23 March 2015

we should hash it out like a couple of grownups

hashtag hash

I come to you buried under three layers of exhaustion: firstly I ate a lot of macaroni cheese for dinner and with every passing second the carbs are lulling me into a dopey stupor (well the only pasta I had was risoni and then I was like is this macaroni risoni or macarisoni and then I was like Laura quit being insufferable and eat your pasta. Once you've instagrammed it.) Secondly I had a useless night's sleep last night. And reason the third, I am in the process of leaving my current job and starting another and there is some overlap of schedules and as a result of all these things I am less human and more a tired baby penguin, fluffy and confused and keen to get around by lying down and zooming on my stomach instead of having to stand up.  

(The changing of the jobs is all very jolly by the way, I'm grateful to the first job for teaching me a lot and delighted by the opportunity of the new job, which is also a bartender role. I realise I'm being cagey about what these places are called, but if you have an issue with that then that's kinda weird.)

So it's with all these floaty, veil-like layers of tiredness, that I can't promise that this post is going to be my best work. Just kidding, all my blog posts are amazing. But uh, this one might sound a little strained as my eyes increasingly struggle to remember what their one job is.

oh look, the same thing from a slightly different angle. 

It wasn't on my agenda to blog about this - I made it up on the spot and it seemed too simple and insubstantial. Then I told myself, that what is essentially a two-ingredient dish, which uses those specific ingredients because that's all I had in the house and couldn't afford to run out and buy more, could still be something that other people might want to have in their own lives on purpose.

And well you might, because it's decidedly delicious.

 spot the can of golden pash in the background: very on-brand. Speaking of brands the hot sauce that I have is called Secret Aardvark and it comes from Portland, Oregon, and I just want to say Secret Aardvark again. 

I made this for my girlfriend and myself the morning after a friend's beautiful engagement party, where there was wild dancing and cat-patting and wine-drinking and cake-eating and a general mood of lovely happiness. But yeah, let's not bury the lede: there was so much dancing and wine drinking. I was determined to use only ingredients I had in the house to make something brunchily cool yet bolstering and reviving. Miraculously I had some eggs, which I scrambled, y'know, satisfactorily. This potato and corn hash was a bit of a revelation though, and so I'm sharing the recipe with you here. Quantities can be upped easily, just make sure your pan is big enough and your heart is true. (I'm so tired, okay.)

smoky potato and corn hash

a recipe by me

two decent sized potatoes (kind of the size of a decent-sized tomato, or a small avocado? No smaller than that but feel free to go wayyyy bigger)
about three tablespoons of olive oil 
roughly 20g butter
one cup frozen corn kernels
salt, to taste
liquid smoke 

Finely dice the potatoes into roughly 1/2 cm cubes/rectangles/any four sided shape you can approach a likeness of. Heat the oil in a wide frying pan and once it's proper hot, tip in the potatoes and spread them out evenly. Allow them to fry for about ten or fifteen minutes, stirring and turning very occasionally - the longer you leave the potatoes in one place the more golden and crisp they get. At this point, add the butter and let it sizzle for a little longer, then tip in the corn and stir. Again, the less you stir the better, so that the corn gets a little bit scorched, but you don't want it to get burnt. Basically, use your eyes, see what needs moving around and what needs more time on the heat.

Finally, sprinkle over a few drops of liquid smoke - you don't need much - and stir it in, then add as much salt as your merrily brined wee heart desires, and divide between two plates. 

hot sauce hand model (also you can see in the foreground where we both spilled juice from a truculent and entirely uncooperative tetra-pak)

This would be so good with some chopped up herbs, or diced onion fried with the potato, or some parmesan grated over, or some turmeric and cumin, but on its own it was quite perfect. The potato is cut into minute pieces which cook quickly in the sputtering oil and become darkly golden and crisp in that way that makes you feel weepily grateful depending on what else is going on in your life. The corn is sweet and juicy and slightly browned in places and just wonderfully corn-like (I really like how corn-like corn is.) Liquid smoke has saved me from blandness many a time, but if you don't have it - and it's not necessarily that easy to get hold of - you'll lose some of that standing-near-a-barbecue vibe, but it will still be so good. Just add more butter and salt and keep on truckin'.

what are you trying to hide, parsley sprig?  

Look, I just love brunch so much, it's such a kind meal - you get to sleep in, you get to eat so many rich foods, you get to feel fancy, you get the rest of the day still to do things. Making it for yourself is charming in its own way that going out for it can't replicate (especially if you are cooking for someone else) and while you have to do the dishes at least you can eat while wearing severely ancient trackpants and an insouciantly draped blanket.

I sold my last cookbook today, which was a strange feeling. I'm so determined to write another one, and soon, but also looking at this cookbook, which was written, tested and photographed in its entirety in just three months, I'm very proud of myself. On a wearily capitalistic note, it's also a shame because I was making money from selling them and now I'm not, but I still have a good feeling that I'll be a zillionaire or even a mere billionaire pretty soon. I'd just be so good at being rich!

One last thing, before I leave you, and frankly I can't believe I made it this far, but of course I did because I am good at pushing myself to write when I'm 90% asleep, and anyway: I thought it would be kinda dinky and fun to put all the songs I've listed in the music lately section at the bottom of the blog onto a Spotify playlist. So far I have one for this year, one for the back end of last year, and one that I'm going to put Christmas songs in. My username is Laura Vincent if you want in - sometimes I couldn't find the specific song (damn you Taylor Swift, release your iron grip and let the people listen to you on Spotify) so I'd try to get the next best thing, but it's more or less everything I've been recommending. It's...not coherent, but it's cute! Like me.

title from: so hash is an interesting dish to find a title for...this one is from Drake and Jhene Aiko's dreamy dreamy song From Time. Oh Drake, trust you to come through for me. 
music lately: 

Fiona Apple, Every Single Night. This song is bewitching.

De La Soul with Redman, Oooh. I haven't heard this in so long and it makes me so happy, how compelling is that melody! (very compelling.)

Rilo Kiley, I Never. This song is so beautiful, and sounds like it's from another time, maybe the sixties? I don't know. But I love how it gets so swoony and bigger and bigger the further it goes along.
Next time: I'll have done the groceries and have more to play with, don't worry

16 March 2015

we'll drink coffee and you can spend the night, we'll do anything that makes you smile

I was supposed to blog about this earlier today but then I also had to make a cake and while doing so I ate so much cake batter and icing that I needed a nap, during which time if you did an x-ray scan of my skull you would see that the brain had dissolved into a nourishing yet ultimately useless sugary syrup. Which is so much the story of my life, that you could put that opening sentence on the front cover of my (inevitable, hopefully) autobiography.

On that supposed-to-be-doing-stuff vibe, I was talking to my dear friend Kate the other day about motivation and wanting to get stuff done and worrying about where I am going with my life, I seem to do little other than half-assedly start projects and then abandon them through sheer tiredness and I hate it but I also can't seem to keep up with myself or my expectations of myself, y'know? If I could get some kind of fairy godmother situation happening right now my request to them would be for me to write another cookbook and get a TV show. I so deeply miss that wacky montage time when I was nonstop writing my first cookbook and making food and there were photoshoots and plans and ridiculous recipe testing and just so much going on. Unfortunately, in what some might look at as being a bad sign, the word document in which I put lots of plans and recipe ideas in order to pitch a new cookbook to someone...disappeared. My computer ate it. I'm gonna try to start all over again, but gosh! Psychological and literal setbacks ahoy! And yeah, I did say pitch. I am always proud of how I was approached by Penguin to write my first cookbook, but this time around I can't sit and wait and hope for the best, I need to, oh, rediscover my inner Leslie Knope and hustle like whoa. With that in mind, if anyone knows of any highly good and cool publishers that I should be approaching, let me know. If you want to tell me that the publishing industry is going down the toilet and unless I'm writing Fifty Shades of Grey fanfic I'm screwed, I'd be less appreciative, but I guess tough love has its place sometimes. That place is not here (by here I mean anywhere near my general person.)

I love these pastel sprinkles so much 

But why have an existential meltdown when you could eat ice cream? While having an existential meltdown? (Tagline: save the meltdown for yourself, not your frozen dessert) I made this coffee ice cream, a recipe of my queen Nigella Lawson's, three times in about ten days - which speaks to both the excellence of said recipe and also my abilities at hoovering through ice cream like a vacuum cleaner with googly eyes stuck on it to give it a human-like quality.

This stuff is wondrous. The addition of sweetened condensed milk gives it a maddeningly pleasing chewiness, as well as making it spoonable and smooth straight from the freezer without any need for churning, stirring, or waiting for it to soften. The bulging caramel taste of the condensed milk also mellows out the harsh coffee dust, giving it a crema-soft coffee flavour with tiny specks of enlivening bitterness here and there. It's so lush and delicious and I frankly expected nothing less of Nigella but it's still good to have such relentlessly positive ideals reinforced.

Despite the recipe being monumentally easy, when I first made it I deviated slightly and used coconut cream instead of regular cream, simply because it's what I had in my cupboard and also I'd spent three of my last ten dollars on a can of sweetened condensed milk and felt like this frugal act counteracted some of that heathenish wretchedness. (In my, and indeed anyone's defense, sometimes having seven dollars and ice cream is better than having ten dollars and no ice cream, in terms of living your best life.)

It was so brilliant that it's all I've done ever since for fear of breaking the magic spell of deliciousness, but feel free to use actual cream if you like. The coconut flavour is completely subtle and totally overpowered by all that coffee, if that's something that concerns you.

very easy coffee ice cream

adapted from a recipe in Nigella Lawson's book Nigellissima. Makes around 600ml. 

one 400ml (or so) can coconut cream
one can sweetened condensed milk
about three tablespoons of instant coffee, ideally instant espresso powder

Empty the two cans into a bowl, and whisk together along with the coffee powder. If you like you can dissolve the coffee in a tablespoon or two of boiling water, otherwise your ice cream will be dotted with coffee granules - either way is fine though.

Pour into a freezer-proof receptacle - I use an old take-out plastic container with a lid - and freeze for about six hours or until solid.

Eat, rapturously.  Or morosely, I'm not here to police your facial expressions. 

Ice cream is easily one of my very favourite foods, which is possibly another factor towards my ploughing merrily through so much of this stuff recently, but don't just take my word for it - actually, do just take my word for it, this is a food blog, damn it. This is easy and delicious and wonderful and you deserve all those words in your life materialised in food form.

What have I been up to of late when not fretting luxuriantly about how much I'm not achieving? Swanning about and swooning about, I suppose, going to parties with my thoroughly and respectively wonderful friends and girlfriend; working at work; gasping and clutching at myself with great emotion while watching Pretty Little Liars; trying to not spend money; and oh look, dying my hair pinker than it has ever been:

je vois la vie en rose 

On a final, aggressively mercenary note, if my ability to buy cream is something you care about, may I remind you that you can still purchase copies of my amazing cookbook directly through me - I have a few left but stocks are dwindling so move with haste is my advice. Also if you're a rich weirdo who finds lighting your scented candles with hundred dollar bills gauche and passé and you're looking for a new way to get your kicks, my paypal is always open and any and everything is so very appreciated. 

Actually, let's end not with capitalism but with more ice cream. Which is probably still capitalism, my knowledge of the economy is hazy and based on my own hyperbolic notions at best.

affogato made with coffee ice cream, for when being merely sybaritic is not quite enough.
title from: Little Red, by Kate Nash. It's so strange and magical and melancholy and narrative, this song. I love it. 
music lately: 

Marina and the Diamonds, Shampain. This song still goes off and still gets me right in the heart, it's so rapturously dreamy and poppy, and I'm always like oh wow it's so meaningful no matter literally what is happening in my life at the time.

Pere Ubu, Modern Dance. I haven't heard this song in foreverrrr but it's so great, I love how hypnotic yet dinky the melody is.

Flo Rida/T-Pain, Low. I danced ever so happily to this on Friday night and have been singing it in my head ever since ("she hit the floorSHE HIT THE FLOOR") and I don't even mind because T-Pain is an actual delight of a human.
next time: your guess is as good as mine, so, uh, ooh, how mysterious. 

2 March 2015

soy un perdador

tofu is made of soy, and soy is Spanish for I AM, as in "I am being so deep right now."  

Right, well I intended for this blog post to be about the meal I cooked on Valentine's Day, but what transpired was this: I had an elaborate dinner planned, then my reason for the season came down with a brutal case of tonsilitis, and then I mysteriously also ended up with a sore throat myself, and so postponed said elaborate dinner to instead make us the world's most nourishing broth which I then took terrible photos of, so the whole thing was a flop, really. (That is, it was a very pleasant evening, mutual ailments aside, and the soup was also very pleasant, it was a flop only in terms of being bloggable. Let me be clear lest I sound more obnoxious than usual!)

With that option unavailable to write about, it took me a while to get my act together, but to paraphrase Beyonce the god, I woke up like this: craving tofu. And so I made myself this rather incredibly good tofu and cucumber salad for lunch today and now here we are!

those flowers were just sitting there on the table when I walked in but nevertheless I'm gonna assert that coordinating your flowers to your lunch is a clear sign of success in life

I know tofu gets regularly maligned for being flavourless or unfun or the epitome of dull vegetarian eating, but in the words of Harvey Danger, if you're bored then you're boring. Let the record state that I think tofu is amazing. Fresh, chilled tofu is an actual joy, all cashew-mild and milky of flavour with a softly firm (yes, both those things) protein-rich texture and the world's most absorbent surface for whatever flavour you should choose to throw at it. Also deep-fried tofu is a revelation, but so is everything - I mean, probably even deep-fried socks would be palatable, so that's not necessarily an impressive fact.

This recipe mostly came out of my head, although it's inspired by a bunch of different things I've had at restaurants over the years. It's so cold and crisp and refreshing and even though the dressing is all salty and oily and sour, somehow the cool juicy cucumber and dense cubes of tofu keep everything very mellow and calm. Both sesame and miso paste have this mysterious, magical savoury taste which help spruce up the ingredients that frankly do need some sprucing, and it's all just very satisfying and nourishing and good. You could leave out the spring onion (by the way I think they're called green onions in America, for my readers in that neck of the woods) but the flavour is so gentle and a million miles removed from actual raw onion.

tofu, cucumber and spring onion salad with sesame miso dressing

a recipe by myself. I know using olive oil in the dressing is a bit out of place with the rest of the ingredients but it's all I had and honestly it tasted amazing so...yeah. 

100g firm tofu
half a cucumber
one spring onion
one tablespoon rice vinegar
one tablespoon soy sauce
one or two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
two heaped teaspoons white miso paste
a pinch of caster sugar
one tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Make sure your tofu and cucumber are well-chilled. Dice them both into small squares, about 1.5cm but, y'know, this is not a time for measurement accuracy. Just something smallish and squareish. Finely slice the spring onion, reserving some of the green for garnish.

In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, soy, olive oil, miso, and most of the sesame seeds until it comes together as a smooth dressing. Tip in the tofu, cucumber, and spring onion, stir to cover, then transfer to whatever bowl you're going to be eating it from (if it's a different bowl, that is) and garnish with the remaining sesame seeds and green spring onion slices. 

this serves one, but if you can't work out how to increase it to feed more then...actually I cannot judge, my maths is hopeless, but seriously, it's pretty easy to increase the properties to feed more people here.  

my new flat is a bit cute, yeah?

The other thing to note about tofu is that it's aggressively filling. So even though this salad may not look like much, it is indeed...much. We've just ticked over into March here so it's officially autumn, but Wellington is so whimsically changeable as far as weather goes and today I'm disgustingly overheated so this was a perfect meal for the temperature my body is currently burdened with, however I feel like this salad would be perfect any time alongside roast chicken and rice; to take to some kind of potluck thing, or with noodles that you've maybe also sprinkled with soy sauce and sesame oil. On its own though: a perfect little meal. 

I just realised this is pretty much my first blog post that include photos of my new flat, which is fitting, since I moved in just under a month ago and yet still am not entirely unpacked. I've decided to see the glass half full and congratulate myself on being amazing at progressing very slowly and being incredibly disorganised. My new room is so dreamy though, and will only get dreamier as I firmly take myself by the hand and make myself continue to tidy it up and unpack fully. 

fairy light grotto (they're solar powered so hopefully I get to actually enjoy them, oh Wellington weather you're easy to poke fun at! But really. I hope I get to enjoy them.)

make up n stuff nook! Also there's nothing like the haunted eyes of Judy Garland greeting you as you wake up, if that's wrong I don't want to be right.

But really, it's now March 2015, holy wow. From February last year to February last month it was basically nonstop turbulent difficult times, and even though I'm very much in this quagmire of "what the heck am I doing with my writing and am I making my own opportunities and why won't endless flailing about wanting to write another cookbook afford me the ability to do just that" I am also feeling rather cloyingly serene and delightful about many things in life right, so watch out. Ya girl is quite happy. I mean, look how rapturous I'm getting about tofu.
title from: Beck's shufflingly and charmingly dour song Loser. Check me out, making truly awful Spanish puns all over the place. Obvs Beyonce shoulda won that Grammy but this is a damn nice song and the opening guitar riffs are truly excellent. Nice work, Beck. 
music lately: 

Let Me Be Him, Hot Chip. The chorus (or whatever it is, this song just kind of drifts) is so uplifting and pretty and dreamy and full of "Oh-ohhh" bits and it's just a lovely, lovely thing to listen to. Definite mood upswing stuff.

Eternal Flame, Joan As Policewoman. I've loved this song for years and years but have been listening to it over and over lately, it flickers like a candle and swoons and sways and the lyrics are so, so excellent. I love how soft and whispery and then deep and rich her voice goes. Oh yeah and also this is not a cover of the Bangles song which was later covered by Atomic Kitten, they just share a title, ya know?

The Killing Moon, Echo and the Bunnymen. Love a bit of tremolo, I do. 
next time: I've made two batches of this Nigella coffee ice cream but I keep eating it all before I can take photos of it. If this trajectory is anything to go by though, there will probably be at least one more outing of the recipe in my near future so maybe that's what I'll blog about next!