25 January 2016

now she's eating chocolate to induce sleep, in a chemical world it's very, very, very cheap

It seems completely unfair that so many property leases come to an end in January/February in New Zealand. It's the middle of summer, and we should all be in the throes of some popsicle-fuelled montage of laughing on the beach, ruefully standing in front of an electric fan, prancing about under sprinkler systems on the front lawn, punting an endless cavalcade of volleyballs into the top-right corner of the camera frame, and, I don't know, resting icy-cold cans of beer against our foreheads as the sun slowly goes down, letting the condensation run down the side of our faces and drip onto our jorts. 

Instead, thousands of us are staggering about in the humidity going from flat viewing to flat viewing to compete for underwhelming rooms against the forty-five other people at the viewing and wasting the best hours of our lives refreshing the flatmates wanted/for rent pages online. It is so stressful! And then if I even manage to find somewhere to live, I have to pack up all my belongings which is a deadly combination of boring and tiring; then there's the matter of funneling every last dollar you've ever breathed on into the bond for your next flat, then you either have to get charged for moving companies or you have to literally break every bone in your body moving yourself, and then you have to unpack, but also you have to do all the other things you would normally be doing in this time while doing all that, like going to work and brushing your teeth. 

Hoofing a large quantity of white chocolate gingerbread brownies is not going to help with this in the long-term, but it does offer a brief and delicious respite. I recommend it whether or not you're apartment-hunting, but for those of us in that boat, I really recommend it. 

Let the record state that I think white chocolate is easily the superior chocolate, followed by milk chocolate, then dark chocolate. White chocolate tastes of vanilla seeds, of pure creamery butter, of having a lucid dream that you're into the air and sinking down upon a thick, fluffy cloud which supports your entire body weight for an uninterrupted meta-nap. Dark chocolate tastes of obligation and charcoal being rubbed against your two front teeth. It's fantastic to bake with! I just don't want to eat the stuff en masse.

So with these brownies I took my beloved white chocolate and decided to pair it with ground ginger and brown sugar to create a kind of caramelly, gingerbready vibe. And the warm spiciness of the ginger against the gentle sweetness of the white chocolate is, I'm not gonna sugar coat it for you, an amazing combination. Like, just when you think the sugar is going to blowtorch your teeth into nothingness, the ginger comes in and lifts everything up, and just when it threatens to burn your throat with its intensity the white chocolate and cakiness softens everything.

On top of that these are really, really easy to make. Which, when you're feeling all fragile, is worth taking into consideration.

white chocolate gingerbread brownies

a recipe by myself

200g butter, melted 
one cup brown sugar - press down to make sure it's firmly packed in
two eggs
100g white chocolate, roughly chopped (or more! I just ate over half the 250g block that I bought for making these and so was like "i guess this small remaining quantity is what's going in the recipe")
one tablespoon ground ginger
one cup plain flour
one teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt

Set your oven to 180 C/350 F and line your usual brownie/medium-sized rectangular tin with baking paper. 

Mix the melted butter and sugar together, and - making sure the mixture isn't at all hot at this point - beat in the eggs. Fold in the remaining ingredients, and spatula the lot into the baking tin. 

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until it's firm and golden on top but still appears to have some below-the-surface squish. Allow it to cool a little and then slice it up. 

I was so delighted by these that after making a batch and leaving it for my flatmates (after inhaling like five pieces at once) I made a second batch to take to work for fun snack times, and even though I overcooked it slightly it was still really, really, really good. White chocolate and ginger, I ship them heartily.

Speaking of really, really, really good, the other thing this week distracting me from the horrors of abode-seeking is that, and it's really hard to not gasp until I faint while I type this, I made and wrote about a Crush Cake for Peter Gallagher's O.C character Sandy Cohen on The Toast, and Peter Gallagher himself read it and tweeted me to say thanks! I realised that is actually an incredibly obscure and vague run-on sentence, so let me distill it down to: I adore this celebrity, I wrote about this celebrity, and then this celebrity actually read what I wrote and thanked me for it. WHAT!

Isn't that just THE MOST, to say THE LEAST? But even if Peter Gallagher hadn't blessed me with his bestowal of gratitude, I would still have been perfectly content, because writing for The Toast is a majorly excellent achievement for me in itself and I feel like the story I wrote about Peter Gallagher/Sandy Cohen is the best one I've done yet.

But also: aaaaaaah!

And also-also: for those of you also schlepping about trying to find somewhere to live instead of living your truth this summer, kia kaha but...please don't take the room I want.
title from: Blur, Chemical World, from their 93 album Modern Life is Rubbish. Damon Albarn is frolicking about in a field in the video and there is a bunny present and just like, get out of here Damon Albarn. And take your beautiful face with you. 
music lately: 

DNCE, Cake By The Ocean. Who knew that a former Jonas Brother singing the aggressively jaunty chorus refrain of "Cake! By! The! Ocean!" would skewer my heart like this? I seriously can't stop listening to this song and even though I'm not sure if it's even that good I can't possibly bring myself to care. (Oh wait, it's definitely amazing.)

Lisa Stansfield, All Around The WorldSuch a damn classic and one of the very best bridges in songwriting history.
next time: I finally, finally bought another SD card for my lovely camera so can start using it for food photography again instead of using my phone. Knowing my luck I've probably completely forgotten how to use it, but I'm looking forward to reacquainting myself. 

19 January 2016

to loving tension, no pension, to more than one dimension

So I watched this video on quantum physics dimensions (yes, times are strange lately) and it explained how humans live in the third dimension, as in, we are 3D, and basically each following dimension eats up the previous dimension like The Very Hungry Caterpillar until you're at this stage where you've got all possible timelines and outcomes to the point of infinity but even that can be shrunk down to a small dot containing all the previous dimensions. The last week has been kind of like this. Things just kept happening that would absorb what had happened the previous day - David Bowie died, Alan Rickman died, I was a bridesmaid in a wedding, Pretty Little Liars returned...and that's just the stuff I feel like going into. I'm not sure if I'm explaining any of this very well, least of all the dimensions of quantum physics which I begrudgingly concede might take more than a quick youtube video to properly understand. Basically: wow, lots of stuff, every day. 

I hadn't been a bridesmaid since 2004 and this time around I was there to support a dear friend from high school. It was such a long, surreal day, but really genuinely beautiful and lovely and all the good adjectives and it was an honour to be part of it. I was away from Wellington for three and a half days; during which time my main achievement was discovering that for some reason during this visit Poppy the cat was outraged at how much she likes hanging out with me. 

the face of a cat who has just realised they've given too much information away

such begrudgement 

waves of disapproval emanating 

I made myself this noodle-y thing the day before I left for the wedding, but I was thoroughly naive in believing I would have time to write about it before then. This recipe was born from me running round the supermarket and being all "I crave garlic" but also "I really don't feel like trying very hard at anything right now". All this comprises is noodles and a series of things all fried briefly in the same pan. Calling the tahini sauce "satay" is a bit of a stretch, and indeed, feel free to use peanut butter instead if you want, but you get the idea.  

Green tea soba noodles have the barest hint of grassy bitterness to them which keeps things lively, tahini is all sesame-nutty, and the bursts of golden, sticky garlic are frankly the universe rewarding you for existing. 

This is one of those recipes that you can add a million different things to - a seared salmon steak laid across it would be wonderful - but is also extremely satisfying in its simplicity. I enjoy recipes like this, where it looks like there's not much going on but you get whammed in the tastebuds with flavour and texture. PS: fresh garlic is a little different from the usual stuff, it is all youthful and mellow and usually has a trimmed green stalk at the top; regular garlic is of course still good. And if you want to use different noodles, it's not going to ruin anything. 

green tea soba noodles with fried garlic and edamame beans, and tahini satay sauce

a recipe by myself 

45g/a handful of dried green tea soba noodles
three large cloves of fresh garlic, or four of regular garlic
a handful of frozen podded edamame beans
olive oil
two tablespoons of tahini
one tablespoon soy sauce
one teaspoon sesame oil
a pinch of brown sugar
a dash of chilli sauce
sesame seeds, to garnish

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, drop the noodles in and allow them to boil away till the noodles are soft and cooked through. Drain them in a colander or sieve and run some cold water over them. Set aside. 

While the noodles are cooking, slice the garlic cloves into thin slivers and gently fry them in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Carefully remove them from the pan and set aside and then tip the edamame beans into the same pan. Let them fry briskly till they're heated through and a little scorched in places from the heat. Finally, remove the beans and set aside, and proceed to make the sauce - throw the tahini, the soy sauce, the brown sugar and the chilli sauce into the pan and stir over a low heat. Add water about half a cup at a time and continue stirring - it will be all weird at first but it should thicken fairly quickly. Continue to add water till you're pleased with the consistency, and taste to see if it needs more salt, sugar or heat. 

Arrange the noodles between two plates, pile some sauce on top, then scatter over the fried beans and garlic pieces. Spoon over more sauce if you like, and then blanket with sesame seeds. 

Noodles! So good. This whole thing is kind of at its best at room temperature, eaten immediately, otherwise the tahini gets all thick and solid. If you have to eat it cold the next day from the fridge in a giant gluey mass it'll probably still be more or less excellent though.

Going back a few dimensions, the whole David Bowie thing hit me really hard, he was one of those artists that was present and meaningful throughout my entire life, you know? Labyrinth was the first movie that really had a proper impact on me at around three or four (and I maintain that Bowie in that was my first crush) and from then on he was just everywhere. I'm barely exaggerating when I say he gave off immortal vibes, like if he'd been all "yes I've low-key been an immortal alien this entire time and I will never die" I'd be like, yeah that checks out. But there he went. I have nothing particularly intelligent to add to the obituarial chorusing but through his personas he explored and played with ideas of gender presentation while being one of the coolest people on earth because of it, not in spite of it - we were lucky to have him.

found another cat at the wedding to befriend, in your face Poppy (love you Poppy)

If you need me, I'll be over here lying down while trying to process how every possible outfit I could choose to wear tomorrow morning counts as the start of its own potential timeline. I told you I understand quantum physics. 
title from: La Vie Boheme, Act 1 closer to the indefatigably ebullient and important-to-me musical RENT (from which this blog gets its name) 
music lately:

Craig David covering Justin Bieber's Love Yourself. Welcome back to the singer so smooth he's basically a human creme brulee. Actually that implies crunchiness, but the bit under that is really smooth, okay? And this cover is amazing.

Scritti Politti, The Sweetest Girl. Such an unnerving and stunning song, the sort that I will listen to on a loop five times in a row quite happily, even though not a lot happens in it.

Sia, Chandelier. It's not new but I've been listening to it a bunch lately, if you haven't seen the video but watching unsettlingly incredible dancing and choreography raises your heartbeat then I strenuously recommend you watch it.

Cold War Kids, First. It is just so, so, so good.
next time: I'm way overdue something sweet, tbh

9 January 2016

it is a new year I should be happy that I am still here

Yeah that's right, I ended 2015 and started 2016 with a blog post about a salad. On that note, happy new year to you all, I would've got this blog post out sooner in this infant year, but instead I've been involved in such rich, vibrant activities as "staring into space silently berating myself for not blogging" and "working a lot" and "staring blankly some more while unhelpfully self-flagellating."

But when I get it right I damn well get it right, as this salad shall attest. I worked New Year's Eve and the following day, which was all good - I have very strong feelings about money and getting it, after all - but it did mean I didn't get to see my two best friends Kim and Kate, who keep more traditional hours. We decided to solve this by having a get-together on my next day off, wherein we drank the literal champagne (Moet! And I know it!) that had charmingly fallen into my lap over Christmas, and toasted to ourselves and the year ahead. We also got to debrief about our 2016 tarot cards (sometime between closing at work on New Years Eve and opening at work on New Years Day I managed to fit in the world's quickest reading with them both) which was heartening because several cards made me nervous...but my card that represents the entire year is all about not being so insistent on doing everything by myself and not being afraid to ask for help and seeking out mentors and such which certainly has a soothing vibe to it that helps counteract the other cards with their subtext like "You ruin everything!" and "must you continue to ruin?" 

Earlier that week on a whim - the only way to fly! - I purchased a block of paneer, a South Asian cheese that delightfully holds its shape after being fried and has a fresh, calm flavour and a distinct lack of saltiness. I decided I'd make us three a salad to accompany the champagne, and this confrontationally simple recipe is the result of that decision. Just fried cheese, firm fragrant mango, toasty nutty cashews, and some leaves, and that's it. I'm not sure if this is really what you are supposed to do with paneer but it sure as hell lends itself well to these flavours; all that's really needed is some olive oil and salt and you have yourself an excellent time. 

paneer, mango and cashew salad

a recipe by myself

250g, or thereabouts, paneer
one firm mango
70g cashews
half a packet of baby kale leaves, or a few handfuls of your nearest green stuff (I had kale left over from the last salad so...yeah!)
olive oil
sea salt

Slice the paneer into pieces and heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil in a wide frying pan. Tumble the paneer slices in and allow them to fry till golden on both sides, which will take a few minutes. Not gonna sugar-coat it, the oil will sputter a bit but just try to dodge it and stick it out. 

Remove the paneer from the pan and tip in the cashews, stirring them for a minute or two till they're a little toasted and browned. 

Slice the mango into roughly even smallish pieces, and mix together with the cashews, the paneer, and the kale leaves. Drizzle over more olive oil and sprinkle over a decent amount of salt, stir gently and there you have it: a salad. 

This has that salty, oily, slightly sweet, sour, fresh, crunchy thing going on whereby it doesn't look like much but when you start eating it you just want to shovel it into your mouth for eternity. If your mango is particularly ripe you might want to squeeze in a little lime juice but it really doesn't require much.

Bringing me nonstop joy over the holiday season was the beautiful baby raptor of a cat that I was looking after for a friend: I mean.

 look at him



I'm currently in the painful throes of looking for an apartment in town to move into when my current lease ends but a large part of me is like, what if I run to the hills and live alone with five hundred cats? There is no way that can't end well? Look at his stupid happy little intelligent lion face though, honestly. 

I am not entirely failing at the maelstrom of resolutions that I set out for myself: I am eating vegetables, I am staying hydrated 2K16, I did drink some actual champagne. And I am going to be late for work if I don't publish this and since having a literal dollar to my name is another of my resolutions and I have been hitherto too sleepy to write this, I shouldn't overthink this moment and will leave you with a good selfie to provide you with bracing good cheer (she says, presumptuously...and yet accurately? And yet so presumptuously. But not without reason!) 

I got a long overdue fringe trim and the hairdresser used straighteners so I was briefly the shiniest.
Title from: Say Anything, Try To Remember, Forget. Say it with angst! 
Music lately:

Coco Solid feat Disasteradio, Slow Torture. This queen! Everything Coco Solid does is gold and so unsurprisingly this song is lush and sexy and poppy and cool as hell. 

Idina Menzel, See What I Wanna See I haven't listened to this LaChiusa musical in so, so long and it is electrifying. There's not a lot of it online but if you have spotify you're in luck. And Idina remains my idol for like, wow, the tenth or so year now. 
next time: no salad, for the sake of variety alone.