27 June 2010

here comes the brand new flava in your ear

While I'm usually as inspired by Cuisine magazine and its contents as the next person, the July issue that arrived in the mailbox a few days ago seemed to make me want to cook even more than I usually do. Be aware: this is some high-level longing. Inside its pages is an interview with Yotam Ottolenghi, who, apart from having an extremely cool name, has developed a small empire of eateries in the UK (the name Ottolenghi is really built to carry an empire, I'm not sure mine is) and penned a cookbook here and there too. He has a new one out called Plenty, of which a sampling of recipes were featured in Cuisine. From this one alone I think I would, at the very least, go make puppy-dog eyes at Plenty in a bookshop and stroke its elegant cover thoughtfully. (Hello, at $70 - sure, it's probably worth actually buying, but at this stage the only headway I can afford is to make significant eye contact with it.)

The thing that attracted me to this recipe was not just that I magically had all the ingredients - (except the green chilli but I made up for this by adding a daring spoonful of chilli paste to the sauce; I substituted kumara for butternut because that's what I had) - but that the combination of flavours seemed so new and yet so obviously meant to be together. I'd never had cardamom like this before or poured tahini over kumara. I wanted to try it, and immediately.

Roasted Kumara with Lime, Yoghurt Tahini Sauce and Chilli

Adapted from a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi from his book Plenty, in the July Cuisine magazine.

2 whole limes
4 Tablespoons olive oil1 large kumara, or enough to make about 900g (or of course, butternut)2 tablespoons cardamom pods
1 teaspoon ground allspice100g plain, Greek-style yoghurt
30g tahini
1 green chilli, thinly slicedcoriander leaves
Sea salt
Preheat oven to 210 C. Trim the tops and tails off the limes, stand on a chopping board and carefully slice off the peel and pith (a bit like this recipe here). Quarter the limes from top to bottom, and cut each quarter into thiin slices (basically - you want really thin slices of lime. The instructions are a little fiddly.) Place the slices in a small bowl, sprinkle with a little sea salt and pour over one tablespoon of the olive oil. If you have a really, really nice olive oil this is the place to use it.

Cut the butternut or kumara into slices about 1cm thick. Lay them on a baking tray. Grind the cardamom pods in a pestle and mortar (or you could probably use a food processor or something) so the seeds are extracted, and then discard the greenish pods (this took forever! The recipe does not mention this fact!) and continue to work them into a rough powder. Add the allspice and remaining oil (I used only about a tablespoon or so) and brush over the slices, sprinkle with a little salt and place in the oven for 15 minutes or until tender. Remove from the oven.
Meanwhile, whisk together the yoghurt, tahini, a tablespoon of lime juice squeezed from one of the slices chopped earlier, 2 tablespoons of water and a pinch of sea salt. To serve, arrange the slightly cooled slices of butternut or kumara on a plate, drizzle with the yoghurt sauce, spoon over the lime slices and scatter the coriander and chilli over the top.

These flavours together were so stunning. After one mouthful I involuntarily cried "Damn this is good!" and defied anyone within my empire (Tim) not to agree with me. Luckily he liked it too.

Here's what this plate is serving you: the soft, satiny, caramelised slices of sweet kumara, roasted with lemony, tongue-numbing cardamom and cooled with earthy, nutty, tangy yoghurt and tahini sauce. The wince-inducing sharpness of the limes is somehow softened during their brief olive oil and salt spa session, leaving only pure, juicy lime flavour. You know what perky lift the coriander brings, that's why it's so popular. The chilli that I added into the sauce brought a little necessary dark heat. We had this with rice and it was a small but perfect dinner for two. You could leave out the yoghurt and make this completely vegan or serve it alongside a gingery roasted chicken or sesame and soy-marinated steak. It's something special all right. So special I wheeled out alllllll those adjectives.

Speaking of adjectives...

On Monday Tim and I were fortunate enough to see Wanda Jackson performing live at the San Francisco Bath House. At 75 years of age her voice is as menacing as it ever was and she put on an amazing show, revisiting old favourites (Let's Have A Party - hooo!) and new zingers, with stories of how she got to be where she is. Afterwards she appeared on the floor and waited patiently to sign photos for everyone, Tim and myself included - we got squeezed to the back by some understandably, but undeniably pushy folk so she looked a little dazed by the time our turn rolled round, but was still friendly. She's often mentioned in conjunction with dating Elvis and for Jack White producing her next album but far from being defined by the men in her life she appeared on stage as who she is - an incredibly talented, powerful, gracious woman.

In my last post I mentioned the All Whites' exciting trajectory in the FIFA World Cup - Tim and I got up and trudged to the pub in the freezing cold at 2am Thursday night to witness their final game of the tournament against Paraguay. While they didn't win they definitely didn't lose either - they remain one of the few unbeaten teams of the whole shebang and truly, when you compare the amount of times that Paraguay could have scored, but didn't, and our few chances at a goal, it was a fairly astonishing game. ___________________________________________________

Title via: Craig Mack's superfine Flava In Ya Ear from Project: Funk Da World.

Music lately:

Wanda Jackson's devastatingly good Shakin' All Over, produced by Jack White for Third Man Records. On Monday night Jackson was wearing this white, heavily fringed sweatshirt (it reminded me a little of a pink sweater I used to have as a kid with a giant purple fringed V-shape across the front, I called it my "Barbie Goes West" outfit because I was cool like that) which she used to great effect in performing this song. I love it!

Devo's new-ish song Fresh from their album Something For Everybody. I do love a song that exercises its right to multiple tempos and both Fresh and Shakin' All Over do this staggeringly well.

Next time: I did promise pavlova and it is on its way, but I also made some seriously enticing homespun marshmallows today and they might well jump the queue. In other news Tim and I have embarked on a side-project together, a little site largely devoted to music called 100s and 1000s, check it out if you'd like to...

24 June 2010

ba-na-na (nanana!)

I just ate a giant dinner largely composed of...roast potatoes. I feel so sleepy as a result that I can't even describe how sleepy I feel, only repeat ineffectually that I feel so sleepy. Apologies if the following bloggery isn't all that flash.

As I write there's only a handful of hours left till the All Whites will play Paraguay at the FIFA world cup, oh my. The game's at 2am and I'm hoping those potatoes will let me get some decent sleep beforehand. There's this swirling uprising of coverage in the media in New Zealand at the moment and I just hope that, in the likely situation of us losing, there's no "Black Friday" type headlines tomorrow. Because seriously. Let's keep sight of things. It's exciting that we're there at all, we managed to stop the reigning champions from winning, and we've never, ever got this far before in football. I don't even really like sports AT ALL and this is really exciting.

Speaking of really exciting...cake!

My aunty Lynn gave me Alyson Gofton's book Flavours as a birthday present a few years back. I'm not sure where I stand on Alyson Gofton but this book would swing anyone in her favour - it's packed full of innovative but not terrifying recipes, most of which sound incredibly delicious and are a good call to action to rifle through your spice rack and get to grips with how a particular flavouring agent can perk up a meal. The last time I made this recipe for Palm Sugar and Lime Banana Loaf was in 2004 (specifically, for Mum's high school reunion lunch, if I remember right...?) and I can't understand why it has taken me so long to return to it, since it's really, really good. If you think banana cakes are the most obvious thing in the history of obvious things that are cakes, well, think again.

You know how sometimes you make those "cleaning out the fridge" kind of dinners that can never really be replicated because they use up all the bits and half-eaten pieces sitting round on your shelves hoping to be asked to dance? This cake, strangely enough, ended up being a similar exercise. Browning, speckled bananas in the fruit bowl, palm sugar I overenthusiastically bought by the bucketload, that large boxful of limes.

Palm Sugar and Lime Banana Loaf

Bear in mind there is no harder substance on earth than palm sugar. I'm pretty sure palm sugar could penetrate diamonds. The only way I can deal with it is by using a serrated Victorinox knife and scraping/shaving away at it till it's a pile of gritty golden rubble.

150g soft butter
1/2 cup crushed palm sugar (roughly one circular lump)
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed, ripe banana
Grated rind of 2 limes
2 and 1/4 cups self-raising flour
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons lime juice

Set oven to 180 C and line a loaf tin with baking paper. Beat together the butter and sugars till light and creamy, add the eggs and lime rind. Fold in the bananas, flour, and liquids. It will be a very stiff dough, almost scone-like. Turn it into the loaf tin, and bake for 45 mins to an hour. When cool, drizzle over an icing made from about 1 cup icing sugar and the juice of a lime or two.

Don't be fooled by the nothing-muchness of the icing - it really pulls the loaf cake together, mobilising all the flavours with its sticky tanginess. This is a moist, dense and easily sliced loaf, and while the palm sugar doesn't exactly get all up in your face, its delicate fudge-like flavour along with the added lime make this a gently out of the ordinary delicious thing to bake. I photographed it this morning before work (grabbing one of the 'artistic' slices for a sneaky breakfast treat) and when I got home there was only a slender-ish chunk of loaf left sheepishly on the bench, as if it was trying to look bigger than it really was. I took it as a compliment.

Incidentally, it's kind of fun reading over Flavours which is only all of seven years old, and seeing hints that basil pesto can be bought at the supermarket and avocado oil now being "available in two scented varieties." Hee. How far we've come...well as far as pesto is concerned, anyway.

I guess I find out next week some time how the whole CLEO/Wonder Women thing went down. Voting closes tomorrow, Friday 25 June (which is, I guess, Thursday 24 June for all you international readers above the equator). I sort of feel like I've wrung dry everything I can from this, but if by chance you haven't voted for me yet and would like to, firstly read why here
and then email cleo@acpmagazines.co.nz with WONDER WOMEN in the subject line and "Voting for blogger: Laura Vincent" in the body of the email. Whatever happens, a mega-enormous thank you to everyone that did vote for me - and you can most definitely call on me to vote for you for anything in return.


Title via: Look, it's a skit/interlude from M.I.A's mad awesome album Arular, and I'm really usually not into skits clogging things up but this is so weirdly catchy that I'll find "ba...na...naaaa" popping into my head when I least expect it.

Music lately:

Karen Elson's The Ghost Who Walks, from the album of the same name. I love this album! It seems to hark back vaguely to 'another time' and is rich and full of melodies and warm, pretty Gillian Welch-ish harmonies. (Mum and Dad - I bet you'd love this one.) How lucky is Karen Elson - incredibly beautiful, married to Jack White, and luckiest of all, she can sing.

Big Boi's new single Shutterbug, I just can't get enough of it right now. It's silkier than a silkworm, and the melody behind it reminds me of Grandmaster Flash's The Message, but in a good way. I've always enjoyed Outkast's take on hip hop and it's cool that they're just as capable of working as separate entities as they are together. This song is a diamond, and the man knows how to use the line "cut a rug" properly.


Next time: By the time "next time" shuffles along, we'll know what the outcome of the All Whites' game was, we'll probably know whether or not I caused my own out-of-nowhere result with the Cleo/Palmolive Wonder Women thing, and...I will have a giant pavlova to share with you (well, words about a giant pavlova, but these words will allow you to make one for yourself and then share it with absolutely no-one at all, if you like).

17 June 2010

under the leaves of that old lime tree

Achtung: I'm STILL hyping myself up about being nominated for CLEO magazine/Palmolive Wonder Woman (Read more about it here.) There's still time to help out - just email cleo@acpmagazines.co.nz with WONDER WOMAN in the subject line and "voting for Blogger: Laura Vincent" in the body of the email. (FYI - you can only vote once) I should change my name to humbleandfrozen because of how nice so many people have been about this - whether or not I get anywhere, it has still been a fun wave to flutterboard on.

As I mentioned last time, Mum sent me a large box of gorgeously green limes. I hadn't really done much more than sniff them luxuriantly, and throw a glossy wedge into the occasional glass of vodka and soda water. Until tonight, when I made this incredibly fantastic dressing from Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer.

This recipe harnesses the power of one. whole. lime.

Lime Dressing

1 bunch (approx 125g) fresh coriander, or mint, or a mixture of the two
1 clove garlic, peeled
1-2 tablespoons fish sauce (you could make this vegan by using soy sauce)
1/2 a teaspoon sugar
1 green chilli, deseeded (optional)
1 lime
6 tablespoons rice bran oil

Cut the top nubby end off the lime, sit the now-flat end on a chopping board, and carefully slice off all the skin and pith. Cut off the other end, halve the now-peeled lime and flick out any seeds with a knife. Mine luckily didn't seem to have any seeds. Throw the lime, and any juice that has collected, into a food processor with everything else except the oil. Blitz to a paste, pouring in the oil as you go. By the way, I only used half the oil because even for me that felt like a lot, but then if you were serving more people, you might want to keep the original quantities or even boost them, along with the rest of the ingredients.

This dressing is just perfect - sharp and full of lime, fragrant with coriander, deliciously salty, but not in the slightest bit oily. I could have drunk the stuff. Once I finished dinner, I not only licked the plate, I also ran a spatula around the inside of the food processor and licked that, and then finally - I'm sorry - ran my finger along the processor blade, picking up the excess dressing clinging to its slicey edges, and licked that too.

In Forever Summer, Nigella pairs this dressing in a salad draped with fried squid rings, and lovely as that sounds I didn't have any of the ingredients. I took the liberty of pouring the dressing over a pile of flat rice noodles, carrot slices and soybeans, with a final sprinkle of black sesame seeds (Handy tip: don't go pouring them over someone else's plate while saying "Look! Ants!") It might not sound like much of a dinner, to the point of barely even existing (when carrot slices are part of the main thrust of your meal it's probably time to do some more groceries) but think again. The dressing soaked into the soft, silky noodles. The buttery, nutty soybeans contrasted marvelously with the sharp lime in the dressing. The sesame seeds provided a little crunch. The carrots...well, they were there too. But altogether it was damn special stuff. By the way, I recommend Forever Summer hard - it's full of some of Nigella's most inventive-yet-classic, beautiful food, and an amazing and inspiring ice cream chapter.

I had a couple of days off in lieu which was pretty amazingly blissful - not having an alarm clock in the morning was a nice feeling. All the good sleeping patterns were undone on Tuesday night however as we stayed up to watch the All Whites' first game at the FIFA World Cup against Slovakia in South Africa, beginning 11:30pm our time. As if we were ever going to miss it - it was a thrillifying match, with Winston Reid's equalising goal in the 93rd minute causing a complete rush of intense happiness to all of us watching. To be beaten at the World Cup is no disgrace, considering the eye-watering level of talent present, and considering New Zealand hasn't been there in 28 years. But to draw against a team that's miles ahead of us in the table - that was special. While what I know about sports could fit on one side of a black sesame seed, I can't wait to see our next match against Italy - they're one of the best teams in the world, so to simply prevent them scoring, or lose by a small margin is still some kind of victory. Although we might win...that's what's exciting about it, that we just could win a game. Pity the official All Whites scarves aren't longer though - not very practical in windy Wellington to have something that doesn't wind round the neck several times.

Title via: Bright Eyes' Lime Tree from his 2007 album Cassadaga. There's only so many winsome male singer-songwriters I really ever need to listen to, but ol' Bright Eyes makes the cut easily with his earnest, swoonsome songs. There's something about the music behind this track that makes it sound like it could run over the opening credits of some 1930s film involving wide American plains and several scenes in a charming general store, which is more than enough reason to love it in my opinion.

Music lately:

XXXO, MIA's new single. I've long been a fan of MIA and new music from her is always greeted eagerly. It amuses me to read pearl-clutching comments on youtube (not that reading youtube comments is ever a good use of time) about how "mainstream" this sounds. I personally thought this song couldn't be any less mainstream if it tried, but whatever. It always amazes me how MIA manages to be more or less what you'd call pop, but also a million miles removed from everyone else out there doing it. The chorus reminds me of all the best bits of those Real McCoy songs I used to adore. Can't wait till she drops the album.

Connection by Elastica, from their self-titled album. I love gurgly opening riff and wish I could deliver anything as breezily as Justine Frischmann sings those lyrics.

Raul Esparza's knee-wobblingly good cover of The Man That Got Away. Every particle of that man is filled with vocal talent. He needs a solo album, and fast!
Next time: Well, I still have this box filled with limes...don't think I'm done just yet.

14 June 2010

big cheese, make me

I'm still pretty excited/jittery about being nominated for CLEO magazine/Palmolive Wonder Woman (excited/jittery for reasons outlined here.) If you'd like to help out someone who's not likely to win but wants to win heaps, kindly email cleo@acpmagazines.co.nz with WONDER WOMAN in the subject line and "voting for Blogger: Laura Vincent (hungryandfrozen.blogspot.com)" in the body of the email. If you want. I've been pretty humbled by all the niceness that has poured forth from people already, considering there's no real benefit to anyone but myself (and Tim, for what it's worth) if I get anywhere in this. Much love and appreciation to everyone that has voted for me.

FYI, I'm watching the Tony Awards while I'm typing this. CBS isn't streaming outside of the USA so I've got this pixelated postage-stamp sized square of live feed that I found with some judicious searching through Twitter. In 2010, that just feels wrong. Live streams should be for everyone! Nevertheless it's still very exciting. If things get a little bit "Cream the butter and sugar till fluffy ANGELALANSBURYILOVEYOU and then add the eggs ITHINKISAWIDINAMENZEL one by one" well, you've been warned. That said, Broadway and food blogging already co-exist most harmoniously here, so with any luck you probably won't even notice.

So, I found this recipe for homemade ricotta cheese. It's eyebrow-raisingly simple and after making it once you'll be so enthralled with the deliciousness of the results, that you may consider throwing in the job to become svengali of your own small-time cheese conglomerate.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

With thanks to Bell'Alimento for the recipe.

2 litres (8 cups) blue-top/whole milk (I used organic milk even, yusss)
250 mls cream (it comes in 300 ml bottles here, so I just threw the lot in)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice.

Get a colander and line it with muslin, cheesecloth or plain cotton (I went out and bought a big, undyed cotton serviette) OR, if you have it, a big coffee filter. Sit the colander over a large deep bowl and set aside.

Pour the milk, cream and salt into a big stockpot (seriously, use a big pot - it rises up a bit) and bring to the boil, stirring all the time. When it's at a good solid boil - don't be afraid to just let it bubble away, I know it looks freaky! - add the lemon or lime juice. Reduce the heat, and continue to stir while the mixture separates into curds and liquid. I continued stirring over a low heat for about a minute after adding the juice.

Carefully, carefully (with a buddy if you're clumsy like me) pour the whole contents of the pan into the cloth-lined colander. The liquid will flow through to the bowl underneath, leaving soft, white ricotta cheese in the colander. Allow this to drain for at least an hour then transfer to the refrigerator. As soon as it's properly cold, you can start eating it.

You should end up with about 500g of pure, fresh ricotta cheese. And how! It emerges from its cloth wrapping like a surmountable mountain of dairy joy, the only incline I'd be inclined to climb (long story short: I had a school camp once where we had to hike, and plough through plantations of cutty grass and so on - never again! Cheese mountains only for me from now on thanks.) It's tender, incredibly creamy but with a lemony lightness that makes you want to just eat it by the fistful.

While I have a lot of time for cheese, we never really eat all that much of it, because it's so expensive. Which is understandable - companies need to make money, and small, artisinal, niche products use a lot of dollars. You should totally support the companies who make the food you love, but now and then it's superfun to support yourself and get a giant pile of beautiful cheese for about $5. It's at its best eaten within around 48 hours but that's probably the one kind of pressure-filled environment I could thrive in.

A goodly wedge of the cheese went into these gorgeous Ricotta and Polenta Hotcakes from Cuisine magazine. The recipe is can be found here (I didn't make the syrup, by the way) They're straightforward enough to make but still a bit of effort - if you're looking for something more storecupboardy, that you can throw in a blender and make with your eyes closed then try Nigella's recipe instead. They were a completely delicious start to the day - the toothsome grit of the cornmeal with the warm chunks of ricotta bound in a soft, crisp pancake spiced with cinnamon and orange.

So, the Tony Awards. Watching them via some non-authorised stream is frustrating, CBS, but it still feels exciting to be watching it at the same time as everyone else. In 12-second increments.

You don't freeze up and start loading when Idina Menzel's on. Learn from this.

I'm really not much of a Tony commentator because I've never been to New York to see any of these musicals or plays, and generally the only coverage I get is whatever goes on Youtube. I enjoyed Sean Hayes (star of Promises, Promises on Broadway with Kristin Chenoweth, or you may know him as Will & Grace's Jack) as host, and there were some wonderful moments of theatre, but it does feel this year that they're being really heavy-handed with the Hollywood celebrity presence (and the fact that Glee's Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele were performing - they were on Broadway first, you know!) but what ya gonna do - they're bankable.

Title via: Nirvana's Big Cheese from 1989's Bleach. I just plain love Nirvana, and this is an excellent yet relatively underexposed example of their sinister sound.

Music lately:

Lunatic Fringe by Auckland's Drab Doo-Riffs. We caught them headlining at Mighty Mighty the other morning (ie, their set started around 1am) and they were a ton of fun. It's a scrappy mix of surf, punk, rock, probably some other stuff, and as I'm a sucker for surf-rock drums they suit me just fine. The two frontpeople Karl Stevens and Caiomhe Macfehin kept things moving at a cracking pace, and were both incredibly entertaining to watch. I'm sure they'll continue to do well, a) because girls can dance to it in that hunched-shoulder, foot-stampy way (hey, I was doing it too) b) their live sets are many and excellent and c) it's such good-time music.

Sherie Rene Scott's beautiful interpretation of Ricky Lee Jones' Rainbow Sleeves from her semi-autobiographical musical Everyday Rapture. I've never even seen Sherie Rene Scott live so what do I know but I was a bit sad to see she didn't win the Tony (Catherine Zeta Jones did, FYI...)

Next time: Mum sent me a giant parcel of giant, fragrant green limes which is very exciting as limes tend to also be really expensive. I was going to say that unlike ricotta cheese, there's no way of making your own limes, but then I remembered you can, you know, plant a lime tree. Sometimes I worry myself. Anyway, I'm looking forward to sussing out lots of recipes.

9 June 2010

i want the one i can't have


Today after a three and a half hour meeting I was reading through CLEO magazine and found the list of CLEO/Palmolive Nutra Fruit Wonder Woman nominees. OooOOOooo, I thought, I wonder if there's any cool new bloggers to discover in the blogger category. Then I saw my own name listed. What! I'm a woman who is potentially wonder-ous! I made my manager read it to me to make sure I hadn't just imagined the whole thing.

Okay, I'm not quite sure what being a Wonder Woman means, but the winner gets $5000.

Let's be cold: There are some seriously brilliant and famous women nominated for this, people out there doing really cool, creative things. Within the blog category alone there are some high-profile sites that I, a more-or-less unknown and I'm pretty sure the only food blogger, am up against. Spose the fact that I think my blog is basically the awesomest blog in the whole of New Zealand doesn't count for much against established networks and fanbases.

Every time I stop to tell myself this isn't a big deal and it's fun just to see my name there and I don't even really know what it all means anyway, the glint of the money gets into my peripheral vision and I start to get all hopeful and hyped up and imagine the wonderful things I could do with that money. The harder I daydream the more I want that $5000 and the more I tell myself I'm pretty stupid when there are all these other high profile people in the running. I'm teetering wildly between "what is this anyway?" and "I WANT THIS!" Look at what money makes us do - maybe you shouldn't vote for me after all?

For what it's worth, if I did find myself $5000 richer, here's the two things I would do:

1) Throw a big dinner party and cook for all my friends - maybe make a vat of pasta and an equally giant pan of rich, slow-simmered homemade tomato sauce and let everyone help themselves, with a huge bowl chocolate mousse for pudding (and maybe some partying in there, I don't know, homemade chocolate mousse is pretty exciting to me).

2) Travel somewhere with Tim. Tim and I met overseas in 2005. When we moved in together once back in New Zealand in 2006 and started university, it was pretty well settled in our minds that as soon as our graduation-hats were thrown in the air we'd be boarding a plane to travel again. Since that confident decision we have travelled...literally nowhere...which is not so much a bad thing as realistic, but all the same 2005 feels impossibly far away, and sometimes it seems like I spend far too much time observing Broadway shows open and close and change casts from afar. We could go to Poland - I loved it so much during my brief time there - go back to London, visit people from the performing arts school we worked at, go to New York to see a Broadway show, see what the Baby Sitter's Club were on about in Super Special #6 New York, New York, maybe (while I'm being indulgent), Idina Menzel will have some kind of live gig happening and I could finally, finally see her in person. I could buy a pet capybara! A bouncy castle! The capybara could live in the bouncy castle on our roof! (Err, $5000 would stretch as far as all that?)

With your help, this could be what my roof looks like!

I guess this blog post has demonstrated that maybe I'm not quite Wonder Woman material, I mean look how out-of-hand I get when just presented with the opportunity to simply daydream about getting $5000.

If after all that voting for me is something you want to do, then please email cleo@acpmagazines.co.nz with WONDER WOMEN in the subject line, and "Voting for Blogger: Laura Vincent - hungryandfrozen.blogspot.com" plus your name and contact details in the body of the email. I feel a bit funny asking, but not so funny that I won't ask, you know? Gigantic thanks to anyone who does vote!

Title via: The Smiths, keeping me honest (although I did consider quoting "god I hope I get it" from A Chorus Line, there's no real way to do this without the wanty-want-want selfish overtones is there?)

6 June 2010

we sell our souls for bread

Nothing like a persistently rainy long weekend to really push me back into the grippy arms of the kitchen. I seriously love making bread, but haven’t had a chance in ages so tip of the hat to the Queen for her birthday creating a Monday off this week. If New Zealand ever becomes a republic there’d better be some particularly concrete replacements for any long weekend we’d lose as a result. With extra time on my hands I've been making all kinds of things including this Nigella Lawson bread recipe from her flawless book of baking, How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

I was able to use these beautiful walnuts that Mum posted down to me from a family friend's tree. They're easy enough to get into, just a light tap from a hammer on the shell and a bit of digging quickly produces a pile of bamboo coloured, wrinkled heart shapes. They were soft and fragrant and tasted amazing - none of that tooth-coating bitterness that you sometimes get with those from a packet which have been sitting round too long.

This bread is fiddly-ish but no real mission to make. I didn’t have any of the wholemeal bread flour that Nigella specified but I did have plenty of half-empty packets of dusty offerings from the health food shop down the road (I don’t know, they’re just so compulsively purchasable) so if you’re in the same boat just do what I did and use 550g white bread flour and make up the rest of the weight with bran, rolled oats, that sort of thing. If you don't have real maple syrup, use honey or golden syrup instead.

Maple Walnut Bread

Adapted from Maple-Pecan Bread in Nigella Lawson's How To Be A Domestic Goddess (ie you can use pecans if you have them)
  • 500g wholemeal bread flour
  • 150g white bread flour
  • 1 sachet instant dry yeast
  • 300-400mls warm water
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 50-100g walnuts
  • Walnut oil (if you have it, otherwise use plain eg rice bran)
Mix the flours and yeast together in a large bowl. Pour in the water and syrup and mix to make a sticky dough. Knead for a couple of minutes, then let it sit for 20 minutes. Knead again, sprinkling over the walnuts as you go. It will take a little while to incorporate them, simply because this type of dough is a little tougher than usual. Keep pushing and kneading until the walnuts are more or less dispersed throughout the dough and until it forms a smooth, elastic ball. Pour over a good tablespoon of walnut or other oil, and turn so all surfaces are covered. Cover in clingfilm, and leave for a couple of hours to rise.

At this stage, punch it down to deflate it, then knead it into a loaf shape. Cover with a teatowel and leave it for half an hour, meanwhile setting the oven to 220 C. Bake for 1/4 of an hour before turning down the temperature to 180C and baking for a further 20 or so minutes, covering with a sheet of tinfoil if it starts to get too brown.

The maple syrup isn’t aggressively present in the finished, baked bread, but gives a subtle, layered fragrance and sweet, chewy crust which goes brilliantly with the deliciously toasted walnuts. Last night for dinner, inspired by a Ray McVinnie Quick Smart column in one of my Cuisine magazines, I cooked chunks of butternut pumpkin in boiling water till soft, drained and mashed them with coriander and cumin seeds, fried squares of diced streaky bacon and wafers of haloumi till sizzling, and served all that on top of slices of the freshly baked bread. The sweetness of the pumpkin was echoed in the sweetness of the bread, incredibly good with the contrastingly salty bacon and cheese. Unfortunately that’s the last of the cut-price haloumi I got from The Food Show so it’s unlikely I’ll be able to recreate such a smashing dinner for a while. If however you yourself are in the regular-haloumi-buying demographic then by all means try it.

Other things that happened this mighty fine long weekend include forsaking a long-time-coming sleepin to stagger to the pub to watch the All Whites' friendly pre-FIFA World Cup game against Slovenia on Saturday morning. Unfortunately we lost, but full marks to Slovenia considering their population is only 2.2 million or so. The upshot of it was that we had a great excuse to go to Customs and order great quantities of beautiful, beautiful filter coffee served by the lovely people there. We don't get to go very often but they even recognised that Tim had got his hair cut. As well as making me want to cook things, the rain also meant we had a fine excuse to watch The IT Crowd last night. Britain seems to positively fling out these small, side-poppingly funny yet under-the-radar comedies, and while I'd known about The IT Crowd for a while I've never pinned it down for a good watch. I really enjoyed Richard Ayoade's work withThe Mighty Boosh so it's nice to see him in a leading role in this. Find it if you can - we finished the lot in very quick succession.

Speaking of coffee, and in exciting news for future employers, Tim has left Starbucks after three years. No hard feelings towards the green siren - it helped pay our rent through university and is highly educative coffee-wise. If anyone out there requires a ridiculously great guy with an Honours degree in media studies to do cool stuff like using skills learned in both university and life, then truly look no further than the now-available Tim. You think I deal recommendations lightly? Think again.
Title via: Electric Blues from the Broadway musical Hair. My preoccupation with its amazing score rides again. This song is so exciting and dynamic, and I presume they use the word 'bread' to mean 'money' in this context, but then...maybe they'd tried this recipe too. And while lyrics like "we're all encased in sonic armour, belting out through chrome grenades" make me smile, the next stanza's "they chain ya and they brainwash ya, when you least expect it, they feed ya mass media" could definitely find relevance at any stage.

Music lately:
Beth, by localers Voom from their debut album Now I Am Me. I first heard this song years ago on Channel Z and while I can't say I cried or anything, I certainly felt that good, self-indulgent kind of desolation that you get from wallowing in excellent sad music about situations that you're not sure if you can relate to but you allow them to reflect whatever it is you're feeling anyway. Some bright spark put the video onto Youtube so I can now enjoy and wallow all over again as and when necessary.
Janelle Monae's Tightrope from The Archandroid. There's already so much being said about her on - dun dun - the internet, but at face value it's a stonkeringly good tune.
Next time: Maybe even more exciting than baking bread and watching DVDs on a Friday night, I made my own ricotta cheese yesterday! The recipe is so easy I could almost put it right here as an afterthought. But no. You'll have to wait for next time, well either that or call my bluff and google "homemade ricotta" and render me completely unnecessary.

1 June 2010

looking through a glass onion

It is so, so freezing in Wellington lately, that straight-through-your-clothes harsh chill which makes getting out of bed in the morning that much more aggrieving. I was in Christchurch and Dunedin over the weekend for work which was also an intensely cold experience, not to mention pretty exhausting (can't say I've been sleeping well recently, and sitting in clenched frustration for an hour and a half on a plastic chair in the Dunedin airport where there is nothing to do while waiting for your flight, followed by a further hour and a half's wait at the Christchurch airport will take it out of you. This is New Zealand, not the mighty plains of Canada, I don't see why we need flights with stop-overs.) Hence why it has been a while since I've blogged.

There's not much I love doing more in winter than sitting by a roaring heater with a pile of my cookbooks, going through and imagining what shenanigans I could get up to. Cooking in winter is fun - all those long-simmered warming dishes that make the house smell amazing and warm you as you stand over them - unlike the summer heat when all you really want to do for dinner is sit quietly inside the freezer and lick its icy walls. One book that I had a flick through recently was the Supercooks Supersavers Cookbook, which I picked up at the local opshop back home for about a dollar a few years back. I love its season-based chapters, its 1980 style, and its seriously enthusiastic title.

I found this awesome sounding recipe for Onions Smothered with Walnuts. It's basically onions roasted in a sticky, spicy sauce, and though they're more "vaguely scattered" than "smothered" with the walnuts it's a gorgeous combination of flavours.

Onions Smothered with Walnuts

From the Supercook's Supersavers Cookbook

450g small pickling (pearl) onions, peeled (I didn't have any, so just used whole onions, quartered)
75g walnuts, chopped
25g melted butter
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon chilli sauce
1/2 cup stock or water
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 170 C. In a bowl, mix everything together and pour into an oven-proof dish. Cover with tinfoil, and bake for around an hour, stirring once or twice. *Use olive oil and balsamic vinegar instead of the butter and worcestershire sauce to easily make this vegan. Yay!

It's so good that I actually made it two nights in a row. In a weird twist of events, the first night I made it in a silicon dish and the second night I made it in a metal dish, and the second night the onions and sauce turned all black. Made me a little nervous, but not so nervous that I didn't carry on eating the lot. This recipe has a lot going for it - it has punchy, warm flavours, it's very cheap to make, it's versatile, and it just cooks away by itself, not really requiring any attention. The honey, chilli and cinnamon are a brilliant combination and it's perfect over pasta, which is how I had it, but would also work on couscous, mashed potatoes, rice, or stirred into a stew or roasted vegetables. Thanks, Supercook's Supersavers Cookbook!

As I said, I'm pretty weary from the weekend, I haven't been sleeping so well and on top of that I actually wasn't feeling that great over the weekend. There were some diverting moments - seeing Graeme Downes of The Verlaines, The Dead C's Bruce Russell and Flying Nun's Roger Shepherd weighing in on a discussion panel about NZ Music, subsequently sitting behind the Verlaines on the flight to Dunedin, meeting with former flatmate Emma for a jolly catch-up, having an enthusiastic person "help" me by picking up my phone that I'd put on the ground right by my feet so I could take down a poster at an event, only to watch them accidentally drop it down three flights of stairs...

Title via: The Beatles' Glass Onion from The White Album. One of their more intriguing contributions...

Music lately:

A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow, sung by Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy, from the film A Mighty Wind. This is absolutely my favourite film, and having it on my iPod made the four plane trips over the weekend much more bearable. This song is gorgeous even though it's sending up the folk music genre, and Catherine O'Hara is just...perfect. Makes me want to learn the autoharp. Sincerely.

Bloodbuzz Ohio from The National's new album High Violet. The album itself didn't set me on fire but this song is a stunner and really showcases everything that's good about The National. And you can check out a lengthier review I did of High Violet here at The Corner if you like.


Next time: I'll hopefully be a touch more awake. It's Queen's Birthday weekend in a day or two, nothing like a Monday off to make you feel unbendingly fond of the monarchy. I found this really cool recipe for pumpkin bread that I'm keen to try, I also am thinking of getting the crock pot out from its hiding place, it's now definitely cold enough out there...