31 July 2011

the french are glad to die for love, they delight in fighting duels

Having Chocolate French Toast Sandwiches for dinner may sound a little subversive (as far as these things go), but really it's exactly the same as having scrambled eggs on toast followed by a chocolate bar. Mind you, I was never shocked by the idea of deep-fried Mars Bars. In fact, I loved and welcomed them when I was travelling through Scotland. There's nothing quite like eating one the morning after a big night out. I'm not saying they make you feel better. If anything, the consumption of one just sharpens any lingering liver-related remorse. For a few moments though all is good, as you eat the salty, crisp, oily battered Mars Bar, with warm chocolate melting onto your fingers.

This recipe isn't just novelty or excessiveness for its own sake. Whoever invented it knew exactly what they were doing. It's respectable, and awesomely so. When I first made this it was for dinner on Wednesday night. I love having breakfast for dinner, and, as noted when I made pancakes for dinner, there's a Pippi Longstocking-ish thrill to be had about eating what you want when you want. Plus it seems kinda shortsighted to restrict so many good, fast and simple food ideas to the early morning. I made them again for lunch today, which is when I discovered a further point in their favour - they still taste brilliant after sitting round for a several minutes while I photograph them.

Chocolate - French Toast - together - it speaks for itself, really. Except I'm not going to let it, because this wouldn't be much of a food blog if all I did was post pictures of things with a caption saying the title of the recipe and "Ya-huh?" or "See?" afterwards.

So: The sensory experience of biting into crisp-edged, egg-soft bread and the contrast between its buttery exterior, puffy interior and the tongue-coatingly cocoa-y dark chocolate holding it together, is pretty outstanding. Both in terms of both texture and - surprise - taste.

While I could eat white chocolate all day, every day, I think the darker stuff works best here, because while it's rich, it's not too sweet. Any more going on and your veins might not be able to cope from the spike in blood sugar.

If you want to galvanise this basic recipe and make it more debonairly savoury, you could do as I did and slice up some ripe pear and feta cheese and use that inside the sandwich instead. Because juicy pear and soft, creamy, salty cheese nestled in a cocoon of the aforementioned eggy, buttery bread is almost enough to steal its chocolatey counterpart's glory.

Despite the namechecking of the French, it seems right that I found a recipe of such unrestrainedness in an American magazine. This magazine, called Fine Cooking, is one of the better ones out there - in fact when one of Tim's co-workers gave him some issues of it to give to me I was surprised at how much I liked them. I'm very particular about food magazines and wasn't expecting to find an American one, with their differences in measurements and common ingredients and so on, to be so readily fantastic. But the recipes are gorgeous with a good mix of easy and aspirational; the layout is appealing and the writing is genuine and knowledgeable. Which sounds like a pretty simple formula - but several magazines seem to miss one or two of those elements. While I don't think you can actually find Fine Cooking in shops here in New Zealand, they have a very cool website where you can easily look up recipes. Such as this one here for Chocolate French Toast Sandwiches. Which surely and specifically demonstrates that they know what they're on about.

Seriously, this recipe is probably the most exciting thing that's happened to me all week. Well, that and the fact that Tim and I have booked tickets to go up home and visit my family (including NEW KITTEN) for a weekend in September. And the fact that I won tickets to the Chocolate Festival next month thanks to the lovely Andrea of So D'lish. Actually...that happened last week...we're so unexhilarating lately, but I do like it that way most of the time.

Chocolate French Toast Sandwiches

Slightly adapted from this recipe in Fine Cooking.

Four thick slices of white sandwich bread
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
A pinch of salt
40g dark chocolate (I used Whittakers Dark Ghana)

- Cut the slices of bread in half diagonally, so that you have eight triangles.
- Roughly chop the chocolate.
- Lightly whisk the eggs, then add the milk and the salt and mix again.
- Heat a little butter - as much as you like really, I used about a tablespoon - in a wide saucepan. Quickly dip four of the bread triangles into the egg-milk mixture and fry on both sides in the butter till golden brown.
- Lay two triangles each onto two plates, and divide the chocolate over the top.
- Repeat the dipping and frying with the remaining four triangles of bread, and then put them on top of the pieces on the plate, to complete the sandwiches. The heat of the top and bottom pieces will slowly melt the chocolate.

For a Pear and Feta variation, slice up a pear and some feta, as much as you like, and use that to fill the sandwiches instead.

Title via: Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend, that evergreen song from Marilyn Monroe's film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. (Look, I managed not to use the word iconic! Oh, wait...)

Music lately:

Laura Nyro. I'd heard of her before, but never actually heard her; oh my gosh. Been On A Train is strong stuff. Her voice is amazing. And, I had no idea she wrote the gorgeous Wedding Bell Blues.

Chess - for a musical about a game where the players are almost entirely sedentary, the music itself is - thankfully - extremely dramatic and exciting. While Nobody's Side is the big power number for the ladies, I found myself on a bit of a Heaven Help My Heart rampage on Youtube today. Predictably, Idina Menzel's version is my clear favourite, but Broadway original Judy Kuhn's clear voice and emotional presence also makes for a beautiful rendition. Also Julia Murney's is routinely amazing. Um, that's all for now.

Next time: Not sure. Possibly something from Ottolenghi again, I just can't quit that cookbook of his.

26 July 2011

let me entertain you, and we'll have a real good time yes sir

Tim and I belong to a book group, which Ange, our ex-flatmate but still-friend started in early 2010. Every month we get together at someone's house and discuss a book. Last night it was at our place, a commitment that always fills me with joy. Firstly because everyone in the book group is really, really nice and fun to be with, and secondly because I get the opportunity to provide a spread for people. An opportunity I'm always keenly looking for. Normally I do one recipe per blog post, but instead today I've serving up three small nibbly recipes; Marteani, Beetroot Hummus and Cannellini Bean Dip; all in the name of playing host.

As I've outlined somewhere in my unrestrained 'About Me' section, I like to keep the recipes here fairly accessible, but also amazing. Every now and then though, usually under the influence of Nigella, something kind of impractical takes hold of my imagination.

Like Marteani. Which uses lots of Cointreau - quelle expensive - vodka, and Earl Gray Tea (hence its name) to make a cocktail of orange-scented sumptuousness. Cointreau is not the kind of thing I would normally have just knocking around. However. I had about an inch in a 750ml bottle that my step-grandmother had given me, and then I had a further litre bottle that I bought in duty-free on the way back from Tim's and my trip overseas in March. Both had sat untouched ever since they'd arrived (I think I got that partly-empty bottle in 2009?) and while it's good not to use up all your expensive things at once, whatever they may be, there's also a case to be made for actually enjoying what you've worked for before you drop it on the floor or something.

A little extravagant, sure...but never ever wasteful.

"I want your spirits to climb, so let me entertain you..."

Unfortunately I didn't have a better-looking jug to put it all in, but tra la la. That in the background was another duty-free conquest - a strapping 1.75 litre bottle of Absolut. As far as vodka goes (and I don't mean to sound like that guy from American Psycho, "I told you to keep Finlandia in this place") I'm very particular. There are just some horrible vodkas out there that I don't see any point in drinking. On the other hand, vodka is pretty pricey. Generally, I move between Absolut, for mixing (with soda water) and Zubrowka (yes, another duty-free, we really tested its limits) for sipping from a small glass over ice. When I drink at all. As I saw fit to last night, for book group.

If you've got a smallish amount of people coming around and the means to make it, I definitely recommend Marteani. It's a recipe from Nigella Lawson's book Nigella Christmas, and she suggests it with brunch.


I tripled the tea content and halved the Cointreau - well, it was only a Monday, and Cointreau is still expensive. This made it go a lot further, while still maintaining a liqueury thrill. This would probably be ideal served in actual Martini glasses, but not having any, I just poured small amounts into whatever glasses we could find. Including a small glass jar shaped like a beer stein which used to have mustard in it (Tim bagsed that one.)

250mls/1 cup strong, cold Earl Gray Tea
250mls/1 cup vodka
250mls/1 cup Cointreau (or Nigella suggests Grand Marnier or Curacao or Triple Sec.)

Pour all the ingredients together in an ice filled jug. As I said, I used 750mls tea and 125 mls Cointreau. It was still extremely fine stuff.

Also I forgot to make ice ahead of time so I just put it in the fridge till needed: still good.

If you don't have resiny, syrupy Cointreau then Limoncello would be an excellent substitute - it can be pretty reasonably priced and is in that same juicy, citrussy family of flavours.

Should you be having people around, I also emphatically recommend the following dips. One - the Beetroot Hummus - is kind of involved, and the other - Cannellini Bean Dip - delivers so much disproportionate deliciousness for how simple its recipe is that I could cry happy tears just thinking about it. Alas, you really do need a food processor for these. A stick blender could probably do the trick, otherwise maybe find a friend who's got one and share some of the resulting dip with them.

Beetroot Hummus

Adapted from a recipe in the 2011 River Cottage Diary, a demonstratively multi-purpose book sent to me by the lovely Lisa at Prime TV.

3 medium sized beetroots, leafy tops and creepy tails trimmed off
1 piece of white bread, crusts removed
50g walnuts, almonds, brazils (whatever you can find - probably not peanuts though, their texture and flavour isn't quite what's needed here)
Ground cumin or Ras-el-hanout
Salt and olive oil to taste

Wrap each beetroot in tinfoil and roast at 180 C/350 F for about an hour and a half - till a fork can easily pierce through. Allow to cool. Toast whatever nuts you're using - if you like, add them on a small tray to the oven that the beetroot are in once you turn off the heat, if that makes sense.

In a food processor, blitz the nuts and the bread until fairly fine. Remove the beetroot from the tinfoil, rub off their skin - it should happen easily, leaving you with oddly silky-smooth peeled beetroot - and chop them roughly before adding them to the food processor as well. I don't recommend you wear white for this. Blitz again till a dark, chunky purple-red paste forms. Add a little salt, the spice, and a little olive oil if you like, and blend again. Spatula into bowls and serve.

Note: I completely missed the instruction in the recipe to add a tablespoon of tahini - which I love, but didn't have any of anyway. It's still brilliant without it, but it would add a little richness and texture, plus that sesame flavour.

Cannellini Bean Dip

This incredible recipe is one I've adapted slightly from the Scotto Family Italian Comfort Food book. It has barely any ingredients and yet is the most ridiculously creamy, luscious thing you can imagine. Especially considering it's made from beans, not known for being life of the party, food-wise.

2 cans cannelini beans
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (or avocado oil, or some other oil that you don't mind the taste of)

Drain the cans of their liquid, pour the beans into the food processor, add a little salt, and blitz to a thick, wheat-coloured paste forms. Pause, scrape down the sides with a spatula, taste to see if it needs more salt. Blend again, pouring in the oil. That's all.

The beetroot dip excellently plays up the vegetables sweetness and earthiness with the nuts and the cumin respectively. The beetroot becomes rich during its time in the oven yet the finished result - despite the nuts and bread - is very light. The cannellini dip is just all plush and velvety, like the dip version of...a bunny rabbit.

In case you're wondering, the book I'd chosen was Barbara Anderson's Long Hot Summer, which we all agreed was fine, but seemed to leave many potentially dark or exciting plot avenues gently unexplored. That said, we've been reading things like Therese Raquin and Frankenstein, it's possible we just weren't ready for such mildness.

Unfortunately the lurgy that I was labouring under a couple of weeks ago seems to be taunting my immune system once more. The weather in Wellington has been headline-makingly cold, and there has even been moderately unprecedented snow around the place - not in our neck of the woods, unfortunately. When I get the time, I plan on getting the thyme (HA! HA!) to make this restorative sounding brew. Anyone else in NZ had snow?

Title via: Sondheim's amazing musical Gypsy. Let Me Entertain You is a thematic tune running through the whole show, starting it off as performed by Baby June in her squeaky voice and eventually developing into what Louise sings during her stripping montage. Gypsy in all its stage and screen forms has starred some seriously stunning women over the years as Rose and Louise - Angela Lansbury, Patti LuPone, Bernadette Peters, Ethel Merman, Bette Midler, Laura Benanti, Natalie Wood...Hopefully I'll see it live one day with a similarly worthy contender for the roles.

Music lately:

I think I'm becoming a bit obsessed with Judy Garland. There, I said it. I might have listened to her Live At Carnegie Hall record three times in a row (which takes up quite a bit of energy, what with it having four sides and all.) I love Lena Horne's famous version, but when Judy sings "can't go on, everything I have is gone" in Stormy Weather my eyes can't help but start pricklingly anticipating tears. (It really doesn't help to listen to her singing while reading a biography of her.)

Moana and the Moa Hunters: AEIOU, especially as analysed by Robyn Gallagher on her fantastic site 5000 Ways To Say I Love You - wherein she will watch every single NZ On Air funded music video she can find.


Next time:

Well, I saw this and any alternate plans disappeared.

24 July 2011

oklahoma, every night my honey lamb and i

Lamb shanks are lots of fun - they simmer away and make your house smell wonderful; the bone is a ready-made grippable handle, depending on how conservative your company is; they're generally cheaper than other bits of lamb; they're full of sweet, youthful meaty flavour; and, you can point at your plate and suggestively say "hey, nice shanks".

Overall though, lamb is not one of those things that fills me with good feelings of "I can afford this regularly" (likewise with All Dairy Products, as I've complained about at length recently.) In fact, the last time I had lamb shanks was May 2009 - back when we were in our old flat! - so it was with happiness that I saw them fall into the range of X-per-kilo that I'm comfortable with. They are not so much fun to photograph though. To lull you into a false sense of capable blogging security: their accompaniment, figs!

Actually figs, wrinkled and greying as they are, also aren't that attractive. Foiled again.

To have lamb shanks slowly becoming tender in a fig-studded broth is about the cheeriest thing you can do on a freezing and rainy day like today. Shank Sunday! As I've called it. However if you've got the time, this recipe of Nigella Lawson's is perfect on any cold day of the week. Putting lamb, figs, honey and pumpkin together as she does might sound troublingly sweet. But what I found was that the flavours of the sugary things caramelised together which, with the lamb's sticky meatiness, made for an outrageously good combination, with partially jam-ified figs, lamb-infused kumara sauce and a little cinnamon to warm things up further. Let's not be naive though. This is a rich dish. I could hardly finish a whole shank.

Nigella makes this recipe as part of her Rosh Hashana spread in her book Feast, with part of its significance being that sweet foods are consumed at Rosh Hashana in the hope that the year ahead will also be full of such sweetness. However she also offers it as a general dinner recipe - and really, any day that you can is good to be proactively adding some sweetness and hope to your life. Be it literal, symbolic, or in the case of these shanks, both.

Lamb Shanks with Figs and Honey

Adapted - scaled down that is - from Nigella Lawson's beautiful book Feast. Her recipe serves 10, if you have that many to feed then it's more like 10 shanks, 1kg onions, 500g figs, 80mls honey and a whole bottle of wine.

3 lamb shanks
Olive oil
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
Either about a teaspoon of fresh rosemary leaves, or leaves from one decent stalk of thyme
1 can pumpkin puree/1 orange kumara
9 dried figs
1 cinnamon stick (or, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon)
125mls red wine
1 heaped tablespoon (only way it can be done really) of honey
250mls/1 cup water

Finely chop your onions and crush/chop your garlic and - if you don't live within reach of pumpkin puree - now's a good time to peel and roughly, but finely, dice your kumara.

Heat a little olive oil in a large saucepan and brown the shanks, in batches if you need to. Set aside, covered with tinfoil if you like.

Add the onions, garlic and herbs to the pan, sprinkling over a little salt, and allow to soften without browning.

Now add everything else (except the waiting shanks) to the pan, and gently bring to the boil. Turn down the heat to as low as possible, add the shanks and cook for an hour and a half - at least - partially covered.


- Figs are more expensive than I remember. You could always use dates, which I find stay reasonably priced, or even prunes or dried apricots - whatever works for you.
- As I've said, kumara is a decent substitute for canned pumpkin. If no kumara is to hand, butternut pumpkin is good too - it breaks down quickly. And if you're really having trouble accessing them, Nigella recommends red lentils instead.
- I didn't have red wine, so - sorry Nigella - just used some white. As I've said already, it still tasted amazing.

You may want to make this a day ahead, allow it to cool and then skim off any inevitable fat before reheating. Serve with whatever you like really - rice, mashed potato, more mashed kumara, a salad made of canned cannelini beans or chickpeas or the like, couscous, bulghur wheat - or just bread to scoop up the saucy kumara. Which is what we did.

As they sing and acknowledge in Chess, "these are very dangerous and difficult times". But sheesh, this week has been quite the cluster of sadness and horror, with famine in the Horn of Africa, killings in Oslo, and Amy Winehouse's death at age 27. Bad news is bad news, whatever the scale. It's not a competition, and - as I saw written extremely well on Twitter today - compassion isn't a finite resource. Something that's good to keep in mind...as well as being thankful for things while you've got 'em to be thankful for.

Title via: Oklahoma, the song, from Oklahoma the musical. Which - while I strictly have to actually like the songs I quote here - I am not a huge fan of. I find the characters annoying (as admittedly many find those in RENT) and the whole dream-ballet segment feels awkward and overlong even within the context of when dream-ballets were more the norm. But the music, the music is amazing. One of my favourite renditions of this title song is by Tony Award winner Sutton Foster (who you may also know as Coco from Flight of the Conchords.) Also while you're at it, it's always a good time to watch her be triple-threateningly amazing in Drowsy Chaperone.

Music lately:

We went to the Bookfair yesterday and picked up so many fun second-hand books, but there were also heaps of really great records there. One such jewel was Marty Robbins' Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs, whose songs like El Paso are as comfort food to the ears.

I was never an avid fan of the now-late Amy Winehouse, but definitely appreciated her talent, and certain songs stood out for me - like Tears Dry On Their Own. Just do yourself a favour and maybe avoid reading the youtube comments. It's never worth it.

Next time: Tomorrow night book group is at my place and I've got a few discussion snacks on the make, one or more of which will likely end up here soon.

19 July 2011

since folks here to an absurd degree seem fixated on your verdigris

After a brief survey of four people (one of which was myself) I'd like to make the sweeping generalisation that Brussels sprouts are a bit like Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West: green, and misunderstood. So misunderstood. None of us could remember ever eating them in our childhood, but there was definitely the feeling that it was not a vegetable to welcome with open arms. Yes, plenty of people here in New Zealand must've eaten them, overboiled and sulphuric balls of punishment on the dinnerplate, but I can only hypothesise, or whatever comes at this stage of a scientific study, that pop culture has influenced a lot of my suspicion. Same reason I made my own earrings out of shells and beads and then wore them, sincerely. The Baby Sitters Club. I'm not saying that series of books is everyone's reason for disliking on impact the Brussels Sprout, but I'm pretty sure it's my reason. (Not that I can, admittedly, name a specific example, but I know it's there.)

Anyway, I saw this recipe in Plenty, my Yotam Ottolenghi cookbook, called "Brussels Sprouts and Tofu". And I thought, oh really? A plucky move, pitting two generally disliked ingredients against each other in one dish and working to stop the competition between them to see which can make the eater unhappy first. Now I love tofu, but this is not a sexy recipe title. Yet its bold simplicity appealed to me, as did the fact that brussels sprouts were very, very cheap at the vege market.

And if anyone knows how to de-misunderstand brussels sprouts, it's Yotam Ottolenghi. He who pairs eggs with yoghurt and chilli and garlic with more garlic.

Interestingly the ingredients are very simple - the three main givers of flavour are chilli, sesame oil and soy sauce. For me, what seems important is the cooking methods: for the sprouts, you fry them till they're browned and scorched in places. For the tofu, you marinate it while you're getting everything else ready, then fry it up till the marinade is caramelised. You could probably do this to any kind of food and it would taste good, but here the ingredients really open up, come alive, I want to say snuggle into the flavour but that feels wrong...anyway, the sprouts become crunchy and juicy, their peppery flavour amplified by the smoky scorching. The tofu is salty and dense, with a crisp edge, its mildness subverted by the chilli.

This isn't just 'not bad...for Brussels sprouts and tofu', any food would hope to taste this good! I served it on soba noodles, but it would be great on rice or alongside something else, or just as is. If tofu is nay your thing, the sprouts on their own would also make a fantastic side dish to a bigger meal. Seriously, I had to stop myself eating them all before returning them to the saucepan with the tofu. They're good. At last.

Brussels Sprouts and Tofu

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty. There are mushrooms in the original recipe but as Tim's unfortunately not a fan I thought it'd be a bit harsh to leave them in along with everything else.

2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sesame oil (I reduced this to 1...sesame oil is expensive!)
1 teaspoon rice vinegar (I didn't have any, used balsamic vinegar, worked a treat)
1 tablespoon maple syrup (I only had golden syrup, likewise was great)
150g firm tofu
500g Brussel sprouts
Mint, coriander, sesame seeds and (optional) toasted pumpkin seeds to serve

Whisk together the chilli sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar and syrup, then chop the tofu into cubes and add them to the bowl. Set aside while you get on with the next step.

Trim the bases off the brussel sprouts and remove any flappy excess leaves. This'll probably take a while. I slightly misunderstood the instructions on how to slice them but I don't think it matters - Ottolenghi requests thick slices from top to bottom but I just sliced them roughly into quarters.

Heat about 2 tablespoons plain oil in a pan, and once it's properly hot, add half the sprouts and a little salt. It's good to turn them round so that a flat surface is touching the bottom of the pan, but it's no biggie. Leave them for a couple of minutes - don't stir them if you can help it, but they won't take long to cook through. When the sides touching the pan are a deep brown, set them aside and repeat with the rest of the sprouts. Remove them all from the pan, and carefully - using tongs is good - transfer the pieces of tofu from the bowl of marinade to a single layer in the hot pan. The marinade may splutter and sizzle a little at this point. Reduce the heat, cook the tofu for about two minutes a side till caramelised and crisp.

Remove the pan from the heat and immediately throw in the rest of the marinade, plus the sprouts. You're supposed to garnish it with coriander, but I had none, and only a tiny bit of mint - so in the interest of visual interest, I toasted some pumpkin seeds and scattered them across - pretty and delicious.

By the way, my parents got a kitten. A tiny, tiny, outrageously cute kitten who they've named Poppy. Looook at her with her enormous blue eyes and tiny tail. As you may remember, the recently late Rupert left my parents a one-cat family, and the remaining cat Roger isn't as impressed by newcomer Poppy as everyone else seems to be. Look, is it morally dubious that I'm suddenly filled with motivation to plan a trip home? I'm narrowing my eyes suspiciously even as I type the question; I think the answer's yes...but Poppy's so cute that I can't feel that bad about it.
Title via: The aforementioned misunderstood character Elphaba, as played by the amazing Idina Menzel in the musical Wicked, singing The Wizard and I. Sigh.
Music lately:
Karaoke, by the Good Fun - it is both good, and fun. I heard this song a long time ago but this official recording has scrubbed it up well. Like the Brussel sprouts recipe, this can rest on its own laurels...it isn't just 'not bad, for young guys.'

Marvin Gaye, How Sweet It Is. It's always a good time.
Next time: I found an amazing recipe for black sesame brownies, but I'm not entiiiirely happy with how they turned out - may have to re-try and then report back.

17 July 2011

like a dream I'm flowing with no stopping, sweeter than a cherry pie with ready whip topping

Telling people you love a particular TV show can be a bit like telling them about a dream you had last night. They think, Great. I'm really pleased that I'm hearing about something fictitious which happened while you were entirely sedentary. With my weekend, I sculpted the concept "love" out of clay*, bought an adorable classic car, went to three different concerts, and took a mini-break to the seaside with my many, many friends. Tim mostly bears the brunt of my dream-recollection, including my fairly irrational indignation when he does something annoying in said dreams, but I do find it hard not to talk plenty to whoever'll listen about TV shows that I love. In case you're wondering, it's all the obvious ones - Mad Men (I want a pencil skirt!) Game of Thrones (I want a dragon!) The Wire (I want Stringer Bell!) But recently Ange, our ex-flatmate but current friend, gave Tim and I something we'd been after for a long time - the TV-est TV show of all: Twin Peaks. A show that gave water coolers a dual reason for existence. A show that has basically one piece of music for its entire score. A show that straddles horror and hilarity. A show with a feature-length pilot episode that was sold off to Europe as a stand-alone movie.

And a show - this is where I'm hoping it'll start to make sense - a show that talks about pie a lot. Also donuts, but the cherry pie is apparently a big damn deal to Kyle McLachlan's character Dale Cooper, and I swear nearly every time he mentions it, he uses some kind of reference to death. As one of my old uni tutors would say, while slapping a copy of In Cold Blood in time to each syllable, it's all in the text. To illustrate the dramatic-ness of how we feel about it, last Saturday night Tim and I had planned to go out and do Saturday night things. We thought we'd casually watch a bit of TV till the point of the evening where it feels acceptably late enough to leave the house. At 1.30am, five episodes into Twin Peaks, we realised we weren't going to be leaving the house that night at all. And I realised the time had come, after Dale Cooper's boundless and influential enthusiasm, for me to make a cherry pie.

Above: If Dale Cooper was here, he'd zoom in on this picture of cherries and see my reflection in them. (+10 points for referencing something from the show while referencing something from the show!)

Lucky for me, I had a jar of morello cherries that my nana had given me as a present a while back sitting in the cupboard. If you're not blessed with such a cool and shrewd nan as I, the jars seem to be fairly easy to get hold of and not very expensive - plus their syrupy habitat means you can turn this out any time of year. While cherry pie is as American as apple pie (or pecan pie, or blueberry pie - what a lucky country!) I somewhat predictably turned to Nigella Lawson and a recipe from her seminal text How To Eat. While you can make pastry completely by hand, and I've done it, it's definitely a squillion times easier with a food processor. Either way, the significant upside is that this recipe doesn't need blind baking - you just roll it out, line the pie plate, fill it up, put a pastry lid on it and bake.

This pie is a joy, both in the making and the eating. Rolling out the pastry and carefully arranging the light-catching cherries. The scent of them jammily cooking away, and of butter and flour coming together as one to form rich, crisp pastry in the oven. The feeling of grabbing it out of the oven with teatowel-shielded hands, setting it down on the bench and vaingloriously roaring "I MADE PIE".

And how. The pastry is biscuity and buttery and miraculously not prone to soggy-ness (unlike the endearing but mysteriously Deputy Sheriff Andy Brennan in Twin Peaks who cries constantly.) The filling is an appealing mix of tart and sugary. And due to the minimal ingredients, the peerless, fragrantly sweet cherry flavour is allowed to shine.

Above: Dale Cooper really liked black coffee. And that's actual coffee in there, which I drank after taking this photo. Not just an empty-cup-as-prop. I keep it real for this blog, even while engaging in flights of baking-fantasy as inspired by an ancient television show.

Dale Cooper: "They've got a cherry pie there that'll kill you!"

*Just when you thought I couldn't get any cooler, I should probably own up that this is a reference to Ashley Wyeth, a character from Baby Sitters Club #12, Claudia and the New Girl. That is all.

Cherry Pie

Recipe from How To Eat, by Nigella Lawson


240g self-raising flour (or, plain plus a heaped teaspoon baking powder)
120g cold diced butter
2 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt
2 tablespoons water


1 jar - around 700g - of morello cherries in syrup
30g melted butter
90g sugar
1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
1 tablespoon of juice from the jar of drained cherries

Set your oven to 200 C/400 F, and put in a baking tray to heat up while this is happening. This helps to properly cook the bottom of the pastry shell.

Put your butter and flour into the freezer for a few minutes, before briefly whizzing in a food processor to the point where there are no large pieces of butter and it looks like damp sand.
Mix the liquid pastry ingredients together and add to the food processor, briefly processing again till it comes together in larger clumps, and if you pinch together some of the crumbs they stick together. Tip out this crumbly mixture, push it together into a large lump, and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.

Then, divide into two discs, roll out both, and use one to line a fairly shallow 20cm pie plate.

Filling: Drain the cherries of their juices. Mix the butter, sugar, flour and reserved tablespoon of cherry juice to make a pinkish paste and spread this across the inside of the pastry lining the pastry place. Dot the cherries evenly across the pie plate until it's covered, then drape the other disc of pastry across the top, trimming the edges and crimping them if you're good at that (I'm not!)

Make a few small slices in the top with a knife to allow steam to escape, and then place on the hot baking tray in the oven. After 15 minutes, cover loosely with tin foil and reduce the temperature to 180 C. Bake for another 18 minutes. Allow to cool a bit before eating - it'll collapse if you try to slice it too soon.
Title via: The Beastie Boys, Whatcha Want - very likely my favourite song of theirs after Remote Control, and fortuitously referencing cherry pie. Not that ready whip topping was involved in the making of this, but it wouldn't be out of context if you've got some handy...

Music lately:

I know she has so many hits that even ten years ago it required a double CD package to release a compilation of them all - but some of Mariah Carey's early album tracks are absolutely glorious in their own right, too. Like And You Don't Remember from her second album Emotions which could've easily been a single alongside the rest of the outrageously good ones from that album.

From Slow Boat Records today I snapped up the 1987 revival cast recording of Anything Goes on vinyl. Patti LuPone was in sublime form (and wears very cool blue and white tap shoes) and gets so many good songs it's hard to know where to start. But of course the title track is as good a place as any.

Falling, aka the Twin Peaks theme. Someone kindly made a montage of of images of waterfalls for you while you listen to it on youtube.

Next time: Not pie. Probably something from my Ottolenghi cookbook, since I flicked through it this morning and thought "oh, that's right! I want to cook every single recipe in this!" Also: my parents adopted a kitten. There might be photos, accompanied by captions deeply imbued with longing.

12 July 2011

as if to say he doesn't like chocolate, he's born a liar

Self Portrait With Chocolate Fudge Pie.

I have many many people that I look up to in this world. For example: Susan Blackwell. She is extremely funny and clever, she has a very cool job and she's aspirational - despite (I'm sorry Susan Blackwell, if you're reading this - and if you are, hiii!) not having the most bankable voice, she starred in the Tony-nominated musical [title of show]. As herself. I love that she has created basically the only role I could ever hope to play in a musical (apart from maybe the girl from A Chorus Line who can't sing), for having one of the few songs that I can absentmindedly sing along to without stopping mid-note and saying "oh forget it" which is what happened when I was singing (yes, lustily) along to Aquarius from the musical Hair the other day. These days, among other things, she has her own joyful online show where she interviews Broadway stars in an array of locations. It's called Side By Side By Susan Blackwell. I basically would like to model my life upon her career trajectory. Except with the addition of authoring an extremely excellent cookbook. Perhaps if my (still hypothetical) cookbook becomes exceptionally popular, I'll just be able to command that someone puts on a local production of [title of show] and casts me as Susan. That's quite the "if" though...

Anyway, the point of all this is that in one of her recent segments of SBSBSB, she interviews stage and screen actor Billy Crudup, and, in the process, they make his grandma's recipe, Chocolate Fudge Pie. I was captivated by this; its name, its provenance, its promise of chocolate, fudge, and pie in one handy substance...and vowed to make it pronto.

Obligatory pouring-of-mixture into receptacle shot, which I can never quite get right.

I adapted this very American recipe into metric (hello, cups of butter, what?) but the only thing I had trouble with was the original request for "six squares of bittersweet chocolate". Figuring that because "this America, man," these squares are probably fairly large. Even taking into account that I'm halving the recipe presented on the show, 70g of chocolate felt about right. Enough for plenty of flavour plus a little bit of mixture-tasting.

Billy Crudup's Grandma's Chocolate Fudge Pie

With thanks to Billy Crudup, Billy Crudup's Grandma, Susan Blackwell, and whoever hired Billy Crudup on Broadway so that he'd be a legitimate interview subject for Susan Blackwell thus creating the opportunity for him to share this recipe in a place that I was likely to find it.

70g dark, dark chocolate (I used Whittaker's Dark Ghana)
180g butter
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup plain flour
pinch of salt

Set your oven to 160 C/325 F. Grease a 20-22cm pie plate (like the one in my picture. You could also use one of those throwaway tinfoil tins that are very, very cheap at the supermarket) I also cut a circle of baking paper for the base, because I'm nervous like that.

Carefully - either in the microwave, in a double-boiler contraption (rest one heatproof bowl over a small pan of simmering water, not letting the water touch the bottom of the bowl) or just in a pan over a low heat, melt the butter and chocolate together. Set aside. Whisk the living daylights out of the eggs and sugar, pour in the chocolatey butter, the flour (good to sift it to prevent lumps) and the salt.

Bake for around 45 minutes until no longer super wobbly in the middle. I found 45 minutes perfect for me but you may want to check it at 35, in case your oven is a bit enthusiastic.

This pie rules. Like brownies, but somehow superior, because here in every single slice there is an ideal and just plain nice ratio of cakey exterior to melting, squidgy centre. It's not off-puttingly rich, and the relatively scanty quantity of chocolate somehow flourishes while baking to create a result of astonishing chocolatey depth. It'd be completely fantastic with some ice cream on the side, slowly liquefying into its pliant, satiny centre - but is still practical and cake-resembling enough for me to take a clingfilm-wrapped slice to work in my handbag for lunch.

My attempt at prettying up this brown spongey savannah with icing sugar was patchy to middlingly successful, at best.

I'm not just saying this because the recipe came to me via someone that I think is really, really really cool (I'm talking about Susan Blackwell, not Billy Crudup by the way, hence the 'via') but this recipe is amazing and will most definitely become a regular fixture on my circuit. Speshly because it gives me a legitimate excuse to bore people about [title of show], as my knife hovers with maddening endlessness over the pie and they wait for me to serve them a slice. "It's about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical!"

By the way, I did three really clumsy things on the day of making this Chocolate Fudge Pie. Firstly, I dropped my phone into a bowl of salad. Secondly, I dropped and smashed my Kilner jar, at least half full of homemade quince brandy (oh, the swearing and endless vacuuming that ensued) and finally, I dropped a full, open, king-sized box of weetbix (not actual weetbix, but those "weeta-brix" knockoff type ones) down the back of the pantry. Yet I managed to make this entire pie, chocolatey and eggy and rich, in a white shirt, without getting one particle of it on myself. At this point, I was really expecting to get covered in mixture, somehow it didn't happen. I'm not sure what my message is here, apart from: enjoy life/your nice alcohol/applicable consumable item now, rather than saving it for an appropriate occasion, because you never know when it might slip out of your hands and smash to pieces. On carpet. Even as the jar of brandy fell I remember thinking "wheeee-ew, it's landing on carpet, it'll bounc-ohhhh no."

Title via: Bloc Party's Helicopter. I really like these guys, although it's hard to know if my view of them is softened because they really remind me of living in the UK in 2005. Although I spose any music can be affected by the circumstances that you hear it in, I'm pretty sure this is still a good song with or without my contexty lens over it.

Music lately:

Probably said it before, but while the movie adaptation of the musical Hair is pretty awful, they got one thing right in the casting of Cheryl Barnes to sing the song Easy To Be Hard; it's so beautiful. Even then, I hate that the camera cuts away from her so much.

@Peace, a new creation from Homebrew's Tom Scott and Nothing To Nobody's Lui Tuiasau. You can stream it, or you can buy it - and in a cool but bold move from its makers - pay what you like for it, right here. It's all excellent, with silky as production from Benny Tones, and if you're not sure, the title track is a good place to start (although so is the opening song, "this goes out to all walks, living in this village that we call Aucks")

Next time: Completing the completely coincidental trifecta (pie-fecta?) of blog posts about pies, and entirely inspired by Twin Peaks, which Tim and I have been obsessively watching lately: Cherry Pie.

10 July 2011

every time I eat vegetables it makes me think of you

While I completely welcome, luxuriate in, and devote a lot of time to generating the puddings and soups and casseroles that Winter brings...sometimes it's nice to interrupt all that, suspend the stodge-production and create something altogether more Spring-like and vegetable-focussed.

Although these are essentially just small pies, their unusual, sesame-studded pastry is light and crisp, and their filling has soft, caramelised vegetables contending with salty, fragrant miso. And I managed to make them while feeling physically dilapidated by a cold, which makes me think that they're not that fiddly to make, either. (I've still got this cough, by the way, but I think as far as the battle goes I'm now winning.)

I found the recipe in the latest CLEO magazine (who, I should add, have been very good to me over the last year or so, if you see my "Attention" tab up the top there) and it's by a clever lady called Janella Purcell who has a cookbook called Eating For The Seasons. Which, judging by this one excellent recipe, is probably a really good book. Despite what looks like Mistral font used on the cover.

The pastry is gluten-free, which is fun, especially if you can't eat gluten yourself. I'm pretty sure that these are also vegan, so if you're wondering what it is that's even holding them together...read on.

Roast Vegetable Sesame Tarts

Adapted from a recipe by Janella Purcell, found in the July issue of CLEO magazine.


1 1/2 cups brown rice flour, or spelt flour, or whatever flour you've got really - even regular flour (which, I hope I don't have to spell out to you, will mean these are no longer gluten-free)
1/2 cup sesame seeds, toasted if you have the energy (I didn't)
2 tablespoons olive, rice bran or avocado oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce or Tamari sauce
3/4 cup boiling water

Combine the flour and sesame seeds in a bowl. Tip in the oils, the water, and the soy sauce and mix together. Knead well till it forms a soft ball, then rest for 30 minutes while you get on with everything else.


Olive oil
1 onion, finely sliced
1 cup pumpkin or kumara (I used kumara) diced or thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, sliced
1 tablespoon white miso paste
Toasted seeds to garnish - pumpkin, sunflower, or just more sesame seeds if you like. Pine nuts or almonds would be nice too, but seeds are less expensive and just as delicious.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and slowly cook the onions till caramelised. While this is happening, roast the vegetables on a tray at 200 C/400 F for about 20 minutes.

Once your onions are cooked, but while your veges are still roasting, roll out the pastry fairly thinly and use a cookie cutter or similar (I used one of those ramekins that you might make creme brulee in) to stamp out circles of pastry. It's a little different to the usual - quite springy and playdough-y, and you'll need to re-roll it a couple of times. Just bear with it though, it will work. Fit your circles of pastry into a greased and floured/silicon muffin tray, not worrying if you get folds of pastry, it's all good if it looks a bit ramshackle - and bake them, as is, for 15 minutes.

Once the cases are out of the oven, dab a tiny bit of miso paste on the inside of each, then top with your roast vegetables and a sprinkling of toasted seeds. They should remove easily from the muffin tray - and then eat!

Makes 12.

Note - I made the following changes:

- Halved the recipe (so you can easily double what's above)
- Used spelt flour instead of brown rice flour, as that's what I had
- You're supposed to use all sesame oil in the pastry but as it's expensive and precious I cut it back and replaced some with other oil, but you do as you like
- I only had black sesame seeds, but it's all good
- Used soy sauce instead of Tamari as that's what I had
- Changed the vegetables a little - the original recipe didn't have fennel and had pumkin instead of kumara
- I think that's it. One other thing to note is that different flours absorb water at a different rate so don't be afraid to add more flour if your pastry dough is a sticky mess, or more liquid if it's not coming together. Just a little at a time though.

So as you can see I adapted this recipe quite a bit, and I think you could continue to do so yourself. Once you've got the pastry cases sorted, it's really all a matter of what's in your fridge.

For example, the following could be delicious...

- Roast capsicums and tomatoes, with toasted chopped almonds and a little orange zest
- Sliced leeks, softened and caramelised in a pan, with feta
- Roast mushrooms with thyme, then chop them up, fill the tarts and top with pumpkin seeds
- Roasted zucchini with capers
- Raw grated beetroot, coriander leaves and toasted walnuts
- Slices of avocado and raw zucchini, topped with mint...
- Mince and cheese! Yay. Or, like, slow-braised beef ragu and parmesan.

I'm also thinking about removing the soy sauce from the pastry, using a plain oil, and filling the cooked cases with sweet things instead, like berries, or chocolate mousse, or - best of all - nuts and caramel sauce. And beyond that, I'm also wondering if you could just roll out the pastry and stamp out and bake awesome crackers from it.

But all those imaginary tarts aside, how did the actual ones that I made taste?


So delicious. The pastry is all nutty and biscuity, and just a tiny bit salty - a very addictive combination. I personally am glad I added the fennel, its aniseedy freshness and quick-to-caramelise, oniony structure was quite lush against the sweeter softer kumara. And they taste really, really good cold as well, to the point where I was wishing I hadn't halved the original recipe. Twelve mini tarts between Tim and myself just wasn't enough.

Hooray for pie!

Title via: The Ramones, and the song really is called Every Time I Eat Vegetables I Think Of You. I love them (the Ramones, but also vegetables.)

Music lately:

Ella Fitzgerald, When I Get Low I Get High. I think partly because of its compelling Puttin' On The Ritz style fast swing, Fitzgerald's gorgeous voice, and partly the fact that it's just so short, is why I would've listened to this song roughly a squillion times over the last week or two.

Matthew and Son by Cat Stevens, I've said it before but I love this song so much that it's always worth repeating: oh my gosh I love this song so much. The video (if you click through) is also quite incredible. His shoulder-pumping dance, the strangely bland and unaffected expressions on the young people's faces, the bit around 1.55 where he stares down into the camera while singing *fans self*


Next time: Billy Crudup's Grandma's Chocolate Fudge Pie. It's wild.

5 July 2011

at sideshow stalls, they throw the balls at coconut fur

Winter has got me, and not in an epic, sweepingly-caped Game of Thrones kinda way (although, phew, look at that show's very casual body count) but in the more unremarkable, throat infection kind of way. While I've been coughing at intervals during the daytime, I'm starting to wonder if there's some chemical or hormone that's released just as you're about to drift off to sleep (perhaps to dream about being cast as Amy in Company, as my brain somewhat plausibly presented me with recently) which reacts with whatever's happening in your throat. Because it's at night when I cough the most. My brain is woozy and dozy, but my throat and lungs are wide awake and on fire.

So I've generously applied a tea made from chopped, carroty-fresh tumeric root and fibrous chunks of fresh ginger. I've drunk a lot of water, sipped Gees Linctus, eaten leafy green vegetables, and dissolved so many lozenges on my tongue that my teeth'll probably corrode before the season is out...and also had some whiskey. Fingers crossed this elixir mix gets the better of my immune system soon.

In the meantime, here are the promised Coconut Macaroons - luckily, as in previous winters, I haven't got a blocked nose and therefore no sense of taste. Those winters are no fun at all. I'd take a cough and no energy over that any day. I'd never tried these Coconut Macaroons before, despite owning How To Be A Domestic Goddess since 2006. But one of the many manifest joys of Nigella Lawson is that with her massive quantity of recipes, there's always deliciousness anew to discover and love.

This is how much coconut they use...On the other hand, only two egg whites! These macaroons are less sophisticated than their French macaron counterparts, but they're significantly less terrifying to make, too.

Coconut Macaroons

From Nigella Lawson's important book How To Be A Domestic Goddess

2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
100g sugar
pinch of salt
250g shredded/fancy shred/long thread coconut (if all you have/can find is dessicated, I'm sure it's fine, but Nigella does make a bit of a point of saying that shredded is better - am just the messenger)
30g ground almonds
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or coconut essence

Set your oven to 170 C/340 F and line a baking tray with baking paper. In a non-plastic bowl, whisk the eggs till just frothy, then add the cream of tarter and whisk some more till you get soft peaks forming.

At this point, carry on whisking - fun! - while gradually adding the sugar a teaspoon at a time. It should eventually be thick and shiny, by the time all the sugar's used up.

Now plunder all this gorgeous meringue-y hard work by tipping in the coconut, salt, extract and ground almonds, and fold together till you have a sticky mixture. I'll tell you now: this mixture tastes amaaaazing.

Take a quarter cup measure, and scoop out cups-ful, dumping them down onto the tray. You should get between 8 and 12 out of this mixture. Bake for around 20 minutes, or until lightly golden. If you like, once they're cool, drizzle them or swirl their bases in melted dark chocolate (around 150-200g should do this lot)

I love them. They're satisfyingly large, pleasingly occupying both biscuit and cake territory, chewy with the fresh, summery taste of coconut and the bounty bar-echoing delight of their optional chocolate coating. They're just seriously delicious.

Title via: the very lovely David Bowie's earlyish song Karma Man, from the album London Boy.

Music lately:

With the lack of sleep that recurrent coughing brings, I've not been drawn towards anything with a heavy beat or a heavy meaning to process lately. Which is why Patsy Cline and the serenely beautiful Ali and Toumani album, for example, have been played a lot.

Next time: I found this amazing roast vegetable tart recipe, vegan and gluten free and delicious and everything. Hopefully will be blogging with a non-inflamed throat next time, too.

3 July 2011

my poor heart is achin' to bring home the bacon

Bacon. Jam. Bacon jam. At last. Tim was all "How are you going to explain it? What do you even do with it?" but I think it's pretty obvious. (For one: hide in your room and eat it all with a spatula.)

Think of Bacon Jam as a variation on caramelised onions, or chutney - to be stirred into soups or casseroles, or meat sauce made from minced beef. To be spread on bread or crackers. Added to meatballs or meatloaf, inside or on top of a burger patty. Folded through cooked pasta, chopped fried mushrooms, or mustard-sauced, sauteed cabbage, or cooked, quartered waxy potatoes. Mixed with chilli sauce and used to top rice and broccoli. Added to the steak part of a pie's filling or blanketed with melting cheese in a toasted sandwich or showcased inside a baked potato, freshly busted open and filled with sour cream.

I also have this feeling that it'd be good on top of real vanilla ice cream. McDonalds was basically my babysitter for a large part of my life (well, it was across the road from where I had dancing lessons, and for about a dollar I could get food and read Tearaway and be in a fairly safe place till someone came to pick me up and take me home again) and it was there that I learned to dip my french fries into the 50c ice cream cone, and the strange deliciousness that the combination of salty and sweet produced. If potato chips and pretty nasty ice cream can taste okay, I bet sticky, toffeed bacon on top of ice cream would work. In fact, I'm not even going to google it because it has probably already happened somewhere (I know you can get candied bacon cupcakes, so ice cream isn't that much of a stretch.)

We don't eat a lot of meat so it felt kind of outrageous chopping up 400g of the bacon, but as I've demonstrated above, there are so many uses for this stuff that it's practically...practical.

Tim and I buy free-range pork, but I have no way of knowing what's accessible to you, so use what you're able to. Given that bacon is the focus of this, I did appreciate the particularly good taste of the Freedom Farm stuff that we used, and also that it didn't leak any watery liquid during the cooking process.

Bacon Jam
Many thanks to The Family Kitchen, from whom I adapted this recipe. 

400g bacon (I think streaky or middle is probably best for this)
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup coffee (instant is fine, but make it strong)
1/4 cup golden syrup

Roughly chop the bacon up, and cook in a large pan. At first it'll just stew, because of the quantity of bacon, but eventually it'll start to crisp up a bit.
Depending on your bacon, some liquid may have emerged at this point - drain off as much as possible, also drain away as much fat as possible, then transfer the bacon to another bowl for a minute.

Gently fry the onions and garlic in that same pan - no need to wash it, and be careful not to let them brown - then add the rest of the ingredients, and return the bacon to the pan, and let cook for around half an hour over a low heat till the liquid has significantly thickened and looks a bit syrupy. I partially covered it during this time, giving it the occasional stir.

Remove from the heat, and transfer to an airtight container or jar, and keep in the fridge for a week or two. Makes about 1 1/2 cups full.

- Instead of golden syrup, you can use maple syrup or honey.
- Instead of coffee, you can use cola or beer, but so bitterly nutty and dark and rich is coffee against the salty, supersweet flavours at play here, that without having tried any other variants it's still what I'd urge you to use.
-Use muscovado sugar if you can get hold of it. It's so severely intense in flavour compared to regular brown sugar, it kind of goes with everything happening here.

So, despite the relatively unusual combinations happening here (unusual depending on how many blogs about candied bacon cupcakes you've read, that is) it works and gloriously so. Even while cooking it, the sizzling combination of coffee, dark sugary matter and bacon fat tasted impossibly delicious. Seriously: coffee with all meats from now on, please.

Unfortunately I didn't have a pretty jar to put it in, so an old takeout container had to do.

It felt like I hadn't cooked anything in ages, so today (Sunday) turned into a bit of a frenzied kitchen session. As well as the bacon jam, I also had a go at making homemade Daim bars, as per my promise on Facebook (yeh, I started a Facebook page for this blog in the end, you're welcome to join or not to join, I won't narrow my eyes at you if you don't.) They didn't quiiite work out. I also made another batch of Nigella's coconut macaroons, which I'm becoming very attached to, and which will also be featured in my next blog post. Tonight for dinner I'm making a variation on an Ottolenghi recipe, a kind of roasted cauliflower omelet. Unfortunately I blackened the cauliflower florets, but who knew that they still tasted okay, if not great, when burnt? Me, now.

Edited to add: Such was the extent to which my homemade Daim bars weren't quite successful -Tim was reading through this and then turned to me and said "What homemade Daim bars?" and I pointed to where they were situated on the table behind him. And then he said "ohhh thooooose" in a regretful kind of way.

Title via: The Laziest Gal In Town (so appropriate to me) choose whether you prefer Marlene Deitrich's or Nina Simone's version, for I sure can't. Tony Award winner Jane Krakowski also has a very cool version on her album of the same name, but you can't find it on Youtube.

Music lately:

Turtle Pizza Cadillac by Parallel Dance Ensemble. One portion of PDE, the spectacular Coco Solid, performed at San Francisco Bath House last night. Tim and I went along, had a very awesome time cutting a caper on the dancefloor and rapping along where we knew the words. We also ran into some nice people from Twitter! As in...someone that I follow, not like Biz Stone.

Gil Scott-Heron, I'm New Here, from the album of the same name. I love this, it's quiet, brooding, and - I don't like the word, but what can you do - haunting.
Next time: the aforementioned coconut macaroons. Right now: Obligatory "OMG it's July" statement. Where is 2011 going, and why in such a hurry?