness. I decided I'd make us three a salad to accompany the champagne, and this confrontationally simple recipe is the result of that decision. Just fried cheese, firm fragrant mango, toasty nutty cashews, and some leaves, and that's it. I'm not sure if this is really what you are supposed to do with paneer but it sure as hell lends itself well to these flavours; all that's really needed is some olive oil and salt and you have yourself an excellent time. 

paneer, mango and cashew salad

a recipe by myself

250g, or thereabouts, paneer
one firm mango
70g cashews
half a packet of baby kale leaves, or a few handfuls of your nearest green stuff (I had kale left over from the last salad so...yeah!)
olive oil
sea salt

Slice the paneer into pieces and heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil in a wide frying pan. Tumble the paneer slices in and allow them to fry till golden on both sides, which will take a few minutes. Not gonna sugar-coat it, the oil will sputter a bit but just try to dodge it and stick it out. 

Remove the paneer from the pan and tip in the cashews, stirring them for a minute or two till they're a little toasted and browned. 

Slice the mango into roughly even smallish pieces, and mix together with the cashews, the paneer, and the kale leaves. Drizzle over more olive oil and sprinkle over a decent amount of salt, stir gently and there you have it: a salad. 

This has that salty, oily, slightly sweet, sour, fresh, crunchy thing going on whereby it doesn't look like much but when you start eating it you just want to shovel it into your mouth for eternity. If your mango is particularly ripe you might want to squeeze in a little lime juice but it really doesn't require much.

Bringing me nonstop joy over the holiday season was the beautiful baby raptor of a cat that I was looking after for a friend: I mean.

 look at him



I'm currently in the painful throes of looking for an apartment in town to move into when my current lease ends but a large part of me is like, what if I run to the hills and live alone with five hundred cats? There is no way that can't end well? Look at his stupid happy little intelligent lion face though, honestly. 

I am not entirely failing at the maelstrom of resolutions that I set out for myself: I am eating vegetables, I am staying hydrated 2K16, I did drink some actual champagne. And I am going to be late for work if I don't publish this and since having a literal dollar to my name is another of my resolutions and I have been hitherto too sleepy to write this, I shouldn't overthink this moment and will leave you with a good selfie to provide you with bracing good cheer (she says, presumptuously...and yet accurately? And yet so presumptuously. But not without reason!) 

I got a long overdue fringe trim and the hairdresser used straighteners so I was briefly the shiniest.
Title from: Say Anything, Try To Remember, Forget. Say it with angst! 
Music lately:

Coco Solid feat Disasteradio, Slow Torture. This queen! Everything Coco Solid does is gold and so unsurprisingly this song is lush and sexy and poppy and cool as hell. 

Idina Menzel, See What I Wanna See I haven't listened to this LaChiusa musical in so, so long and it is electrifying. There's not a lot of it online but if you have spotify you're in luck. And Idina remains my idol for like, wow, the tenth or so year now. 
next time: no salad, for the sake of variety alone. 

30 December 2015

but i tell ya, it's gonna be a champagne year

the kale gaze

How do I know I'm getting old? I'm delighted that I get asked for ID when buying alcohol, instead of being righteously indignant, and you can barely make eye contact with me without me leaning in conspiratorially and saying "this year has gone so fast, hasn't it!" Luckily I have immaturity of spirit and a confusingly youthful face on my side should things get all too ancient up in here (people tend to think I'm 21 or 22, I am in fact staring down the barrel of thirty entire years old.) And how do I know it's nearly a new year? Because the talk of how fast the year has gone increases alarmingly, and one's thoughts turn to things like self-improvement and goals and horrifically hi-def introspection. 

2015 has been a year of surprises and changes; of staying broke, of things not going how I wanted them and things going better than I ever thought possible in ways that I still have and in ways that are now gone to me. But I have managed to finish it sleeping well for pretty much the first time, in the best job I've ever had, and somehow closer than ever with my two best friends Kim and Kate.  

The next year though, is going to be the year of the following for me - just a few low-key easily achieved resolutions, because I love to make things easy for myself, don't I: 
  • eat a vegetable but for real this year
  • drink a ton of water, stay hydrated 2K16
  • hustle more and blog harder and really do things with this blog because it's so great and generally just shine really bright
  • go to more fancy dinners
  • save money so that living paycheck to paycheck isn't the norm, and eventually so that I can actually save money to travel again
  • stay on top of the anxiety 
  • get buffer arms so that I am better at lifting the glass bins at work and also look powerful
  • give the illusion of being bordering-on-terrifyingly hot without making too much effort really 
  • move to a nice apartment in town that feels like a haven and then damn well make it a haven
  • try to not ruin good things or get stuck in bad things
  • know who I am and be peaceful about it
  • cook as much as possible since I know what kind of hours I work so can't use that as an excuse really even thought I looooove using things as an excuse
  • get a good liquor collection finally, like, seriously 
  • drink more Real Champagne
  • read more books
  • dance heaps
  • pay off my credit card debt (loooooool! But y'know, go big or go home)
  • keeping some form of planner/diary so I remember things more often
  • probably more things that I've forgotten about 
So it should surprise no-one, with this in mind, that my head start on the goals comes in the form of eating some kale. Which itself comes in the form of this very pretty salad.

I read about massaging kale in the Little Bird Unbakery raw vegan cookbook, which is where you put sea salt and a olive oil on your leaves and give them a good rub to soften them somewhat, I'm guessing because they absorb the oil as the salt draws out the moisture. Kale is combatively healthy and does have a fantastic flavour but tends towards a kind of off-puttingly hostile toughness of leaf; doing this process - despite making me feel like I should've asked my salad "was that good for you?" - does in fact help make everything more delicious and approachable. And it's not like you have to make eye contact with it, or indeed anyone, while you're doing it. 

And then, in case you're all, "just one noted superfood in this recipe? Why don't I just go eat literal garbage?" I've also included pomegranate seeds. These beautiful red jewels look incredible against the green leaves, and they provide a sourness that both melds with and uplifts the potential heaviness of the oil and salt. They're also crunchy! Which is fun!  

 not entirely convinced that pomegranate is real. What are thoooooose.

Quantities in the recipe are vague as, since this is summer (or at least, it is in New Zealand, where I am) and I don't want your brain to overheat, and also because you can increase or decrease things depending on your needs. While this would be delightful with some avocado, fried halloumi or crumbled feta added, as a complete salad on its own it's very excellent. I ate the lot for a late lunch yesterday (I know it's just salad but it was soooo hot outside and I could only face food that was 90% water) and upon consuming it I could practically feel my red blood cells smiling beatifically as they scooted around my in my veins.

baby kale and pomegranate salad

a recipe by myself

two or three handfuls of baby kale leaves
seeds from half a pomegranate (or a whole one! live your truth) 
five or six cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
quarter of a cup sunflower seeds or small nuttish thing of your choice
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
mint leaves
basil leaves
a tiny pinch of cinnamon

Put the kale leaves into a good-sized bowl, sprinkle over a pinch of sea salt and drizzle over a generous quantity of olive oil (but okay, about a tablespoon or so) and massage the leaves, like, just do it, all you have to do is rub them between your fingers and thumbs till they soften a little and change to a darker green. When you can no longer deal with this, stir in the pomegranate seeds, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, cinnamon, and as many mint and basil leaves, roughly chopped, as you like. 

Give it a taste and if you think it needs more olive oil and more sea salt then go hard. I feel like there's not a salad in the land that doesn't benefit from being oilier and saltier. 

I had a distinctly wonderful Christmas, spent largely with rad work people eating lush barbecue food and brining myself in generous quantities of Real Champagne. The weather was searingly hot and yet I managed to not really get sunburned, and both Santa and family members charmingly got some parcels sent to me in time so I had presents to open on the day. I'm also looking after a friend's adorable cat which means waking up to a curled up wee ball of fluff beside me every morning! It's all I've ever wanted! He's also fearsomely bloodlusty though, which made Christmas Eve a little interesting. The cat seemed to want to recreate the Gifts of the Magi story for me, presenting first an enormous dead rat, and then the world's vastest cockroach. I was like, what's next? Frankincense? Me? Is it me? But luckily a Christmas miracle occurred and the third gift was the gift of no more corpses.

I hope your Christmas and/or general holiday December times have been equally charming and way less rat-filled. I am going to be working New Year's Eve and New Year's Day and am quite chill with that, since there are worse ways to spend an evening than making drinks and earning money. I'm also going to try and eat more kale between now and the end of the year (tomorrow!) since I am the actual greatest hero this world has ever known.
title is from: St Vincent's achingly slow and gorgeously gorgeous song Champagne Year. It feels appropriate and even if it didn't it's still (threefold!) gorgeous. 
music lately:

Say Anything, I Want To Know Your Plans. This band which has been around forever has been one of this year's very very best discoveries for me.

Dark Dark Dark, Patsy Cline the lyrics to this are so sad that you should put a helmet on your heart before listening. Like, do yourself a favour and don't listen to it. (But do! But don't.)

Primal Scream, Movin' On Up. In summary, it's so summery!
next time: it'll be 2016! Laura's time to shine!  

16 December 2015

i see christmas lights reflect in your eyes

chocolate candy cane bark the herald angels sing

It's less than ten days to Christmas and it's times like these that one's thoughts turn to...how it's less than ten days till Christmas. There has been so much going on in my life and also in the lives of others that are plaited into mine and as such it has been a bit hard to blog with my usual aggression; or at least that's what I assume it is that's slowing me down? - every time I've sat down with my laptop and been all "hello old friend, we meet again, let's tango" I've instead got really lethargic and rapidly blacked out with tiredness and woken up an hour later drooling lavishly into my own cleavage. Oh sure, it's funny the first like, seven times! But now it's nearly literal Christmas and I still haven't got this blog post out. However, you are reading this, which I suspect means I have finally done it. 

So anyway, every year with charming self-absorption I present you with a list of recipes I've blogged about over the years which would also make excellent Christmas presents. And it's that time of that time of year again! Oh sure, material goods are an unmitigated delight, but unless you're surrounded by brats I am supremely confident that there is an impressive number of people in your life who want nothing more than to be presented with something completely delicious that they can tuck into with impunity, rather than, say, a small cow figurine or an earnestly hideous vase which they then have to pretend to feel joy about when in fact it is an insult to their carefully curated personal aesthetic.  

cornbread cookie squares with maple buttercream: aka found footage of heaven

Honestly though, say it with eat-y stuff. Whether or not Christmas is a thing that affects you or that you pay attention to, there's no harm in having a delicious arsenal of ideas for things you can make for people at any old time to express your gratitude and selflessness. This is just a time of year where gift-giving is impressed upon us as being really important. And so, here I am to help. Okay, yes, the rise of the dawn of the planet of the Buzzfeed has rendered this entirely superfluous but what my list has that buzzfeed doesn't is...me! So much me! It has actually been fairly unusual compiling all these old blog posts and reading through the million different people I have been, but the recipes still absolutely hold up (as does the writing, obviously) and there's not one thing in this list that I wouldn't love to be presented with, before presenting it directly into my own mouth. 

So here goes: the hungryandfrozen edible gift idea round-up.

Category One: Things in Jars.

We are no longer quite at Peak Mason Jar, and thank goodness tbh, but: jars will never die. Jars are gonna save you this Christmas. 
  1. orange confit (This is basically just slices of orange in syrup, but is surprisingly applicable to a variety of cake surfaces. And it's so pretty. And so cheap.) (vg, gf)
  2. cranberry sauce (this is stupidly easy and you should make it to go with your main meal anyway) (vg, gf)
  3. bacon jam (Best made at the last minute, because it needs refrigerating) (gf)
  4. cashew butter (vg, gf) (just don't drop your wooden spoon into the food processor) 
  5. red chilli nahm jim (gf)
  6. cranberry (or any-berry) curd (it involves a lot of effort but it's so pretty. Just like me.) (gf)
  7. rhubarb-fig jam (gf)
  8. salted caramel sauce (gf, has a vegan variant) (Salted caramel is kind of the cockroach of food trends, in that it could still be popular in a post-apocalyptic landscape where we all eat dust that has been milled into varying levels of granularity. Salted caramel in a jar is a double whammy.) 
  9. apple cinnamon granola (vg)
  10. strawberry jam granola (vg) 
  11. Marinated Tamarillos (vg, gf)
  12. taco pickles (vg, gf)
  13. pickled blueberries (vg, gf)
  14. peach balsamic barbecue sauce (vg, gf)
  15. berry chia seed jam (vg, gf) 

berry chia seed jam: this is my jam

Peach Balsamic Barbecue Sauce: give a fusspot a pot of fussy stuff. 

chocolate dipped brown sugar cookies: oooh

Category Two: Baked Goods.

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

Also first of all, my Christmas Cake is amazing. It just is: deal with my lack of coyness. Even if you decide at the last minute to make it on Christmas Day itself, it will still taste so great. 
  1. christmas-spiced chocolate cake (Also a good xmas-day pudding) (gf)
  2. chocolate orange loaf cake
  3. vegan chocolate cake (It's good! It's easy!) (vg)
  4. chocolate chunk oatmeal cookies
  5. cheese stars (make twelve times the amount you think you need because these are addictive and also great to serve as blotting paper for the inevitable copious liquor that happens this time of year)
  6. coconut macaroons (gf)
  7. chocolate macaroons (gf)
  8. gingerbread cut-out cookies (vg)
  9. coconut condensed milk brownies
  10. salted caramel slice (hello again Salted Caramel! Your persistence is as admirable as your deliciousness!)
  11. fancy tea cookies
  12. chocolate olive oil cake
  13. cinnamon bars
  14. coffee caramel slice
  15. everyday chocolate brownies
  16. cornbread cookie squares with maple buttercream
  17. cranberry white chocolate cookies
  18. peanut butter cookies
  19. secret centre mini-pavlovas
  20. avocado chocolate brownies (gf, df)
  21. bobby dazzler cake
  22. chocolate-dipped brown sugar cookies
Also, if you click on the link to the Orange Confit above, you'll see a recipe for the easiest, fastest fruitcake loaf. It makes an excellent present, for the sort of person who'd like to receive fruitcake. And it's dairy free.

secret centre mini-pavlovas

peanut butter chocolate caramel nut caramel chocolate peanut butter slice caramel

Category Three: Novelty!

This is mostly either homemade recreations of things you can buy from the corner dairy for fifty cents, or sticky-sweet things where you melt one ready-made thing into another. It's frankly the best category and you know it
  1. moonshine biffs (like homemade Milk Bottles!) (gf)
  2. raw vegan chocolate cookie dough truffles (vg, gf)
  3. lolly cake
  4. peppermint schnapps (vg, gf) (this is some harsh moonshine but also SO FUN. Weirdly, more fun the more you drink of it?)
  5. candy cane chocolate bark (No effort, vegan - well, I think candy canes are vegan - gluten free, amazingly delicious, just store it carefully so it doesn't melt)
  6. white chocolate coco pops slice 
  7. homemade cherry ripe
  8. mars bar cornflake slice 
  9. chocolate cookie dough pretzel things  
  10. brown sugar malteaser cardamom fudge
  11. peanut butter chocolate caramel nut slice
Delightful Bonus Category: Stuff to bring! 

A brief list of things you could consider making and taking to the next seasonal party in which there are heavy implications that you need to bring a plate and that it should be something amazing that people will actually enjoy. 
  1. roasted kumara with feta, walnuts, thyme and breadcrumbs
  2. very easy coffee ice cream
  3. fried tomatoes with garlic
  4. double cauliflower salad
  5. fried green beans with chilli and garlic
  6. pasta salad with broccoli pesto, mint, feta and olive oil
  7. fougasse bread
  8. earl grey and maple syrup cake
  9. cinnamon-golden syrup roasted butternut squash
  10. fried potato burghal wheat with walnuts and rocket
  11. wasabi cauliflower cheese
  12. peaches and cream
Whether or not this list is helpful, I'm honestly just so glad that I got this damn blog post done finally so I really am beyond caring. (Kidding, I care ever so much, like, in a completely uncool lacking-in-chill kind of way.) I'm working as much as I physically can over Christmas and new years, and will be spending the day with work family eating and drinking and eating and drinking and so on in that fashion. I can't wait, and while it would be lovely to be going up home to my family, spending my one spare day with people I adore and cooking a ton of nice food for them is something I am super looking forward to. However! Were money something I felt irritatingly mellow about, my Christmas list would look a little like the following: 

- a new leather bomber jacket (my current one is falling to pieces 100% literally)
- timberland boots (2003 called, and I'm ignoring it because I don't care if they're outdated) 
- Marc Jacobs Lola perfume (am never not cursing myself for using up all my supplies last year by calling it "baller deodorant" when I could've just used nivea roll-on) 
- a watch: either something very heavily masculine or something plasticky and stupid looking
- a set of pots and pans, preferably the kind that looks stupidly good in photos; I currently have very little in the way of anything 
- a handbag: my last one basically dissolved into the air within less than a month and I've since been lugging my earthly possessions about in a grubby tote 
- a candle that smells like cinnamon
- several bottles of fancy liquor so I can finally start my liquor cabinet: some nice gin, some sweet and dry vermouth, some fernet (it rhymes with cliche!), a campari and a bourbon...y'know, no biggie.
- A record player - nothing fancy, just something that I can literally play all my records on. 

Whatever it is you want for Christmas, especially if it's world peace, I hope you get it. I'm definitely going to be blogging again before Christmas and that all sounded a bit final, but nevertheless: get what you want! Get it! Go on, now!
title from: 2005's plaintive Athlete song, Wires. It's plaintive but it's still got legs, I reckon. 
music lately: 

Mariah Carey, Oh Holy Night, from her Merry Christmas II You album. That's right, she has other Christmas songs, and this one is classic Mimi. She sounds so good. 

The Wombats, Greek Tragedy. Pop! So poppy! 

Idina Menzel's Christmas album. She is my idol, and I am a completist.

Also: my dreamy summer playlist on spotify. Look, I could either list every song here or I could just link you directly to the playlist, but either way it's very very good and feels like sunshine on your shoulders. 
next time: no sleep allowed! I made some roasted asparagus with burned butter hollandaise which was amazing, however I also haven't made ice cream in ages and am feeling the need.