A week and a bit into the cookbook author life, and I'm still very, very much at the pinch-me stage. If you're new to this blog, hello! Get ready to co-wallow in all my feelings and cake batter.
As Tim will tell you (or "my partner Tim" as it rather hilariously refers to him in my cookbook every single time, a bit like how the Baby-sitters Club books would tell you about all sitters' family histories in chapter two of every last book on the offchance you were picking one up for the first time and just had to know whose stepmom was whose) and in fact as I will tell you right now, and not for the first time, I am a cool mix of wildly insecure and wildly over-secure. So I veer between reading my cookbook and saying "Tim, I'm such an amazing writer, how do you cope with it?" and being numb of brain and in a crumply heap in bed and requiring constant bolstering just to lift my head up for reasons I can't even quite work out. Or simply feeling like this will in fact all be like the bit in the Princess Bride where - spoiler - Princess Buttercup is presented to the people but then the old woman comes out yelling "Boooooooo" and saying she's princess of nothing. Luckily nothing specifically like that has happened. Or even vaguely similar to that. Yet?
But seriously, seeing my name there with Margaret Atwood's on a whiteboard ("above her!" said someone. "Near her whatsoever!" I replied) filled me with so many feelings that I hardly knew what to do with myself. On the one hand: of course. On the other hand: how did I manage to fool everyone into letting that happen?
Speaking of such moments, the book launch party at Unity Books was completely wonderful, almost unbearably so - I wanted to claw back the time as it was racing past, just to make the whole thing not move so quickly. It felt almost sick, I was so happy, which is a strange way of putting it but it's like all the emotions in me created a power surge that left me a bit light-headed. There was a great big crowd and so many lovely friends and cool people and Julie Clark of Floriditas launched it with a speech full of nice things about me. And then they announced my name and I stepped up to the mic and everyone cheered! Which is of course, fairly obvious at my own book launch, but wow, as Irene Cara sang: what a feeling. I am a cookbook author. A real one. And I can tell you one thing I'm certain and entirely secure of: I gave a terrific speech. Look, I just really love giving speeches.
Being the heedless neophyte that I am, I forgot to organise any photos to be taken and didn't get one single damn selfie the entire night. Despite my careful "I'm an auuuthorrr" outfit of dramatic black Kowtow sack dress and enormous witch hair. (Admittedly, my hair was in a very strange headspace - ha - that night, insisting on being fluffier than a Persian cat, but in the end I think it worked. Not sure why I'm compelled to point this out.) I also forgot to enlist Tim or anyone to video my speech for posterity/family/etc and feel a bit foolish about that. Now all I have are these stupid awesome memories. Unity Books did, however, take a few snaps on the night for their sweet write-up. Unity Books is one of my favourite places in Wellington, nay, the earth, and it was marvelous to be able to get all launched there.
So, the cookbook, huh? Last night I made my Chocolate Red Wine Cake from it, which - and maybe I am just saying this because it's my own recipe from my own book, but I'm pretty sure it's also the truth - is a simple, amazing, reliable chocolate cake that tastes brilliant. Comfortingly slabby in size, dense without being too rich, cocoa-dark without being dry, and the warm rush of red wine helps emphasise everything good about the chocolate without tasting too much of sediment or tannin.
Still getting used to the stove at our flat. But I also rather like the ominous, craggy slash that appeared in the top of this cake, most likely because the heat was up too high (it's really hard to tell on the dials of this unfriendly oven.)
I probably said it best in the book itself, so while I usually rewrite all recipes in my own words, it would be a bit pointless to do it here, yes? So, in my own words:
red wine chocolate cake
recipe from my own cookbook, Hungry and Frozen.
Red wine and chocolate always make sense together, never more so in this sophisticated, yet very plain cake - tall, proud, gleaming with glossy ganache. The red wine is absolutely present, though not overpowering - its oaky darkness going beautifully with the bitterness of the chocolate and cocoa. You don’t have to use your best red here – the sugar and butter rounds out any rough, tannin-heavy aspects that might not be so pleasant by the glassful. Nevertheless, make sure it’s actually drinkable. It doesn’t have to be pinot noir, either – really, as long as it’s red, it should do the trick.
200g dark chocolate
1 cup pinot noir
70g good cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
200g dark chocolate, chopped roughly
½ cup cream
Set your oven to 180 C, and line the base of a 23cm springform caketin.
Roughly chop the chocolate and butter and slowly melt them together with the red wine in a pan over a medium heat. It'll look like an unholy mess but it will come together. Allow to cool slightly, then whisk in the rest of the ingredients.
Scrape this liquidy batter into the caketin and bake for an hour, but check after 45 minutes. Once it has cooled, pour the cream into a pan and heat till just below boiling point. Remove from the heat, and stir in the chocolate till it melts to form a thick ganache. Pour over the cake.
Speaking of things that are better in the book, the photo of the cake in there is so much better than mine that it's laughable. Not least because the cake in the book was photographed in natural light, whereas mine above was photographed at night in a dimly lit room because two of our bulbs have blown and both of them are annoyingly particular and require hunting round a shop inevitably called "Mr Light Bulb" while you wonder how a shop can survive solely dedicated to said light bulbs, then see the price on the ones you need to replace. Also my cookbook photographers (and friends) Kim and Jason are spectacular.
My friend Kim, who took many of the photos in the cookbook, did a gorgeous blog post of some of the photoshoot outtakes (which are themselves gorgeous, despite not making it into the book), in case you're a little curious about this cookbook but unconvinced by this blog post alone (which would be...slightly worrying, truth be told.)
I have to admit, I'm looking forward to things returning to normal now. Lies. I want things to get less and less normal. And I was woefully insufferable the day after the launch party because I hate things being over and get bad post-thing comedown. The publicity for the cookbook has been a lot of fun (and if you feel like you've been left out from hearing my schtick then get in touch, I love publicity) and yesterday I got to appear on Radio New Zealand with the excellent Kathryn Ryan, which was a real trip. Of course, in a practical sense, radio does need nonstop content. But I love RNZ and it felt like I'd really hit the big time, being able to appear on there. If you want to listen to my interview, why, you can do that here!
Finally it inevitably behooves me to say the following: if you want to buy my book, and your local shop doesn't stock it (and I would like to add: hurrah for supporting local bookshops) there are some options for you. Unity Books, the wondrous shop where I had my launch, can ship the book anywhere in New Zealand or worldwide if you ask them nicely. It's also available at Fishpond and Mighty Ape, so: choices ahoy!
Title via: Gomez, Whipping Piccadilly. As a commenter on songmeanings.com said...actually you should just read the whole comment, it's a bit unintentionally hilarious. Which is better than being intentionally hilarious and failing at it. Oh, and I really like this song.
David Dallas, Runnin'. oh damn this song is good. Also it was fun to then listen to New World In My View by King Britt, which it samples, and then Sister Gertrude Morgan's I Got The New World In My View, which that samples. Amazing beats, all.
Wu-Tang Clan, I Can't Go To Sleep. The title speaks the truth.
The time has come, the walrus said, to lie on the floor and listen to Rockin' Back Inside My Heart by Julee Cruise over and over and over again. Twin Peaks always gets me with its dreaminess.
Next time: whatever it ends up being, one of these days I will make and photograph something during the day on the weekend so I don't have to be so balefully apologetic about these badly-lit shots.