24 February 2016

i got my batches and cookies

As a kid I actually really wanted to be a fashion designer, and would fill up scrapbooks with drawings of clothes that I wished would exist. For example, one outfit that I invented when I was about 9, that I would totally wear now, is a hooded white velvet minidress with a long zip up the front and hot pink feathers around the edge of the hood. Honestly, like, someone please make me that immediately for a casual daytime look. Somehow fashion design morphed into recipe design, but I still love clothes so, so, so much, and approach them much the same way in which I do food - with my mind on texture and bringing together slightly strange elements with more recognisable and familiar things. Not much makes me happier than fossicking through op shops and vintage shops, allowing time to dissolve like a sachet of colourfree raspberry flavoured Raro juice in a jug of water as I try on garment after garment and imagine how I can incorporate them into my daily costumes.

However! I can talk myself out of buying clothes, no matter how much I need them, like, my shoes will be held together with superglue and have the holes in the soles buffered with beer coasters and I will still be all "uhhhh I probably shouldn't spend money on these new, excellent value, durable, good-looking replacement shoes, I will just hobble around in these travesties for another year." When it comes to food though, I go into a damn trance. Just two days ago I went in to the supermarket to get cocoa and buckwheat flour and walked out of the supermarket with a jar of raw organic probiotic sauerkraut (which is, thankfully, SO delicious.) I absentmindedly meandered into Commonsense Organics the other day and came out with seven whole turmeric roots.

they pair well with a rose wine from the local dairy and one's bed 

I'm kind of not really going anywhere with this - it's just that the reason I was going to buy cocoa and buckwheat flour was because I was going to make the cookies that you see here, and it got me thinking about myself because that's all I think about, apparently.

These cookies though! I was recently given a copy of Simply Nigella, the new cookbook by my idol Nigella Lawson. I want to make pretty much everything in it but this recipe caught my eye with the inarguable motivating factor of, if I make them then I will have cookies. It also seemed like a nice thing to be able to tell my newish roommate that there are cookies on the bench and they can help themselves to as many as they want - I just like being that person!

The buckwheat flour in these cookies makes them gluten-free, which might be pleasing news to some of you, and also gives it a rather fascinating smoky tone echoed in the rich cocoa and almost throat-burningly dark chocolate. They're all cakey and melting and punctuated with chunks of chocolate. They look like lumps of coal and are altogether highly compelling wee things; you could make them with regular flour which would make them taste more normal but I like the oddly addictive husky flavour the buckwheat gives. I am lacking in measuring scales and so had to estimate the quantities in cup measures; thus I have written out here the recipe I made since this is the one that worked for me. I accidentally got white sugar instead of the brown sugar requested in her recipe, because my reading comprehension is useless - I'm very sure they'd be even nicer with it though.

smoky triple chocolate buckwheat cookies

from Simply Nigella, altered slightly to accommodate for things like cup measures and the fact that a block of chocolate here is 250g and I couldn't be bothered buying an extra 20g chocolate to make up her specified quantities. 

125g melted dark chocolate
125g dark chocolate, roughly chopped (or the same amount of buttons/chips etc)
60g soft butter
half a cup sugar
two fridge-cold eggs
one cup buckwheat flour
quarter of a cup of cocoa
half a teaspoon baking soda
a good pinch of sea salt

set your oven to 180C/350F and line a baking tray with paper (or in my case, realise you have no baking paper so just hope for the best.) 

Beat the butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon or whatever, until it's quite light and fluffy. Briskly beat in the melted chocolate - make sure you let it sit for a minute or two so it's not boiling hot before you tip it in - and then beat in the eggs quickly. It will look far too liquid at this point but stir in the flour, cocoa, baking soda and finally the remaining chocolate bits and it will suddenly turn into a thick cookie dough. 

Take heaped spoonfuls of the dough and drop them onto the baking tray - Nigella suggests leaving 6cm space between them but they don't spread that much - and bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove them from the oven and leave them to sit on the tray for five minutes before carefully transferring them to a plate or rack, then repeat with the remaining dough, which you should put in the fridge while you're waiting for each batch to cook. 

These are so good! I've had one in my mouth pretty much the entire time that I've been typing this (that is, I've eaten several in quick succession, it wasn't just one cookie) and couldn't be happier about it. For once I got as many cookies out of the batch as the recipe promised, as the raw dough is honestly not thaaaaat nice - however the grainy density of the buckwheat becomes entirely delicious once it's all cooked. They're even better the next day, somehow even more melting and more chocolatey. 

All I've done lately is work so I have little to report but coincidentally I'm feeling moderately financially chill for the first time in living memory (I have the memory of a goldfish though, but also goldfish are incredibly intelligent and their three-second memory is a total myth so...ha! Okay, I got a bit lost here.) I don't know how I'm doing so okay as my rent is more expensive than it has ever been but I'm trying really hard at budgeting and freelance hustling and so on; I've always identified heavily with grubby uselessness-monger Nick Miller from the TV show New Girl, but as the latest season unfolds it's nice to see we are growing together. 

"they said avocado is extra and I said shh, I know it's extra. but I want it."  Nick is I and I are Nick.
title from: the siiiiick Lizzo song Batches and Cookies featuring Sophia Eris. Such queens. 
music lately:

DZ Deathrays, Blood on My Leather. I spontaneously went to see these guys at Bodega a couple of years ago and they were sooooo good. I love their bratty sound.

Rihanna feat Drake, Work. She released a double video for this and they're both so dreamy and gorgeous. This song just gets better with every listen: praise Rih.

Stereo Total, I Love You, Ono it starts off disguised as an irritating song but suddenly the more you listen the more it gets stupidly endearing.
next time: maybe something more from Simply Nigella, this book is a stunnerrrrrr.

17 February 2016

i fell asleep in tuscany and dreamed, the one thing missing was you

If I sound hysterical and shrill, like a man, at any point in this blog post it's because my old flatmate and always-friend Charlotte and I took our gay selves off to see the heavily acclaimed film Carol, starring Cate Blanchett's Aggressive Feline Charisma and Rooney Mara's Quiet Strength and Vulnerability. Basically it's an Important Lesbian Film and each frame of it is so beautiful that you could print the lot out and pin them sequentially to your bedroom walls and spin around forever and ever watching the story unfold as you get dizzier and dizzier from happiness and, well, spinning around. Honestly, go see it. Even if you're like, "sounds a bit gay to me, and I'd prefer that kind of thing kept behind closed doors thank you kindly," (in which case I really don't know why you're reading this blog anyway) just know that the performances are so entrancing and the costumes and sets and cinematography are so artful and the music is exquisite and it's nominated for a zillion Oscars, which means even a bunch of conservative dull old men thought it was worth watching.

Anyway: any money I used to get through tips at work (which is never much, as New Zealanders tend to be incredibly reluctant to tip hospo workers, but that's a story for another day - actually, that's the whole story) used to go towards bus money to get me in and out of Newtown. Now that I'm no longer beholden to those busses, all expensive and stuffily overheated and so slow they were definitely going backwards at several stages during the journey, I can spend my tip money on other things. Like vegetables at the market! I have not been to the vegetable market since, I can confidently estimate, around May 2014. Luckily that's not the last time I actually ate a vegetable, but it's certainly the last time I felt any sense of ecstasy from buying one. Two taut-skinned, richly purple eggplants for four stupid tiny dollars! A huge bunch of cavolo nero for one and a half dollars! A perfect avocado for eighty cents! (Ah yes, there's the hysteria.)

With great quantities of vegetables comes great quantities of searching through pinterest and marvelling at the superior lives being led by everyone in America with a blog. I found this incredible-looking recipe for cavolo nero cooked in a carbonara type sauce; and so that became my lunch yesterday within a matter of minutes.

I'm still 100% enamoured with my new house by the way, not least because of its proximity to the vege market making it easier for me to achieve non-scurvy.

putting up some artwork always makes a place feel like it's mine, all mine. 

My bedroom is feeling more and more like a haven every day, and I'm thoroughly enjoying getting to know the kitchen better, not least because my roommate has a ton of sexy-and-functional cookware that I can play with. And it was one such item - a rather gorgeous shiny saucepan - which I used to swiftly make this recipe. I love cavolo nero, or Tuscan Kale as it's also known - its leaves are so mutedly dark green and thick, holding their shape under heat while full of almost meaty, rich flavour. Obviously you could fry socks with bacon and cream and they'd be fairly palatable, but throw these heavy leaves into such a mixture and the result is incredible. The recipe I found online wasn't quite carbonara-y enough for me, so I shaved in slivers of fresh nutmeg, warm and delicate, and added plenty of sharp, crumbly parmesan. I really didn't measure any of the quantities, which is why the recipe is a tiny bit vague, but if you follow your instincts (essentially: as much cavolo nero as you can be bothered slicing and washing, as much bacon as you can be bothered slicing, and so on, will be as much as you need.)

tuscan kale carbonara

adapted a bit from this recipe at the stone soup. 

several large cavolo nero leaves - around half a bunch
two rashers streaky bacon
butter or olive oil for frying
four tablespoons of cream
fresh nutmeg
parmesan cheese
freshly ground salt and pepper

slice and discard the stems from the cavolo nero leaves (or brew into a nutritious tea or something if that makes you feel guilty), and either keep the leaves as they are or slice them into ribbons. Slice the bacon into small pieces and fry in butter or olive oil till sizzling and crisp. Remove from the pan - I just put them onto the serving plate I was planning to use - and throw the leaves into the pan. Sprinkle a little water over if you like, and just stir and lift them over a high heat till they soften and darken a little. Return the bacon to the pan, and pour over the cream, allowing it to bubble and thicken, which it should do rather quickly. Remove it from the heat, and use a vegetable peeler or small grater to scrape a little fresh nutmeg into the pan, followed by as much parmesan as you feel like. Finish with as much salt and pepper as would make you happy. 

Honestly, this is such a perfect lunch for one - I rakishly deglazed the pan with more cream just to make sure I was able to scrape up all the bacon juices, and recommend you do the same. If you want there to be more to it there's nothing stopping you serving it with thick slices of bread or stirred through a tangle of pasta, but untampered with, this is total excellence. The only thing I'd do if I owned some was to pour in a little dry white vermouth with the bacon (which is Nigella's influence: she says "I use this ingredient" and I say "how high".)

As well as tasting wondrous it's also very beautiful in its own way - those dark, wrinkly leaves flopping about artlessly with the pink of the bacon and the gold of the cream. This is absolutely going to winkle its way into my regular rotation of recipes - especially because you could always use regular kale, or indeed, silverbeet or spinach - just with the latter two, make sure you add the leaves right at the end because spinach, especially, will wilt into nothingness soon as look at you.

If you've got to this point in my blog post and are still totally endeared by me (in which case: well done on your accurate opinion) then I would like to direct you to my new recipe index that I've been working on. I'm super proud of it on account of it took a lot of html code copy-pasting and a TON of URL copy-pasting to make it happen, and it's still a mere work in progress, but it's already so gratifyingly pretty and useful! (Oh yeah, and as soon as I posted this I brazenly went to update the recipe index and made all the html disappear somehow and now it looks rubbish, so uh, bear with me please.)

PS: even if you never eat another vegetable in your life, just make sure you go watch Carol. And then come shriek with me.
title from: the important Janet Jackson and her beautiful song Runaway
music lately:

I cannot stop listening to Rihanna's new album Anti, especially the dreamydreamydreamy Work featuring Drake and the oh-no-now-I'm-sobbing-forever waltz that is Love on the Brain. (The waltz: a totally underrated time signature.)

I also cannot stop listening to Modern Lovers, something about Jonathan Richman's voice makes me feel in full teenage dirtbag mode. Obviously I have two ears and a heart and so am obsessed with the song Roadrunner, but maaaaan, Hospital and the early-Who-y I Wanna Sleep In Your Arms are so worth a re-tread.
next time: I was given a copy of Nigella's new cookbook and it's very beautiful and exciting and I cannot wait to cook my way through it...

10 February 2016

you got the peaches, i've got the cream, sweet to taste, saccharine

moving house = new background surfaces in photos on the blog

No matter how many times I dramatically fall over and hit every surface on the way down, one thing I can count on is how I almost always land on my feet one way or another. Alas, I'm only talking metaphorically here, because when it comes to literal fallings-over my kneecaps have a 100% hit rate with the ground.  

By which I mean: oh wow I finally, finally, found an apartment! I knew I would, and that the right place would appear at the 11th hour, but the lead-up to that was still such a stressful overwhelming time (and, as I noted in a previous blog post, it was also a heinously sweaty time schlepping about town to flat viewings.) My new place is everything I want though: It's up high, it's in the middle of the city, it has those exposed-brick-New-York-Loft vibes that I just can't quit (seriously: if you were all, "Laura you can live in this perfectly lovely villa or you can hold this one singular brick in your right hand and sit in a ravine" there is a ludicrously high chance that I'd take the brick) it has an elevator out of a noir film about murder, there's excellent light for food photography, and I've only got one other flatmate and they seem very cool and nice. I'm so happy! I really am! Like, so damn content! What is this feeling, so sudden and new

The actual moving process was hellishly exhausting (I acknowledge that I got movers in to do most of the legwork but there was definitely a point while packing where I was like what if I just lie down and shut my eyes eternally and let my possessions eat me alive) but now that I'm properly installed in the new place and have, at least, made my bed and hung up my clothes, it does feel like it's all starting to work out. 

As a moving-in treat I bought myself the new Cuisine - a local food magazine which for years I would collect with religious ferocity. I haven't picked it up in a while, but there's nothing like living in a new space to get me all renewed-vigour-y for cooking (obviously not the most practical way to get one's vigour renewed, however it is what it is.) At first I was slightly aghast that Ray McVinnie is no longer at the helm of the Quick Smart segment, an entertainingly rapidfire list of recipe ideas based around a theme, but I quickly got over that when I saw reliable replacement Ginny Grant's suggestion for Peach and Mozzarella Panzanella.  I do love a salad where it's essentially a process of buying five nice ingredients and putting them all on a plate together, and this is an excellent example - really rather removed from the original Tuscan recipe for panzanella, but whatever. It's the combination of the peaches, all crisp and fragrant and summery, with fresh mozzarella, all aggressively mild like Ned Flanders, which makes this special - crunch and sweetness plus pillowy softness plus the oiled, toasty bread...you may not personally consider salad a thrilling time, but this one: it thrills.  

peach mozzarella panzanella

adapted slightly from a recipe from the January issue of Cuisine magazine. Serves two-ish, but I could eat all of this quite joyfully and only be mildly uncomfortable afterwards. The quantities are kind of vague, please deal with it. 

half a loaf of ciabatta
two crisp, firm peaches (I went for a variety called Elegant Lady literally because of the name)
one tub of bocconcini mozzarella (or one big ball of it, I just find the smaller stuff easier to slice up) 
one punnet of cherry tomatoes (around a cupful I guess? Or 300g? Just like, get some tomatoes.)
a few handfuls of salad leaves of some description
olive oil
red wine vinegar

Set your oven's grill to high. Slice the bread and then tear the slices into rough cube-type things, and place in an oven dish. Drizzle with plenty of olive oil, and place under the grill till lightly browned. 

Slice the peaches, halve the tomatoes (a pain, I know! But it makes them go further and gets all the tomato juice out) and finally, slice the mozzarella and then tear it into smaller bits. 

Mix all of this together with your salad leaves in a large bowl, then drizzle over more olive oil and around a tablespoon of vinegar. Add plenty of salt and stir again, and leave to sit for about an hour if you can, but even if you just do all the clean up first before eating that should allow some time for all the flavours to start moving.  Feel free to pour over more olive oil and add more salt once you've served it - salads can never be too oily or too salty in my opinion. 

I love this table at my new apartment, prepare to see it plenty in the future

This salad really benefits from sitting around for a bit first before you eat it, as the tomato juice and the olive oil soaks in to everything, making the bread deliciously soggy (I know, two words that don't seem like they should go together) but if you have to eat it all right away I understand.

setting up my wardrobe is my favourite part

things that also benefit from sitting: me, when I'm unpacking 

It has only been two days and already I'm blooming like a flower from living in the centre of town again (also wilting like a flower from the heat! That's right: I pledge to you, on bended knee, that I will never ever stop complaining about the weather.) It's just lovely to be able to walk out the door and be immediately in the middle of the city, then to go home again without having to take forever catching expensive busses, it makes everything feel easier and more fun. And I'm just moments from work! I am absolutely going to miss Newtown - my bedroom there was so sweet, and there were countless gregarious neighbourhood cats...but I'm happy to be back here. Less delighted about unpacking, but the promise of my bedroom becoming more and more of a haven is greatly motivating. (She says, immediately launching into another barely-justifiable nap.) 

PS: I can't be the only one who thinks Peach Mozzarella Panzanella is totally a name you want to check into a hotel with when you're a famous celebrity trying to travel incognito?
title from: I mean, it's a Def Leppard song that has an unparalleled success rate for getting me on the dance floor, but for me Tom Cruise's appallingly sexy Stacee Jaxx in the Rock of Ages movie does the definitive version
music lately: 

Is there anything worth talking about other than Beyonce's brand new song Formation? It's incredible and it's powerful and she's incredible and powerful. Watch it, I implore you. 

That said, I am super obsessed (obsessed anew, I should say, since I loved these guys when I was three) with You Got It (The Right Stuff) by New Kids On The Block. Till One Direction came along I fully believe there was no other boy band song that came even close to this one. Those oh-oh-ohhh's! So good! 
next time: there's this coconut-crusted fried eggplant recipe in the Cuisine magazine that has majorly caught my fancy. But also I am planning to make some ice cream! Either way: yay new kitchen! 

3 February 2016

you were rubbing both my hands, chewing on a candy bar

mutiny on the bounty

I, like Homer Simpson, am the highly suggestible type. If you need someone to rob a bank with you, just ask me: not because I am particularly stealthy (although I can do the splits with ease which I imagine would be useful for getting around laser light security) or inclined towards a sexy danger crime life, but simply because I'll probably be like "ummm yeah why not, I haven't got much on tonight" without even thinking about it too deeply. Indeed, the other day when my friend Jen was all, "My kingdom for a bounty bar!" I was all, "you know what? My kingdom, also, for a bounty bar!" And then I thought it would be way more fun to go to great effort to make my own, rather than just walking 200 metres to the dairy to retrieve one in a matter of moments. Jen is also currently crashing at mine, which means I was able to get both of us bounty bars while neatly using only one kingdom as bait. Or...something.

okay sure I could've tried to have been neater about this but the chocolate could've tried too

These are, charmingly, entirely vegan and really pretty cheap to make, although I confess I am a milk chocolate-adoring heathen and so used that to coat them, but all you have to do to keep them vegan is use a dark chocolate like Whittakers which has no milk solids in it. I found this recipe online and basically didn't change a thing; but it's worth keeping in mind that chocolate-dipping stuff uses sooooo much chocolate.

It might seem like far too much trouble to go to for a mere chocolate bar dupe, but there is a significant motivating factor: these taste so, so, so incredible. The coconut is all damp and squishy (there's no better way to describe it sorry) and the feeling of the firm crunch of chocolate giving way to it all is straight up heavenly. I truly don't want to be one of those people who are all "it's practically health food!" because that kind of talk makes my teeth feel like I've just bitten into tinfoil, however, as these are blessed with twelve hundred different types of coconut by-product, you take one bite and you can practically feel your hair getting shinier.

homemade bounty bars

from a recipe on healthyeah.co.nz (which is a v cool site!) 

one cup full-fat coconut cream (I like Fia Fia which has the texture of whipped cream and the highest percentage of actual coconut that I could find, according to the ingredients list)
three cups dessicated coconut
two heaped tablespoons coconut oil
pinch sea salt
two tablespoons golden syrup or maple syrup
two 250g blocks of dark chocolate (or chocolate of your choice!) 

Put the coconut cream, coconut oil, and golden syrup into a small pan and heat gently, just till the oil is melted fully. Stir in the salt and coconut and remove from the heat. Spatula into a baking-paper lined brownie tin (y'know, one of those regular sized rectangular baking tins) and refrigerate the mixture till it's firm. Then slice into even rectangles or squares and freeze (or if your freezer is tiny like mine and won't fit a damn thing in it, just put it back in the fridge and hope for the best.)  

Once you're quite convinced that the mixture is as solid as it's gonna get, gently melt the chocolate in a small pan, and carefully dip each coconut block into it, coating it on all sides, before resting it on a fresh sheet of baking paper to harden. Unfortunately the best way I can think of to do this is to literally sit each slice of coconut stuff in the chocolate and spoon more chocolate over the top, but you do you. Transfer the slices to the fridge once they're all coated. It's probably easier to melt the chocolate in two separate batches, just to prevent it burning while it melts. 

So very worth the effort. Honestly, can not emphasise hard enough how good the bit is when you bite through the hard chocolate into the soft coconut.

Literally nothing of significance has happened in my life since my last blog post since all I've been doing is apartment-hunting and taking the distressing heat of summer very personally. I mean, I do love summer! I do not, however, love being all "why is someone pouring water down the back of my neck how rude oh my god it is my own sweat, how vulgar and embarrassing...better tweet about it." But seriously, it's so, so hot. Sweaty is my one personality trait. Wait, there's a back-up personality trait: joy at having eaten a good 75% of this bounty of fake bounty bars that I made, while gaining mountains of praise for the mere 25% that other people managed to get their hands on.
title from: Blood Bank by high-pitched gentle-mongerers Bon Iver.
music lately:

Eliot Sumner, After Dark. Am 100000% in love with Sumner (fun fact: child of Sting and Trudi Styler!) and their music.

CHVRCHES, Lies. It's so fizzy and atmospheric and the beat is addictive and I'm soooo bummed that I couldn't go see them at Laneway on Monday.
next time: let's all keep our fingers crossed that it's some kind of cleaning-out-the-pantry type activity on account of I've finally found an apartment and need to, like, clean out my pantry.