fancy plans and pants to match: hanging ditch, part two

Well hello there, and welcome to another installment of Fancy Plans and Pants to Match. This is an occasional segment of my blog where I break the fourth wall and turn to the camera with a rueful shrug to acknowledge that sometimes nice things happen to me as a result of me being the best food blogger in the world. Wanting to be informative without being irritating is the mother of self-deprecation, so if you're alright with this idiot dingus taking you on a journey: come with me. This segment is named for a quote from the stirling and spry Jimmy James, a character in the sadly underrated 90s sitcom NewsRadio.

So here's the thing: In October of last year I attended the opening of aggressively rad cocktail bar Hanging Ditch, run by old mate Benji Irvine and Andy Gray, and I wrote about their cocktail selection for you. It was a lovely night, and Hanging Ditch is now a fully-fledged addition to the snug collective occupying the Hannah's Laneway precinct: once a grubby old alleyway, and now home to Goldings Free Dive, Six Barrel Soda, Leeds Street Bakery, and much more. 

The pitch: Time has moved appallingly fast and it's suddenly late June, the upshot of which is the Hanging Ditch has an updated cocktail list for your winter imbibe times. I was invited to try some and to share my thoughts, feelings, and interpretive dance moves about them for you. 

talk about raising the bar (she says, apologetically)  

What happened:  The updated menu favours a more wintry vibe - cocktails best drank in our current icy-as climate. Having amassed some serious quantities of experience in some of the best places in town to drink; you know you are in safe hands with this team and that they are 100% not mucking around.
 

my review of A Year Abroad: "yeah!" - a broad


The drinks I tried included...

Hair of the John: Jamesons, tomato juice, cracked pepper, honey, garlic, Cholula hot sauce and Worcester sauce. A Bloody Mary made special with the robust flavour of Jameson's Irish whiskey and the mellow, floral sweetness of honey. My favourite is usually the Bloody Maria, which uses tequila in place of the usual vodka - there's something about tequila which makes it so friendly to salty, savoury flavours - but this variation was a revelation and a perfect start to the evening. A garnish of flamed rosemary added smokiness and herbal depth.

A Year Abroad: Papaya, Bourbon, Aperol, lemon, rhubarb bitters, albumen. As well as being incredibly pretty - a kind of rosy peach concoction topped with an airy cloud formed by the albumen (or egg white, in the common tongue) this tastes SO good. Aperol is like a gentler Campari - less sticky and bitter - and that plus the caramel sweetness of the bourbon is delicious against the lemon juice and zingy kiss of rhubarb bitters and the fruity papaya. I am a huge fan of classic sours featuring lemon juice and egg white - if you're not used to it, yeah it might sound weird but the egg white simply blends anonymously into the drink and creates the most lush, silky texture and thick froth. I know you've all eaten brownie batter or cookie dough while you're baking, so uncooked egg shouldn't freak you out so long as it's free-range and you're not like, allergic. Back to the drink though: OMG yes.

Quarter to Three: Beefeater 24, Picon, Yellow Chartreuse, Fernet Branca, Lactart. So much going on here to catch my interest - first of all I love Beefeater gin, secondly I was intrigued by the use of yellow Chartreuse since I only ever use the green stuff, thirdly I'm a Fernet magnet (not a magnate, alas), fourthly what even is Lactart? So! Lactart is this lactic acid extract stuff, a few mere droplets of which allows you a similar sourness to several spoonfuls of lemon or lime juice. This drink was fascinating - there's a lot of different alcohols jostling for position here but it was all incredibly balanced, with just the slightest nudge of mint from the Fernet. I liked how the bursts of orange from the elaborate garnish and the Picon were complemented by the acidity of the lactart - this is one hell of a drink, people.

The Muffin Man: Raisin Cognac, homemade gingerbread syrup, lemon, orange bitters. Just as the Hair of the John was the perfect kick-off, this was an excellently puddingy finish - cognac already has raisin vibes, so doubling down on that, plus the spice in the gingerbread syrup, made for a very wintry, richly flavoured cocktail. The gingernut biscuit astride the glass was rendered delicious once soaked in the alcohol. Basically this is the cocktail equivalent of sitting by a roaring fireplace while someone strokes your hair.

Also of note - the Resperation remains on the menu, which I described last time as tasting like that moment when the couple on a TV show that you love finally kiss after you've been waiting for them to do it for ages. I also tried some butter-infused 666 Vodka which was every bit as wonderful and up my alley as it sounds.
 

The Muffin Man? The Muffin Man

The best bit: great chats with Benji while watching him make all the cocktails; shout out to the bar stools for being stupidly comfortable with surprising lower back support. 

On a scale of 1 to Is This The Real Life, Is It Just Fantasy: Okay so as I said last time I wrote about this place, this gets a 1 out of 10, but that only means that while I had a fancy time this is definitely a place I hang out at of my own accord and drinks I'll buy for myself. That's a good thing! 

Would I Do This Again For Not-Free: have, and will. Can enthusiastically vouch for their negronis and daiquiris, by the way. 

Earnest Thanks For Making Me Feel Fancy To: Hanging Ditch, which you can find next to Goldings at 14 Leeds Street. They operate Tuesday through Sunday from 3pm till midnight and it's a damn charming place to hang out. 

PS: read all of the Fancy Plans and Pants to Match archive here! It's great. 

this town's a different town to what it was last night, you couldn't have done that on a sunday


I swear I ate and cooked best in my second and third year of university, weird though that seems - I mean, my first year was definitely full of lukewarm toast and trying to stay alive in a flat made of damp breakfast cereal held together with cobwebs (if it weren't for that vigilant spider army my flat probably would've fallen down. Thank you spider army, I respect and fear you still) - but by second year I'd hit my stride. Living in a marginally less cold and damp flat felt like occupying a palace and importantly, I had both the time and the means in winter to make a ton of stews and casseroles and soups and slow-cooked things. Going into the office-job life obliterated that, because there's no time during the day and when you get home you want feeding immediately, and going into hospo means I just eat when I can, and that might be 3am. But as a student: goddamn. All that free time during the day between lectures, searching out super cheap cuts of meat or soaking dried chickpeas because it cost less than canned, baking a cake so we'd be warmed by the oven's heat - I'm totally not nostalgic for that time, or anything, but I also don't want another winter to pass me by without somehow making the most of food that suits the icy weather.

(I went back to my very early days of writing this blog post just to make sure I wasn't making this all up and glorifying the past and if anything, I undersold it. I used to make pudding every night! In one of my blog posts from November 2007 I talk about how sick I am of blind-baking pastry for pies! That's how often I was making pastry by hand for homemade pies and tarts! Last year I literally did a blog post about cinnamon sugar on toast and a McDonalds burger. It was a difficult time, sure, but still.)

bread! stuffed! with three! different types! of! cheese! 

I believe it's without even the slightest bit of hyperbole that I say my life would be unmitigated and incomparable garbage without Kim and Kate, the two earth-angels whom I call my best friends. Remember that Because You Loved Me song by Celine Dion? "You were my strength when I was weak, you were my voice when I couldn't speak, you were my eyes when I couldn't see, you saw the best there was in me" etc? I never understood that song when it was first on the radio and/or everyone's mum by law had a copy of that cassette so it was perpetually in the background. I was like...is she singing to her boyfriend? Or is she a pet rock singing to their owner? Seriously, if you imagine a small rock with googly eyes stuck on it singing this song to someone it makes so much sense than a human singing it, so utterly codependent and clingy and bodily needy it is. It's definitely sung by a small rock.

At least that's what I thought, until my aggressively supportive and beautiful friendship with Kim and Kate. Then, at last, did I understand the lyrics to Because You Loved Me. ("You've been my inspiration! Through the lies you were the truth!") I'm like, ah, this song is chill and not at all hysterical. The lyrics are calm and normal.

So between all that and me wanting to get back into slow-ass cooking and, monumentally, Kate being very close to travelling through the UK and Europe for a month (excitingly for her, tear-stainedly fraught for the rest of us) I decided to make the three of us a lavishly rustic, simple lunch before my shift at work on Sunday. It all came together despite attempting a recipe I've never tried before, the upshot of which is, if I can manage to throw this together in the middle of three ten hour shifts then all you need is a passing interest in cooking and a small amount of motivation and you can definitely achieve some version of this yourself with massive ease.


Nigella Lawson's magical cookbook Feast inspired both the recipes I made - firstly, a red and gold root vegetable stew with turmeric and saffron from which I used a Tunisian meatball dish as a starting point. Kate is vegetarian and Kim can't do garlic or onions so my result ended up having about two ingredients in common with what was on the page, but that's how inspiration works, yeah? The second recipe, a Georgian cheese-stuffed bread called Nana's Hatchapuri, was more direct - I just fiddled with the quantities a little to make it more affordable. Speaking of affordable, feel free to leave the saffron out of the stew - I just have a ton of it around because I'm the kind of person who gets given food by people for my birthday etc (which I love) but in all honesty the turmeric completely does the trick as far as flavour and colour. I don't care about the tautological goldenness though, the doubling down was a pleasingly luxuriant note in an otherwise, let's face it, highly plain stew.

Anyway, both were SO GOOD. And somehow so do-able. The vegetable stew I made more or less effortlessly the day before and just left it on the hob, ready to reheat. The cheesebread - despite the lengthy looking recipe below - was made very quickly before Kim and Kate got to mine, and once I'd let them in - my hands covered in flour - I just shoved it in the oven while we joyfully mixed orange juice and Lindaeur that Kate had both bought and brought from the nearest dairy.

nana's hatchapuri (georgian cheesebread) 

my gently adapted version of Nigella's (who had already adapted it from a woman named Nana, so) from her book Feast

six cups plain flour
two cups thick, plain yoghurt
two eggs
50g very soft butter
one teaspoon baking soda
one teaspoon sea salt, or a pinch of regular table salt
one 250g tub of ricotta cheese
two large handfuls of grated mozzarella, like, the super cheap stuff 
150g feta cheese
one more egg

Set your oven to 220 C/450 F and place a baking tray in the oven to heat up. Put the flour in a large bowl, and mix in the yoghurt, eggs, and butter till a soft, sticky dough forms. I used a wooden spoon to stir in the yoghurt and eggs and then my hands to work in the butter; you end up looking like your hands belong to zombies, but it's very effective! Otherwise just keep on stirring. Add a little extra flour if it's toooo sticky and knead this in with the baking soda and salt, which should leave you with a springy, soft ball of dough. Cover and leave it for 20 minutes. 

Slice the dough in half and roll out both pieces into a rough oval shape around 1.5cm thick, although it's up to you, really. Circle, square, Mickey Mouse ears, whatever works. I recommend rolling them out on two large pieces of baking paper, that way it doesn't mess up your bench top and you can then slide it straight onto the baking tray when it's ready to cook. 

In the same bowl that you mixed the dough in - because, why not - roughly mash together the ricotta, the feta, and the mozzarella with the remaining egg. Spread this golden mixture thickly across one of the rolled out pieces of dough, leaving a few centimetres border around the edge. Carefully lay the second rolled out dough across the top of this - if a few holes appear, just patch them up, the dough is pretty forgiving - and roll over the edges or pinch them together securely with the prongs of a fork. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until it's puffy and golden and bready on top. Give it a few minutes before slicing into it. 



root vegetable stew with saffron, cinnamon, and turmeric

a recipe by myself, inspired loosely by Nigella's Tunisian stew in Feast. This recipe is vegan and gluten-free.  

olive oil
about four sticks of celery
three carrots
two parsnips
half a butternut squash, or one small crown pumpkin, or that quantity of similar
two tins of tomatoes
one cinnamon stick
two heaped teaspoons turmeric
a pinch of ground cumin
three tablespoons golden sultanas (or dried apricots, chopped roughly)
a handful of sundried tomatoes, chopped roughly
pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds, to garnish, plus any green herb you like - flat leaf parsley or coriander would be great here 

Using a large knife, finely chop the celery sticks and two of the carrots into small dice - it doesn't have to be neat, just keep chopping till you have a pile of formless orange and green. 

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan and tip in the carrot and celery. Sprinkle over some salt and allow to cook gently over a medium heat until softened. Meanwhile, chop the remaining carrot into thick cubes or half-moons or whatever you like; slice the parsnip into short sticks, and peel and cube the pumpkin. Throw all these vegetables into the pan and stir them, then add the two tins of tomatoes, the cinnamon stick, the turmeric, cumin, sultanas and dried tomatoes.

Add some salt and pepper, and bring all of this to the boil. Reduce the heat back to low, and then let it simmer for about an hour, adding a little water or stock if it looks a bit too dry. You're basically done at this point, but you could carry on simmering it for several more hours if you like, or let it to sit and then reheat it the next day - essentially, nothing can hurt this dish. Add more spice or salt and pepper if you see fit. Once you're ready to serve it, simply scatter it with pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds, and bring it to the table. More olive oil to drizzle over would be nice. 


Obviously softly sweet pumpkin and parsnip with earthy turmeric and saffron and richly tomato-y sauce is going to be wonderful, all hearty and spiced and twinkling with jewel-like green pumpkin seeds and golden sultanas, but the main attraction was obviously the cheese bread. Three different kinds of cheese? In this economy?

The combination of salty feta, the barging-into-your-mouth melty nature of mozzarella, and mild, milky ricotta is superb, and when surrounded by soft, warm, scone-like bread, leavened only by eggs and baking soda, it's celestially - almost stressfully - good. Make this, I implore you. My only other proviso is to grind over plenty of black pepper once you've sliced into it - the cacio e pepe vibes make it spring to life.


The three of us sat on the floor around my flatmate's amazing coffee table, toasted to ourselves with the world's cheapest mimosas, ate heartily, and cackled with laughter at ourselves, half in the funny-haha way and in the oh-my-god-what-is-life-I'm-breaking-the-fourth-wall-to-ruefully-shrug-at-the-studio-audience-haha way. And then I staggered to work, full of cheese and good feelings (one and the same, really) and safe in the knowledge that when I got home there was a billion tons of leftovers.

Extra delightfully, I got to dance with my two best girls last night at Dirtbag Disco, the fundraiser dance party for Ballet is For Everyone. If you've ever considered supporting a cause, this is a super nice one. Please keep Kim and I in your prayers and candlelit vigils during Kate's absence, although having consumed a large quantity of this hatchapuri already this week I see it filling the void that her presence leaves more or less adequately.

PS: If slow-cooked vegetable food appeals, then maybe consider similar blog posts I've done, about Penang Tofu Curry and Slow Roasted Eggplant and Butternut with Fried Cauliflower.
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title from: Arctic Monkeys, From the Ritz to the Rubble from their amaaaazing first album
_____________________________________________________________
music lately: Dirtbag Disco edition

A$AP Rocky/Drake/2Chainz/Kendrick Lamar, F***in' Problems. This song remains so addictive and the best thing to dance to.

M.I.A, Bad Girls. This song remains so addictive and the best thing to dance to.

Rihanna, We Found Love. This song remaings so addictive and the best thing to dance to.
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next time: all I've been eating is leftovers from this! But I will make something happen. 

eleanor rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been

I started writing this blog while slightly hungover after the Visa Wellington on a Plate launch party, and I'll finish it slightly drunk. Or at least that's what I thought two nights ago when I got in after work (and after a couple of after-work drinks); when I woke up on Sunday morning I realised I'd been distinctly less productive than how it felt at the time, and had to delete a very rambling paragraph where I tried valiantly to really convince you of the specificity of the tanginess of buttermilk. This is what happens when I miss out on my window of opportunity to write solidly! On the upside "The Specificity of the Tanginess of Buttermilk" sounds 100% like a lesbian novel set in the 60s that would get adapted into an acclaimed and beautiful but ultimately award-snubbed feature film, doesn't it? 

It was now a whole week ago that I made this, but it resonates still: a risotto containing not much at all but somehow still incredibly full of flavour depths and things of interest to your tastebuds. Walnuts toasted in butter, sizzled capers, slightly crisp from the heat, miso paste and buttermilk. 

The miso paste acts like an instagram filter, boosting everything it touches while still leaving the original risotto below fairly unchanged. The buttermilk, even more than the miso, is the magic ingredient here - it gives the aforementioned specific tanginess that echoes thick Greek yoghurt or sour cream, but somehow still gives a creaminess to the texture as well. It makes the richness of the browned butter more sharpened without making the overall dish too heavy. It's just really good. You end up with this aggressively simple yet deeply-toned dish that's as intensely comforting to eat - all soft and warm and creamy - as it is to make. Or at least, I find risotto comforting to make, all that endless stirring of the rice as it slowly, slowly swells and cooks becomes meditative, like white noise in food form. In Nigella Lawson's book Kitchen she refers to it as "the solace of stirring", and the result is threefold, TBH - as well as the cooking and eating of risotto being calming, reading about Nigella describing the calming nature of risotto is honestly the most soothing thing ever. 

buttermilk risotto with miso, toasted walnuts and capers

a recipe by myself

  • around 25g butter
  • a handful of walnuts (70 - 100g) roughly chopped
  • two tablespoons of capers
  • one cup of risotto-friendly rice such as arborio or carnaroli
  • three tablespoons of dry vermouth such as Noilly Prat, or use dry white wine (sparkling is fine! Just nothing too sweet) 
  • one stock cube of your choosing (I used chicken because that's what I had) 
  • one tablespoon white miso paste
  • three tablespoons of good-quality buttermilk (I used Karikaas - it has the texture of thin yoghurt. Some commercial buttermilk is kind of lumpy and weird. But also: aren't we all.) 

Fill a kettle with water and bring to the boil. (You'll be using this in a bit to top up the risotto as it's cooking.) Melt the butter in a saucepan and then tip in the walnuts. Once they're lightly browned remove them from the pan and set aside (I just put them on the plate I was planning to eat my cooked risotto on) and then throw in the capers. Once the capers are thoroughly sizzled, remove them to the same plate as the walnuts, and pour in the rice. Stir the grains in the butter so they're all covered and get a chance to toast a little, then pour in the vermouth - it will hit the pan with a hiss and smell amazing. Once it's absorbed, crumble in the stock cube and stir in the miso paste. 

Pour in some hot water from the kettle and start your stirring process - just keep stirring over a medium heat till the rice grains have absorbed it all, then add more. This will take a good twenty minutes and there's no way around it, but it's nice to just stand there in a trance over a warm pan. 

Once the rice is thoroughly cooked, all soft and creamy but with a tiny bit of bite, remove from the heat and stir in the buttermilk - adding more if you like - and tip over the walnuts and capers, scraping in any browned butter that has pooled under them. Stir in more actual butter if you like (I always do) and serve immediately.  

I tried turning the leftovers into arancini but they fell apart pretty well immediately (to which I was like "I can relate to this") but having swiped a forkful of the cold risotto before adding eggs and breadcrumbs and then ruining everything, I can attest to the fact that it definitely keeps well. The walnuts can be changed out for whatever nut you like, but I did choose them on purpose - their autumnal butteriness and soft bite is the only interruption I want in this otherwise formless bowl of rice. 

Back to where I started on this post, I would like to reiterate that the Visa Wellington on a Plate launch was super cool! I ate lots of gin and elderflower jelly and drank many chardonnays (I once had a dream about chardonnay where it was described as "buttery and rowdy" and I swear that's how all chardonnays have presented themselves to me since) and hung out with cool people and hooned much fernet and champagne at the extremely great 

Noble Rot wine bar

 launch afterwards. Never mind moderation, I'm about spending three weeks in bed followed by sand-blasting myself with glamour and fanciness for 24 hours. Better than any fancy event this week however was the fact that I finally saw a capybara IRL after being fans of them for many years, and five years on from my tragic (tragic, I tell you!) and fruitless wait at the Berlin Zoo to try and see them. There are FOUR of them at the Wellington Zoo direct from Paris - how sophisticated - and seeing their beautifully regal, yet utterly dingus-y faces today made five-years-ago me feel finally at peace. 

So calm. Like a risotto.

PS: If you enjoyed reading about this risotto and want to immerse yourself in the damn stuff, please consider considering this

Oven-baked Risotto

and this

Pea Risotto

that I've also blogged about here. 

_____________________________________________________

title from: 

Eleanor Rigby

 by The Beatles, although for many years I genuinely believed my dad wrote this song because his band did a cover of it and so my first introduction to it was hearing them play it during their Sunday band practices. 

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music lately:

Johnny Cash, 

I Hung My Head

.

 It has the most phenomenally beautiful - and immediate - building of piano chords, which are typical of many of the songs in his later collections of covers. (Kudos to one of the user comments on the Youtube video:

 "how are like all his songs about playing with guns going wrong")

The Cribs, 

Mirror Kissers

. Whatchu know about 2006 nostalgia? 

Joan Osborne, 

Right Hand Man

. This song goes OFF and I don't know how that What if God Was One of Us song became her only real big hit when this one is so big and hitty. 

__________________________________________________________

next time: I made a big lunch for my two best friends and I'm gonna blog about it! 

garlic springs up where you walk, bells ring out baby when you talk

a pile of battered, fried garlic cloves

I started this blog nine years ago and - five thousand percent understatement - it was a very different landscape. No Pinterest, no Instagram, the barest hint of twitter and facebook, all that obvious stuff. However, comments were everything. Everything! I used to be all like "oh nooo this blog post only has thirty/fourteen/ten etc comments on it, what can I do?" And mate, you could absolutely tell when bloggers didn't care a wit about you and were just trying to get clicks through to their own page, because you'd write a long post about how your only goldfish, who had also raised you like a parent through childhood and worked so hard to put you through medical school, had just died, and they'd be all "great post! Looks delicious! Check out my chocolate malteaser cupcakes photographed sterilely against a baby blue background!" It was 2007, okay. We'd just discovered cupcakes and polka dots. Bacon was as yet a distant fever dream. We commented, it was what we had. 

These days, I don't need blog comments to know people are reading - I get most of my feedback on Twitter and Instagram and occasionally Facebook and sometimes by holding my palms towards the sunset and closing my eyes intently and whispering my URL backwards three times. The comments I do get are usually something nice from a dear friend or a generally lovely message from a reader. The lack of volume means I really pay attention to them whenever they happen. 

And last week I received a comment that really got to me. Before I go any further, I hear what you're saying - be the bigger person! Be a literal grown up! Ignore it and move on! Well you don't need to worry, I did that. For five days. And now having got that out of the way, I'm allowing myself a brief foray into being petty. 


Dear Anonymous: 

I do have life happenings that have distracted me from this blog. It's called a job. It's called duh. I work around a billion hours and have a hilariously big rent and bills to pay, as do many people. To my great disgust I have to sleep at some point of each day so that doesn't leave me a lot of time or energy to buy food and cook for myself and photograph it and then write thoughtfully about it. And yet still I manage to get a blog post out every week. Because this blog means so much to me. You think I'm better than scone dough pizza? Do you know how delicious that pizza was? Do you know how exhausted and unhappy I was when I made it because I'd slept through my entire day off and hadn't blogged yet and felt worthless because I tie my up my value in the work I do for some reason and how pleased I was that I managed to accomplish that one small thing? Do you know how much I think about this blog and worry about what I'm achieving with it? Did you read the bit where the recipe was adapted from one I wrote for my literal published cookbook? Which should thus validate it somewhat for you? Did you read the bit where my goldfish toiled day and night to put me through medical school? Did you appreciate me trying to lighten the mood a bit here? 

Anyway, my main question for you, Anonymous, is: when are you going to get your act together? By giving me money? If you give me money then I'll be able to have more time to cook and write for this blog and pitch writing to other sites and finally redesign the hilariously outdated yet hopefully loveable look of this thing. I don't know who you are and thanks for saying that I have a lovely way with words. But ya hurt my damn feelings, Anonymous. I try really, really, really hard here, okay. That's all. If you're that worried about my priorities then maybe you should prioritise funding my life so I can write the blog you want from me. This is all I've got right now. 


Wow, awkward! Now that I've done railing misguidedly against late capitalism, let me caveat that (a) I adore my job and have never been happier than I am now in a position of employment except I wish I had more money but so does everyone so that's not a controversial stance, (b) I'M SO SICK right now with some kind of queasy-making, energy-sapping coughing-fit head cold so while I'm totally accountable for my actions, I'm not like, that accountable. 

Which is why I ate two whole bulbs of garlic yesterday for lunch. That may sound like a lot, even by a garlic lover's standard! But once you've individually battered and deep fried each clove, it suddenly becomes the most insurmountable task and you're all, why didn't I do this with five bulbs of garlic. I guess it's the same as potato crisps: if you said "I just ate forty slices of potato" you might raise some eyebrows but if you said "I just hooned a can of Pringles, salt and vinegar flavour" you'll receive nothing but envious sighs and sage nods of understanding.



It's hard to explain exactly but I'm always trying to undo layers when when I think up recipes: with this one I didn't have the appetite for a big meal and simply wanted a ton of garlic, rather than having to eat something else that had been annointed with garlic, if that makes sense. What if I fried the garlic cloves themselves so they became crunchy little morsels, like fries? This proved to be surprisingly easy. And monumentally delicious. A quick simmer in water to soften the garlic and remove its harsh, burning edge, a very quickly made batter, and a quick fry in a little oil. That's it! And in a charming piece of serendipity, the leftover batter itself, when fried, makes delicious little garlic-tinted pancakes, so you don't have to waste anything if you don't want.

But the garlic is the star: bite through the hot, crisp exterior and the centre is pure, soft, sweet dissolving garlic. You could argue that they're kind of pointless (you could do a number of things) but you could increase the number of bulbs and make a bowlful as a Netflix-and-chill type snack or scatter them through a salad or pasta or combine them with some other small fried thing like halloumi, or indeed, just use them to ward off your own sickness. I'm not going to lie: I totally drank the water that the bulbs had simmered in, in the vain hope of gaining every last bit of garlicky goodness. It was honestly delicious in a broth-y type way and there's no reason you can't save it for a risotto or soup or similar. The turmeric isn't exactly crucial but it gives a gorgeous golden colour and is also full of cold-fighting skills so you might as well include it, yeah?

crunchy golden fried garlic cloves and crispy garlic pancakes

a recipe by myself. 

two garlic bulbs (or more! You won't regret it.)
three tablespoons of tapioca flour (or regular flour) 
three tablespoons of fine cornmeal
one heaped teaspoon of turmeric
three tablespoons or so of cold water
salt and pepper
plain oil, such as rice bran, for frying

Place the whole garlic bulbs in a good-sized saucepan and cover, just, with water. Bring to the boil, and place a lid on top slightly askew so you let out some steam. Let them briskly simmer away for about ten minutes or until a knife stabbed at them suggests they're pretty soft. Remove from the water and put them in a sieve under cold running water for a bit so they're cool enough to handle. Slice the base off - it should come off fairly easily. 

In a bowl, mix together the tapioca flour, cornmeal, turmeric, salt, pepper, and water, to form a thickish batter. Add a little more water or a little more cornmeal if it needs thinning or thickening. 

Heat about a centimetre of oil in a wide pan over a high heat. Gently coax the garlic cloves out of their casings - this shouldn't be too hard although allow for the occasional delicious casualty - and drop them in the batter. Once coated, drop them in the oil and allow them to fry for roughly a minute each side or until golden brown and crisp. Repeat with the remaining garlic. If some cloves bust into pieces while you're trying to extract them from their casings just throw them in the batter and fry them anyway, it's all good. Remove the fried cloves to a paper towel or similar till you've done all of them, then, if you wish, fry spoonfuls of the remaining batter until crisp and dark golden. EAT THE LOT. 


It's like fried chicken, but it's garlic. It's like those mozarella sticks you can sometimes get from BK, but it's garlic. I wish there was another word instead of garlic that I could use to describe these but, uh, it's garlic. Garlic is so good. 

serendipity-licious

I'm so sick that I had to actually have a lie down after walking twenty metres to the fruit and vege mart around the corner from my apartment to get this garlic, so hopefully that is some indicator of the relative ease of this recipe that I was able to make it at all.

Okay, I do feel a tiny bit weird about that rant that I went on - I usually respond to that sort of thing a lot more privately by complaining about it to friends in real life or something. And I'm really lucky that the amount of bother I encounter online is relatively small compared to the tremendous amount that many people, including several friends of mine, put up with. But if you're supposed to be the bigger person and ignore everything that hurts you, does that mean people get to just hurt your feelings forever and ever and that's it? Seriously? You can't sell me on that. And I'm very easily sold on stuff. So you know it's a bad concept. You know what's a great concept? Individually battering and frying every last clove in a bulb of garlic, twice, and then eating the lot, and then lying down and binge-watching Miss Fisher's Charming Murder Mysteries on Netflix. Period procedural dramas are the paracetamol of television, and television is the paracetamol of life, and garlic is nature's paracetamol. Then have some actual paracetamol, which is the real paracetamol of life, and you're momentarily set, until the next coughing fit at least.

PS Some other recipes that I've done that I feel convey this unpacking of layers of flavour and texture that I'm really into but not good at explaining are: Garnish Salad and Browned Butter Ice Cream. Basically I just lie there and I'm like "yes but what do I want?" until the idea simplifies down to its purest form. Being massively sick clouds that vision somewhat but I came through!
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title from: Thee Oh Sees and their charmingly scuzzy song Grease. 
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music lately: 

Laura Lee, Dreamers. The bae Laura Lee is back at it again with her moody, swoony style of music and I'm so happy about it.

Craig Mack, Flava In Ya Ear. One of the most perfect songs ever, indubitably.
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next time: More scone pizza? I'm kidding Anonymous, we're good? Either way, if I'm still sick I'll be so mad! 

turn the music up way too loud, charge the pizza to the house


I have kind of a weird relationship with time, in that I'm never particularly relaxed and I always feel like whatever time I have is running out on me and that's all I can focus on. I think a lot of this has to do with my writing and trying to make enough space to do that and freaking out when I fall asleep instead, but I was like this before I was writing and even if I abandoned this blog today I'd probably still end up feeling the same way. Does anyone else get that? Like if you wake up at 9am you're all like "well it's 9am, the day is practically over and I have achieved nothing" (don't even get me started on the horror of waking up at 11am.) I mean, I remember thinking this as a child. There wasn't even any internet then, what was I worried about not being on top of? Anyway, on Monday - one of my days off - I slept till 3pm because I physically could not stop going to sleep, and uh, this was kind of horrifying to me. It's like...it's not just writing I have to do. I can't remember when I last did laundry! My room has not been tidied in forever which is in itself a source of stress! Six weeks ago I was supposed to start doing twenty minutes of yoga per day! I need to cook myself something so I actually have something to blog about even though I'm too tired to write! And it's 3pm which means it's basically tomorrow! Compounding to all this horror is the fact that it's suddenly the following Monday and I'm in the exact same position. 

Last Monday, upon waking, I somehow managed to briefly get my act together in a "I suspect there are worse problems out there than this you dingus" kind of way to make myself this scone pizza as a calming snack. One week later I'm finally spatula-ing together the time to write about it. This recipe is so easy and has a pleasing mix of so many comforting foods - not just the obvious two, scone and pizza, it also gives off cheese toastie and pie vibes. It is all good things. It is scone pizza. 


I adapted it from a recipe in my OWN COOKBOOK (yes, I know, and no, you can't buy a copy because every last one was sold and Penguin never republished it which means it's a cult underground collectors item, not a failure) because why not be inspired by yourself? The recipe in my cookbook involves a simmered zucchini and tomato sauce to go on top, from a book of recipe clippings belonging to my paternal grandmother. But this time around I had a couple of tomatoes in the fridge and half a block of cheese and immediately knew I wanted both in my mouth together at an elevated temperature. Melted cheese is 100% my idea of a good time. 

What you end up with is a thick, slightly crunchy and soft base, with the scorched sweetness of the magma-hot tomatoes and a hefty layer of melted cheese made moderately more elegant in a cacio-e-pepe kind of way by a grind of fresh pepper. I have until extremely recently hated black pepper, as it tasted like mouth-burning dust and nothing more, but I've come to appreciate its subtle sweetness and what it adds to a dish. Either that or my tastebuds are dying as I'm aging and this is my attempt at trying to feel something real. Little from column A, little from column B? 

scone pizza

adapted from a recipe from my cookbook, Hungry and Frozen: The Cookbook. 

200g plain flour (this is roughly two hastily-scooped cups full, if you don't have scales) (which I don't currently)
one teaspoon baking powder

25g melted butter
125g (half a cup) thick, plain yoghurt 
pinch of salt
two tomatoes
as much grated cheese as you like
cracked pepper

Set your oven to 200C/400F and place a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray. 

Briefly mix the flour, baking powder, butter, yoghurt and salt together in a bowl. Add a little bit more yoghurt if it's way too floury. Squish it together gently with your hands to form a soft ball. Tip it onto the baking tray and softly roll it out to form a rough circle of a couple of centimetres. Brush it with a little extra melted butter if you like - I didn't do this myself but it has just occurred to me now that it would be a good idea, probably.

Thickly slice the tomatoes and arrange them on top of the scone base. Grate over as much cheese as you like, and then some. Bake for around 20 minutes, till the cheese is bubbling and the tomatoes are a bit scorched and softened. Grind over some pepper. 

Allow it to cool for a minute and then slice into four and hoon the lot. 

Note: I, for some reason, had like two tablespoons of yoghurt left in the bottom of a container so just made up the remaining amount with milk and this worked perfectly. Consider yourself permitted to do something similar if you find yourself in this position. 


As with all food, it tastes excellent in bed. It's one thing to hang out in bed heaps and consume your main meal of the day in there, but sleep? In your bed? How troublingly self-indulgent.

By the way, I am trying to work on this strange thing I have with time, because it benefits absolutely no-one if I'm stressing constantly about it. I just don't know how to. So far my only technique is being frustrated at myself for being stressed, followed by frustration at myself for my frustration at myself. Also trying to actually let myself sleep if I need it without being too angry about it.


Without being too on the nose, I have, uh, bought myself some thyme. This was inspired by my Stargrazing horoscope for May in Lucky Peach magazine: 

"This season, for you, is about translating jittery emotions into healthy, productive action. Yer an original, Aries, so I’m into forking over an idea you can truly make your own: This is a completely excellent time to plant yourself a little herb garden with whatever you like in it (...) That dualism—embarking on a project that’s all yours and has tangible, visible rewards (LI’L PLANTS!), while also slow ride, taking it easy—is perfect for you, jitterbug. Pick up a few cheapo herb plants of your choosing. Care for them diligently, as a way of transmuting the care you’re unsure of giving yourself right now. See this attention and love as the same thing."

I mean, does that resonate or what. Thyme is one of my very favourite herbs and is also very pretty, with its gently tangled mass of tiny leaves, and I am so going to nurture this lil plant, and I guess myself as well. My first order of business: acknowledging that I'm actually asleep right now as I type this, and to let myself have a nap.
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title from: Blink 182, Reckless Abandonment
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music lately: 

I Will Never Leave You, from the very short-lived 1996 musical Side Show. This showcases the spectacular voices of Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner, and is one of those songs that's all like, ugh we have to get this stupid first verse out of the way so we can get to the AMAZING BELTING IN THE CODA and the payoff is thoroughly worth it.

Digital Versicolour, Glass Candy. This song is on the playlist at work and every time it comes on I'm like "woooooo!" I know, what fascinating provenance. It's just very mellow and hypnotic and good.

Sean Paul, Like Glue. I heard this song on loop five times in a row the other day and it was honestly the ideal way to consume this song. It's the sound of a warm evening in summer, without any of the hassle of having to be overheated.
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next time: my friend Rose gave me some old Seventeen magazines that used to belong to her mum and the recipes in them are so great and I seriously want to try one. 

you can start by having a chat and then a glass of brandy then I will start playing mind games


I'll often insist that I don't like change and that what I do like is, in fact, a good status quo to settle into, but I think what I really mean by that is that it's a bit sad when nice people go far away. I'm honestly always trying to change things, most of the time incredibly rapidly without considering any consequences. Or at least, I will have thoroughly overthought the consequences, and then I'll just be like "uhhhh what if I leap head-first into this and whatever happens after, that's ten-minutes-from-now-Laura's problem." This could be anything from spontaneously bleaching my hair to the entire state of my life at any given time. It's certainly not the most advisable way to live out your days, but it does kinda get stuff happening. 

Anyway I got to thinking about this (with some self-awareness but no real emotional growth or change) following two events: I recently bleached my hair in almost panicky haste, and also some super nice people who I work with went far away to travel the world for a bit. I have no idea what to do with a status quo except frantically push in the opposite direction of it, but when people are about to leave, I know exactly what to do: make delicious sweet things for them. That's how I ended up making this gorgeously dense fudge, bejewelled with brandy-soaked sultanas. I had, in a nice piece of symbiosis, nicked the sultanas themselves from work prior to this, where they had been lending their flavour to brandy for a cocktail we were doing over Easter. One of the people who was leaving - Brooke, a gem of a lady - suggested that I turn them into fudge at some point, and so it seemed like a nice way to sweeten up the last shift we all worked together. 


I don't expect you to have sultanas sitting around in brandy for the opportunistic thieving, but they can be very easily recreated by quickly making your own (leaving you, joyfully, with leftover infused alcohol.) You don't even have to use brandy, rum is an obvious contender here, or you could use some other dried-grape-friendly liqueur, or - honestly - leave the fruit aspect out altogether and simply make yourself a slab of creamy, gloriously plain fudge.

This fudge has the silkiest bite to it, like your teeth are sliding through cool water. It dissolves on the tongue with rolling caramel flavours punctured by bursts of eyewateringly boozy sultanas. The sweetness of all the sugar and the heat of the alcohol plus the generally deliciousness of the butter come together to make something astonishingly balanced considering it's, y'know, a rectangle of sugar.  And while it's not as comfortingly crumbly as super-traditional fudge but the incredible satin texture more than makes up for this.

brandy butter sultana fudge 

adapted from this recipe. It's really easy to make, I just do a lot of explaining in the method below, in case you're freaking out at how long it looks.  

one cup of sultanas 
brandy - something not horrifically cheap but don't use anything expensive either 
100g butter
one can of sweetened condensed milk (the kind that's roughly 395g in size) 
two firmly packed cups of brown sugar

Put the sultanas in a bowl and pour in juuuust enough brandy that they all get a go at being in it. You don't have to swamp them, but it's all up to you - after all, you can use the soaking brandy however you please later, so if you want more of it then cover them in more. If you're like "noooo my precious brandy" then use a smaller amount. Leave it to sit, covered, at least overnight, but to be honest you could probably get away with like, an hour, if you're incredibly impatient. There's probably some way you could speed up the process by gently microwaving it all, but I don't have one and have completely forgotten what to do with one so couldn't really advise there. 

Put the butter, condensed milk, and brown sugar in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring pretty much constantly, and let it all bubble away like there's no tomorrow until it reaches the soft-ball stage. What is this? Get a bowl of cold water. If you drop a small spoonful of the fudge into the cold water and it forms a soft ball of like, fudgey stuff, then it's ready. If it simply dissolves into the water or collapses into nothing, it needs to keep boiling. 

Once it's ready, remove from the heat - I like to stick it in a sink that I've partially filled with cold water - and stir aggressively for honestly ages until it thickens and you can see it starting to crystalise and set around the edges. Halfway through, stir in the drained sultanas. Reserve the brandy for your own good times. Usually fudge will lose its gloss and become rather crumbly as you stir but this one was a little different - it just thickened up considerably. When you feel chill about it, spatula the lot into a baking paper-lined brownie tin (or similar regularly sized baking dish) and refrigerate till super firm. Cut into slices of whatever size you like, and eat. 


The fudge went down very well with the crew when I brought it in and achieved lavish praise (oh my god, do I only do this for attention and lavish praise, not just to be nice? Does it even matter if we all still get fudge as a result?) Literally all I've been doing otherwise is trying to stay awake long enough to write this post, and listening to Judy Garland (I was going to say "through tear-filled ears" but not only is that anatomically inaccurate it's also troubling to consider, but what I'm trying to say is that she makes me majorly emotional.) However! One exciting thing has occurred lately: I had another crush cake published on The Toast. This one is for glorious Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda, currently crushing it in the gasp-makingly successful musical Hamilton.  Go me! (Really, go me. Back to bed. Go back to bed, me.) 

small cake, big crush

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title from: Roll Deep, The Avenue - only one of the best songs to come out of the year 2005 ever.
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music lately:

My Shot, from the musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Leslie Odom Jr and Anthony Ramos performing live at the White House - I honestly get aggressive shivers the minute this starts and can't stop watching this. 

Judy Garland, The Man That Got Away. Is there a duststorm happening inches from my face in this room? Oh wait no I'm sobbing uncontrollably at this. 

Soulja Boy Tell'em, Crank That (Soulja Boy) I dunno, I just really felt like listening to this. 
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next time: I reallllllly feel like making bread, so maybe that will have happened by the time I next am here?  

philosophy is the talk on a cereal box


In testament either to how good this granola is, or to what a monumental grub I am - why not both? - the last time I ate this granola was yesterday, in a charming tableau: I was on my bed, face smeared with organic coconut oil (it felt like a vaguely beneficial thing to do) and about to take a nap. I was, however, ravenously hungry. The jar of granola was the only thing I had to eat and it also happened to be on the floor by the bed. I sighed - so dustily unsatisfying, why couldn't I have a jar of cheeseburgers by my bed instead - and listlessly opened the jar to paw myself out a handful.

One chewy, buckwheat-rich mouthful in and I was all, oh that's right, I make amazing granola like it's no big deal. Verily, I began chugging it straight from the jar, which obviously-in-hindsight ended up with granola dust tipping out heavily onto my face and sticking to the coconut oil that I was thickly daubed in. This...this did not stop me. I kept eating it, while it was also stuck to my face, and like, I did shower, but it was quite some time later. If this visual doesn't impel you to make and eat this granola then frankly I understand completely.

This first time I ate it, I was catsitting for a good friend, on their wooden floor in a sunbeam like I myself were also a cat, eating it with almond milk and coconut butter, and reverently watching Beyonce's new visual album and masterpiece, Lemonade.


My takes on Lemonade are absolutely not required, but I will just say that it's one of the more exciting and beautiful and heartstoppingly good things I have ever witnessed, and whatever your thoughts hitherto on Beyonce and whether the music she makes is your kind of thing, you should 100% watch this. (Seriously: if you can sit through The Wall, you can easily make some time for this.) I was utterly transfixed.

This granola is largely comprised of buckwheat, which is super good for you and majorly gluten-free, despite the use of wheat in its name. I find this hilariously cavalier. Like what if a dog was all "I'm a horse. I'm not actually a horse, it's just the name of my species. Call me a horse!" That was an appallingly ineffectual analogy but I'm very tired so that allows me to get away with such things.)

But anyway - buckwheat has a pleasing crunch to it and that same kind of non-committal I-am-your-breakfast flavour that oats have, making it an ideal background to whichever direction you'd like to take your granola in. I decided to have coconut be a major player, as if it were as important as the buckwheat itself rather than just a mixed-in secondary thing, if that makes sense. I'd been given some dried cranberries and so it seemed a reasonable idea to add them to it, and they work beautifully - little bursts of sour-sweet liveliness amongst all the mellow coconut. This is very, very easy to make and gives you a great big jarful. To make the coconut butter that I had sprinkled on top of it, just place two cups of toasted coconut chips in the food processor and blitz them for ages and ages until you're scared that your processor will blow up, at which point let it cool down, and continue on until you've got what looks like peanut butter, but tastes like white chocolate. I let it firm up and harden, which made it even more like chocolate. It was a very good time.

buckwheat, cranberry and cinnamon granola

a recipe by myself

two cups hulled buckwheat
half a cup LSA mix (or other similar ground up thing, like plain ground almonds) 
one cup coconut chips/shredded coconut
one cup dried cranberries
two teaspoons of cinnamon but feel free to add more 
one cup mixed nuts and seeds, eg walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds etc, all roughly chopped
two tablespoons chia seeds (optional

Put the buckwheat in a large bowl or measuring jug and cover with water. Leave to sit for about an hour, by which point the grains should have swollen up and absorbed a lot of the water (and feel free to top it up if need be.)

Set your oven to 130 C. Drain and rinse the buckwheat in a sieve, then spread fairly evenly in a thin layer on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Pop the tray in the oven and leave it for about half an hour. Put everything else except the cranberries and chia seeds onto the tray, turn the oven off and let it toast slightly in the remaining heat of the oven (or you can just leave it there cooking for another 20 mins, this is just my small attempt at being conscious of power usage and stuff.)

Stir in the cranberries and chia seeds if using, add more of anything that you feel like it needs more of, and then tip into a large jar. 


This is the cat I got to hang out with. He's the same one I was looking after over Christmas and he is a character. I was incredibly grateful however that this time he did not bring me any offerings of rat. 

look at this snug little piglet


Oh yeah, and I bleached my hair the other day and instead of becoming some kind of platinum goddess it turned peach, for the sake of my poor hair I've decided to roll with it for a while though. No less than three separate people have been all "Debbie Harry!" at me though so I am now delighted with it. 
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title from: What I Am, by Emma Bunton, aka Baby Spice. It's soooo nineeetieeeeees and so great. 
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music lately

Cream, Prince. Like many, I was massively saddened by his recent death. This song hasn't got any particular significance (I do remember dancing to it in a club in Greece one time I guess) but ugh it's brilliant. So brilliant.

LEMONADE. Find it. 
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next time: I made amazing fudge. AMAZING. You can make it too. 

pile on many more layers, and i'll be joining you there

three chocolate cakes sandwiched together with cream cheese icing and crushed up creme eggs and you can't see it but there's also an implied *painting nails emoji*

Well, Mars may be in retrograde and my April tarot card may be the tarot card equivalent of a heavy resigned sigh, but: ya girl is out here being thirty finally. (She says, quite thirty-ish-ly.) It seems only right that the first blog post I do after my birthday is for a birthday cake, yeah? Not my own, but instead one I made for my pal-and-colleague's girlfriend's 21st, because that's a thing I do sometimes. Such a momentous occasion and an honour of a task calls for something a little no-holds-barred, and with the simple brief of "Cadbury Creme Egg" I set to work on what turned out to be this three layer masterpiece. Being the dingus I am, I stupidly only took a few cursory snaps of it on my phone rather than sitting it down and lovingly photographing it with my proper camera, but I was so pleased with the results - like, look at that thing! It's beautiful! - that I decided to blog about it anyway, hasty photos and all. Who knows when you, yourself, might need to make a three layer creme egg cake!

champagne for my real friends

As for my birthday, I won't sugar-coat it for you: it was wonderful! It started when the clock ticked over to midnight the night before because I was still working; however all the hugs and frolics made it fun and I liked that I got to catch my birthday in the act, right as it started, without wasting a drop of it. As someone who wastes a lot of time fretting about wasting time, that was nice. The day proper had a professional hair wash and straighten like I am a fancy rich woman who just does that, real champagne, delicious brunch, the receiving of exciting gifts like tequila and a gilded bowl and Lana del Rey vinyl and a rather gobsmackingly beautiful record player; rewatching Once More With Feeling; a phone call home where tales of my birth and incredulity at the passage of time since then were recounted, and then lashings of wine and platters and selfies with beauties at the place where everybody knows your name (yeah, that's right, I went back to work to hang out on my birthday, that's how much I like the place.)

a bad but maybe useful photo of the three layers waiting to be iced

So, the cake! Oddly enough it was incredibly un-stressful to make - I made it in my mornings between doing wall-to-wall shifts at work and was still generally very serene the entire time. The mixture generously makes three moist, rich cakes with near-perfect tops for stacking and icing (I sliced a bit off one to make it super evenly flat, and this is how I know it tastes extremely good.) The icing of it is also very straightforward, and in fact the hardest thing about it is getting your hands on some creme eggs. I was going to ice the whole lot like a more traditional cake but decided to leave the sides nakedly exposed with the icing tightly spread into every gap a la momofuku - it's actually much easier, and that way you can see the cakes themselves in a "you're damn right this cake is three layers tall" kind of way and it's all rakishly messy yet neat at the same time. 



I could've gone for a more hardcore filling but decided that the tang of the cream cheese would gently counteract the bone-dissolving sweetness of the fondant inside the eggs while still showcasing them. Honestly, the more novelty involved the more serious and thoughtful you have to be. This cake is so majestic and tall and the creme eggs look so cute all halved and nestled in together that you really don't have to worry about any further decoration but there's also nothing stopping you - my one concession was to quickly melt a caramac bar and pour it onto the top layer to echo the look of the eggs' filling, but it's not that necessary.

These recipe instructions are long as hell, I grant you, but it's honestly more or less chill. I just like to reeeeally explain stuff. As I point out in the recipe, I only had two caketins so baked two layers at once followed by a third, and it all worked out. Also, this would be easier with a cake mixer probably but I used a mere wooden spoon and honestly didn't even do that great a job of creaming the butter and sugar and it STILL worked out fine so - let's all just breathe.

triple layer creme egg cake

I made the actual cake itself by following the recipe from this site pretty well to the letter; all the random measurements are a bit of a faff but the cake same out perfect so I'm happily and trustingly passing it on to you. I deviated and made my own icing, if you wanted to take this cake in a whole other direction you could use whatever filling and icing you like. It's a very good starting point.

cake:

one and a half cups good cocoa powder
one and a half cups boiling water 
one tablespoon instant espresso powder (or plain instant coffee if it's all you can find)
three quarters of a cup of sour cream
one tablespoon vanilla extract
375g soft butter
two and a half cups sugar
three large eggs
one and three-quarter cups plain flour
one and a quarter teaspoons baking soda
a pinch of salt

Take three 20cm springform caketins and line the bases with baking paper. Grease the sides with butter and sprinkle a little cocoa over them, shaking the tins about till they're fairly evenly covered with a cocoa dusting. Set your oven to 180 C/350 F. 

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the cocoa, coffee powder, water, and sour cream till smooth. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together till creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time till thoroughly incorporated, then add about a third of the flour and baking soda (you're gonna want to sift them if you're going to all this trouble, the last thing you need is baking soda lumps) along with the cocoa mixture in alternating quantities, mixing till it's a suddenly-enormous dark, smooth chocolatey batter. 

Divide the batter evenly between the three cake tins, smoothing down the tops. Place them all in the oven and bake for thirty or so minutes, rotating their positions on the oven shelves halfway through to ensure even baking. If you only have two pans, then just bake two cakes using 2/3 of the cake mixture, then while they're cooling, put the remaining third of the batter in one of the used cake tins and bake that after. This is what I did and it was totally fine. 

Allow the cakes to cool completely. 

Icing: 

100g soft butter
500g cream cheese (this sounds like a lot but it's just two of those Philadelphia packets) at room temperature
two cups icing sugar, but have more just in case
five or so creme eggs (perhaps grab a few extra in case anything goes wrong.) 

Make sure both the butter and the cream cheese are soft, and your icing sugar isn't lumpy, and then just mix the hell out of all three ingredients till you have a ton of icing. 

Assembly

Slice the peaked tops off any of the cakes if they've risen too much, so that they're all more or less flat. Place one cake on your chosen serving plate, and place a good dollop of icing in the centre. Spread it out fairly evenly using the side of a knife. Unwrap one creme egg, roughly chop it, and sprinkle/drop the whole lot evenly on top of the icing. Then place another cake layer carefully on top. 

Don't worry if there are massive gaps between the layers, we'll take care of that later. Repeat this process with the next layer of cake and another egg. 

Finally, put the top layer of cake on and spoon most of the remaining icing on top. You want a decently thick, even layer on here. Now, using the side of the knife, smear remaining icing into any gaps along the sides, running the knife's side around the sides of the cake to press it all in and to create a messy yet smooth look. Does that make sense? You kind of want the cake to look like it has just fallen out of a cylinder. Halve three creme eggs and arrange them, cut side up, on top of the cake. I melted a caramac bar and drizzled it into the centre just to add to the creme egg look, but it's not essential. You now have a damn creme egg cake. 



So I ate a bit of cake off-cuttage and a lot of icing and loved it all, but in order to strike real faith in your hearts about this recipe, let me quote the actual recipient of the cake, the birthday lady herself: "Argh it was amazing! With all of the layers and all of the creaminess and chocolate and just the fact that a cream egg could be transformed into a cake. Super awesome and delicious". 

I had a lot of fun making this cake and it was such a nice opportunity; and should you ever be called upon to make a fancy big cake I definitely recommend this one. If creme eggs are emphatically not your jam, I think this would be amazing with roughly chopped caramel-filled chocolate covering it with the caramel dripping everywhere; or with smashed up oreos, or with milk chocolate melted and drizzled all over the top, you see what I mean? For an enormous time-consuming cake made to a very specific brief it's really quite versatile. 

what a cute 30 year old.

Finally: fun birthday fact! It turns out that if you say "Happy Birthday" to me I'll immediately say it back to you without thinking. I'm not sure if it's cute or weird or both (the Laura Vincent Story) but it's what my brain has decided is a fantastic reaction and I can't break it. Not that I  - or indeed, you - have to worry about it for another year. Happy birthday! 
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title from: Pink Floyd, Shine On You Crazy Diamond. I may not be inspired by Pink Floyd to write poetry anymore as I was in my teens - for which we can all be relieved - but this song still goes off. Very slowly. And what an imperative in that title! 
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music lately: 

Something To Sing About, from Once More With Feeling. As I said, on my birthday I rewatched this, the musical episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Joss Whedon can be ever so Joss Whedony but I'll never deny the incredible cleverness that went into writing this episode. All the songs are brilliant and Something To Sing About is 100% NOT the best place to start if you don't know the story because of the massive spoilers and lack of context but it's still my favourite and you should watch it anyway. Buffy's eyes! The discordant wobble when she sings "heaven!" Spike's half smile when he sings back at her! The time signature changes! I died. 

By My Side, Godspell. I busted out my copy of the original broadway cast recording of the musical Godspell on vinyl and while it hilariously does not hold up, the music is still endearing and By My Side is still one of the most beautiful songs ever written. 

Penguins and Polarbears, by Millencollen. Couldn't say why, but I truly adore pop-punk singers when they sound completely congested, which Millencollen delivers upon handsomely. If the lead singer makes you want to swallow an antihistamine for your own safety, then chances are I'm all over it. (There's a point during the Green Day Bullet in a Bible concert performance of Brain Stew where I'm pretty sure lead singer Billie Joe is literally just dribbling incomprehensively and I love it.)
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next time: I think I mentioned last time that I made homemade matcha mayonaise but I also made this awesome granola stuff. Either way: deliciousness awaits you.