21 January 2015

if you're one of us then roll with us

adorable and slightly complicated, just like me

So if the brief you've given yourself is "food that will feed yourself and a significant babe and be impressive but not too over the top and look rad but not intimidating and be delicious but also interesting and be filling but not send you immediately to sleep and will go with beer or literally whatever alcohol you just bought from the corner dairy", I have you quite, quite covered here. I made these last week in response to said brief, but have taken forever to blog about them owing to tiredness, busy-ness, and uselessness. But the greatest of these is uselessness. (That was an attempt at a bible pun, I'm not that hard on myself - oh no wait, I actually am, now that I think about it.) Seriously though, they're so good and I want to make them all the time just for myself, let alone other deserving parties, while the weather is sunny or thereabouts and eggplants are not wince-makingly expensive: grilled eggplant rolls with feta, pomegranate, and mint. 

The fiddly bit comes from having to toil through frying up all the slices of eggplant first. The actual rolling up part is weirdly easy, perhaps because it's okay if these end up looking a tiny bit tumbledown and if some of the filling falls out (which the pomegranate seeds are wont to do), as they're made to be gracelessly eaten by hand in a very I'm-a-carefree-dreamboat-in-high-summer kind of manner. 

well hello there

I'm a bit all-a-flutter because I'm heading up to Auckland on Sunday for Laneway festival the following day, I have not been since the very first year it was here in NZ and it's so very exciting. Cool festival costume to decide upon! Cool festival costume to frantically change my mind about seven times! Amazing musicians to see! Fancy old Auckland to feel like a gawky provincial rube in! Friends! And then my dad and brother share a birthday a couple of days later (how considerate) and since I was working here over Christmas I'm totally looking forward to being able to at least be up home for that. And also to try embarrassingly hard to make my parents' cats like me. But like really the line-up for Laneway this year is completely dreamy and I can't wait to sway under the setting sun to FKA Twigs and St Vincent (good name, that) and Angel Olsen and to try to not dissolve from said dreaminess in the process.  

this makes enough filling to eat heaps of as you go AND fill the eggplant slices AND stir the leftovers into a bulghur wheat salad, praise Beyonce.  

Am also all-a-flutter over these eggplant rolls because they are just hellaciously delicious. It's loosely based on a recipe from Nigella Lawson's wonderful and underrated book Forever Summer, and the pomegranate seeds were my idea - their juicy fragrance and popping candy texture is amazing against the creamy feta and the oily, soft, scorched eggplant. It brightens it up no end and importantly, looks kinda gorgeous - I went on for a bit in my last blog post about how jewel-like and magical pomegranate seeds are, and that opinion is no less relevant here. As well as adding glorious flavour and texture, you sprinkle these damn beauteous seeds over the serving plate and it instantly makes it look like you've casually garnished your meal with actual twinkling rubies. I don't know, maybe I'm just very easily impressed. By garnish. But still.

 mate.

grilled eggplant rolls with feta, pomegranate, and mint

adapted from a recipe in Nigella Lawson's book Forever Summer. Serves two. Way easy to increase proportions, obvs.

one eggplant
one pomegranate
120g (or so) feta
two tablespoons olive oil plus extra for frying
three tablespoons of mint leaves, finely chopped
a pinch of cinnamon
a pinch of sumac
salt, to taste 

Slice the eggplant as finely as you can manage lengthways. There's no easy way around this, but if you faff it up somewhat you can sort of stick two half-pieces together and roll them up so it's all good. 

Mix together everything else in a small bowl with a fork, roughly mashing the feta as you go. Reserve some pomegranate seeds and mint for scattering over the serving plate. 

Heat a heavy pan over a high heat, and brush each slice of eggplant on both sides with a little olive oil. Place a few slices next to each other in the pan, and allow to get browned and softened before turning over to cook on the other side. It doesn't matter if they're perfect, as long as they're not, like, raw. Once you've done all of them, lay a piece of eggplant on a board, place a small spoonful of the feta mixture at one end, and roll it up lengthways. Place it on a serving plate and move onto the next. It doesn't matter if they're a bit roughly done or if bits of the filling fall out, because...it's all so delicious. Carry on until all the eggplant slices are used up, sticking two together and carefully rolling them into one roll with any scrap slices if you need to. Scatter with the mint and pomegranate, drizzle over a little more olive oil if you like, and you're done.  

 maaaate.

Also to hark back to something I mentioned in my last blog post, I'm still in a "moving house soon" state, which is going to come really rushing in on me when I get back from Auckland next week. I'm sensibly approaching this life-changing event by completely ignoring the concept of packing my possessions into boxes and instead drifting about on Pinterest finding articles with titles like "You'll Love These Forty Exciting Ways With Fairy Lights" and "29 Cosy Bedroom Concepts You Can Make With Just Paper Cups and A Prayer." Just being my usual inspirationally sensible and pragmatic self.

Speaking of sensible and pragmatic I think I'm literally addicted to dying my hair with semi-permanent colours, and since my hair is so pugnaciously healthy and strong it seems to be taking this colourful thrashing quite well.


Currently vibing with smudges of pinky blue amidst icy blonde, and next up I think I'm going to go for minty green, maybe with pink tips? It's so fun! (Despite what my blankly distressed face in this photo would suggest, that's just my Strongly On Brand Lack of Smile.) Everyone, go dye your hair! Or at least give a jaunty and affirmative "nice hair!" to someone having fun dying theirs! Making sure they catch your pleasant drift and it doesn't sound like you're cat-calling them lasciviously!
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title from: Kesha, We R Who We R. I sodding love this gal. She's wonderful. 
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music lately: 

Drake, Headlines. Here's what I have to say about Drake: Draaaaaaaaaake.

The Libertines, Can't Stand Me Now. This song is kinda sad and adorable at the same time, with its push-pull and "no you've got it the wrong way round" and it's both dated and ageless which is a completely lazy way of describing it but I care not.

Lorde, 400 Lux. "I'd like it if you stayed..."
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Next time: I don't know! Maybe I'll make something cool while I'm up home! Maybe I'll be too busy being uncool in front of the cats. 

12 January 2015

and my eyes more red than the devil is

 oh, just casually eating a bowl of rubies for lunch to absorb their power, you? 

Ya girl is moving house again! 2014 was a year of four different addresses, so I'm tentatively hoping this time things are even marginally more settled, but if not, at least I'm used to it? I'm really looking forward to properly unpacking all my stuff when I slide into my new address in early February, and and am going to try sooo embarrassingly hard to make my room all dreamy and tumblr-ish (meaning fairy lights and sheer, draping fabrics. It will very likely be a tacky mess. But it'll be my tacky mess.) I am less looking forward to trying to spatula together a bond payment from behind the couch pillows of my bank account, but hopefully it all comes together. And in what is a coup for my co-dependency (I guess I also have coup-dependency, now that I think about it) the new digs will be just around the corner from where I'm currently lodging with one of my best friends, so I can still visit all the time. And continue my mission to become best friends with their cat Ariel. We're currently on a first name basis kind of thing, although over Christmas we did have a nap together and it was without exception the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me. 

I see red, I see red, I see red 

So, I am trying very hard to not spend any money that doesn't urgently need to be spent in anticipation of all the costs involved in moving house. I immediately bought a pomegranate after deciding this, but at least I put it to good use in this amazing salad, rather than how I usually treat spontaneous luxurious food purchases: gaze at it reverently for days, not daring to actually eat it, until it is completely withered and decayed and implodes at the slightest touch. (I also bought myself a coffee today but I admitted it so you can't scold me now.) Anyway, my dear flatmates had made this gorgeous tomato and pomegranate salad from Ottolenghi's newish cookbook Plenty More, and generously shared it with me. It was the kind of perfect deliciousness where you know you're going to try recreate it at the nearest possible opportunity, and so here we are.

This combination is glorious, so juicy and sweet and surprising and sunny, with the blissful crunch of pomegranate and the soft, juicy tomato and a tiny pinprick of smoky oregano and a dressing made with lip-smackingly sour pomegranate molasses and olive oil. And it looks like you're eating a bowl of damn rubies, I swear - so glossy and red and glowing. It's just the prettiest. While it causes me deep sighs to have to dice up all those tomatoes, keeping everything small means you can't tell where one ingredient starts and another ends and makes the pomegranate just as much of a star as anything else, instead of a garnish. It's just spectacular, okay. I love being surprised by food in the same way that I love being surprised by music - you know when you hear a new song and suddenly think yes, how did this song not exist in my life and I can't believe someone brought it to life out of thin air just when I thought all the songs that could possibly exist had already been written. Food can be like that too.


tomato and pomegranate salad

a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi, from his book Plenty More

I've left his recipe pretty much as is here, but like, the tomato selection at the supermarket was no fun, so I made do with some cherry tomatoes, vine tomatoes, and regular tomatoes. The dressing is so full of life that it'll embiggen some fairly pale produce, but try to make sure at least some of the tomatoes that you're using taste like tomatoes. Oh also I left out the red onion but whatever. 


200g red cherry tomatoes, cut into ½cm dice
200g yellow cherry tomatoes, cut into ½cm dice (or, sigh, just more normal cherry tomatoes)
200g tiger (or plum) tomatoes, cut into ½cm dice
four medium vine tomatoes, cut into ½cm dice 
one red capsicum, cut into ½ cm dice 
one small red onion, finely diced 
two cloves garlic, crushed 
half a teaspoon ground allspice (or cinnamon)
two teaspoons white wine vinegar (you could use almost any other vinegar here instead - balsamic, red wine, etc)
1 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (this stuff is sublime, but replace with lime or lemon juice if you can't find it)
60ml olive oil, plus a little extra to drizzle at the end
the seeds from one pomegranate
one tablespoon fresh oregano leaves

salt and pepper

Mix the diced tomatoes, capsicum, and onion together in a bowl. In another bowl mix the garlic, vinegar, pomegranate molasses, allspice and olive oil and stir this into everything. Either transfer everything to a big flat plate, which is Ottolenghi's recommendation, or leave it in the bowl, which is what I did, and then sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds and oregano. Drizzle over some more olive oil. This benefits from plenty of salt, so do some stirring and sprinkling and tasting till you're satisfied. That's it! 

red, the blood of angry men, tea, a drink with jam and bread (oh wait.)

This is almost ludicrously nourishing and vitamin-rich, which is a pretty cool side-effect of eating something so massively delicious and beautiful. It's the full package. I ended up eating 90% of it just as is by the bowlful, but it's obviously going to make anything else amazing if you serve them up together - halloumi springs to mind, but then, halloumi always does.

As well as being frugal, planning to move house, and smugly eating vegetables, ya girl is also dying her hair. This is of course something that people do all the time, since the beginning of time, but I've made it 28 years without a single drop of dye touching my hair and so it was kind of a big deal for me. While there were slight "what have I dooooone" vibes to start off with I've had a ton of fun bleaching and toning and tinting and generally wreaking havoc upon my poor mop of hair, and have ended up reaching more or less what I was aiming for, what I call Sunset Hair. (It also might look like a sunrise of the tequila kind, according to Kate, but I'm cool with that. Tequila is delicious. I do hate the Eagles song of that same name though.)

candy candy candy I can't let you go

The colour is a little mellower than this in person. Oh, and I love it! It's funny how as soon as you modify your appearance in some way it's suddenly no big deal and just the appearance you have and it doesn't seem like things have ever been any different, you know? And it's just hair. It grows back. Mine grows at a suspiciously fast rate, so a total do-over is not implausible.

Less mellow were the weird and whiny "I've achieved nothingggggg" thoughts that occasionally haunt me, although I then looked at the date today and like, it's only January 12. But still. Time to get moving on some ambitions and agendas and stuff. Not least because doing that will be an excellent way to procrastinate from packing for moving house!
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title from: Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, and Jay Z, Monster. If you haven't heard this, please love yourself and go straight to Nicki's verse. She kills it effortlessly, as per. I looove dancing to this song. 
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music lately: 

sometimes there is nothing you can do except curl up on your bed and listen to Lana Del Rey's Born To Die and Taylor Swift's All You Had To Do Was Stay a few hundred times over. (It's really really hard to find a link to Swift's song online, soz, however if this means you seek out the entire album then: you're welcome)

The Ting Tings, That's Not My Name. This song came on In The Club recently and it is just such a great song to jump up and down with friends and total strangers to.

Billie Piper, Honey To The Bee. This song is never not swoonily dreamily magnificent, okay?
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next time: Feeling kind of obsessed with pomegranate molasses right now, but only time will tell if I make elegant, nuanced recipes from it or just sit on the kitchen floor drinking it straight from the bottle before passing out. 

2 January 2015

rise up wise up say it loud

greet the new year with arms and bread wide open

On New Year's Day, my best girls Kim and Kate and I crawled into a small tent, away from the angry heat of the sun, and did tarot card readings for the year ahead. The tent was already up and we were at a barbeque/picnic thing, we didn't just go into a field and purposefully erect a Tent of Mystery, although that would've been pretty neat. Next year? The cards were from The Wild Unknown and each design was so utterly beautiful that I want the whole lot of them tattooed all over my body. The card that I ended up picking as my overall theme for 2015 was not the funnest but when I found out the meaning, I was like UGH you accurate damn tarot cards. It is all about not deceiving myself or being deceived, seeing reality instead of what I want to see, and not being sucked in by wishful thinking or being stuck inside my own head (two things that like, define me currently.) So it's not quite "a thousand riches shall befall you instantly and you can chill out indefinitely" but it's very wise and for someone who needs to take such advice on board, I'm sorta impressed with myself for instinctively being drawn to this particular card when I was choosing from the pack, instead of gravitating towards something nicer but less direct. 


Another thing I did on New Year's Day was get up early and bake bread with my own two hands, despite being out verrrry late the night before dancing wildly to Beyonce (the only way to end the year since she was my soundtrack for the entirety of it.) Am I a hero? Yes. Although, as far as they go this is a nice, unthreateningly simple bread recipe, which requires no difficult ingredients, very little kneading, and the deep characteristic slashes in the dough make it eye-catchingly gorgeous. Which means that you can loudly and obnoxiously announce "Oh, just some simple rustic artisinal exquisite Italianate bread" when you place it at the table in front of people.

This particular bread, with its leafy, sliced-open facade, is known as Fougasse. When I was a youth I used to claim that fougasse bread was my favourite food - if I was ever asked - because I tried it once from a bakery in Titirangi with my family, and was deeply impressed with it, and I guess, also with myself. I think my train of thought was that it made me sound loftily sophisticated, which when you grow up in tiny rural farmland with big city dreams and a hearty respect for Stacey McGill, is apparently very important. No-one actually cared about fougasse being my favourite food and the only impression it gave off was (an accurate) one of insufferableness. But at least my tastes weren't misguided! I wasn't wrong! Because fougasse bread is highly delicious.


This recipe produces two loaves (one of mine was much larger than the other because when I divided the ball of dough in half I didn't really get the 'half' bit right) of chewy, airy, crisp, wonderful bread. While it would be a fine accompaniment to literally anything (including another loaf of bread) probably my ideal way of eating it would be like this: just myself, sitting at a table with an entire loaf of fougasse, a bowl of very good olive oil, and maybe some balsamic vinegar and sea salt. And some wine.


fougasse bread

recipe by myself, mashed together from a bunch of different recipes I read online. The instructions look scarily lengthy but I just like to hand-hold you through anything that might be slightly unfamiliar or confusing.

500g bread/hi-grade flour
one sachet dried yeast
two teaspoons sea salt or some similarly fancy sodium product (or one teaspoon regular salt)
one teaspoon sugar
one and a half cups water
one tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing
dried herbs of your choice for sprinkling over - I used za'atar, a mix of dried thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds. Some grated parmesan would be rad here.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Slowly pour in the water - just cold tap water is fine - and the oil, and stir together to make a sticky mass. Knead the dough either in the bowl or on a floured surface, pushing it away with your knuckles and folding it over and repeating, decisively, adding a little more flour or water if it seems to require it. However, it should come together on its own. When it's ready, the dough should be a smoothish, slightly springy ball. Put the dough back into the bowl (you might want to wash and dry it first) and cover with gladwrap/clingfilm. 

Allow the dough to rise in a warmish spot - a sunny windowsill, a hot water cupboard, something like that, but don't stress too much about temperature, just on the bench is fine - and in an hour's time it should be puffy and doubled in size. 

At this point, set your oven to 250 C/480 F and put an oven tray in there to heat up with it. Place a large sheet of baking paper on the bench, cut the dough in half, and carefully transfer half of this dough onto the baking paper. Use your fingers to gently push it out into a large, rough oval shape - the idea is to retain lots of air, which is why you aren't using a rolling pin - and when you're satisfied, use a sharp knife to make cuts in it to form a kind of leafy pattern like I have done in the pictures here. Spread the slices apart with your fingers (otherwise they'll merge back together when you bake them) and then brush the loaf with a little olive oil and sprinkle over your sprinklings of choice - as I said in the ingredients, I went with za'atar. Cover loosely with gladwrap/clingfilm and allow to sit for fifteen minutes, which will help it puff up a little. Finally, open the oven, being careful not to blast yourself with the heat of it like I did, and carefully pick up the piece of baking paper with the dough on it (it's not that hard to transfer it, but like, don't wave it around or anything.) Place the baking paper and dough straight onto the oven tray and bake the loaf for ten to fifteen minutes, until deep golden and bready-looking. While it's baking, get another sheet of baking paper and shape the second half of the dough as per the instructions above, and once it has rested for fifteen minutes, bake that one. Yayyy, two loaves of bread! 

slash fiction

I truly hope that all of you reading this (and also basically everyone, even people who don't read my blog deserve love) have exciting goals, thrilling plans, and a lot of love for yourself as you start this year. And if you don't, that's incredibly normal and fine and tomorrow's another day. 2014 was a seriously weird year and very uneasy in places, but 2015 seems to be tentatively full of promise. Good and bad and strange and surprising things will always happen though, and I'm just going to do my very best to do my very best. 
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title from: those twin cuties Tegan and Sara with their scrappily heartfelt song Missing You
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music lately: 

Nicki Minaj, Pills'n'Potions and Azealia Banks, Soda. I feel like these two sad, sweet, dreamy songs go together well. Also, both these women have new albums out and they are killer, go listen, go listen. 

Scarlett Johansen, Anywhere I Lay My Head. Her album of the same name is SO great, and this is my favourite from it. It's just glorious. (Yeah, she made an album.)
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next time: gosh! I don't know. Something summery and dreamy, hopefully. 

24 December 2014

and my friends i've returned to wish you a happy christmas



oh christmas tree, oh christmas tree, I hope you don't fall down on me

Have yourself a very little blog post: this one. It's Christmas Eve and for the first time in my life I'm not at home, I'm in fact all alone in Wellington. Well, this is not entirely true: there is also Ariel the cat, who I'm simultaneously looking after in the absence of her owners and also trying with zero chill whatsoever to befriend. The reason I'm here and not up home is because I have work tomorrow (another first) and while it's not ideal to not be seeing my family, it is at least interesting seeing what this completely different experience is like.


one for you, three for me

I baked some cookies over the last couple of days, mostly just so I could feel like it's Christmas, since baking is What I Do at this time of year, and partly because I wanted something to pad out a work Secret Santa gift. These cranberry and white chocolate cookies of Nigella's are completely serviceable items for this time of year should you feel pressed to churn out some baked goods yourself, they are sturdy and durable and last for ages, they are delicious yet comfortingly unchallenging to eat; they are very easy to make; and the uncooked dough tastes brilliant. Dried cranberries, like sour little jewels, pair magnificently with sweet, buttery white chocolate, and the red and white has a kind of christmassy holly-and-snow vibe going on which is pleasing. If you want you could add pistachio nuts to really go all out on the colour theme, but going nut-less is way cheaper.


white chocolate cranberry cookies

adapted barely from a recipe by Nigella Lawson. A lot of white chocolate chips and buttons out there taste of absolutely nothing, just a vague waxy textural sensation, so try to get something that tastes like...something. Otherwise take a bar or two of white chocolate and chop it up. 

125g soft butter
half a cup sugar
half a cup brown sugar
one egg
half a cup oats
one cup flour
half a teaspoon baking powder
half a teaspoon salt
a slosh of vanilla extract
half a cup dried cranberries
half a cup white chocolate chips or buttons

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

Using a wooden spoon or similar, beat the butter and the sugars together in a large bowl till thick, creamy and light. And delicious. Beat in the egg, then fold in the remaining ingredients. Refrigerate the mixture for about 10-15 minutes. 

Take tablespoons of the cookie dough and place on the baking tray, an inch or so apart. Flatten slightly with the back of a fork and then bake for fifteen minutes, although check after ten minutes - they should be a significant, but not overly dark, golden colour. They'll be really soft at this point but they'll firm up on cooling, so carefully transfer them to a rack or plate of some kind and carry on cooking the rest of the dough. 

Makes 24 or so cookies, depending on the size you make and also how much cookie dough you eat. It's really good cookie dough. 


Bonus recipe: Ginger Beer Shandy (or just Ginger Beer if you don't like the word shandy for some reason.) Take ginger beer, take beer beer, make sure they're both ice cold and pour half and half into a glass. Drink with utter joy! Any kind of lager or pale ale is good here, and even though I like the idea of the circularity of using ginger beer with the beer, it's actually even nicer with dry ginger ale. This is also a Nigella recipe, from Forever Summer. Thanks, Nigella! You are the reason for the season. The season being "the concept of love and also the endlessness of time itself." 

For christmas this year my wishes are simple and rustic as homemade broth. I simply want - a new pair of boots for work, something sturdy yet giving off a 'sullen Victorian ward of the state' vibe; a book deal from a publisher who truly cares about me (or at least pretends to) (or at least just a book deal to be honest); mighty and omnipresent fame in the field of food blogging and being a self-appointed food authority; someone to hold my hand and be nice to me; a bafflingly generous influx of donations into my Paypal; the makings of a killer liquor cabinet (beginning with fancy gin and a selection of vermouths); at least quadruple my current number of twitter followers; chunky black sandals for that summer goth look; something approaching inner peace; these shorts and these shorts; the eternal love of all neighbourhood cats; for all my family to be in excellent health, and lots of candy. Oh and also my own TV show would be rad.

If tomorrow is indeed Christmas for you (well, for many it's just another day) and you're kicking back with like, Buck's Fizz and a laughably enormous feast and so on, maybe think a nice thought for those in hospo and other roles who are going to work as you recline and open gifts. I'm not even going to try and front like my job is as arduous as being in an emergency ward or being a taxi driver or whatever, but like, if you're working and not in bed then you're working and not in bed, you know? Whatever happens when the clock ticks over to the 25th, I hope it's a truly swell day for you, but also that every single other day that follows is also excellent (getting into the same territory here as when I used to as a child make wishes with increasingly nervous caveats, like, I wish for a thousand dollars but it can't fall from the sky onto my head and squash me.) Basically I want things to always be nice forever, that's not so much to ask this Christmas, huh?

Finally, in case you missed it and feel like cooking up some last-minute trouble for yourself, my previous blog post was a list of recipes I've written up here which would make excellent edible gifts. These cookies are now a post-script to said list.

 Finally-finally, merry christmas to you from me. xx
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title from: Sufjan Stevens, Sister Winter. When he's not doing his usual material, this guy specialises in Christmas music that is aggressively plaintive and gently devastating, which is sometimes just what your ears need to hear. 
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music lately:

Christmas Bells, from the original Broadway cast recording of RENT. I mean. This song is somehow ridiculous and ridiculously touching at the same time, and has to be one of the very few songs about Christmas that can claim to contain relationship exposition, drug deals, heavily layered syncopation, parodies of existing Christmas songs, and a reference to Steuben glass. It's wondrous.

Robyn, With Every Heartbeat. This song just slays me, is all.

Taylor Woods, Out of the Woods. This is so dreamy and urgent and Roxette-ish and so perfect and I can't stop listening.    

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Next time: it might be 2015, but it might not, because I am sure I won't let one last opportunity for pre-new-year maudlin introspection pass me by! 

15 December 2014

if you are the ghost of christmas past then won't you stay the night?

My own xmas cake recipe. Boozy and nostalgically delicious, just like your, um, favourite food blogger used to make.

Well, I sniffed a pine tree and it did make me feel more Christmassy. I also watched Love Actually and once I'd stopped ranting at how horrible it is to its women characters, many of whom are barely, at best, one-dimensional props who exist only to help a man realise something important about himself (and those things they realise are usually "I like this hot chick rather a lot") I did notice that in said movie, everyone keeps going on like, "well since it's Christmas I'll tell you the truth/finally acknowledge that I love you/run after you in an airport/generally make an enormous sweeping gesture at great risk to my reputation in the name of love." Far be it from me to suggest that we should be inspired by Love Actually as such, but I am an all or nothing gal who enjoys a good solid enabling every now and then. Since everything is so ridiculous and high-drama and fraught at Christmas, you might as well make things more like this if you've got the inclination, y'know? 

 Candy Cane Bark: for those who want to put candy crush where their mouth is
  
Unsure quite where I'm going with this, I guess I just have a lot of feelings about Love Actually and also Grand Gestures. I'm honestly not in a delightful headspace right now, which is just neat because it coincides with me doing little in the way of actual blogging and everything in the way of rounding up for you, curating, if you will, a list of recipes I've already put on here that would make great Christmas present ideas. Aren't I wonderful! I've done this for the past few years and logically it grows every time. I happen to be a staunch believer in the joy of giving and receiving edible stuff as a present, and so, if you feel the same this list might be of some use to you. Oh sure, you could go onto Pinterest or Buzzfeed or even go old-school and make a Google search to find a zillion such lists, but none of them are going to be as self-absorbedly devoted entirely to my own content. For...for what it's worth.

Berry Chia Seed Jam: it's almost too healthy, and there's always someone that you have to buy for who digs that kind of description. 

Worth noting that whether or not Christmas is a significant thing for you or passes you by completely, these are obviously all nice recipes for a present for anyone. For any reason, at any time of the year. Just because Christmas is the overwhelmingly unavoidable societal status quo doesn't mean you can't enjoy Candy Cane Bark in the middle of April. 

Category One: Things in Jars.

Jars are cute. Jars are everywhere. Jars are gonna save you this Christmas. 

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)
Cranberry Sauce (this is stupidly easy and you should make it to go with your main meal anyway) (vg, gf)
Bacon Jam (Best made at the last minute, because it needs refrigerating) (gf)
Cashew Butter (vg, gf) (just don't drop your wooden spoon into the food processor) 
Red Chilli Nahm Jim (gf)
Cranberry (or any-berry) Curd (it involves a lot of effort but it's so pretty. Just like me.) (gf)
Rhubarb-Fig Jam (gf)
Salted Caramel Sauce (gf, has a vegan variant) (I knowww, salted caramel is so boringly pervasive these days but a jar of it all for yourself is still the greatest thing ever) 
Apple Cinnamon Granola (vg)


Peach Balsamic Barbecue Sauce: give a fusspot a pot of fussy stuff. And if anyone makes any calls about barbecues being the domain of men, kick them to the curb and enjoy some chargrilled goods in peace with this delicious sauce. 

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.


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. 
Cheese Stars (make twelve times the amount you think you need because these are addictive and also great to serve alongside the inevitable copious liquor that happens this time of year)
Coconut Macaroons (gf)
Chocolate Macaroons (gf)
Gingerbread Cut-out Cookies (vg)
Coconut Condensed Milk Brownies
Salted Caramel Slice (hello again Salted Caramel! Your persistence is as admirable as your deliciousness!)
Fancy Tea Cookies
Chocolate Olive Oil Cake
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 'tis dairy free.

Mars Bar Cornflake Slice. I have nothing funny to say about this. Its deliciousness requires seriousness.

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. 

Moonshine Biffs (like homemade Milk Bottles!) (gf)
Raw Vegan Chocolate Cookie Dough Truffles Candy (vg, gf)
Lolly Cake
Peppermint Schnapps (vg, gf) (this is some harsh moonshine but also SO FUN. Weirdly, more fun the more you drink of it?)
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)
White Chocolate Coco Pops Slice 

Chocolate Cookie Dough Pretzel Things: I ain't delivering them to you anymore so make your own! Everyone will love you eternally, and buying peoples' love with gifts is what Christmas is all about.  

Because I am an actual darling, I also give you a bonus recipe which I made for myself on the hop when some plans I'd had fell through and I'd also had two large craft beers. I had more or less nothing with which to scrape together a meal, and then was all What Would I Do? in that same way that people might ask what Beyonce would do. After all, I wrote a cookbook with a chapter full of food you can make yourself when it's getting late and you're feeling seedy. And thus, with only three ingredients, was born the following: 


Spaghetti with Buttery Breadcrumbs.

Cook as much dried spaghetti as you wish to eat in a large pot of boiling water till tender. Meanwhile, take three slices of white bread from the packet and kind of crumble and rough them up in your hands till they have all broken up into irregularly sized crumbs and bits and general bready rubble. Melt around 50g butter in a large pan and once it's sizzling, throw in the breadcrumbs and stir them around till golden and crisp and fried. Drain the spaghetti, stir in the crumbs, eat.  

I've heard of a similar method of topping your pasta dish with breadcrumbs referred to as Poor Man's Parmesan but that is both ickily classist and misleading. Crunchy, butter-soaked breadcrumbs don't need to be hidden by pretending to be something else. They'll make your pasta taste utterly fantastic and so that's why I'm calling them what they are. Plus all those carbs will both act as blotting paper to anything you've had to drink and will zap you into a calming, mellow stupor. Which is so necessary at this time of year and also always. Happy holidays to you all, but also just, like, happiness to ya too. 
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title from: the splendid Regina Spector and her song Ne Me Quitte Pas. It's French, for don't leave me! 
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music lately: 

Turkey Lurkey Time. DUDE. No wonder I wasn't feeling Christmassy, I forgot to watch this! It's a scene from the 60s musical Promises Promises and features a spectacularly rubber-limbed Donna McKechnie and also just the most stupid lyrics you'll ever hear. But the dancing is incredible and I don't quite know why but the end makes me all gaspy and faster of heartbeat every single time. 

Beyonce, XO. It's a full year since Queen B simultaneously blessed us and messed with the music industry by dropping her actually perfect self-titled visual album. It has been the soundtrack of my year in many ways and this song still gives me that headrush feeling of giddy happiness that it did upon first listen. 

Oh Land, Sleepy Town. I've been listening to so much Oh Land lately, her music is so dreamy and yearning and poppy. 

Tove Lo, Habits (Stay High). It just gets to me. 
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next time: I don't know what I'm gonna make but I will be blogging again before Christmas for sure. Fa la la la la! 

7 December 2014

we live in a wheel where everyone steals but when we rise it's like strawberry fields


December is really dissolving like a sachet of colourfree raspberry flavoured Raro juice powder into a litre of water, huh? For some reason this year I've barely heard Christmas music or been exposed to any other trappings of the season. I've seen like, one Christmas tree. For all I know it could still be mid-September. I clearly need to find a pine tree to lean into and reverently sniff and then to play thirty two renditions of Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You, y'know, basically method acting that it's this time of year until it sinks in that it really is this time of year.

Somewhere in the middle of all this seasonal denial I made breakfast for my roomie Kate, who was being a bridesmaid, as well as for the bride herself and the rest of the bridesmaids. That same weekend I was also feeding a friend's cat while they were away. How unlike me to be so selflessly helpful! How like me to tell everyone about my good deeds and blow them way out of proportion! I made a large jar of Strawberry Jam Granola,  and then chopped up some actual strawberries and a mango and sprinkled them with sugar and put them in the fridge overnight to let the flavours sort of get to know each other better, and then there were also grilled croissants with brie which Jason made and I therefore cannot take credit for (I swiped some and they were so, so delicious.)



The recipe comes from my cookbook, and you should know that I still have copies left and it makes a really, really good Christmas present. The thought of them all being finally gone fills me with a weird kind of foggy dread, because the book itself isn't being reprinted and so these are the only remaining copies left in the world. Just one year ago I was in a glowing bubble of joy from being freshly published. I exist in the pages of those books. Once they're gone, that's it. It won't be available anywhere, to anyone. Oh wow, so I'm doing a truly appalling job of encouraging you to buy my book from me, but yeah, I unyieldingly believe that my cookbook is a brilliant read that you all deserve to own. If you do want to order one of the remaining copies from me - and my stocks are dwindling rapidly, so better hustle - then completely ignore all my existential angst and confidently email me (my email address is in the sidebar of this blog).

This granola is very, very easy and fairly adaptable - I doubled it without any difficulty and always use the cheapest jam I can find when I make this. The strawberry jam gives the oats a sticky-sweet summery flavour while making them pleasingly clumpy, and the almonds and linseeds bring their own toasty crunchiness. Add other nuts or seeds if you like, but I find almonds and strawberries to be particularly friendly together.

strawberry jam granola

a recipe by myself, from my cookbook Hungry and Frozen

one and a half cups whole oats
one and a half cups rolled oats
three tablespoons linseeds
70g almonds
50g brown sugar
half a cup strawberry jam

Place everything except the jam in a large saucepan and stir over a low heat till lightly toasted and warmed through. Stir in the jam and continue stirring over a low heat till it's sticky and slightly clumpy. Allow to cool then transfer to an airtight container or jar.


The gloriously lipgloss-like scent of the strawberry jam slowly seeps into the milk, making this a highly perfect breakfast (especially with fruit and a large mound of thick Greek yoghurt) but I also like to just grab a handful from the jar at any time of day to snack upon carte blanche. 

The granola itself would also make a swell Christmas present - personally all I ever want is wine, food, or money, (or something so meaningful and so deeply from the heart that it makes me cry as soon as I see it, no biggie!) so giving someone a jar of breakfast cereal doesn't seem in the slightest bit weird to me. Put it in a cute mason jar, since they're everywhere these days, tie a cute ribbon around it, you could even write the recipe out on a cute notecard for the person. Cute! 

Other than being uncharacteristically helpful I've been either stupidly busy and running amok from one end of town to the other, or concrete-limbed with exhaustion in bed, or at work, or going to gigs and also writing a novel (I haven't written fiction in so, so long but it's all I used to do with my time and it's massively fun. And I just feel like writing a novel. So I'm gonna.)

hard twee

Also on my agenda lately: being cuter than a jar of homemade granola. As if playing some large scale game of Whimsy Bingo, I found two flower crowns at work. This was a timely discovery, since there's not much I can do with my hair now that it's short, and also I love free things. And as always, I'm trying to befriend the neighbourhood cats (this neighbourhood has neighbourhood cats in abundance, I can tell you.)

 
this one definitely wants to be my friend

Once more with feeling, in case you haven't quite absorbed what I'm trying to impart because I am far, far too wordy while trying to get my point across: if you want to buy a copy of my cookbook for a Christmas present then there's no better time than now. Considering it's like, not yet Christmas. It's yours for the taking while my stocks last! Give the gift of literary perfection! (Well, so far I'm the only person who has described the book like that, but I think I'm a fairly trustworthy source.)
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title from: Bush, Glycerine. I remember when I first heard this on the radio when I was maybe eight or nine and did not get it at all, pronouncing it boring and gloomy and pointless. For what it's worth, Bush, I quickly realised I loved grungey music and that your song wasn't that pointless after all. (Gavin Rossdale: "well thank goodness for that")
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music lately: 

Sky Ferreira, I Blame Myself. This song is really, really perfect. That is all. 

Belle and Sebastian, The Blues Are Still Blue. I always thought the only Belle and Sebastian song I liked was Lazy Line Painter Jane (which I could listen to over and over and over again) but yay, I found another one! This one is so simple but also zigs just when you think it's gonna zag. 

Janet Jackson, I Get Lonely. Damn, though. 
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next time: Gonna try and be more Christmassy! And might make a list of lots of food-present ideas and recipes. 

29 November 2014

down with love, with flowers and rice and shoes


I have a day off today and approached it with gleeful anticipation of writing a blog post with diligence and discipline, but instead I had a terrible sleep last night (the kind where you just wake up at irritatingly regular intervals for no good reason) and I'm assuming it's that which has left me staring listlessly at the screen unable to think of anything cool to say about this rice pudding.

So then I had a break and spontaneously danced around the lounge, free-limbed and embarrassingly passionate! I leapt and did high kicks and sank into the splits and twirled! And now I'm back on the couch sitting under my laptop and I'm still tired and uninspired but like, dancing was fun, I guess. But if doing enthusiastic self-flinging to Inside Out by Eve Six and Problems by ASAP Rocky and Honey to the Bee by Billie Piper can't help inspire one to talk about rice pudding, then, well. What is there.

But now that I think about it, having worn holes in my socks from pirouetting on carpet and exhausted my lung capacity from doing powerful leaps, this rice pudding was really, really good. I don't even consider myself someone who considers rice pudding...at all. But I had some at a cafe recently and was, upon eating it, filled with profound thoughts like "This is so exemplary, I might make my own damn rice pudding some time."


The rice pudding I've made is part of a mighty enough English tradition of milk-based puddings, with this being rice cooked slowly in said milk till it has swollenly absorbed the lot and turned all creamy and soft and comforting. Numerous cultures worldwide have their own similar version, presumably with everyone coming to the same culinary conclusion around the same time many years ago. It can be utterly vile, and worse, boring, but when made right it's pretty brilliant. Rice has its own subtle flavour and texture which suits the aggressive creaminess, and as a prop for other flavours - in this case, sesame-tinted caramel sauce and sugary blackberries - it's excellent.


I was determined to avoid any troubling blandness here so used a mixture of full cream milk and water plus milk powder, which seems counter-intuitive for the sake of it, but if there's one thing I enjoy, it's seeming counter-intuitive for the sake of it. But also I do like the vanilla-salt-kick that milk powder gives, and have this vague and unfounded scientific feeling that a mixture of milk and water makes for better liquid absorption. The rice itself releases its starches slowly, making it stupidly creamy all on its own, and then you can pour over as much actual cream as you like once it's cooked. The sesame seeds aren't super necessary but their warm toasty nutty flavour makes things more compelling, and works oddly well with the particular tartness of the berries. And when you're making a pudding that you're not entirely sure you're even that enthused about the concept of in the first place, "oddly well" is a highly respectable result.

rice pudding with blackberries and sesame caramel sauce

a recipe by myself. Serves four, although I ate the lot entirely alone (in two sittings, not that I'm entirely concerned what you think about my portion-related decisions) This makes honestly about seventeen times more caramel sauce than you need but it's nice to wake up the next morning and drink the remainders of it while standing in front of the fridge. I'm assuming you've got frozen blackberries here, but by all means use freshly picked ones if you've got them, you princess of the meadow.  

three cups full fat milk
two cups water
four tablespoons full fat milk powder
two tablespoons sugar
a pinch of salt
three quarters of a cup of arborio rice

one cup of frozen blackberries
one tablespoon caster sugar
one teaspoon vanilla extract

one tablespoon of sesame seeds
50g butter
half a cup of brown sugar
half a cup of cream
a small pinch of salt

Place the blackberries, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl and leave to sit while you make the rice. 

In a large pot, bring the milk, water, milk powder, sugar, and pinch of salt gently to the boil. Pour in the rice and stir it, lowering the heat to a simmer. Allow to simmer, stirring often, for around thirty minutes or until the rice is swollen and soft. You may need to add extra water if it's looking like this will never happen. I did. There was totally a point where I was like, 'wow, I guess I'm never going to have rice pudding ever', because the rice just would not soften entirely. You just have to keep stirring and tasting (don't bother tasting till most of the liquid is absorbed though) and eventually it honestly will be cooked.

Let it sit while you make the caramel sauce - toast the sesame seeds in a small pan till they're browned, then quickly tip them into a bowl (quickly, because they will burn swiftly if left unattended) and in the same pan, melt the butter and brown sugar together. Once it's bubbling, tip in the cream and stir vigorously, then remove from the heat. It might look all weird and separated but stirring will bring it together! Tip the sesame seeds back in along with the salt and stir them through. 

The blackberries by now should have defrosted into the sugar and be all glossy and syrupy. Spatula the rice into a serving dish, fling the berries and some of their syrup over the top and then spoon over as much caramel sauce as you like. Serve with more cream and caramel sauce for pouring over. Should you have leftovers, it's worth knowing that the rice near the berries will turn an unpromising blue colour, it's all good and all still plenty edible. 


Describing rice pudding as comforting might seem a bit obvious, but sometimes things are obvious for a reason. It is just so soft, and creamy, and mildly sweet, and warm, like eating that particular feeling where you pull a pile of laundry out of the dryer and then lie down and pile it all on top of yourself like a cosy mountain. The caramel sauce pierces all the plainness with its dark sugary salty toffee vibes, and the blackberries bring some pure fruity sweetness which feels necessary in the face of all that milk and starch.


And importantly, the berries also look so pretty against the snowy white rice.

Aside from trying to write this post I've spent the weekend thus far rewatching Skins, reading up with terror and horror on Ferguson (I recommend this brief but devastating piece by Roxane Gay), making a pre-wedding breakfast for a bride and bridesmaids at my flat (my roomie Kate being one of those bridesmaids), lying in bed willing myself to go buy iron pills, and anticipating December with trepidation. My tarot card for November was all "it's over, let it goooo" and "get lots of hugs" and I'm not sure that I've quite lived up to the potential of it but I mean, I did cut my hair.
I still have short hair! And that was the weekly Laura's Hair Roundup

So the thought of December being amongst us is making me a little nervous - this will be the first ever Christmas I don't spend at home with family, because I'll be working, and also there's just that weird thing where the end of a year makes you consider every damn moment that's led up to this point and what you could have done differently and what it all means and who you are and where you're going with life and stuff. But my tarot card for December is Queen of Wands, which is a super rad one to have, being all about things like creative vision and achieving goals; enjoying the limelight; acting upon feelings; and, according to one site, potentially finding love by meeting someone through a light-haired friend (am I that light-haired friend to myself?) Cool, yes? Well, whatever the cards say could happen, as long as I thrive aggressively and be 100% successful in all aspects of my life and get intimidatingly rich and radiate pure happiness, I'll be quietly satisfied. 
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title from: Down with Love, by that queen Judy Garland. Up with love, I say, but the song's sentiment is pretty understandable sometimes. Especially if Judy's singing.
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music lately: 

Eve 6, Inside Out. Erm yeah I listened to this about nineteen times yesterday, whatever. 

Lorde, Yellow Flicker Beat, live at the AMA's. The last five seconds, chills through my heart. 

En Vogue, Don't Let Go (Love). The lyrics to this are blisteringly good. "Have the right to lose control", omg. This is the kind of song that gives me false nostalgia about the nineties. Actually, so is the Eve 6 song. Damn it!
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Next time: I might blog about the granola that I made for the bridal kids? It's delicious stuff and looked pretty, and those are my usual requirements covered. 

18 November 2014

she takes your voice and she leaves you howling at the moon


I started writing this trying to compare my approach to food with Alice in Wonderland's love of pretending and supposing and imagining and the comparison didn't quite fit and so I deleted it and started again and deleted it and started again, along the way learning a valuable lesson: I subconsciously just wanted to show that I could use the word "adumbrated" confidently in a sentence (as in, I was going to say that I had adumbrated Alice's words since I couldn't remember where I had actually packed my copies of the books in order to quote them directly.) Long story short, I am pretty annoying and I have lots of ideas about food. 

Long hair short: this also happened. I may be pretty annoying, but am also pretty, comma, annoying.

My hair has never been shorter than shoulder length, and even that was only once. Many years ago. So: the smaller the hair, the bigger the deal, really. And I like it! It was terrifying having it happen, especially when it was really only spurred on by a vague sense of needing a change and also one time I tied my hair into a low bun and thought I looked alright without much hair going on, but I remain all or nothing and so was not going to settle for a mere bob or even an aggressive trim. I'm very happy with the results. It's a whole new Laura! I now have so many new looks! Like "meanest girl in the 1960s boarding school" and "girl in a 1990 edition of Dolly having the time of her life" and "trying very hard to look like Edie Sedgewick" and "Justin Bieber". In case you're wondering, yes, I did keep the ponytail. I plan to plant it under a tree which I imagine will quickly flourish and bloom and grant wishes to passers-by who are true of heart. 


So yes, this salad came about because of an Alice-esque flight of fancy of mine - supposing there was a salad that was mostly made up of the sort of things that normally garnish a salad? As opposed to stupid vegetables? Lettuce leaves and cherry tomatoes were thus combined with the following good things: very buttery croutons, homemade basil almond pesto, fried sage leaves, toasted pumpkin seeds, crumbled feta, and pea shoots. I would've added avocado but none were ripe, but just know that it is supposed to be there also. I mean, this is essentially just "a salad", really, but it's fun to think of it as being comprised almost entirely of garnishes. So that's how I'm going to pretend it is.

I know this is the same dish I used in the photographs for the last blog post, I understand if you never want to read this blog ever again now. 

garnish salad

a recipe by myself. Serves two with seconds, or four one time. 

one or two heads cos lettuce, roughly torn
a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved (sorry to be a monster, but they do go further this way) 
a third of a cup of pumpkin seeds
three pieces of slightly old white bread
lots of butter
a cup of fresh basil leaves
half a cup of sliced almonds
about 25g parmesan cheese
olive oil
a handful of sage leaves
about 50g feta
a handful of pea shoots

Make the croutons first, and while they're cooking, get onto the pesto. Tear the bread into chunks around an inch wide, although it really doesn't matter. Throw them into a baking dish with about 25g butter (or more) diced and dotted over the top, and bake at 160 C till browned and crisp. 

Meanwhile, using a large knife, roughly chop the basil, almonds, and parmesan till it forms a herbaciously fragrant rubble. Transfer all this into a bowl and stir in enough olive oil to make it a kind of pesto-resembling paste. Set aside. Melt a knob of butter in a heavy frying pan, and once it's sizzling, throw in the sage leaves, removing and setting aside once they're darkened and crisp. Finally, in the same pan, toast the pumpkin seeds until lightly browned. 

Now: put your lettuce leaves, croutons, most of the pesto, the feta, oh my gosh literally everything okay just put it all in a salad bowl and stir carefully so that it's mixed together but not flung out of the bowl. Add a little extra olive oil to what remains of the bowl of pesto and spoon it over the top, and then serve. 

 we've curated the finest artisinal garnishes, just for you

It's easy to make fun of salad, especially since the Simpsons gave us the truism that you don't win friends with it, but when it's as aggressively loaded up with as many good things as this it would be silly to deny its complete and utter deliciousness. Crunchy seeds and nuts, marvelous cheese and other cheese, sweet bursts of cherry tomato and dissolvingly buttery sage leaves. The lettuce has its place too, much as I'd happily eat a bowl of croutons on their own the fresh crispness of it helps bolster everything else and bring it all together. This is one of those things where you could make changes depending on what you have to hand or can find - use sunflower seeds instead of pumpkin, use walnuts instead of almonds (or use actual pine nuts but they're monstrously expensive), use parsley instead of basil, increase or ignore quantities that sort of thing. Salad! It's SO good. Or at least, this one is. 

So, I made another episode of Bedtime with Hungryandfrozen! This time about my love of grapefruit popsicles. I also obviously but totally recommend the first two videos, about cornflakes with chocolate milk and steak, respectively. I do get a little stressed about like, good grief, what am I doing with my life, shouldn't I be doing something super successful in the field of being seen to be talking about food in a media capacity and instead I'm in bed making grainy videos about cornflakes, but...they are pretty fun. 
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title from: Linda Ronstadts' sad, sweet cover of Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues. Leaves, lettuce leaves, yeah? My blog, my puns, okay!
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music lately

Zara McFarlane, Police and Thieves. Dad emailed me a link to this saying it was very cool: his opinion was correct. A little jazzy and a lot gorgeous. 

Fiona Apple, Across the Universe. So, so dreamy. 

Taylor Swift, Blank Space. Far out I love this song. The way she says "they'll tell you Iiii'm insane" is so great. 
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Next time: I haven't done any baking in a while and every time I have it has sort of screwed up in some way - fallen apart, overcooked, that kind of thing. So, I wanna counteract that by being brilliant. If that works, you'll see it here first.