Guess who has been sleeping through the night for the last couple of days? Actually, that question deserves an interrobang to imply the high stakes at, um, stake here: ME. I know. The universe even rewarded me with a really, really good dream about Pretty Little Liars (hello, obsessed, get in touch if you want to talk about it indepth) but then took that back with a dream about being ignored by friends, but the point is, both of these things were entirely fictional dreams, which took place in my head, while I was asleep. In case you haven't caught up, or are wondering why I'm about to stage a medal ceremony to myself in honour of doing something that most people manage to get on with calmly and without ceremony...Insomnia. I have been in the thick of it for the last month, and it's such an immense relief to get back to my usual six hours. I was starting to not feel like myself. It was scary.
In an entirely more delightful form of scary, Tim and I had a Hallowe'en party at our house on Saturday night. (I feel compelled to tell you that those are his old Goosebumps books in the above picture, not mine: strictly serialised fiction about Teen Girls Making Their Way In The World for me, thank you. I only read Goosebumps when I was at the reading-the-side-of-the-cereal-box stage of being desperate to consume words. Yep, glad we got that straight.) There was an excellent amount of candy, there was popcorn, and there were other foods that fell into the crispy/salty/crunchy/alcohol absorbing venn diagram, like chips and pretzels and these cheese stars that I made.
Despite being all, hello I'm a cookbook author, I tend to keep this kind of party food low-key. People need feeding, they're not necessarily going to remember everything that was there unless it was awful, now's not the time to be stuffing grape halves with tender figs and goat cheese. Lots of candy, lots of carbs. Make like, one thing from scratch so you look like a good person who cares. Me, I not only made these cheese stars, I also made hokey pokey. Because I'm an awesome person who really cares (yes, your level of greatness/compassion grows exponentially like that with each dish.)
If anyone knows about party food, or in fact anything at all (I'd certainly like to hear her opinion on Pretty Little Liars) it's Nigella Lawson. I knew I could trust her recipe for cheese stars to be calmly simple, and exactly the sort of thing that people want to eat while clutching a plastic cup of homebrew.
I'm going to say something very serious now: do not eat the dough. You might want to, and I understand that, I live this, but truly, the baked goods are a zillion times more delicious, and you're going to be resentful of yourself for smiting a morsel of dough that could have become another star.
A recipe from Nigella Lawson's seminal text How To Eat. They can of course be any shape, and I did intend to use all my cookie cutters on this pliant dough. But the thought of all those strange shapes mixed up displeased me, whereas a dish full of little golden stars was endlessly pleasing.
You really, absolutely need a food processor for this one. I'm sorry.
200g grated cheese (Nigella says cheddar, I used the one on special)
50g softish butter
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Set your oven to 180 C/350 F and put a sheet of baking paper on an oven tray.
Place all the ingredients in the food processor and blitz till they come together. This will take a while, and it will look like they're just going to be fine little crumbs forever, but it will suddenly sieze up and spring together in more of a solid mass. Remove the dough, form into a thick, roughly disc-like shape, wrap in glad wrap and refrigerate for fifteen minutes.
Roll it out to a couple of millimeters thick - I find it useful to do this with half the dough at a time - and cut into stars or however you like. The dough will get more and more easy to roll the more you do it, and can be re-rolled plenty. Bake the stars for around ten minutes. Carefully transfer to a rack of some kind - they'll get crisper as they cool.
They taste like pastry, like the flakiest golden buttery shards of pastry from a croissants underbelly, like the spatters of cheese that bubble and go hard on the toasted sandwich maker and which are almost more delicious than the sandwich itself, and, after a few drinks, like the most rapturously sublime foodstuff in the world, basically. Thanks, Nigella.
I dressed as Myrtha, Queen of the Willis, from the ballet Giselle. Google her, she's wonderful. But the short explanation is that she's kind of a misandry ghost queen ballerina. Tim's costume was split down the middle - a man in a suit on one half, a woman in a dress on the other. It was impressively committed. And spurred on a lot of impassioned conversations about how ridiculous it is that men don't wear dresses and have makeup marketed to them and so on and so forth. It was a riotously fun party, and it was so great having the house full of excellent people laughing and dancing and mingling with varying levels of aplomb and swapping costumes and everything, really.
A couple of nights of actual sleep hasn't made up for weeks and weeks of near-sleeplessness, but I'm starting to feel more and more like myself. And as I more or less think myself is amazing (self-doubt and self-importance make strange bedfellows) this is a good thing.
title via: supreme slow jam Shining Star, by The Manhattans.
Terribly, terribly sad about Lou Reed now being the late Lou Reed. When I worked in a German bakery when I was 19, I used to play Venus In Furs over and over, very loudly. To the perhaps justifiable concern of my employers whenever they dropped in.
Demi Lovato, Give Your Heart A Break. I love her so much and this song is perfection. So.
Next time: something that doesn't need a food processor, I promise.