25 August 2014

you may come full circle and be new here again

So I've moved house! Last week was so weird. But it's Monday now, and every Monday is like a little January 1, where you can start all over again. I have the day off work today and decided it would finally be the day I get my act together and buy some food and then cook that food for myself, for the first time in ages. My two options thus far for the last week or so have been buy food from cafes or takeaways, or sit in bed and contemplatively eat expired Golden Grahams cereal by the handful or a bag of twisties, scattering orange twistie dust everywhere (and here I'd like to apologise to my teddy bear, Avery, who looks like he has purchased a very bad fake tan.) The first option is not financially stable and the second option will probably have some weird effect on me eventually like dissolving my bones or giving me scurvy.

So, after eating some twisties in bed, I propelled myself towards the supermarket with the hopes that I'd inspire myself by the time I got there into knowing what it was I actually wanted to buy and make. I wanted something that could be done in one pan, so I wouldn't make too much mess in the new kitchen. I also wanted something vaguely nutritious. I had grand intentions to buy a ton of fruit, but then remembered that winter is when fruit is all "nah, not in the mood to exist right now", but potato and fennel are both present and cheap, and halloumi is the best way of making something half-assed feel celebratory and highly lux. And so, this salad appeared.

halloumi, fried potato, and raw fennel salad

a recipe by myself. Serves one, but it takes little rocket science to work out how to make it serve more.

one medium sized potato - I used a red one
half a large fennel bulb, or all of a small one
four thick slices of halloumi
olive oil
juice of half a lemon

Dice the potato very finely - the smaller it is, the quicker it will cook. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a decent sized pan and wait for it to look sizzling, then throw in the potato and allow to cook till crisp, stirring occasionally. It'll feel like it's taking forever but the whole process really only takes about ten minutes - just make sure you let them sit till they're plenty golden. Undercooked potato is no fun.

Finely slice the fennel and arrange half of it on a plate. Tip the potato on top of it, and then top with the rest of the fennel. Heat some butter (I used about 25g) in the same pan, and fry your halloumi slices till very golden brown on each side. Slide the halloumi onto the plate, scatter over some of those feathery green fennel fronds, because what else are you going to do with them, squeeze the lemon juice into the buttery pan and then spatula all that over the halloumi. 

I'd started watching The Sopranos last night - a show I hadn't made any effort to seek out despite its general acclaim, on account of I don't fool with violence and I also don't need another TV show about a lawless white man who treats the significant woman in his life horribly and yet is received as the hero while she is the shrew, going through season after season of ultimately self-inflicted tension. However. I was with a group of people and the opportunity presented itself and I do have a very soft spot for the sadly late James Gandolfini. And wow, yeah, it's a very well-made show, and I can see how it impressively influenced later HBO and HBO-style shows. But where I'm going with this is oh damn I wanted some meatballs or Bolognese or eggplant or pretty much anything aggressively Italian to eat after watching it. Alas, this salad is what happened instead. Luckily, this salad is hugely excellent in its own way.

Fried potatoes and buttery, melting halloumi are so good together it's almost stupid, their textures both echoing and diverting from each other in a crunchily sybaritic fashion. The fennel itself also brings crunch of a different kind, not only stopping the entire thing from being burdonsomely rich, but also lifting the golden flavours of the halloumi with its faintly aniseed flavour. But then of course I pour over the melted butter from the pan, in case it's not quite burdonsomely rich enough. The squeeze of lemon brings it all together, and with very little effort you have yourself a massively amazing lunch.

In lieu of a carefully staged photo of the dish sitting on a beautiful table, because there is none, here's a photo of it on my lap on the couch, where I ate it. Four slices of halloumi is ideal - any fewer and you'd start to feel sad halfway through that the good times were nearly over, any more and you'd probably end up uncomfortably full but still doggedly determined to finish it because halloumi is halloumi. A scattering of sumac or mint leaves wouldn't hurt this in the slightest, but for a hastily assembled meal it's pretty great as is.

So, am slowly getting unpacked and used to my new world. My new bedroom has kind of got no natural light whatsoever, which is...something...but the people are nice and there's unlimited internet and I love being so central, right in town, and I'm gonna eventually get there and have all my stuff where it should be.

Like this dress, back on the wall where she belongs (admittedly rather crumpled from the moving process, but like, same)

I feel like now that I'm no longer in this pre-move limbo zone I very much want to get my life together and cook heaps and write heaps and do heaps and really just be as super excellent as I can to continue propelling myself towards being lowkey ridiculously famous and adored by all.

If you ever do want to feel adored by all, by the way, my advice for you is: visit a dog. My darling friends Kim and Brendan spontaneously adopted a corgi who needed a home, and she is the most loving tiny dingus that ever lived. She's like the hearts-for-eyes emoji existing in a corporeal form. I visited her on Friday, because she needs company and I needed dog hugs. As soon as I walked in she ran up to me and gazed up at me with such joy in her eyes, I actually felt my bones melt. And not just from eating all those twisties. I visited her again today for the same reason, and she was just the snuggliest thing ever, greeting me with a face that said "hi, you're perfect and I love you indiscriminately and also everyone around you and everything around you!"
We get on well because we're both fluffy and needy and have great eyeliner. 

Percy still has a lot to learn about taking selfies, but luckily Aunty Laura is here, and uncharactaristically patient.

So yeah, new house, new blog post, new hund friend! A lot of things in life are still very hard to deal with but I'm greeting the future with one hand in my pocket, and the other one is giving a peace sign (oh wait I started singing Alanis Morrisette there.)
title from: Gil Scott-Heron's contemplatively perfect song I'm New Here. The low rumble of the guitar and the low rumble of his voice, "told her I was hard to get to know and near impossible to forget"...so sad I'll never get to see him live. 
music lately:

Janine and the Mixtape, Hold Me. The anthem. 

Unknown Mortal Orchestra, So Good At Being In Trouble. The...other anthem. 

Nicki Minaj, Jessie J and Ariana Grande, Bang Bang. This song goes OFF. I intend to dance to it many, many times. Am also just generally pro anything Nicki Minaj lays her hands on or says or does. 
next time: Maybe some bolognese or meatballs or something, yeah? 

15 August 2014

alone, listless, breakfast table in an otherwise empty room

The box in the background is where all my kitchen accoutrements will go, including this bowl and fork. Once I've washed them, don't worry.

This is the last blog post I'll be writing from my not-quite-my-home-anymore-home, before I move house next Wednesday. The new place is like...fine, but I'm going to miss where I am now so much: the celestial light, the concrete floors, the bathroom that looks like it's from a nice hotel, waking up in the night to see the moon hovering protectively outside my window, how stupidly instagrammable it all is, how enormous my room is, and so on and (self-indulgently wallowing) so forth. But, as I say to myself sternly, a change could be good for me, and whether or not it is, it's still happening, and I can do my best to turn my new room into a beautiful haven too. I have a recurring bad dream where it's suddenly Christmas Day and I have five minutes to get to my plane home and forgot to buy any presents and am generally very lost and confused as to how it all happened so fast, and that's a decent description of how I feel right now, but...yeah. It's happening. And I'm sure I'm gonna love this new place too.

All I've been doing with my spare time is looking for a flat, visiting flats, and packing my things up, so not much time to cook, but I wanted to minimise the amount of things I had to transfer between houses and so decided to make some kind of all-inclusive salad from the various nubbins of food in the pantry and fridge. Which means this is kind of ridiculous and bitsy and piecey and not really anything at all, but since it's the last thing I'm likely to cook here and I don't want to sacrifice writing this blog just because I am so busy making all signs of myself slowly reduce as the place becomes more and more empty...I thought I'd share it here anyway.

Also gosh, sorry for being so maudlin and overwrought, in my defence, I'm maudlin and overwrought. I am being relatively practical and calm in comparison to my own self, if that makes sense. As I said in my last blog post, a lot of things just kinda suck right now, but I'm working on what I can control (ha! very little) and getting through the rest somehow. Just like everyone else is.

brown rice, wheat berry, fried bean salad

a recipe by myself; makes quite a lot.

half a cup wheatberries 
half a cup brown rice
one cup frozen green beans (or fresh ones trimmed and sliced, you fancy thing you)
half a cauliflower, sliced into florets
two cloves garlic
a couple of tablespoons of capers
50g butter, at least
a handful of almonds, sliced 
olive oil
white wine vinegar
a tablespoon harissa
pinch salt

Soak the wheatberries and rice in boiling water for a couple of hours - this will speed up the cooking process, which will still take kind of ages. There is a reason that they've been sitting untouched in my cupboard for so long. 

Cook them together in boiling water in a good sized pot for around 25 minutes or until both the rice and the wheat are tender. Drain, and set aside. Melt the butter in a saucepan till it's sizzling, then throw in the beans, cauliflower, capers and garlic and allow to fry aggressively till everything is quite browned and cooked through. Add the almonds at this stage and allow them to brown a little too, then remove from the heat. Stir all this into the rice/wheat mixture, then in a small bowl, stir together about three tablespoons of olive oil, one and a half tablespoons of the vinegar, and the harissa and salt. Stir this through the salad then serve. 

The important thing here is lots of olive oil and lots of texture. There are a zillion ways you could change this to suit your own needs - use barley instead of wheat berries (infinitely easier to find/cook anyhow) use just one type of grain, fry different vegetables like broccoli or courgette, use different nuts, use something other than harissa to flavour the dressing, make so many changes that it's essentially an entirely different recipe, that kind of thing. The soft bite of the grains with the crisp, oily vegetables and crunchy nuts is excellent though, and adding plenty of salt and oil and chilli-rich harissa makes sure it's delicious and elegant, rather than the punishing and dour.

It keeps well - I ate about a third for lunch on the day that I made it, then ate another third in spoonfuls taken from the bowl while standing in front of the fridge at various hours of the day, and then had the remainder for dinner at work last night. The fridge and pantry are now significantly denuded of things, and I looked up wheatberries on wikipedia and damn they are a good-for-you foodstuff! Satisfaction all round. Except for the photos, it was high afternoon sun and I only decided at the last minute to actually snap this dish, so... Not the best final view of the place, but what can ya do? (Not a lot.)

Just a short blog post today because yeah, got to carry on packing my belongings into boxes until infinity - isn't it weird how physics is literally a thing and yet if I spend an hour piling books and trinkets into boxes I will have created no extra space and my pile of said books/trinkets will not appear to have diminished whatsoever? Pretty suspicious.

(FC = Fancy Clothes. Please be assured that this is but one bag of clothing that fits this description.)

Okay, lies: have also been rewatching Twin Peaks and knitting myself a blanket from my yarn scraps. Isn't it too dreamy? Yes it is, Audrey Horne. 

So, next time you see me here it'll be in my new place. Weird...but hopefully good. 
title from: I do enjoy Ye Olde Pearl Jam (anything after about 1995 am not interested in whatsoever) and if you haven't tried ever had a go at singing along while studiously imitating Eddie Vedder's voice, you're missing out on some good clean fun, I can tell ya. I had Deep Feelings about the song Daughter in my teens but now just think it's pretty rad.  
music lately:  

Joanna Newsom, Sawdust and Diamonds. Um. I have always enjoyed Newsom's music but am properly close-readingly appreciating it heaps right now. Her lyrics are so spectacular and literary and full of the elements and fragments of stories, I love it. Also her harp is like wo. 

Beyonce, XO. This song makes me feel rapturous. 

Patti Smith, Gloria. I like putting this one on when I'm closing the bar at work, it's all snarly and good to bounce along to while washing dishes and mopping and inevitably knocking over literally everything and so adding many, many minutes to your closing process. I will never ever tire of the bit where she's all "Ah, uh, make her mine".
next time: I know not, but it'll be from my new place! So! New things for you all to look at! So there's that! 

6 August 2014

eating soft ice cream, coney island queen

photographed this ice cream with an antique ice cream scoop but then used a regular spoon to actually scoop ice cream into my bowl because the antique one is cute but a pain to use and also I now have zero morals when it comes to photographing things as props but not actually using them.

I'm not going to sugar coat it for you, there are a lot of things in my life right now that range from "this kinda sucks" to "oh wow this majorly sucks". But now that I've said that I'm going to hand you a snug coat made of pure cane sugar, because I'm keeping things on a rare need-to-know basis at the moment, and anyone who needs to know what's happening already knows. I might as well not burden you all with it too if I don't have to. Also: I have a recipe for apple cinnamon ice cream, so am kind of literally sugar-coating things here too.

So instead, some good things right now are:

I have amazing friends who are so very there for me // despite these last couple of weeks being very tiring, I still love my job. Although I do realise I'm not the first person in the world to ever do hospo so no it's not actually a revelation to a lot of people that there is some arduous work involved. I didn't realise I was so entitled! // I knitted a hot water bottle cosy for my nanna and it involved doing cabling for the first time and while it's a tiny bit wonky it turned out rather beautiful // I drank an entire pot of tea today from a teapot shaped like an elephant // I recently discovered that my queen Lucy Liu has an instagram // I started a fun project called bathroomselfiehunter.tumblr.com // my tarot card for August is amazing and promises creative vision and being powerful and great and so I am determined to make that all come true // I saw a beautiful film called Reaching For The Moon at the film festival // I have seen a LOT of cute cats and dogs recently // I have a lot of parties to go to this month // I discovered the truly good Ask Andrew WK column for the Village Voice // I have a lot of homemade ice cream in the freezer.

Ice cream and pasta are probably my two favourite foods, but while I eat pasta all the time it has been a shamefully forever-long time since I've made ice cream. I'm on a massive cinnamon kick at the moment and am determined to scent my life with it (can tell you for free that putting cinnamon sticks in your oil burner does absolutely nothing apart from make your oil burner look like a very small dumpster) and like the idea of the cosy, warm flavour of said cinnamon being trapped in such a chilly context. I know it's winter in New Zealand right now and ice cream is probably one of the last things you want to eat, but consider this: ice cream is really, really delicious. Also, apples are one of the few fruits that seem to be happily in season right now, as opposed to gasping for mere existence, and the method couldn't be simpler - some stirring, some whisking, some waiting, and then you have ice cream.

An excellent thing about ice cream is that the frozen-ness somehow mutes any overload of sweetness, so while it may seem like there's a lot of sugar in this, it's all necessary and good. Something about the sticky texture of the sweetened condensed milk and the light, airy cream comes together to make something amazingly creamy and dense yet soft and spoonable. The simmered apples provide chewy bursts of sweet-sharp fragrant juiciness, and it's altogether just pretty wonderful.

apple cinnamon ice cream

a recipe by myself

two apples, Granny Smith are good for this one
three tablespoons brown sugar
one can sweetened condensed milk
500ml cream
plenty of ground cinnamon

Finely dice the apples, but don't worry about peeling them. Simmer them in a pan over a low heat with the brown sugar, until the sugar is bubbling and sticky and the apple pieces are very soft. 

Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little, then stir in the condensed milk. In another bowl, whisk the cream till thickened to roughly the texture of a good thickshake - you want it solid, but not actually whipped. Fold in the apple and condensed milk, then shake in plenty of cinnamon and stir again. Spatula this mixture into a freezer-proof container (I like loaf tins for this, hence...why I did that) and freeze for a bunch of hours or overnight. 

I just went and ate some more now from the freezer to see if anything new to say about it sprang to mind, and all I can say is wow it's amazing, go me for making up such a great recipe. If you've ever felt like ice cream is something you want to tackle but it seems way too nervous-making, this simple, caramel-tinged winter wonderland of a thing is for you. 

One thing I will tell you is that for reasons bewilderingly out of my control, I am in the market for a new place to live. My dealbreakers are: it has to be right in the city, an apartment, a big bedroom, lots of good light for food photography, and have an elevator. As you can imagine, finding such a place has been a total breeze. Truth is, I've got nothing, so if you are a Wellingtonianite and know of such a place that fits my needs, please let me know!

In the meantime, there's not many things that ice cream can't make slightly-to-very-much better.

PS I lost my camera's SD card so took all this week's photos on my phone, apologies for any drop in quality, but also I take back those apologies, because isn't it amazing how my mere cellphone takes better photos than a lot of digital cameras did, say, four years ago? We're living in the future!
title from: Lana Del Rey's song Carmen. I <3 her so much. 
music lately:

Dark Dark Dark, Hear Me. I hadn't listened to this band in a while and now cannot stop, not sure how I forgot how dreamy and moody and perfect they are.

Drake feat Lil Wayne, Miss Me, his verse about Nicki Minaj is like...wonderful.

Speaking of: Nicki Minaj and Beyonce's Flawless remix is So Important. Shivers every time I hear it.
next time: I don't knowwww as I may not have a kitchen to call my own by the time I get round to the next blog post. We'll see!