23 October 2014

maybe if i knew french i could tell you more than i shall do

halloumi for my roomie

First blog post from my new home! Despite being stridently anti-suburb my entire life, including when I grew up in a tiny rural village - I knew at the age of like, two months that I was destined to live in the city - I've adjusted faster than a bra strap to my new life in Newtown. 

(My New Life In Newtown: the spin-off TV show from the TV show I already imagine my life to be.)

I live with my best friend Kate and her also-rad husband Jason, I am practically neighbours with another best friend, I've made friends with the guy who works at the corner dairy already - I actually nearly cried when he said "welcome to the neighbourhood, I hope you're very happy here" but it had been a long day of moving house and I desperately needed an ice cream, so that may have had something to do with it. I live with Ariel the beautiful peach of a cat who I am slowly befriending, and my heart feels so full from simply having a cat around all the time. And I now have a super cool kitchen with a gas burner oven and natural light and a ton of general aesthetic cuteness going on! Yesterday I had my first go in the kitchen, by making halloumi and apple French Toast for Kate and myself. 

fried cheese for my main squeeze

Microwaved Cheese and X sandwiches were a mainstay of my childhood eating (them, golden syrup sandwiches, canned spaghetti and two minute noodles) the most prominent being microwaved cheese and marmite, followed by microwaved cheese and tomato sauce (I know. But: pizza vibes!) One day after reading an American cookbook I'd got out of the library, I discovered the magical combination of cheese and apple together, and the sandwich-related part of my life was changed irrevocably. Something in the sweet, nuclear-waves-softened apple slices and the melting, nutty cheese tasted impossibly good to me, and while this isn't surprising now - I mean, cheeseboards always come with some kind of fruit accoutrement, whether it's fruit paste or crisp slices or just something fruity - at the time it was a pretty radical concept to my unsophisticated rural tastebuds.

So yeah, it was nostalgic thoughts of those sandwiches that inspired this brunch. Brunch is my favourite (well, breakfast eaten at a slightly later hour, basically) (that said I love breakfast any time of day, especially night) (I'm so fascinating!) and so it seemed a good way to break into the kitchen.

french toast for my mensch host (I am nothing if not committed to this bit) (and also apologetic)

My nostalgia was totally correct - this was completely delicious. I mean, halloumi is boundlessly astounding, and the buttery meltingness of it went quite perfectly with the soft, caramelised sweetness of the apples and the squishily fried bread. Cool hits of mint livened it up a bit and made it look better in the photos, and as well as being a pleasure to eat, it was really quite straightforward to make. I mean, I felt a bit nervous promising a lush brunch, it being my first time in this new kitchen and a recipe I'd made up on the spot, but it emphatically worked. Cheese and apple! Together at last, again.

halloumi and apple french toast

a recipe by myself/serves two

this will be easier and everything will stay hot if you make the French toast in one pan and the apple/halloumi in another, but it still worked fine all done quickly in the one pan. Up to you/your resources/ability to deal with doing more dishes. 

four thick slices from a loaf of white bread - slightly stale is good
three eggs
half a cup of milk
a pinch of ground nutmeg
four slices of halloumi
one apple
mint leaves

Mix the egg, milk and nutmeg together until you can't tell where the egg starts and the milk ends. Heat a pleasingly-sized slice of butter in a large pan until it's sizzling, and then carefully dip the first two pieces of bread into the egg and milk, allowing both sides to soak up plenty of liquid. Transfer these to the hot pan and fry on both sides till very brown (I use a spatula/flipper thing to lift them up slightly to have a look underneath, it always takes longer to brown than you think it will. 

Finely slice the apple while the toast is cooking - you don't have to use the whole thing but more is better. I cut off one side and then slice that into semicircles, and then carry on all round the apple till it's all used up. In case you needed to know that.

Remove the cooked French toast to a plate and repeat with the remaining bread. You may need to add a tiny bit more milk to the egg mixture if there's not enough - that bread is absorbent stuff. 

Fry the apple slices in more butter until softened, then scatter them over the two plates of French toast. Finally, briskly fry the halloumi slices on both sides till golden brown, put them on top of the apple-topped French toast, scatter with mint leaves, and placidly eat. 

fresh outta rhymes, to your relief

Other cool things about the 'burbs: I mean, first of all for all my righteous posturing, Newtown is so close to Wellington city, the two neighbourhoods are clasping hands with fingers lovingly intertwined. Also, there are local cats. 

this is moustache cat, whose detectable personality traits thus far appear to be "lurks" and "poses obligingly"

I think I'm going to be very happy living here. 

Oh, and: despite having too many projects and commitments for my laughably small hands to carry, I've decided to start a little web series. Emphasis on little. A few years ago I tried doing some youtube videos and I never really liked them, but did them anyway, but this feels a bit more fun and chill and low-key and me? Anyway, if you like eating food in bed then you might want to watch because that's all that really happens. Normally I'm quite upfront about telling you if I think something I've done is amazing, so this isn't false self-deprecation for the sake of it, but the video is really not that great. But it's something! And that's something. 
title from: First Aid Kit's quietly twinkly little tune Valse
music lately:

Emily Edrosa's self-titled EP. It's all rumbly and moody and I love it so much and can't stop listening. 

Banks, Goddess. You shoulda crowned her, cuz she's a goddess, you never got this. Really feeling Banks at the moment. 

Mya, My Love is Like...Wo. Bedroom dance party perfection. And she TAP DANCES in the music video. 
next time: omg I don't even know but you can look forward to more photos with new interesting backgrounds and also me borrowing all of Kate and Jason's super cool plates to put my food on!

14 October 2014

i had fifteen people telling me to move, i got moving on my mind

All of a sudden, this is the last blog post that I'll be writing from my little apartment that I only just moved into. It's a tiring thought, that I'm moving house again this Friday, but I'm also pretty chill about it. Well, relatively chill considering my usual lack of it. My tarot card for this month was all "look at the facts" and "don't follow your feelings, follow the facts" and "hey: facts" and with that in mind it's easy to look at this move as simply a practical thing that needs to happen and that is going to make things easier in the long run. Also, I absolutely cannot wait to live with my dear friends and their pet cat. Who will be kind of like my pet cat. I actually can't quite comprehend that there's going to be a cat around me all the time, it's a dizzyingly exciting prospect for someone who has wanted nothing more than to just be in the presence of a cat regularly for sooo long. 

Also pleasing: the house I'm moving into has a lovely, lovely kitchen. I can't wait to cook in it to take photos in it (no offense to my current apartment. We can't all be photogenic.) 

 crispy eggplant: it's super. 

So anyway, the last blog post from where I currently hang my hat is crispy eggplant and smoky beef tacos. I made them to impress a girl, but really the girl who I'm most concerned with impressing is myself, and luckily, I was personally way taken with these tacos. I should add, I call them tacos but it would be more accurate to call them "stuff in corn tortillas" since they're not in the slightest bit traditionally Mexican, but yeah.

Honestly, the only bit of this recipe that I really care about imparting to you is the crispy eggplant, which I'm very proud of. It's so crisp! So delicious! And the rest is mostly assembly. But I'll give you the whole lot because, well, mostly because it sounds cooler and slightly more credible this way.  

crispy eggplant and smoky beef tacos

a recipe by myself. (Sorry that this recipe requires liquid smoke, which is a very specific ingredient, but it'll still be delicious without it. Just not smoky. Surprise.) 

one large eggplant
a third of a cup of flour
quarter of a cup of cornmeal/polenta (ideally the coarse-ish stuff, not the super powdery stuff, but whatevs)
olive oil
200g steak, some kind of non-terrifyingly expensive cut 
one tablespoon olive oil
one teaspoon cumin seeds
a pinch of ground cinnamon
half a teaspoon liquid smoke
corn tortillas
50g feta (or more)
finely sliced cabbage, or green of your choice
sriracha or chilli sauce of some persuasion

Set your oven to 200 C/400 F. Drizzle some olive oil into a large baking dish, and mix the flour and cornmeal together on a plate. Dice the eggplant and toss it in the flour/cornmeal mix, so that all the cubes are finely dusted on all sides. Place the eggplant in a single layer in the baking dish, and drizzle with some more olive oil. Put it in the oven and leave it for around twenty minutes, until all the eggplant cubes are crisped and brown - it may take a little longer or a little less, depending on your oven.

Meanwhile, slice the steak into strips, and mix in a bowl with the olive oil, cumin seeds, cinnamon and liquid smoke. Fry briefly in a pan over a high heat till decently browned. Finally, either microwave the tortillas or sit them in the oven for a bit to warm through. Layer them up with cabbage, the smoky beef, the crispy eggplant, and a handful of feta, then drizzle with sriracha. Or do what you like, it's just stuff in a tortilla, there's no strict order to proceedings. 

The eggplant is the star here - each little square of it beautifully crispy and crunchy on the outside, blissfully melting and soft within. The beef is perfectly nice, but I'd happily have this with just the eggplant. Or in fact just a bowl of the eggplant itself. That said, the spicy, cumin-y meatiness of the steak is a delightful contrast, and feta just makes everything more fun. (Considering testing this theory by taking some feta to my next dentist appointment.) And there's something sort of pleasing about food you can assemble according to your own sense of proportional decency, and then eat with your hands.

well, I was impressed by me. Although I'm both easily impressed and in possession of strong feelings about tacos.

As well as living with a cat (oh my gosh, living with a cat), I'll also be significantly closer to this particular dingus. All that animal closeness and also friend closeness is most definitely going to be a worthy reward for the actually ridiculous amount of packing I still have left to do.

We both just heard Kim say "dinner!" She was saying it to Percy, my reaction was all Pavlov's Dog. Or maybe Pavlov's Dog's Friend.

Oh hey guess what, I was on Radio New Zealand recently talking about a couple of recipes, it was highly fun, I love being on the radio so much. Which is weird because I tend to prefer to have an audience, but I guess just having peoples' ears is also still gratifying. Anyway, feel free to listen to it, it's only short! And excitingest of all, I had another Crush Cake story published on magnificent important website The Toast. It was for Lucy Liu, who is the ultimate queen of my heart, so it took forever and a ton of thought to write, but I'm proud of it.

Finally, I say this all the time, but forget ye not that if you want to get your hands on a copy of my cookbook, you can only do this by ordering it directly through me. It's a reeeeally good time to buy a copy, since it will be one less thing for me to have to cart over to my new-house-to-be...but also it's a good time to buy a copy because it's a seriously wondrous cookbook. And I'm the author, so I would know.

title from: White Stripes, Hotel Yorba. This band is really important to me and this song is delightful.
music lately: 

Sky Ferreira, Everything Is Embarrassing. It really, really is. 

Lykke Li, I Follow Rivers. Such a perfect, moody, intense love song, I love it.

M.I.A XXXO. This song is underrated I feel, I love how it's so oddly mournful sounding yet so upbeat at the same time, and the chorus fully reminds of The Real McCoy.
next time: New kitchen, new house, new Laura! 

2 October 2014

and the ice cream's melted and it's dripping down my neck

grapefruit curd ripple ice cream 

What the actual what, it's suddenly October. Evenings are lighter, summer is closer, Halloween approaches, asparagus exists. This has been a tumultuous year and as each month reaches out its hand to the next month I always think this is the one, this is going to be my time. May is going to be chill. June will be good. July! July shall give me that nice mellow status quo. And each month, things stay ridiculous. So my new philosophy is to just go with the flow, let everything happen and wash over me, and just try to be happy. Or at least try to try. 

Something very happy-making: I was given a supermarket bag full of grapefruit from a friend's relative's tree recently, which is really exciting. Firstly, living in the concrete jungle that is Wellington (well, it's quite small, more of a concrete flower patch) you forget what it's like to just have people with trees overflowing with abundant fruit that needs getting rid of. Secondly: I adore grapefruit. They're all bitter and intense and relatively under-appreciated and those are qualities I can respect in both my fruit and my humans. All the recipes that I found online seemed a bit bleak (lots of dry-looking vague-coloured grapefruit cakes?) but the good people of Twitter shrewdly suggested grapefruit curd and ice cream. And then I remembered my own cranberry curd ripple ice cream from a few years ago and thought this could be a cool variation. (Cool, get it?) (Sorry) (not sorry.)

Queen Leslie Knope: I am big enough to admit that I am often inspired by myself

The grapefruit curd recipe makes enough for the ice cream and then some leftover to either spoon into your mouth (as I did) or spread onto your toast (I did not make it to that stage but I'm sure it's good.) Apart from some necessary fear and respect for the grapefruit curd mixture as you make it - it can so easily overcook and turn into scrambled eggs! - this is really, really easy. In fact the only trouble I really ran into was that I kept spilling curd over the side of the pan as I was stirring it. Constantly. Like, I really lost quite a significant quantity of the overall mixture. Being clumsy is not as charming as romantic comedies would have you think it is, I can tell you.

Grapefruit curd is this incredible meeting of silky texture, pure sweetness, and fizzingly citrussy fragrance. The bitterness of the fruit is softened first by all the butter and eggs and then further by being swirled through thick cream, but still hovers in the background like a friendly ghost. The dollops of not-entirely-mixed-in grapefruit curd that freeze amongst the cream give bursts of near-sour flavour and the whole thing is just pretty ravishing. And easy! But importantly, ravishing. I realise the recipe looks a bit lengthy but really all you have to do is stir stuff then stir stuff then stir those together, I just tend to overexplain so you feel completely at ease. (I tend to overexplain literally everything actually, and to be honest putting people at ease is not usually the outcome, but hopefully it works here.)

grapefruit curd ripple ice cream

a recipe by myself

two grapefruit
four eggs
one cup sugar
150g butter, diced very small
one and a half cups cream

Squeeze the juice from the grapefruit into a relatively large pot, and mix in the eggs, sugar, and diced butter. Now stir constantly over a low heat with a spatula - making sure to constantly drag it along the bottom of the pan so that the curd doesn't settle on the heat and cook too quickly - until the butter has gently melted into everything. Continue stirring over a low heat till it's thick, or turn up the heat a little as you stir which will speed things up a bit. Either way, keep stirring, keep it moving. 

Once it's thick, remove from the heat and spatula into a container/bowl and refrigerate it till it's cool, by which time it should have thickened up even more. 

Whip the cream until it's thick enough to hold its own shape when you lift the whisk/beater up out of the bowl, but not so much that it's like, entirely solid. Whisk in one cup of the cooled grapefruit curd, and then spatula this into a loaf tin. Take another half cup (or up to one cup) of the grapefruit curd and spoon it here and there over the cream in the loaf tin, dragging the handle of a spoon or something similar through it a little to ripple it. Freeze for several hours before eating. 

You want to eat this within a couple of days - it'll still be delicious after that, but will take on a sliiiightly grainy after-texture. This is just because it's only cream and curd and doesn't have anything else in it that makes regular ice cream last so long, but the pride you have in making your own damn ice cream will hopefully up the deliciousness.

I'm trying to make the most of eating on the cute little balcony pictured above, because...ya girl is moving house again. The reason this time is fairly straightforward and pragmatic - neither of which are qualities I'm used to embodying, but here we are - I can't afford to live where I am right now. My rent is too high for what I earn, and neither of those factors are going to change dramatically anytime soon, so I'm just going to find somewhere else. It'll be stressful, but also: whatever. It's practical. Delightfully, I'm going to be moving in to a friend's spare room for a bit while I find my feet (and hopefully find myself) while constantly singing the theme tune to New Girl (even though I maintain I am most definitely Nick, not Jess) (if that doesn't make sense, you should totally watch the TV show New Girl, starting halfway through season 1. It's pretty sublime.) So at least I'm already coolly prepared for life to Stay Ridiculous during October.

Stay Cute in the face of everything

PS, I say, in the hushed manner of someone shyly sliding you a note in class, don't forget you can now only order my cookbook directly through me. My pile of remaining cookbooks is starting to get smaller and smaller...
title from: School's Out by Regina Spektor (were there ever two sweeter words?) it's rambling and conversational and sad and happy and I love her voice so much. 
music lately: 

Chelsea Jade, Nightswimmer. Formerly dreamy dreamboat Watercolours, she's now Chelsea Jade and this song is as much of a swoony trip as ever.

Ella Eyre, Love Me Like You. Ouch.
Next time: Well, I still have a lot of grapefruit.