26 November 2015

let's propose a toast to the thing that hurts the most

I'd already idly bitten into it when I thought I'd better photograph it because who knows when I'd next be making actual food. If you're wondering about the bite mark. 

In late June 2012, twitter user Horse_ebooks tweeted the following: "Everything happens so much". Well. Currently everything is indeed happening so much - so so much! - and as such one's thoughts turn to this tweet. By which I mean, there's a lot going on right now in my life that needs to be processed and taken stock of and other administrative-like task words. During this time I've been far too busy to cook for myself, which is not something I'm particularly happy about, but such is life. I mean, I'm eating, I'm just not cooking. Till I get my act together, what else can I do but blog about what I've actually made myself lately? So...here's some cinnamon and sugar on toast.

This is such a stupidly simple non-recipe that it seems almost embarrassing when written down, except I'm not embarrassed at all because it tastes so wondrous. Also I am she who ebulliently blogged about marmite and crisp sandwiches, so whatever.

cinnamon sugar toast

lots of the following: 
white sugar

Toast the bread. Mix a couple of tablespoons of sugar and a teaspoon or two of cinnamon together in a small bowl. Butter the toast wayyyy thoroughly. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the top. Also thoroughly. Eat in bed. 

food in bed: excellent life choice

To me, cinnamon is the flavour that most evokes the feeling of a warm hug. I used to eat cinnamon sugar on toast all the time as a child (and I turned out okay?) but I was recently reminded of its existence and suddenly it was the only foodstuff upon this earth that I wanted to consume. My nostalgic taste-memories did not exaggerate at me - this is such a wonderful thing to eat. The softly crunchy bread full of calming carbohydrates, the lashings of salty butter, the doughnut vibes and comforting scent of the cinnamon sugar. It's simple, it's perfect, it costs roughly nothing.

Well. If you were outraged at me blogging about sugar on toast, wait till you finish this sentence and get onto the next paragraph.

Because I'm about to talk about McDonalds. But, you cannot even make try to me feel bad or selling out-y about mentioning them on this blog, because frankly I don't care, I find McDonalds food to be delightful and if you're above eating it for no other reason than you're above eating it then that's super boring. I mean, truth be told, I prefer Burger King (the words "ride or die" are usually used by me in relation to it.) However, I was sent some vouchers by a lovely PR company so I could try the new Create Your Taste range at McDonalds and if there's one thing I love, it's being sent things by PR companies. It's ludicrously good for the ego and it gets me stuff. Recently, not hungover but definitely physically cognisant of the previous nights' events; I found myself in the McDonalds by the basin in Newtown. How Create Your Taste works is very simple - there are screens available and you just pick from what feels like thousands of different options to create the hamburger of your dreams.

It's completely simple and it's weirdly fun scrolling through the options and being like "that one!" "that one" and feeling maniacally powerful. Once you've submitted the final burger you want and decided whether you want to turn it into a combo with fries and a drink (the answer to that: obviously you do) they then make it for you on the spot and there you have it, your own customised burger. Which is all very well and good, but like, why should I go to this trouble? I could just get a cheeseburger and some chicken nuggets at 3am and stuff the former with the latter and be on my merry way.

delicious, juicy capitalism 

Except these burgers are SO amazingly good. I got way too overexcited at the options and combined a brioche bun and angus burger with fried mushrooms, swiss cheese, aioli, guacamole, lettuce, and grilled onion. It still tasted incredible. All the ingredients taste aggressively good quality and the sweetness of the brioche was charming. I got it to take away and ate it in bed while emotionally rewatching the final episode of The OC, and all was well.

And so that's what I've made for myself recently. Sorry-not-sorry that it's just toast and McDonalds. Because from all of this, we can conclude that whatever it is you have going on in life, carbohydrates eaten in bed are really helpful and excellent and good. And you probably are, too.
title via: Faith No More's Last Cup of Sorrow, a song worth wrenching myself away from listening to Epic on repeat for. 
music lately: 

I'm really into choreography tutorial videos on youtube right now and there's this one incredible routine to Beyonce's incredible song 7/11 that is soooo great. So I've heard this song a ton lately, and yet: still sounds fresh. 

That Girl, by Maxi Priest and Shaggy - I made a spotify playlist of songs I was listening to around the year 1996 and maaaaan they hold up well. This one is smooth like a freshly shaven leg. 

Imogen Heap, Hide and Seek. It's just...such a song.   
next time: I promise I'll literally cook. Promise! 

18 November 2015

i want blood, guts and chocolate cake

It's really something huh, how you can simultaneously absorb constantly unfurling news of how monumentally disastrous and rubbish the world is right now, and yet have your own relatively small, inconsequential issues selfishly jostle for position at the forefront of things you have to try and process...yeah? Author Roxane Gay said "I have never considered compassion a finite resource" and important singer Lana Del Rey once tweeted "um, I like it tha best when you're nice to me" and I think they're both good thoughts to keep in mind. No one needs my hot take on world events, especially not on a damn food blog, but man, stuff is happening so hard, right? And it's just going to keep happening and keep happening and keep happening and all we can do is try to be human beings and be compassionate. And nice. In our own small ways and to our own capacities. That's all I've got.

In what I'd like to emphasise is unrelated news, It feels like utterly forever since I've updated this blog. I also suspect I'm the only one exuding major stress over it, so I'll just get to talking about what it is I've finally got around to cooking and deeming blog-worthy. And that thing is: avocado brownies. I'm not usually prone to faffing around with replacing the butter content of anything (indeed, I usually replace the existing butter specified in a recipe with even more butter) but I'm also easily seduced by a novelty ingredient. Moreover, I wanted to make something nice to take to work for a very lovely manager's final shift, and this requires accommodating some gluten and dairy-related issues. A bit of excavation online brought this recipe for avocado-based chocolate brownies to the surface, and as I've had an abundance of said fruits lately anyway, all signs pointed to yes.

These whole process is reassuringly normal; the avocado is mixed in with the sugar and eggs at the start and it all looks and tastes very much like regular brownie batter (not as good, but on the other hand it does stop me eating my usual half to three quarters of the uncooked batter followed by some sustained writhing on the floor in sugar-related agony.) They get better and better the longer they're left in the fridge, becoming more dense and richly fudge-ish with almost swampy levels of dark chocolatey depth. Like, believe me, these brownies are real and stand their ground and are delicious at a level bordering on magical. Make 'em out of curiosity, whether or not the gluten/dairy-free thing applies to you, because they're just that good.

avocado chocolate brownies

recipe pretty well unchanged from this recipe on Sprouted Fig

two large, perfectly ripe avocados
one cup of brown sugar
two eggs
one cup of cocoa
150g dark chocolate
half a teaspoon baking soda
one tablespoon water

Set your oven to 170 C/350 F. Scoop the avocado flesh into a bowl, and use a whisk to whip it till it's all smooth. Add the eggs and the sugar and continue to whisk briskly, then carefully whisk in the cocoa - cocoa tends to fly everywhere in clouds at the slightest agitation, hence why you need to slow down for this bit. Chop the chocolate roughly but finely, so that it's all rubbly and in shards, and fold it into the batter. Finally, mix the baking soda and water together in a small measuring cup or similar, and vigorously stir it into the chocolate mixture. Spatula the lot into a paper-lined brownie pan, and bake for about 25 minutes - as soon as it's firm on top it's ready to be taken out. Refrigerate the brownie for at least an hour but really the longer the better - it just gets more dense and fudgy the longer it sits. Slice it into smallish squares and fling at your face. 

I liked these so much that I immediately made another batch for my flatmates, although I concede that this was partly if not mostly motivated by the fact that I never actually got any photos of the original brownies that I took to work. And this blog's needs are important!

Honestly not much else exciting has happened to me lately; I dyed my hair a darker shade of red, I hooned through the excellent TV series Master of None (and I recommend it so hard), I finally tidied my room up after being a stressfully messy slattern for, well, my entire life, and during so I inexplicably found my notecards from a speech I gave in primary school in 1997 about the Spice Girls.

"practically every girl's fantasy" 

That's...all I've got. Stay nice if you can.
title from: that magical woman Marina and the Diamonds and her song Teen Idle. 
music lately: 

Uffie, Hot Chick so bratty! So 2006! 

Robbie Williams, Freedom so good! So 1996! I don't even care!

Misterwives, Hurricane. Perfect pop perfection.
next time: I promise I will neither take this damn long to update! I will make a thing more than once a week! 

4 November 2015

no more flipping burgers putting on my silly hat you know I don't want that no more

Sunday morning saw a hitherto unprecedented event: I willingly went to watch the rugby world cup finals*. I have spent my whole life hating rugby as some kind of praxis and indeed pretty much all sports except rhythmic gymnastics (so many cool flips! My brief childhood obsession with Nadia Comaneci!) This stemmed from two things: being forced to do sport all the time throughout my school years, and also it's boring to me and I suck at it and don't want anything to do with it. As my school days grew further into the distance behind me I softened my righteous stance and basically settled upon the attitude of, well, sports is fine for other people and I'm happy for them to do it, I just don't want to have it rubbed in my face. Anyway, all of this is to say that I ended up willingly watching the rugby with a billion people from work and it was SO FUN and we WON and I don't really fancy being in front of sports again for a good long time but I'm glad I went. My smart girlfriend explained it to me in a way that made me finally care: that people feel about sports teams the way I feel about will-they-won't-they couples on TV. Will they achieve the thing? Oh my god the delicious tension! Oh no here comes an interloper to ruin everything! Wait, last minute scramble, victory just out of reach! And then it's either all, oh my gosh they finally kissed I'm so elated; or oh my gosh we lost the game and now we are the noble underdogs until the next episode. 

It was fun because I was surrounded by lots of people whom I love and bouncing off their energy; because there was lots of running and leaping and getting-of-tries during the game as opposed to those ones where they just constantly regroup and blow the whistle and stand around looking agitated; because it was fun to objectify all these burly men lifting each other towards the sun and leaping on top of each other; because it was 5am and I was slightly delirious; and because it was just so nice that we won. The opposing team was Australia, and I feel as a nation Australia is so breezily good at so many things whereas we really only have rugby in terms of things deemed important, so they can totally take this on the chin. So yes, I freely admit that I've gone from Rugby: Not Even Once, to Rugby: Once, Even. 

All of which is to bury the lede; because obviously the most important thing here is that I made myself an avocado-stuffed burger today. I found the recipe on some website for paleo or something and was like, this seems outlandish and unnecessary, and therefore I must make it. Having ordered and received a bountiful influx of avocados from theavotree.co.nz I found myself in the unusual situation of having more than I know what to do with - normally a ripe avocado is a precious jewel to be hyperventilated over before finally opening it up and realising that you've left it too long and it's now overripe and you are destined for misery, only misery. 

I miraculously had more or less enough ingredients to cobble together a respectable burger (aside from the fact that I had to use a bagel instead of an actual bun, but I welcome any opportunity to remind myself of Sandy Cohen's greatness.) It was all marvelously easy and fast to throw together, although in the spirit of rigorous honesty: I feel like putting the remaining avocado mix on top of the burger kind of defeated the purpose of hiding it inside the burger as well, I mean, it was delicious, but it was also just layers of meat and avocado everywhere. Also, I'd throw some more stuff in: I'm thinking a smattering of cinnamon and salt in the meat, and maybe a spoonful of pesto or something in the avocado mix - it can certainly handle a lot of flavours and textures being thrown at it. But as is, it was very wonderful, with juicy, craggily seared meat giving way to soft, creamy avocado. 

avocado stuffed burgers

a recipe adapted from this recipe

one charmingly ripe avocado
about one teaspoon of lemon juice
a little hot sauce of some persuasion
any other condiments that you fancy
around 250g - 300g minced beef
liquid smoke (optional)
butter for frying
burger buns and other fillings - mayo, lettuce, cheese, etc

Scoop the avocado flesh into a bowl and mash it with a fork, adding the salt, lemon juice, and a dash of hot sauce. Add a little liquid smoke to the mince if you like, and then divide the mince into four equal balls. Using your hands, shape two of them into circles, a little flatter than you normally would for burgers, as you're going to be clamping them together as one soon. Spoon some avocado mixture into the centre of one, and lay the second circle over the top. Gently pinch the edges together - it should all sort of wodge into itself easily enough. Repeat with the remaining mince.

Heat some butter - 20g or so - in a small pan. I like to put the burger in the pan as it's warming up, just to let it gently cook through a bit, and then flip it over once it's sizzling so it gets a seared, browned crust, and then finally flip it over again to further brown the first side. But like, just fry them till they look done, okay. 

Layer them up on your burger buns with lettuce, cheese, mayo, more avocado, and whatever other sauces and spreads and bits and pieces you fancy. 

I uh, also feel like I've said the word avocado so many times now that it has lost all meaning and substance. Especially because I can't help but pronounce them like Kristin Wiig does in The Californians sketch from SNL (it's like..."ava-kya-duhs".) But it's worth taking a minute to collect yourself and then make this recipe because it is, like all recipes I put forth to you, so so super good.

*I uh, also acknowledge that in 2003 I was infatuated with Doug Howlett (first of all, it was 2003, what else was there to do? Also, he was beautiful) however the All Blacks really didn't do very well and didn't end up making it to the finals, which I subsequently did not watch.
title from: Reel Big Fish, Sell Out. Oh what, like you didn't have a ska phase? 
music lately: 

Kate Nash, We Get On. The whole Made of Bricks album is bonkers and spectacular and this song always makes me the very, very flailiest.

Justin Bieber, Sorry. Okay first of all this song is amazing, and if you refuse to listen to it simply because it's by Bieber then you're so boring. But also he released a dance video choreographed and directed by Parris Goebel from New Zealand and while the team of girls dancing all carefree and happy would be cool enough on its own, it adds a certain piquancy - maybe even patriotism - knowing that they're all from here. And honestly the song is so good.

Drake, Hotline Bling. I mean, obviously the video is incredibly special. But I've heard this easily seven thousand times since it was released and still it calls to me. Oh, Drake!
next time: I mean, I still have a zillion avocados. Ava-kya-duh. Oh no. 

28 October 2015

fancy plans and pants to match: hanging ditch

Benji! Hanging bottles! Photo courtesy of my charming and talented coworker Matthew McArthur.

Well hello there, and welcome to another installment of Fancy Plans and Pants To Match. As a glamorous food blogger and author who can definitely pay their rent without feeling piteously tearful, why, it's no wonder that lots of cool things happen to me! This is where I acknowledge the niceness that is occasionally bestowed upon my willing self, while trying to do it in a non-smug way so it's actually enjoyable to read instead of supremely irritating. Don't hate, self-deprecate! Oh and if you're wondering, and especially if you're not wondering, this segment is named for a quote from the redoubtable Jimmy James from the woefully underrated 90s sitcom NewsRadio.  

So here's the thing: Benji Irvine and Andy Gray, who between them have an impressive bartending history including Motel, Matterhorn, and The Library (oh hey!), have opened their very own bar. It's called Hanging Ditch and it joins the Hannah's Laneway precinct to make it even more glorious, as if it wasn't fun enough already with Goldings, Pizza Pomodoro, the Leeds Street Bakery and the Wellington Chocolate Factory. 

The pitch: Hanging Ditch had its hard open on Sunday night and I was invited to try some of the cocktails from the fledgling menu. I mean, is that an enchanting proposition or what. 

La Rosita: tequila, sweet and dry vermouth, campari. 

fernet in staggeringly cool shot glasses  

What happened: So as well as being brought into existence by thoroughly good guys, Hanging Ditch has a particularly idiosyncratic approach to its backbar: all the bottles are suspended from the ceiling, twinkling in the soft light like ethically-sourced diamonds. It's honestly a stunning effect, and I suddenly understood why small babies can be so entranced by dangly items on a mobile.  As well as looking glorious it's also remarkably practical, by which I mean, all bottles appear to be easily grabbed for drinks making and no one seemed to hit their head.

The drinks I tried included....

La Rosita (pictured above): a spectacular mix of tequila, sweet and dry vermouth and campari, all of which I bloody adore and together they form a lushly layered drink with a hint of stickiness from the campari and resiny depth from everything else. I love it. It's served down, in a glass as thick and sturdy as an aeroplane window, which adds to the general satisfyingness of it all.

Resperation: Vodka, lemon, elderflower, marmalade and peach: I mean. Obviously you've got some soft floral stuff happening here plus some distinct zinginess but honestly the only way I can describe it is that it tastes like that feeling you get when a couple on a TV show that you love finally, finally, finally kiss after you've been wanting them to for ages.

Gunpowder Blood and Sand: A drink I love on account of how deadly the name is, this classic is given new legs with Gunpowder, a smoky and aggressive local rum which pleasingly fogs up the varying layers of sweetness provided by the Cherry Heering and orange juice. I would've liked to have drank this out of a more sturdy glass, but it was so delicious that you could've poured it into my cupped hands and I would've been chill.

Daiquiris, plural: obviously they are very capable of making whatever classics you so desire as well as their own concoctions; and with a special on they were slinging excellent daiquiris all evening - all of which were a viciously well-balanced mix of sweet and sour and effortlessly drinkable.

Fernet: because I am a bartender and I accept my fate that fernet is now obligatory and inescapable.

twinkle twinkle little bar

The best bit: The cocktails are honestly so good and Benji and Andy are affable, knowledgeable hosts. While I'm incredibly easily impressed, I'm also pretty discerning when it comes to flavour combinations and ingredients and such, and it's clear that these guys know exactly what they're doing and have done a ton of planning. It's a joy to watch them make cocktails with their own style and panache and the place has an elegant yet unintimidating vibe which means whether you're the only person sitting there or you're part of a crowd it's amazingly easy for the hours to dissolve, like Peychaud's bitters into a sugar cube. I mean, that could also have been the cocktails that helped make time go really fast, but whatever. Oh and I know I said I'd have liked a solid-er vessel for my Blood and Sand but on the whole the glassware and frankly every tiny detail is so impressive and cool. Like, I want to own all their glassware. 

oh wow it's me it's so awkward (how great this photo is) (photo courtesy of the lovely Matthew McArthur)

I spy with my little eye, several babes that I know IRL, but let's also appreciate the cool fit-out and also how much emptier that bottle of fernet is (photo courtesy of the swell Matthew McArthur)

Benji doing the damn thing (photo courtesy of Matthew McArthur who has had quite enough adjectives by now and I'm cutting him off)

On a scale of 1 to Is This The Real Life, Is It Just Fantasy: It's a 1. So, quite often the stuff I get invited to that makes it to this blog is not stuff I can necessarily recreate on a regular basis but like, I will so be back here. This bar is DOPE. I am quite happy to spend money here and in fact spent several moneys there later on Sunday night. So saying that this is a 1 on the scale of 1 to bla bla bla is in fact a very good thing. Sure, the quantities and swank-ness of the drinks may have been at a higher level than I can normally back myself for, but this is absolutely not the last time I'll be having them.

Would I do this again for not-free: See the above paragraph, but: obviously.

Earnest thanks for making me feel fancy to: Hanging Ditch, which can be found at 14 Leeds Street, just next to Goldings and the Wellington Chocolate Factory. Opening a bar in Wellington is not the surest and most straightforward path to success and/or a good night's sleep, but I have a good feeling about this one. And - feel free to read the Fancy Plans and Pants To Match archive while you're here.

23 October 2015

and sugar, we're going down swinging

In this, the year of grace 2015, mere non-plural months away from turning thirty, ya girl played beer pong for the first time in her life on a Sunday evening and also finally completed watching The OC in its entirety, finishing the last ever episode by literally crying into a bagel at 3.40am on a Wednesday night. I also finished Buffy the Vampire Slayer last week and may have listened to Say Anything's 2004 album Is A Real Boy around seven times in one day, so all in all I'm partying like it's the early-to-mid-to-late 2000s. It may be that pop culture is getting the better of me though: yesterday I walked away from the self-checkout counter at the supermarket without paying (immediately turning around and going "oh my god I'm so sorry I didn't mean to it's just that I was listening to Spike's song from Once More With Feeling, the musical episode of Buffy, and got all flustered, you must get this all the time, right, here I'm paying right now") and then later that evening while rewatching Pretty Little Liars I was so flaily at a particularly potent moment that I accidentally kicked myself really hard.

But though I'm about ready to throw my heart in a ravine if, say, Sandy Cohen so much as dares to enter my thoughts (he's just so good) I have also been taking rather excellent care of myself; ramping up my vegetable intake and removing my makeup before I go to bed and remembering that I love yoga, especially the kind on youtube where you essentially just lie down and sway gently and someone tells you that you're a good person. And then yesterday I made fudge, which I'm not going to pretend is like, nutritious, but I'm also not going to pretend that I, like, care. I'm more into adding extra good things to my life than subtracting anything that other people might consider "bad" (and here please picture me elaborately doing air quotes with a disdainful look upon my face) because basically I want to have my cake and eat it too in literally every sense of the word.

I found a particularly simple yet wonderful sounding brown sugar fudge recipe in this amazing American cake and pudding cookbook of mine; and then tinkered with it some, as is my wont. I have been thinking lots about cardamom lately and liked the idea of adding some to the fudge, but that seemed a bit worthy and earnest; I then thought about texture and crunch and considered adding some kind of candy to the recipe, but that seemed a bit basic and obvious. Then I was like, why not both? The combination of ready-made packet candy and sophisticated, nuanced spice pleased me and I was also quite sure that the flavours would be complementary enough to make my resolute commitment to a silly idea worth it.

I am so smug about how correct I was: sweet fancy Moses this fudge is good. First of all can we just take a moment to hold our palms to the sky reverently and just consider how amazing the texture of fudge is? It's firm yet yielding, like a really pert butt; it's somehow buttery and soft yet has the slightest hint of grit from the boiled sugar, it melts on impact in your mouth, it's magical, when you add in the intermittent crunch from the malteasers it's actual sorcery, in fact I have to draw this moment to a close before I flail so hard that I kick myself again. So yeah, the texture is great, but the flavours here are rather perfect too - the warm gingery elements of the cardamom nuzzle into the throat-burningly dark caramelly flavours of the brown sugar and give it depth beyond mere sweetness. The spikes of crunch provided by the malteasers on the other hand stop it being all too intense, and the chocolate coating unsurprisingly goes well with everything.

brown sugar, cardamom and malteaser fudge

one cup brown sugar 
one cup white sugar
one cup milk
25g butter
a pinch of salt
a pinch of ground cardamom
one packet of malteasers

Place the sugars and milk into a good sized saucepan, and bring to the boil. Allow it to continue boiling, stirring occasionally and watching carefully so it doesn't bubble over, until it reaches what is known as the soft-ball stage - what you want to do is get a bowl of cold water, and periodically take small spoonfuls of the boiling sugar and lower them slowly into the cold water. Initially it should just dissipate and dissolve into the water (and you may want to change the water occasionally if it gets too sugary) but once you can lower a spoonful of sugary stuff into the water and it solidifies into a soft, pliant kinda substance, you know you're ready. I hope that makes sense. This should take about ten minutes. 

At this point, remove it from the heat and sit the pan in a sink partly filled with cold water - this is optional but helps, obviously, to cool it down faster - and stir in the butter, the salt, and the cardamom. Stir vigorously until it is thick and seems to have lost most of its glossiness.  I use a whisk for this, as I figure the aeration helps cool it and thicken it faster, but any old spoon will do the trick. At this point, stir in half the malteasers - some of them will melt a bit, which is totally ideal - and transfer the fudge onto a buttered tray/dish. Use the back of a spoon to gently push it out into an even square, then tip the remaining malteasers over the top and push them into the fudge a little to ballast them. Allow it to cool in the fridge for a bit and then slice into irregular squares. I say irregular because you have no option, the malteasers make it a bit hard to get straight lines. 

I think I've definitely hit this home by now, but wow this is so good. Even if you're wary of playing with sugar and/or fire, if you follow the instructions that I give in the recipe to gauge when the fudge is ready, you can't go wrong. Because even if you do go wrong you can still do ever so many things - pour the ineffectual fudge onto ice cream, stir it into softened ice cream, just eat an ice cream and throw the fudge at the wall - either way, there's enough serendipity to go around.

PS: if you're wondering, I was honestly pretty good at beer pong and it was a taut and thrilling game for all involved. However I think I generally prefer to drink my drinks in a more straightforward way rather than having to leap through elaborate hoops to get to them.
title from:  here I am keeping it real, real era-specific that is, with one of my favourite Fall Out Boy songs.
music lately:

Tori Amos, Little Earthquakes. I have listened to precisely zero Tori Amos in my life but wanted to take a chance on her so picked this song at random, and mercy me it's beautiful. So, so beautiful. Except now I'm stuck being unable to choose a follow-up because what if it's not as good as this one, and she has so many songs! Love to overthink! 

Say Anything, the Is A Real Boy/Was A Real Boy album. Frankly: listening to it seven times is actually not enough for me. 

Hailee Steinfeld, Love Myself. It's so good!
next time: I am about to come into possession of a treasure far higher in worth than rubies: avocados. So, expect avocados. 

17 October 2015

eight years later you won me over

you say potato, I say potato, you say this is confusing without vocal cues for context

Historically speaking, more than a few auspicious things have happened on October 14: in 1964 Martin Luther King Jr received the Nobel Peace Prize; the first gay rights march was held in Washington DC in '79; Katherine Mansfield, Usher, Ben Whishaw and the All Saints' Shaznay all were born, and in 2007, I started this blog. I mean. Wow. I may not be on the Wikipedia page for "On This Day In History Yet", but I stand by my Wow.

I went back and read through some blog posts from that time eight years ago and was struck by two things: firstly, I was vigorously earnest. In a way that I'm going to insist upon thinking of as endearing, for self-care purposes. Secondly, I'm kind of impressed at how hard I threw myself into this blog. In October 2007 alone I wrote 22 posts. That's almost as many as I've written this entire damn year. And I was so adventurous - every single post is all like, "Well, I got home from uni so I thought I'd make three pavlovas for my flatmates" or "just marinating two kilos of pork" or "I made this steamed pudding and this loaf of bread and this tray of brownies for while we caught up on Outrageous Fortune which is basically like studying for uni since the title is a Shakespeare quote, zing!"

But here I am, many addresses, story arcs, jobs, sub-plots, identities, hair colours, recipes and one cookbook later. And this blog is still one of the most important things in my life, and it's still going. I think that's impressive, yeah? Much as I feel vaguely cringey occasionally looking back at my old blog posts, I mean, it's not like I'm that amazing now at being not-cringey. If anything, it wouldn't hurt to try and harness that fresh-faced 2007-level of energy.

But, today is not that day. Earlier this week I thought it would be cool to make myself an enormous birthday cake to be all "yay hungryandfrozen!" but instead I went to work and then went out dancing and then slept for most of the next day in an embarrassingly unproductive off-brand manner and suddenly it was several days later, so instead all you're getting is my introspective introspection and this potato salad.

Fortunately, it's an incredible potato salad.

For all that Nigella gets framed as someone who is wantonly extravagant (and frankly I would be too if I had her millions) if you dig around she has so many recipes that are extremely accessible to the average living-paycheck-to-paycheck human. Which is why I was able to throw myself into her cookbooks as a ludicrously broke student many years ago - although admittedly it's because I would often buy, say, pomegranates or dried porcini while sticking bits of cardboard in the bottom of my shoes to block the holes in the soles and tying the broken shoelaces together instead of buying more - and in hindsight, I frankly don't know why on earth buying new shoelaces seemed like such a personal sacrifice but I guess it explains something about who I am as a person.

Within her excellent and fairly underrated book Forever Summer, I found a recipe that perfectly straddled my particular needs on a particular day: cheap enough to make on Payday Eve, and fulfilling my bid to eat a vegetable occasionally.

baked potato salad 

this is how I made Nigella Lawson's recipe from her book Forever Summer. 

three medium-to-large floury potatoes
extra virgin olive oil
flat-leaf parsley 
lemon juice

Set your oven to 200C/400F and give the potatoes a quick stab with a fork or other stabbing implement. Wrap them snugly in tinfoil and throw them in the oven for an hour or so until a sharp knife slides right into them without the slightest hint of resistance. 

Carefully unwrap the potatoes and half them lengthwise, and allow them to cool just enough that they're not entirely resembling the surface of the sun. Use a spoon to scrape out the soft baked potato flesh from the skins, and pile it all onto a large flat plate. That is all the hard work done: now just drizzle over as much olive oil as you please, squeeze lemon juice over, scatter with salt and sumac and finally adorn it all with parsley leaves. This is nicest when it's right at room temperature but eat it how and when you choose. 

Meanwhile, because the universe is occasionally bountiful, you can also turn the oven to grill, put grated cheese in the cavities of the remaining scraped-out potato skins, and grill them till it's all bubblingly melted and the skins are crunchy and everything is good.  

Sumac is a spice that is similar to pomegranate and tamarind in that it imparts a fresh, punchy sourness along with gorgeous colour - so if you don't have any on you and are unlikely to find some anytime soon, consider just blanketing this with tendrils of lemon zest. Sometimes recipes can seem almost too simple, as though you have to explain them contritely to whoever you're serving them to in case they're like "wait so is this just a potato on a plate or what" but simplicity of this salad is what makes it so perfect. The olive oil sinks into the crumbled, tender potato, the parsley gives a slight stab of peppery leafiness, the sumac and lemon juice subtly yet tartly liven everything up, and it really doesn't matter how much of any particular ingredient you add. I guess this technically serves a few people but I ate the entire thing all at once; if you want more just add more ingredients, silly.

Aside from achieving eight years of being in a relationship with this blog, the only other real significant things that have happened recently are: I finally finished watching every last episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Kate and became an emotional unfilled brandy snap as a result (that is; hollow and fragile and fairly outdated); and I dyed my hair bright red. My parents also visited Wellington for the first time in ages and I was able to show them around my stomping grounds (that is, work) and it was lovely to spend time with them. Unfortunately they didn't bring the cats along on the visit, but I won't hold it against them.

I'm a lot happier about the dye job than I let on

So I didn't manage to get my act together to celebrate my blog's birthday in a suitably jaunty manner, but I think it will be okay. I mean, look how far I've come since this photo I posted here eight years ago. I still have that plate, and for some reason that year our flat got sent a LOT of Scientology literature and pamphlets, which is what it's sitting next to. Thanks to all of you who have been reading this though, whether for years and years or merely for regretful minutes - I appreciate every set of eyeballs, every kind email I've got, everyone who has lived through my life along with me. As I said in my very first blog post, "what I've been cooking and what I've been up to lately are often the same thing". Bring on six seasons and a movie.
title from: The Veronicas' mercilessly sad song In Another Life. There's actually a bit where you hear an audible sniffle (followed by me audibly breaking down)
music lately: 

Millencolin, Penguins and Polar Bears. I heard this song for the first time in forever at Kim's goth-themed birthday party recently and have been listening to it nonstop ever since. It contains many of my kryptonites: a gratuitously adorable song title, angst, and a lead singer who sounds like they've got a blocked nose. 

Roxette, She's Got The Look. Oh my gosh, this SONG. It came on the other day when I was out dancing and I hadn't heard it in actual years and it slays me, all that 80s-ness and minor keys and frantic-ness. 

Tom Cruise, Dead or Alive. I mean. I rewatched Rock of Ages with Kim recently and was so irritated at how hot he is in this. Also Bon Jovi is another of my many kryptonites, so. But seriously, just watch this and then deal with your feelings. 
next time: maybe a better-late-than-never cake? 

8 October 2015

fancy plans and pants to match: high tea degustation at hippopotamus

Well hello there, and welcome to another instalment of Fancy Plans and Pants to Match, where I acknowledge that okay, sometimes nice things happen to me because I am a food blogger and author, and I try to write about them in a way that's cool and not too irritating. This segment is named for a quote by the wry and spry Jimmy James from cruelly overlooked 90s sitcom NewsRadio. And now that I've done some self-deprecation and explained some things; I shall actually tell you about the nice thing that happened.

So here's the thing: I was invited to Hippopotamus, the Museum Hotel restaurant, to attend a six-course degustation-style High Tea. Centred around literal tea.

The pitch: Hippopotamus executive head chef Laurent Loudeac and Cocktail/tea maker Camille Furminieux competed against 20 teams from 13 countries in the Dilmah Real High Tea Global Challenge and only went and won the whole thing! Their six course menu both paired and incorporated Dilmah teas and had the theme of 'The Meeting of the Senses'. Once back in New Zealand, they did a one-time recreation of the entire thing for us at Hippopotamus. Turns out, victory is delicious.  

What happened: Dry ice, tea and gin cocktails, crepes suzettes flamed on the spot in front of us...I really had no idea what to expect going in but should have known that since Hippopotamus is all effortlessly spectacular on a daily basis, that it would've been impressive. It was so impressive. 

The food included...

Confit duck leg tortellini in Silver Jubilee Ceylon Ginger, Honey and Mint tea consomme The broth was crystal clear and so delicately flavoured while the duck was so meaty and tender. The sweetness of the duck was brought out by the tea, but also the slight breath of mint and absolute lightness of the dish kept it all in check. Basically: so lush.

Clevedon Buffalo milk Feta Espuma, macadamia nougatine and cucumber with a Vivid Gentle Minty Green Lady cocktail The espuma was a kind of aerated feta mousse that I could've comfortably hoofed down buckets of - so creamy and yet feather-light, tangy from the feta but sweetly crunchy from the macadamias - it was incredibly dreamy stuff. The cocktail was glorious - love a bit of mid-morning gin - using Lighthouse gin, tea, and a little Ch'i fizzy water to create something so delicious I wanted to dive into it and swim around. (It seems this course in particular provoked some hyperbole within me.)

Poire Belle-Helene with Medda Watte Single Region Ceylon Mulled Tea the weather was reliably awful on this particular day and so the genius idea of using tea in a mulled mocktail was incredibly well-received by my bedraggled self. The drink included black doris plum juice, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, blackcurrant syrup and of course, this particularly fancy tea. It was glorious. The food itself was both delicious and adorable which is one of my top five food genres - diminutive baby pears poached till tender and snugly blanketed in chocolate sauce. A classic and classically beautiful dessert.   

the best bit: each course was stunning, both in terms of taste and presentation, and it was fun to hear the affable and extremely talented Laurent and Melanie talk about their time in Sri Lanka and their decisions around each dish and drink. Honestly the coolest bit though, was when our tables were flooded with dry ice. I am never not impressed by dry ice, it seems, but it did also tie into the whole theme of The Meeting of the Senses. And looked so cool. Also, the whole thing really did make me appreciate the complexities of tea and made me want to use it a lot more in my cooking.

on a scale of 1 to "is this the real life, is this just fantasy": it was so unlike anything I'd experienced before and am unlikely to be surrounded by that much tea-related excitement ever again. On top of that the food was utterly wondrous and the staff were confidently capable and charming. So yeah, it's up there close to ten.   

Would I do this again for not-free: I mean, this was a one-off event and I am constantly piteously broke so I literally couldn't do this if I wasn't invited along, but if I was more flush I would be at Hippopotamus all the time.

Earnest thanks for making me feel fancy to: Hippopotamus, at the Museum Hotel, 90 Cable Street, Wellington 04 802 8935/ hippo@museumhotel.co.nz. Also thanks hugely to the photographer on the day whose wonderful photos you see here. And here's the Fancy Plans and Pants to Match archive if you wish to read more things like this (it's really good, okay.)

30 September 2015

i don't need the cheese or the car keys boy i like you just the way you are

*Ring of Keys from the musical Fun Home starts to play as I gaze upon my lunch*

I adore my job as a bartender (indeed, a "prestigious bartender" as my former flatmate's TradeMe ad for her room charmingly described it) - making drinks is the funnest, I like the nonstop stream of strangers to talk to, the team is wonderful, I'm always awake all night anyway, and honestly I dig the attention - being behind the bar is kind of like being on stage. And I love being on stage. However. I really miss making dinner for myself. Scrounging through the pantry, making something out of nothing, bashing flavours and textures together, making pasta or pancakes or slow-cooked-chickpea-bla-bla-bla or some kind of elaborate salad or whatever. And then either a voice in my head or a human nearby (I forget which) was like, "what about lunch". I mean, easier said than done; I'll usually wake up brutally early but not see fit to exit the bed until well after noon. But as it looks like lunchtime is my only chance to make myself dinner these days, I'm willing to throw some energy into it at least once or twice a week. (The rest of the time I'm fervently rewatching The OC like some kind of hypnotised baby seal until I dazedly realise that it's time for me to go to work and/or generally not be sedentary.)

This week I managed to get my act together and make myself a thoroughly fantastic lunch of wasabi cauliflower cheese, the sort of thing that's usually a side dish but is very fun to eat as a meal in its entirety. In an unprecedented fit of activity, I also bleached my hair at the same time. In an even more unprecedented fit of competency, I somehow managed to not eat poison while lovingly massaging wasabi into my scalp. Everything was in its right place: not least, a small vat of cauliflower cheese inside my face.

This recipe was inspired by Katrina Meynink's excellent wasabi mac and cheese, and is a wondrous mix of blanketingly comforting and throat-punchingly zingy. The horseradish heat of the wasabi gets you right in the back of the nose while your lungs fill with the gloriously mellow, thick cheese sauce. The cauliflower, roasted and browned, is nuttily mild enough to carry both these elements with ease. Truth be told you could probably put melted cheese on a tree stump and it would taste good, but it's amazing how the simple act of browning said cheese under the grill elevates this simple dish into heights so good that I've run out of adjectives with which to describe it all. Seriously, this is one hyperbolic paragraph. Luckily for you, what sounds like hyperbole on most people is me just being calmly sincere. You don't even want to know what it's like when I hulk out and actually employ hyperbole.

wasabi cauliflower cheese

a recipe by myself; serves one-ish. Two at best. If you can't figure out how to increase it to feed more people though, then I ruefully cannot help you. 

half a head of cauliflower
40g butter
two heaped tablespoons flour
milk, around 250ml give or take
a heaped teaspoon of wasabi paste
grated cheese, around two handfuls

Set your oven to 220 C/450 F. Slice the cauliflower into florets, and then for good measure, you might as well slice up any remaining stalks and stems since it's all still cauliflower. Throw it all into a small oven dish which will hold the lot snugly, and then put it in the oven to roast for around 20 minutes while you make the sauce. 

Stir the butter and flour together in a smallish pan over a medium heat, till the butter melts into the flour and forms a thick paste. Stir this for a bit longer, then tip in around 1/4 cup of milk, continuing to stir - this first measure will most likely hiss as it hits the hot pan and be absorbed fairly instantly into the flour-butter. Continue slowly adding milk and stirring till you have something that looks like sauce - the amount of milk may vary, but you want to end up with enough to comfortably coat the roasted cauliflower while still being quite thick. Throw in a handful of cheese and the wasabi paste and stir until the cheese has melted into it and the wasabi is thoroughly incorporated. Taste to see if it needs more of anything - some salt, more wasabi, a little more milk, whatever. 

Remove the cauliflower from the oven, spatula the cheese sauce evenly over it, allowing it to sink into the crevices between each floret. Sprinkle over another handful of cheese, and put it back into the oven for another five minutes - at this point you can turn the oven onto grill to brown the cheese on top, although keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn. Eat. 

Obviously I've ranted at length about how good this is already, but just know that I intended to eat half of this and retain the leftovers for the following day; instead I went into a kind of fugue state and galloped through the lot in one sitting, sinuses stinging from the wasabi and eyes damp with the particular joy that melted cheese bestows.

Spring has sprung and it's filling me with this weird sense of optimism - I do love a good solid wallow in icy wintery weather but damn it if the sunshine doesn't manipulate me into feeling beatifically happy. Nevertheless it has been dark and cold for so long that I've forgotten what one even does in nice weather, and I have been spending (some might say squandering) almost all of the sunshiny hours on watching The OC and sighing over how truly good Sandy Cohen is and how literally perfect the character of Summer is, while knitting my way through an enormous Lenny Kravitz-inspired scarf. Thank goodness Sandy Cohen's constant prattling on about bagels left me with such an enormous craving for them that I had to leave the house in search of them eventually, thus not entirely missing the beautiful blue-skied weather: thanks, TV! 
title from: The Way I Are, Timbaland and Keri Hilson's banger from 2007 that I once danced so hard to that I fell onto a bed, bounced off it onto a dresser, and broke my fall with my incisor tooth. Was miraculously fine though: ain't nothing gonna break my stride or my teeth. 
music lately: 

be your own PET, Damn Damn Leash. Their entire self-titled album is bratty gold, the kind of music that makes you want to go kick a letterbox or something, but this early track was the first of theirs that I ever heard and I was instantly hellaciously smitten. 

Faith No More, Epic. Ugh I can't quit this song. It's also gloriously bratty and I love how Mike Patton sounds kinda congested and it makes me wanna dance SO hard.  

My Bloody Valentine, the Loveless album. It's the kind of thing you have to put headphones on and lie on the floor to listen to but gosh damn it's lush and crunchy and dreamy and all good things. It really suits being listened to all at once but I guess if you want an entry point, When You Sleep or I Only Said are wonderful.  
next time: if Sandy Cohen has his way, it will be some kind of bagel stuffed with bagels served upon a bed of bagels. 

22 September 2015

we're so much more than pointless fixtures, instagram pictures

*lou reed voice* shiny shiny 

I've always been one to self-absorbedly imagine that I'm in a scene in a movie while doing otherwise mundane things like staring inscrutably out the window while on a train or sitting inscrutably on a park bench or getting a coffee by myself, inscrutably - I know I'm not the only one that does this! It's like, this is the quiet bit in the indie movie where the camera stays fixed on me for an almost uncomfortably long time while I do something very normal but in an utterly enigmatic way. Right?

Anyway after spending the longest time of only listening to podcasts when getting to and from places, I've started listening to music through my headphones on my phone again (having got the Spotify app and an ad-free premium account) and wow, nothing enhances the "I'm a mysterious and important character in an indie film that you'll guiltily download because you can't stomach spending $25 on a ticket during festival season or waiting forever for it to have a limited-at-best release" feeling like walking down the road utterly immersed in your own personal soundtrack. Sauntering in the dark to Lazy Line Painter Jane by Belle and Sebastian - the lyrics are stupid but the beat and the melody are heavenly and the coda makes the mere act of walking seem like art; striding through the rain to Shazam by Spiderbait feeling like a complete brat as you jaywalk (in my defence the roads in Wellington are ridiculous and there's nothing to do but jaywalk); drifting dreamily, almost floating, through the industrial end of town to Julee Cruise's Rockin Back Inside My Heart. I know this is the most pretentious thing I've written in a long time and I sound like a teenager who has just discovered Morrissey (you should've seen me when I was a teenager who had just discovered Morrissey) but like, it's just so, so, so long since I've done this and it's such a small thing but it's so amazing. That's it, that's the story: listening to music through headphones is nice, did you know?

*freddy mercury voice* hash! Aaa-aah, saviour of the universe!

Speaking of all the small things; I still haven't replaced my lost SD card for my fancy digital camera, partly out of not wanting to spend excess money and partly out of a self-flagellating sense of punishment. As such my phone has graduated from being merely my best friend and confidante to my main camera. Which also makes it slightly harder to get a decent bundle of blog-worthy photos happening for any one dish I've made at any one time. In lieu of that, I've decided to do a wee round-up of some food I've made and quickly instagrammed lately - united they are greater than the sum of their parts, or something. All three of these things - peanut butter cookies; sausage and potato hash; and tomato and feta tart - are stupidly delicious and the recipes can be imparted to you super quickly, so...yeah. No harm done.

peanut butter cookies

one cup smooth peanut butter
one cup sugar
one egg
one teaspoon baking powder
dark chocolate

set your oven to 180 c/350 F. Mix all the ingredients together, roll the mixture into rather small balls (the smaller they are, the less likely they are to crumble) and place on a paper-lined baking tray. Press down slightly with the back of a spoon to flatten them juuuust a little. Bake for about ten minutes, then let them sit for ten minutes (important so they don't crumble...again) before carefully transferring to a wire rack to cool. Melt the chocolate and spoon it over the top of the cooled cookies as you please. Makes many. 

If you're a gluten-free person you will likely have encountered some version of this recipe already a million times but man it's good - soft, chewy, salty-sweet cookies, the throat-coating peanut butter cut through with the crunch of bitter dark chocolate. I'd usually prefer milk chocolate here but using dark makes them dairy-free too - I made these to take into work one evening in a kind of a sustain-the-troops kind of move, and also because I thrive on presenting people with food that I've made whether they want it or not.

sausage and potato hash

four fresh pork sausages
two large floury potatoes
one onion, diced 
dried thyme
oil and butter
two eggs
HP sauce and/or ketchup/hot sauce/whatever other condiment your sodium-caked heart desires

It's fairly uncool but if you microwave the sausages in a bowl of water for three minutes and then microwave the potatoes for three minutes (give both of them a stabbing with a fork first) then your life will be an awful lot easier. Otherwise consider simmering them in a pan of water for a bit first or just plough ahead and hope for the best. 

Heat plenty of olive oil or similar in a large pan. Gently fry the onion until softened and golden. Roughly chop the sausages and tip them into the pan, allow them to sizzle and brown. Then dice the potato fairly small, and add to the pan - try and get as much surface area touching the base of the pan as possible to encourage browning and crisping. Put a lid on the pan for about five minutes to allow the steam to cook the potato through, then remove the lid, turn up the heat, add a knob of butter and the thyme and allow everything to sizzle like whoa. Push everything to the side and crack the two eggs into the pan and allow them to fry till you're quite satisfied. Remove from the heat; divide the sausage and potato mixture between two plates, top with the eggs, and apply as much sauce as you please. 

I made this for my wonderful girlfriend and myself on Sunday when we were both varying degrees of hungover and indecisive (okay, well she fried the eggs - I'm just not that great at eggs and she is) and it was the absolute perfect thing. Cheap, fast, fried, carb-loaded, slightly greasy, sustaining, nourishing, hot, covered in salt and sauce, and the ideal accompaniment to watching 21 Jump Street. From which we can learn two things: one, Dave Franco has ascended to being The Superior Franco, and two, Channing Tatum's acting career is the greatest thing to happen to America this century.

tomato and feta tart 

one sheet ready-rolled puff pastry
half a tin of chopped tomatoes
one tablespoon cornmeal
about fifty or so grams of feta cheese
thyme leaves
a little oil, milk, melted butter or something for brushing the pastry with

Set your oven to 200 C/400 F and place some baking paper on a baking tray. Put the sheet of pastry on top and score a one-inch border around the edge - this is where you use the point of a knife to almost-but-not-quite cut through it, like you're drawing a slightly smaller square inside of it. This is gonna make the edges puff up and make a fetching border once you bake it. Sprinkle the cornmeal over the middle of the pastry, drain the tomatoes well and spread them evenly across, then sprinkle/crumble the feta on top of the tomatoes. Brush the edges with melted butter or whatever if you like, and then bake for about 15-20 minutes until it's golden, puffy and risen around the edges. Sprinkle with salt and strew with thyme leaves. Slice into bits and snarf the lot. 

Look, if you have some ready-rolled pastry in your fridge or freezer then you have the makings of a good time no matter how meagre the rest of your pantry supplies may be. You could literally just bake a piece of pastry and it would still be a charming snack. I mean, I wouldn't be above such things. Tomatoes and feta are obvious pals so don't even make me try to explain it to you, but there's something fun about the tangy feta once it's warmed through and how it contrasts with the relative sweetness of the tomatoes and the buttery, puffy pastry. This is another one that I threw together for my excellent gf and myself one Sunday and it's the perfect lunch for two - cut it into four squares, have two each, put a little rocket or spinach on the side if you're feeling outlandish, and deliciousness shall abound.

*no particular voice* this is a tomato and feta tart

As I alluded to before I'm trying so hard to spend as little money as possible right now, on account of how living paycheck to paycheck is no fun, but I also decided to ignore that rule and hoist myself off to a cafe to write this blog post over a coffee. Also it's payday today! I doubt I'm gonna be able to afford to replace my SD card any time soon, so you'll just have to get used to these phone-photos, but honestly instagram is so great that I'm not even too bothered (that said if you're feeling like you're too rich right now may I remind you that I have a paypal, pal) - somewhat unsurprisingly I love making my life look more dreamy and hazily lit than it really is. Just as I'm massively digging soundtracking my life like I'm the first person who discovered how to do this. Some might say it's whimsical, some might say it's insufferable and not even particularly interesting, but as long as they're saying something I really don't mind.
title from: Queen Beyonce, with her drown-in-the-sexy song Rocket from her incredibly important self-titled album. Don't listen to it unless you're ready to fall over sideways. 
music lately: 

Misterwives, Twisted Tongue. Uhhhh this is such a good pop song, I can't even deal and I frankly refuse to deal. 

Beach House, A Walk In The Park. Another good one to make your way from A to B to. The perfect child of Billy Idol's Eyes Without A Face and The Pixies' Where Is My Mind (a perfect child that I never knew I needed, to be fair.) They've just been announced as coming to Laneway festival next year and I MUST GO. 
next time: I mean technically it's Spring, despite the weather being more appalling than it has been all winter, and I am determined to hunt down some asparagus. 

13 September 2015

i'm just a painter and i'm drawing a blank

lady whom lunch

My dear friends got a beautiful corgi last year, and when they were first doing that thing where you train a dog how to be a nice guy instead of a tiny furry hell-monkey, she would totally resist wearing her walking harness. Like, she'd be scooting around the room happily but as soon as she got the harness on she would stand very still, stiffly refuse to relax or sit down, and just kind of look right through youFor ages. With all due respect to Percy the corgi for me turning her into an analogy; this is what my brain has been doing this whole week. I am all "I have awoken! I've had coffee! I'm wearing soft, comfy fabrics! Time to write!" and then I'll open my laptop and everything pauses in my brain and I just stare at the screen for hours, blankly (admittedly taking breaks to hoon through The OC because if I'm just sitting staring anyway I may as well drink in the sweet, potable waters of nostalgia while I'm at it.) I don't know why! I've done heaps of cool things lately! I've made this incredibly delicious recipe! I love writing! So why is there nothing but the hum of white noise every time I open my laptop? Aside from the fact that I was probably listening to a youtube video of white noise at the time, because I am obsessed with it (in fact I have graduated from mere white noise to this thing called Brown Noise which was a frequency discovered by some guy named Robert Brown, it's the best thing ever.) 

I woke up this morning at a time most would consider brutally early, especially as I'd been at a house party last night. Since I am not blessed with the powerful ability to sleep through anything for hours and hours like some people can (directing this jealously at my gf) I decided to fill up the time by just making myself write whatever came into my head and not stopping till I'd finished this damn blog post. And here I am! Halfway through already. And I haven't even started talking about the recipe! 

See that's why it was so frustrating that I couldn't make myself write this week, because this recipe I made up was so spectacular and deserves more of a showcase than me having to threaten myself with throwing my laptop into a ravine if I don't write about it soon. So, the recipe: I recently became wise to the fact that you can make risotto but with pasta instead of rice. Curious cat that I am, I wanted to try this, and happened to have some risoni in my pantry (by which I mean my designated food drawer in the flat kitchen) but didn't really have much else. Luckily restriction can make the most delicious things happen, and I ended up improvising based on the few ingredients I had by gently frying the uncooked risoni in garlicky butter that I then stirred miso paste into. From then all I added was water and it ended up the most lush, creamy, intensely flavoured thing ever. Seriously. Just stupid old water.

Risotto is totally the white noise of food, because it's almost hypnotically calming to make. You just keep adding water and stirring until it's pleasingly absorbed into the grains, and then add more and stir again, just moving your wooden spoon around and around the pan repeatedly like you're actually a gif instead of an IRL person. Like, if ever there was a recipe that encourages you to zone out and be mellow, it's risotto.

garlic miso butter risoni risotto

a recipe by myself. serves one. 

25g butter
three cloves of garlic
one heaped teaspoon white miso paste
half a cup of risoni pasta

Melt the butter in a wide saucepan. Finely but roughly chop the garlic and throw it into the pan, stirring over a medium heat until the garlic is a little golden and it smells amazing. Stir in the miso paste - it won't amalgamate completely but this will all sort itself out soon.

Tip in the uncooked pasta, and stir it for a minute or so to cover it in the garlicky butter. Add water half a cup at a time, continuing to stir the pasta until most of the water is absorbed before you add any more. Continue in this way until the pasta has absorbed enough water to become tender. Tip onto a plate, strew over some herbs if you like. Thyme is one of my favourite herbs and I happened to have a plant that I hadn't yet managed to kill so I used some leaves from that, and it worked perfectly. 

I love pasta, I love risotto, so putting them together is like trapping myself in a pincer movement of happiness. So if that sounds like your idea of A Good Time, perhaps consider this recipe next time you need to feed yourself. I know I will. 

Thanks for bearing with me through all that, it's like...the more time that passes since I last wrote a blog post the more panicky I get, because this blog is the most important thing to me and I don't want it to have the slightest hint of abandonment or even just falling off the wagon, you know? All of which results in me putting more pressure on myself to write whenever I have the time to, which isn't that often, which is probably why my brain rebelled on me by being all "nope". 

the girl with a pearl face

PS last night's party was themed "Between the Devil and The Deep Blue Sea" and it was a joint birthday party for my dear friends Kate and Tim. I dressed up as a pearl and covered my face in makeup. I wish it was chill to wear this kind of eye makeup all the time, it's so fun. 

PS PS as a final attempt to convey how delicious and wonderful the risotto is, here is me licking the plate after eating it. As well as outlandish makeup, I wish it was more chill to lick the plate in social settings. The tongue is nature's spatula! I can't quite bring myself to finish this blog post with that line, but...at least I managed to bring myself to finish this blog post at all. 
title from: Fall Out Boy, Don't You Know Who I Think I Am? Party like it's 2006.
music lately:

Ummm, more Fall Out Boy, I've Got All This Ringing In My Ears And None On My Fingers is such a tune.

Haim, Don't Save MeWe danced to this last night, I love it so much, I could listen to it endlessly.
next time: Well, I refuse to have as much trouble as I had with this one. I refuse!

1 September 2015

my anaconda don't want none unless you got buns, hon


Well, ya girl is finally not completely sick, which I'm taking as a victory. Considering I've spent the last month battling both the flu and a cold, while they in turn both battled each other for fealty to my body, simply being able to get through the night without coughing with metronome-like regularity is pretty wonderful. 

Somewhat more unwonderful is that I had a book proposal turned down. You all know I want little more than to write another cookbook and start an incredibly hilarious TV cooking show and live out my days as a gloriously rich happy wee celesbian. So in the spirit of doing stuff instead of just talking about it endlessly, last month I approached a publisher with my idea for my next book. And...it wasn't picked up. It's so weird because half of me is unusually pragmatic about it - telling myself that book proposals get rejected constantly and this is entirely normal and also my proposal was probably very badly formatted since I've never done one before; while the other half of me is all dramatically clutching at my heart and wailing "whyyyyyyy but I'm so good why am I not good enough please hold all my calls because I need to take to my bed for a week" and so on. 

So while I'm wrestling between the burning embarrassment of rejection and also the cool, calm acknowledgement that this happens to pretty much everyone who approaches publishers, in telling you all this I'm hoping it lets the cool-calm side win. I like to be stupidly open about myself On Here and just the act of relaying this situation helps it not seem like the worst thing in the world, (I know, there are a lot of worse-er things in the world but I'm incredibly self-centred, okay) and that's a start. Firstly, I was so lucky to be approached by the publishers for my first book rather than me having to go approaching people, and after what happened with my book last year it took a long time for me to even get to this point where I can put myself out there like this, so it's all progress and stuff.  Related: my tarot card for September is all about emotional stability and being highly chill. Look at me go! 

look upon my works ye mighty and despair (I care not that this is probably completely the wrong use of this phrase) 

Meanwhile, in an act that reassured me that I still have something to offer the world, I thought up this bread roll recipe the other day and I'm incredibly pleased with how well it all turned out. I had some cream cheese left over from making another thing and wondered if it might be good worked into bread dough in the same way that you work butter into dough when making brioche. As they smugly tend to do, my idea worked. The buns were impossibly tender and fluffy, with a slight, slight hint of tanginess from the cream cheese. I know I make it look incredibly complicated in the recipe below, but really this is very easy - you just mix some stuff together with a spoon, let it rise, knead in the cream cheese and shape it into buns, let it rise again, then bake it. And then, several hours later, tearful, covered in flour and utterly starving, you have yourself some freshly baked buns for very little effort.

I acknowledge that making your own bread might seem like little more than a way to wilfully make your life more difficult, but it really is weirdly fun - watching the dough rise, feeling the change in texture as you knead it, and most of all when you get to hold up the finished product and be all "I created life! With my own two hands! These hands!" The smell of bread baking in the oven is actual heaven, and busting them open and spreading them with butter, which swiftly melts into every puffy crevice, before rapturously biting through the crisp exterior feels like a reward for living. And frankly we all deserve more rewards for living.

cream cheese buns

a recipe by myself

three cups strong bread flour
one sachet instant dried yeast
one teaspoon salt
25g melted butter (plus a little extra for brushing)
one and a half cups of warm water
150g cream cheese

Firstly, take the cream cheese out of the fridge so that it is soft enough to work into the dough later on. Then: put the flour, yeast and salt together in a good sized bowl, then tip in the melted butter and warm water and give it a rough stir so it forms a shaggy, loose mixture. You may need a tiny bit more water, it all depends on your flour and sea level and the curve of the earth and so on. Cover the bowl in plastic wrap or a tea towel and leave in a warmish place - a room with the heater on, in a sunny spot on a table, in a hot water cupboard, on top of an aging and overheated laptop, that kind of thing - for an hour or so, until it has expanded in size somewhat. 

At this point, use your fist to push it down and deflate it, and now you're going to start kneading the cream cheese into it. If you've got the kind of cream cheese that comes in a block, then cut it into thin slices, otherwise just get small spoonfuls of it. Either leave the dough in the bowl and knead it there (my usual choice for saving on mess) or transfer it to a clean, lightly floured surface, and work the cream cheese in while kneading it by putting the cream cheese on top of the dough then pushing it away from you with the heel of your palm and then folding it back towards you, then pushing it away from you again, adding more cream cheese every time. Does that make sense? Push away, bring back towards you, push away, and with every push and fold you should be able to work the cream cheese further into the dough. Ideally you want to be able to actually get it to become part of the dough itself, but it doesn't matter if there's a few bits here and there. Just keep working it till it forms a springy, smooth ball of dough. 

Pull off bits of this dough and roll them into small buns, sitting them close together on a paper-lined baking tray. Set your oven to 200C/400F and let the buns sit for about 20 minutes to get a final rise, brush with some extra melted butter, and then bake them for around 15-20 minutes until golden brown on top.  

I ate four of these immediately after taking them out of the oven, and then I delivered some to my friend Jen in a pleasingly neighbourly manner, and the remaining ones I ate at around 3am after getting home from work the next night. They are so good. And frankly, I'm pretty alright myself.
title from: the wonderful and important Nicki Minaj and her amazing song Anaconda (although obviously this bit is sampled from Baby Got Back.) If you don't mind ending up on a downward spiral of watching choreography videos on youtube and lamenting your own lack of skills, you should definitely get stuck in a downward spiral of watching choreography videos on youtube because the Tricia Miranda choreo for Anaconda is incredible.
music lately: 

Carly Rae Jepsen, Emotion. I'm SO into her right now. Perfect pop.

If Mama Was Married, with Leigh-Ann Larkin and Laura Benanti from the 2009 Broadway revival of Gypsy. You have to scroll few to several minutes in to get to the song but the harmonies get me right in the heart every time. I watched the Bette Midler version of this recently with my excellent girlfriend and it's just such the musical to end all musicals.

Breeders, Cannonball. Gah this song is so good and there was no one cuter than Kim and Kelley Deal.
next time: I've been making lots of little bits and pieces and instagramming them lately, maybe I'll do a big post about all of them? Also you wouldn't know it from the weather but it is the first day of spring so maybe something....springy.