21 January 2015

if you're one of us then roll with us

adorable and slightly complicated, just like me

So if the brief you've given yourself is "food that will feed yourself and a significant babe and be impressive but not too over the top and look rad but not intimidating and be delicious but also interesting and be filling but not send you immediately to sleep and will go with beer or literally whatever alcohol you just bought from the corner dairy", I have you quite, quite covered here. I made these last week in response to said brief, but have taken forever to blog about them owing to tiredness, busy-ness, and uselessness. But the greatest of these is uselessness. (That was an attempt at a bible pun, I'm not that hard on myself - oh no wait, I actually am, now that I think about it.) Seriously though, they're so good and I want to make them all the time just for myself, let alone other deserving parties, while the weather is sunny or thereabouts and eggplants are not wince-makingly expensive: grilled eggplant rolls with feta, pomegranate, and mint. 

The fiddly bit comes from having to toil through frying up all the slices of eggplant first. The actual rolling up part is weirdly easy, perhaps because it's okay if these end up looking a tiny bit tumbledown and if some of the filling falls out (which the pomegranate seeds are wont to do), as they're made to be gracelessly eaten by hand in a very I'm-a-carefree-dreamboat-in-high-summer kind of manner. 

well hello there

I'm a bit all-a-flutter because I'm heading up to Auckland on Sunday for Laneway festival the following day, I have not been since the very first year it was here in NZ and it's so very exciting. Cool festival costume to decide upon! Cool festival costume to frantically change my mind about seven times! Amazing musicians to see! Fancy old Auckland to feel like a gawky provincial rube in! Friends! And then my dad and brother share a birthday a couple of days later (how considerate) and since I was working here over Christmas I'm totally looking forward to being able to at least be up home for that. And also to try embarrassingly hard to make my parents' cats like me. But like really the line-up for Laneway this year is completely dreamy and I can't wait to sway under the setting sun to FKA Twigs and St Vincent (good name, that) and Angel Olsen and to try to not dissolve from said dreaminess in the process.  

this makes enough filling to eat heaps of as you go AND fill the eggplant slices AND stir the leftovers into a bulghur wheat salad, praise Beyonce.  

Am also all-a-flutter over these eggplant rolls because they are just hellaciously delicious. It's loosely based on a recipe from Nigella Lawson's wonderful and underrated book Forever Summer, and the pomegranate seeds were my idea - their juicy fragrance and popping candy texture is amazing against the creamy feta and the oily, soft, scorched eggplant. It brightens it up no end and importantly, looks kinda gorgeous - I went on for a bit in my last blog post about how jewel-like and magical pomegranate seeds are, and that opinion is no less relevant here. As well as adding glorious flavour and texture, you sprinkle these damn beauteous seeds over the serving plate and it instantly makes it look like you've casually garnished your meal with actual twinkling rubies. I don't know, maybe I'm just very easily impressed. By garnish. But still.


grilled eggplant rolls with feta, pomegranate, and mint

adapted from a recipe in Nigella Lawson's book Forever Summer. Serves two. Way easy to increase proportions, obvs.

one eggplant
one pomegranate
120g (or so) feta
two tablespoons olive oil plus extra for frying
three tablespoons of mint leaves, finely chopped
a pinch of cinnamon
a pinch of sumac
salt, to taste 

Slice the eggplant as finely as you can manage lengthways. There's no easy way around this, but if you faff it up somewhat you can sort of stick two half-pieces together and roll them up so it's all good. 

Mix together everything else in a small bowl with a fork, roughly mashing the feta as you go. Reserve some pomegranate seeds and mint for scattering over the serving plate. 

Heat a heavy pan over a high heat, and brush each slice of eggplant on both sides with a little olive oil. Place a few slices next to each other in the pan, and allow to get browned and softened before turning over to cook on the other side. It doesn't matter if they're perfect, as long as they're not, like, raw. Once you've done all of them, lay a piece of eggplant on a board, place a small spoonful of the feta mixture at one end, and roll it up lengthways. Place it on a serving plate and move onto the next. It doesn't matter if they're a bit roughly done or if bits of the filling fall out, because...it's all so delicious. Carry on until all the eggplant slices are used up, sticking two together and carefully rolling them into one roll with any scrap slices if you need to. Scatter with the mint and pomegranate, drizzle over a little more olive oil if you like, and you're done.  


Also to hark back to something I mentioned in my last blog post, I'm still in a "moving house soon" state, which is going to come really rushing in on me when I get back from Auckland next week. I'm sensibly approaching this life-changing event by completely ignoring the concept of packing my possessions into boxes and instead drifting about on Pinterest finding articles with titles like "You'll Love These Forty Exciting Ways With Fairy Lights" and "29 Cosy Bedroom Concepts You Can Make With Just Paper Cups and A Prayer." Just being my usual inspirationally sensible and pragmatic self.

Speaking of sensible and pragmatic I think I'm literally addicted to dying my hair with semi-permanent colours, and since my hair is so pugnaciously healthy and strong it seems to be taking this colourful thrashing quite well.

Currently vibing with smudges of pinky blue amidst icy blonde, and next up I think I'm going to go for minty green, maybe with pink tips? It's so fun! (Despite what my blankly distressed face in this photo would suggest, that's just my Strongly On Brand Lack of Smile.) Everyone, go dye your hair! Or at least give a jaunty and affirmative "nice hair!" to someone having fun dying theirs! Making sure they catch your pleasant drift and it doesn't sound like you're cat-calling them lasciviously!
title from: Kesha, We R Who We R. I sodding love this gal. She's wonderful. 
music lately: 

Drake, Headlines. Here's what I have to say about Drake: Draaaaaaaaaake.

The Libertines, Can't Stand Me Now. This song is kinda sad and adorable at the same time, with its push-pull and "no you've got it the wrong way round" and it's both dated and ageless which is a completely lazy way of describing it but I care not.

Lorde, 400 Lux. "I'd like it if you stayed..."
Next time: I don't know! Maybe I'll make something cool while I'm up home! Maybe I'll be too busy being uncool in front of the cats. 

12 January 2015

and my eyes more red than the devil is

 oh, just casually eating a bowl of rubies for lunch to absorb their power, you? 

Ya girl is moving house again! 2014 was a year of four different addresses, so I'm tentatively hoping this time things are even marginally more settled, but if not, at least I'm used to it? I'm really looking forward to properly unpacking all my stuff when I slide into my new address in early February, and and am going to try sooo embarrassingly hard to make my room all dreamy and tumblr-ish (meaning fairy lights and sheer, draping fabrics. It will very likely be a tacky mess. But it'll be my tacky mess.) I am less looking forward to trying to spatula together a bond payment from behind the couch pillows of my bank account, but hopefully it all comes together. And in what is a coup for my co-dependency (I guess I also have coup-dependency, now that I think about it) the new digs will be just around the corner from where I'm currently lodging with one of my best friends, so I can still visit all the time. And continue my mission to become best friends with their cat Ariel. We're currently on a first name basis kind of thing, although over Christmas we did have a nap together and it was without exception the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me. 

I see red, I see red, I see red 

So, I am trying very hard to not spend any money that doesn't urgently need to be spent in anticipation of all the costs involved in moving house. I immediately bought a pomegranate after deciding this, but at least I put it to good use in this amazing salad, rather than how I usually treat spontaneous luxurious food purchases: gaze at it reverently for days, not daring to actually eat it, until it is completely withered and decayed and implodes at the slightest touch. (I also bought myself a coffee today but I admitted it so you can't scold me now.) Anyway, my dear flatmates had made this gorgeous tomato and pomegranate salad from Ottolenghi's newish cookbook Plenty More, and generously shared it with me. It was the kind of perfect deliciousness where you know you're going to try recreate it at the nearest possible opportunity, and so here we are.

This combination is glorious, so juicy and sweet and surprising and sunny, with the blissful crunch of pomegranate and the soft, juicy tomato and a tiny pinprick of smoky oregano and a dressing made with lip-smackingly sour pomegranate molasses and olive oil. And it looks like you're eating a bowl of damn rubies, I swear - so glossy and red and glowing. It's just the prettiest. While it causes me deep sighs to have to dice up all those tomatoes, keeping everything small means you can't tell where one ingredient starts and another ends and makes the pomegranate just as much of a star as anything else, instead of a garnish. It's just spectacular, okay. I love being surprised by food in the same way that I love being surprised by music - you know when you hear a new song and suddenly think yes, how did this song not exist in my life and I can't believe someone brought it to life out of thin air just when I thought all the songs that could possibly exist had already been written. Food can be like that too.

tomato and pomegranate salad

a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi, from his book Plenty More

I've left his recipe pretty much as is here, but like, the tomato selection at the supermarket was no fun, so I made do with some cherry tomatoes, vine tomatoes, and regular tomatoes. The dressing is so full of life that it'll embiggen some fairly pale produce, but try to make sure at least some of the tomatoes that you're using taste like tomatoes. Oh also I left out the red onion but whatever. 

200g red cherry tomatoes, cut into ½cm dice
200g yellow cherry tomatoes, cut into ½cm dice (or, sigh, just more normal cherry tomatoes)
200g tiger (or plum) tomatoes, cut into ½cm dice
four medium vine tomatoes, cut into ½cm dice 
one red capsicum, cut into ½ cm dice 
one small red onion, finely diced 
two cloves garlic, crushed 
half a teaspoon ground allspice (or cinnamon)
two teaspoons white wine vinegar (you could use almost any other vinegar here instead - balsamic, red wine, etc)
1 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (this stuff is sublime, but replace with lime or lemon juice if you can't find it)
60ml olive oil, plus a little extra to drizzle at the end
the seeds from one pomegranate
one tablespoon fresh oregano leaves

salt and pepper

Mix the diced tomatoes, capsicum, and onion together in a bowl. In another bowl mix the garlic, vinegar, pomegranate molasses, allspice and olive oil and stir this into everything. Either transfer everything to a big flat plate, which is Ottolenghi's recommendation, or leave it in the bowl, which is what I did, and then sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds and oregano. Drizzle over some more olive oil. This benefits from plenty of salt, so do some stirring and sprinkling and tasting till you're satisfied. That's it! 

red, the blood of angry men, tea, a drink with jam and bread (oh wait.)

This is almost ludicrously nourishing and vitamin-rich, which is a pretty cool side-effect of eating something so massively delicious and beautiful. It's the full package. I ended up eating 90% of it just as is by the bowlful, but it's obviously going to make anything else amazing if you serve them up together - halloumi springs to mind, but then, halloumi always does.

As well as being frugal, planning to move house, and smugly eating vegetables, ya girl is also dying her hair. This is of course something that people do all the time, since the beginning of time, but I've made it 28 years without a single drop of dye touching my hair and so it was kind of a big deal for me. While there were slight "what have I dooooone" vibes to start off with I've had a ton of fun bleaching and toning and tinting and generally wreaking havoc upon my poor mop of hair, and have ended up reaching more or less what I was aiming for, what I call Sunset Hair. (It also might look like a sunrise of the tequila kind, according to Kate, but I'm cool with that. Tequila is delicious. I do hate the Eagles song of that same name though.)

candy candy candy I can't let you go

The colour is a little mellower than this in person. Oh, and I love it! It's funny how as soon as you modify your appearance in some way it's suddenly no big deal and just the appearance you have and it doesn't seem like things have ever been any different, you know? And it's just hair. It grows back. Mine grows at a suspiciously fast rate, so a total do-over is not implausible.

Less mellow were the weird and whiny "I've achieved nothingggggg" thoughts that occasionally haunt me, although I then looked at the date today and like, it's only January 12. But still. Time to get moving on some ambitions and agendas and stuff. Not least because doing that will be an excellent way to procrastinate from packing for moving house!
title from: Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, and Jay Z, Monster. If you haven't heard this, please love yourself and go straight to Nicki's verse. She kills it effortlessly, as per. I looove dancing to this song. 
music lately: 

sometimes there is nothing you can do except curl up on your bed and listen to Lana Del Rey's Born To Die and Taylor Swift's All You Had To Do Was Stay a few hundred times over. (It's really really hard to find a link to Swift's song online, soz, however if this means you seek out the entire album then: you're welcome)

The Ting Tings, That's Not My Name. This song came on In The Club recently and it is just such a great song to jump up and down with friends and total strangers to.

Billie Piper, Honey To The Bee. This song is never not swoonily dreamily magnificent, okay?
next time: Feeling kind of obsessed with pomegranate molasses right now, but only time will tell if I make elegant, nuanced recipes from it or just sit on the kitchen floor drinking it straight from the bottle before passing out. 

2 January 2015

rise up wise up say it loud

greet the new year with arms and bread wide open

On New Year's Day, my best girls Kim and Kate and I crawled into a small tent, away from the angry heat of the sun, and did tarot card readings for the year ahead. The tent was already up and we were at a barbeque/picnic thing, we didn't just go into a field and purposefully erect a Tent of Mystery, although that would've been pretty neat. Next year? The cards were from The Wild Unknown and each design was so utterly beautiful that I want the whole lot of them tattooed all over my body. The card that I ended up picking as my overall theme for 2015 was not the funnest but when I found out the meaning, I was like UGH you accurate damn tarot cards. It is all about not deceiving myself or being deceived, seeing reality instead of what I want to see, and not being sucked in by wishful thinking or being stuck inside my own head (two things that like, define me currently.) So it's not quite "a thousand riches shall befall you instantly and you can chill out indefinitely" but it's very wise and for someone who needs to take such advice on board, I'm sorta impressed with myself for instinctively being drawn to this particular card when I was choosing from the pack, instead of gravitating towards something nicer but less direct. 

Another thing I did on New Year's Day was get up early and bake bread with my own two hands, despite being out verrrry late the night before dancing wildly to Beyonce (the only way to end the year since she was my soundtrack for the entirety of it.) Am I a hero? Yes. Although, as far as they go this is a nice, unthreateningly simple bread recipe, which requires no difficult ingredients, very little kneading, and the deep characteristic slashes in the dough make it eye-catchingly gorgeous. Which means that you can loudly and obnoxiously announce "Oh, just some simple rustic artisinal exquisite Italianate bread" when you place it at the table in front of people.

This particular bread, with its leafy, sliced-open facade, is known as Fougasse. When I was a youth I used to claim that fougasse bread was my favourite food - if I was ever asked - because I tried it once from a bakery in Titirangi with my family, and was deeply impressed with it, and I guess, also with myself. I think my train of thought was that it made me sound loftily sophisticated, which when you grow up in tiny rural farmland with big city dreams and a hearty respect for Stacey McGill, is apparently very important. No-one actually cared about fougasse being my favourite food and the only impression it gave off was (an accurate) one of insufferableness. But at least my tastes weren't misguided! I wasn't wrong! Because fougasse bread is highly delicious.

This recipe produces two loaves (one of mine was much larger than the other because when I divided the ball of dough in half I didn't really get the 'half' bit right) of chewy, airy, crisp, wonderful bread. While it would be a fine accompaniment to literally anything (including another loaf of bread) probably my ideal way of eating it would be like this: just myself, sitting at a table with an entire loaf of fougasse, a bowl of very good olive oil, and maybe some balsamic vinegar and sea salt. And some wine.

fougasse bread

recipe by myself, mashed together from a bunch of different recipes I read online. The instructions look scarily lengthy but I just like to hand-hold you through anything that might be slightly unfamiliar or confusing.

500g bread/hi-grade flour
one sachet dried yeast
two teaspoons sea salt or some similarly fancy sodium product (or one teaspoon regular salt)
one teaspoon sugar
one and a half cups water
one tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing
dried herbs of your choice for sprinkling over - I used za'atar, a mix of dried thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds. Some grated parmesan would be rad here.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Slowly pour in the water - just cold tap water is fine - and the oil, and stir together to make a sticky mass. Knead the dough either in the bowl or on a floured surface, pushing it away with your knuckles and folding it over and repeating, decisively, adding a little more flour or water if it seems to require it. However, it should come together on its own. When it's ready, the dough should be a smoothish, slightly springy ball. Put the dough back into the bowl (you might want to wash and dry it first) and cover with gladwrap/clingfilm. 

Allow the dough to rise in a warmish spot - a sunny windowsill, a hot water cupboard, something like that, but don't stress too much about temperature, just on the bench is fine - and in an hour's time it should be puffy and doubled in size. 

At this point, set your oven to 250 C/480 F and put an oven tray in there to heat up with it. Place a large sheet of baking paper on the bench, cut the dough in half, and carefully transfer half of this dough onto the baking paper. Use your fingers to gently push it out into a large, rough oval shape - the idea is to retain lots of air, which is why you aren't using a rolling pin - and when you're satisfied, use a sharp knife to make cuts in it to form a kind of leafy pattern like I have done in the pictures here. Spread the slices apart with your fingers (otherwise they'll merge back together when you bake them) and then brush the loaf with a little olive oil and sprinkle over your sprinklings of choice - as I said in the ingredients, I went with za'atar. Cover loosely with gladwrap/clingfilm and allow to sit for fifteen minutes, which will help it puff up a little. Finally, open the oven, being careful not to blast yourself with the heat of it like I did, and carefully pick up the piece of baking paper with the dough on it (it's not that hard to transfer it, but like, don't wave it around or anything.) Place the baking paper and dough straight onto the oven tray and bake the loaf for ten to fifteen minutes, until deep golden and bready-looking. While it's baking, get another sheet of baking paper and shape the second half of the dough as per the instructions above, and once it has rested for fifteen minutes, bake that one. Yayyy, two loaves of bread! 

slash fiction

I truly hope that all of you reading this (and also basically everyone, even people who don't read my blog deserve love) have exciting goals, thrilling plans, and a lot of love for yourself as you start this year. And if you don't, that's incredibly normal and fine and tomorrow's another day. 2014 was a seriously weird year and very uneasy in places, but 2015 seems to be tentatively full of promise. Good and bad and strange and surprising things will always happen though, and I'm just going to do my very best to do my very best. 
title from: those twin cuties Tegan and Sara with their scrappily heartfelt song Missing You
music lately: 

Nicki Minaj, Pills'n'Potions and Azealia Banks, Soda. I feel like these two sad, sweet, dreamy songs go together well. Also, both these women have new albums out and they are killer, go listen, go listen. 

Scarlett Johansen, Anywhere I Lay My Head. Her album of the same name is SO great, and this is my favourite from it. It's just glorious. (Yeah, she made an album.)
next time: gosh! I don't know. Something summery and dreamy, hopefully.