27 September 2011

give 'em the old double whammy

It's spring! Which means asparagus! Which means... (sing it with me now)

...increased asparagus photo-taking opportunities!

I don't know what it is about those spindly fronds with their layered, tapering points that makes me so camera-wieldy. Or perhaps that's exactly why. That said, things aren't exactly the springtime wonderland yet. Asparagus is still expensive. Rather than being nauseatingly rapturous about the changing of the seasons like I had anticipated, I frugally but committedly bought one small bunch. I did manage to make that small bunch go quite far over lunch on Sunday, via a one-two high kick of recipes from a favourite magazine of mine, Fine Cooking.

This salad uses shavings of asparagus to make a crisply raw salad. While I can't deny that scraping off strips of this particular vegetable with a potato peeler is not a job without its frustrations, the light leafiness of it all makes it more or less worth it, with the asparagus showing off its grassy-fresh flavour unfiltered by any cooking process.

I altered this recipe a bit, for example I didn't have the cheese specified - didn't have any cheese in fact, because of its fist-shakingly high prices - so I just left it out and upped the nut quotient instead. Either follow Fine Cooking's original recipe or my adaptation below.

Shaved Asparagus Salad (feel free to change the title too if you think it has unappetisingly hairy connotations for the asparagus)


1 tablespoon rice or cider vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk altogether in a bowl that can hold all the salad and increase quantities of something to taste.


As much asparagus as you like - maybe around five spears per person for a side.
As much rocket or fancy lettuce as you like - around a cupped handful per person is good.
1/2 cup toasted nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts or macadamias.

Remove the tips and ends of the asparagus spears, discard the ends and throw the tips them in with the dressing. Using a vegetable peeler, carefully remove thin strips of asparagus from each spear, until you can't do any further, at which point just chop it finely lengthways. If you aren't up to peeling, you could just chop the whole lot up finely lengthways. Add to the bowl of dressing along with the leaves, then divide between plates and sprinkle over the nuts.

Despite the fiddly chopping it really is a simple recipe and delicious too, with the lively astringence of the dressing making nice with the toasty almonds that I used here.

What I made while the salad sat around, allowing the dressing to penetrate its pores, was this Asparagus Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce. I don't have the mental energy to retype the recipe here so you might as well follow the link, especially since Fine Cooking did such a good job of it in the first place, and I didn't really deviate (apart from to leave out the anchovy paste and mascarpone and replace them with truffle paste and sour cream, and also to fold the wonton wrappers in half instead of sandwiching two together, and I didn't have any parmesan. And I just roughly chopped up the asparagus instead of blending it) (Oh, okay. But still.)

Whoever thought up using wonton wrappers to make ravioli deserves a hug and an autographed photo from their top three favourite celebrities, because it's an absolutely genius plan. A neat stack of ready-made squares, ready to be filled, which magically stick to each other and cook quickly in the boiling water to the extent that even I, the gnocchi-ruiner, can feel confident and calm about them. Yes, gnocchi-ruiner. If this hyphenated phrase intrigues you, then you might like to read the scoop on kitchen disasters and how to cover your tracks, which I wrote for 3news.co.nz.

Once each folded parcel has been quickly boiled up, the wrappers become meltingly silky-soft, their thin surface only barely containing the grassy-green interior. A triumphant combination of textures and flavours, this is rich but light, soft but crunchy, filled with asparagus but dripping with nutty, heat-darkened butter (as was my face after eating these, they're a bit floppy and ridiculous to wrangle with a fork but I can't see a better option.)

 People of the internet reading this blog right now, I'd like to introduce to you...Tim's and my new pet goldfish, Snacks! 

Snacks is calm and sure of hoof, with glinting fins that range from charcoal black to burnished golden. Snacks was donated to us by a person that Tim works with who had a slightly larger abundance of goldfish than was necessary. Snacks is also, not being overly sentient, really difficult to photograph so don't mind the blurriness here please.

We were also able to drive out to this person's house in the suburbs to pick up Snacks, now that Tim (a) has his restricted license and (b) is handily ute-sitting his dad's vehicle while he's overseas. It's so much fun driving round with Tim, and opens up a whole new world of what I call "car humour", that I'd never known before. For example, a really terrible, boring, slow adult contemporary-type song comes on the radio station. Turn it up loud in the middle of Tim's sentence, make air drums just before the (slow) chorus and yell "Sing it Tim", point an imaginary microphone at his face (keeping a respectful distance so he can concentrate on the road, of course) and if he does start to sing, interrupt him by yelling "this is such the song of our generation" or if it's a particularly slow, mid-verse bit of the song: "I love this bit!". Car humour.

Title via: That initially flopsome musical Chicago, which starred the magnificent and late Jerry Orbach (yes, the dad from Dirty Dancing and the old guy from Law and Order) and its song Razzle Dazzle. While the footage I've linked to is incredible, please also watch his hoofer peer, Cabaret and Wicked's Joel Grey (who, get this, is the literal father of Jennifer Grey who played Baby in Dirty Dancing) singing Razzle Dazzle with the muppets. Okay did you also know that Michael C Hall, aka TV's Dexter, also played Billy Flynn on Broadway? With awesomeness? So did Chuck Cooper but sadly for us all, but maybe luckily for the succinctness of this paragraph, there's no footage of that surfaced yet.

Music lately:

Is not Biology by Girls Aloud one of the most amazing and weirdest songs ever by which all other songs should aspire to? When you think about it? And if that isn't, then what about the Sugababes Freak Like Me mashup of Adina Howard and shiny boy Gary Numan? Which I'm either listening to or I'm not, by which I mean once I start it I have to repeat it about 12 times, I can't just let it pass me by once.

Next time: While asparagus is still pricey, rhubarb's become cheap as, so I bought up large on it over the weekend to put it all in a large cake (well that's my thinking so far) however I also found this super cool and also blisteringly hot chili sauce recipe that I liked the look of. Could go either way.

Also: I went to a Social Cooking class on Sunday and talked to the lovely Chef Philippe Clergue, which I'll be writing up and likely publishing on my next blog.

Oh, and: I've been editing a new HungryandFrozen tutorial video for you! Will upload it to YouTube tonight which will take approximately six weeks and all our bandwidth, once that's done I'll let you know about it.

21 September 2011

i woke up with the flour out

A day off is one of the best things in the world. I've spent mine sleeping in just a little bit, mucking round on the internet in the afternoon sun, experimenting with cake recipes (cakesperimenting? No, that sounds gross) listening to Broadway records, and standing at the open fridge, purposefully grasping handfuls of jelly from the plate of it that we forgot to serve up at Tim's party last week, and eating it. Fortunately for you, all I'm going to elaborate on is the cake. Wait, that's a lie. I will elaborate on everything.

While mucking round on the internet...where I still am...I found this video of one of my fav food-people, Yotam Ottolenghi, talking about food, family and love. Who knew he was as louche and good-looking as his recipes? Not I.

I listened to the indefatigable original cast recording of Company today - being home by yourself is the best time to test whether or not you can keep up with Getting Married Today.

The jelly had one layer of strawberry and one layer of pineapple, and Tim made it. It's his one specialty. To be fair, he's not living in an environment that allows people other than me to have kitchen specialties. To be fair again, he's really, really good at making jelly. That's not even damning with faint praise, it's pretty easy to get wrong. Sometimes the gelatine goes all chewy...you could pour boiling water on your foot instead of in the bowl...that sort of thing.

And...the cake. I've been wondering for a while now whether you could replace the ground almonds in a recipe with dessicated coconut - they're both pretty similar as far as texture and properties go. Today was the day that I got to try it. I used this excellent Torta Caprese recipe (which was my birthday cake last year) but left out the chocolate, and instead of using melted butter, I went for a smooth measure of coconut cream. So this is gluten and dairy free now. While it's nice to have gluten-free recipes around in case your friends (or more urgently, you yourself) can't eat it, it's also fun to play around with recipes - why commit only to flour when there are so many other ways a cake can be itself. 

Luckily, it being an experiment and all, it's terrifically delicious. Not traditionally cakey exactly, but solid enough that you can slice it into wedges without it disintegrating. To give it a bit of shine, I made a glazey icing out of brown sugar, more coconut cream, and custard powder all boiled up together. The triple coconut punch of the ingredients wasn't overpowering - although it'd take a whole lot of coconut for me to feel overpowered. Its mellow, cloudy sweetness and damp texture make this cake a joy to eat, with the soft glaze lusciously smooth in contrast and flutteringly caramel of flavour (not to mention so trendily mustard-coloured that you half expect a fashionista to bust through the window, steal, it wear it as a wondrous cape and then blog about it.)

Please excuse how the knife's all streaked up from where I licked it, after cutting the slice of cake...

Pac-man cake! I should probably say something sensible about this cake now. Okay. It tastes amazing, and it's so easy - just a bowl and a whisk is all you need. Desiccated coconut is a whole lot cheaper than ground almonds, and while they might not be interchangeable for all recipes, it worked well in this one.  It's a squat little disc of a cake, about an inch high, like it's been sat on. But, it's saucy enough to be served up for pudding, while retaining enough cake persona to accompany a mug of milky tea (or black tea, if you want to keep with the dairy-free theme.) It helps to be a fan of coconut before you barge into this, but the finished result is so flourishingly delicious that it could charm you all the same.

Coconut Cake with Brown Sugar Coconut Cream Glaze 

Note: 1 regular tin of coconut cream should be enough for everything here plus a little leftover for whatever else you want to do with it. 

4 eggs
170g sugar
200g dessicated coconut
250 ml/1 cup coconut cream

Line the base of a 22cm springform caketin with baking paper and grease the sides. Set your oven to 180 C/350 F.

Whisk together the eggs, then add the sugar and whisk some more until the mixture has thickened and expanded a little. Fold in the coconut and the coconut cream, pour into the caketin and bake for 50 minutes to an hour. Cover with tinfoil towards the end if it gets too dark on top.

Brown Sugar Coconut Glaze

Boil together 1/2 cup cream, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon custard powder, stirring the whole time. Let it bubble away for a minute or so till a rich mustardy-brown colour, then allow to cool a little before spooning over the cake.  

Speaking of things...that are...anyway, without further attempted segueing, here's my new video tutorial, all about pastry. Specifically, short pastry and the gluten-free and vegan pastry that I used to make the roast vegetable tarts earlier this year. Hope you like it. This one's a bit longer than the first one, because there's two recipes, but on the upside, I didn't have a massive sleep-inducing lunch before I started filming this time. 

If you do make the vegan/gluten free pastry that I outline in the video and are wondering what you can do with it, last night I made a Roast Onion Tart - I rolled the pastry out between two sheets of baking paper and then lifted it into a pie plate, pressing it down and patching up the raggedy edges. I baked it as is for 15 minutes at 200 C, then  once it was out, lowered the temperature to 180 C and in a tinfoil lined tray, roasted 4 red onions, peeled and halved, and a few fat cloves of garlic, all drizzled with some avocado oil. Once the pie shell was cooled I spread it with some baba ghanouj leftover from the party, but you could use hummus, or tahini, or any spread, or even just some white beans or chickpeas mashed with a fork. Once the onions were glossy and tender, I pressed on the garlic cloves to get all the soft garlic onto the baba ghanouj, then topped it with pieces of onion, then sprinkled over some walnuts (that a family friend had sent back down with us when we visited Mum and Dad - cheers Dianne!) and some thyme leaves. 

Tasty stuff, pretty cost-efficient, and while not the fastest meal in town, it's not taxing to make.

Feel free to make requests for future content, fling handfuls of praise, question the many cuts (Either I got tongue tied, or I'd talk way too much, both of which require some severe editing) or express concern at my lack of mathematical agility. Not that I'm bothered by it.

Title via: I am not actually much of an Arcade Fire fan at all, but luckily for this blog post, the one I track of theirs that I like is Neighbourhood #3 (Powerout)

Music lately:

At the recommendation of good lady and friend Jo, I've been listening to a lot of Mavis Staples today. As well as having a seriously cool name, Mavis Staples has the kind of soulful voice and sound befitting someone whose career spans more than 60 years.

You can stream the whole Haunted Love album at undertheradar.co.nz - it's very good, but if you need convincing or don't have the time, try their very pretty current single San Domenico.

Next time: Not totally sure yet - I have some food plans up my sleeve though (luckily not actual food up my sleeve, that wouldn't be fun.)

18 September 2011

everyone jump on the peas train

It was Tim's birthday last Sunday. We don't really do presents, but I did get him 25 individually filled out birthday cards. Keep in mind that this came about after about a week of laughing at him and telling him there was no way I was going to get him a birthday card. At the eleventh hour, the idea of not only getting him a birthday card after all, but in fact surprising him with a card for every year of life suddenly gripped me and by the time I'd bought a few, I had to go through with the whole thing. 

(Fluffy couldn't be contained by any envelope. Fluffy also meowed a disturbingly discordant "Happy birthday to you" when you rubbed her stomach.)

There was a party on Wednesday, where we drank Purple Jesus, ate chocolate dipped potato chips (and mighty delicious they are too), several cheeses, venison salami (who knew it existed?) a whole lot of ice cream, and...speaking of outlandish ideas that I have...a cake I made that looked like Tim. It's not something I paraded around on Twitter for fear of mass unfollowings but just in case, reassure me, there's nothing tooooo weird about making a cake that looks like someone for their birthday, is there? It's worth noting that the cake's real-life counterpart is better looking, or at least has a more significantly visible chin. Tim was wearing the exact same clothes as the cake (following a conversation about which of his pants would be easiest to recreate in icing) which of course added to the fun. And maybe the weirdness. But mostly the fun.

It was such a fun night, but between one thing and another I've been feeling lingeringly seedy since, not helped by a weekend away for work. Having returned to Wellington, all my instincts tonight wailed "get take-out satay". But instead I hunted out a recipe that not only takes a bare minimum of brain effort to make it work, it's also delicious, and very good for you. Like taking your brain cells and your tastebuds out for a swim in the kind of cool, artesian mountain stream that you read about on the back of fancy bottled water.

Peas and water, that's all it is. Peas, water. And a blender. Unfortunately this recipe won't work without said blender, so if you don't have access to one, I'd change it up and make some kind of peas and rice combination instead. If you do have one though, and some peas in the freezer, then you're bare minutes from the foamiest, floamiest, greenest soup in existence. My photos don't really demonstrate how vigorously green it is, because it was on the dark side when I snapped these. I've been on the lookout for some polystyrene to reflect light a bit, but really I'm just lazily hanging out for it to continue getting lighter in the evenings. 

For all that I'm such a crusader for this soup, I was initially suspicious of it. I've known about this recipe of Nigella Lawson's for years, but always thought she was talking it up way too much. It just sounded too simple, and in my mind I pictured, like...water with peas floating in it, not this inconceivably velvety puree. 

Turns out she wasn't talking it up nearly enough. Should've trusted her, since it was Nigella and all.

It tastes gorgeous - like you're drinking the very meaning of green in itself (frozen peas have this effect on me sometimes, sorry). But it's even better if you do like I did and add a spoonful of rich, gritty white miso paste, and a few basil leaves. You could use mint or coriander too, whatever you have, or just nothing at all - but the clean, nutty pea flavour benefited from the herbacious peppery depth of basil. You could also add rocket leaves, spinach leaves, any other green bits you have slinking around in the fridge. 

Easiest Pea Soup

Adapted slightly from a recipe of Nigella Lawson's from her seminal text How To Eat.

450g frozen peas
1 1/2 cups water

Optional but recommended and awesome:

1 teaspoon white miso paste
Basil leaves

Boil together the peas and the water (plus the miso if you like) in the usual way, as if you were going to serve them just as is. Remove from the heat, carefully tip into a blender and whizz away till very smooth. Add the basil leaves at this point and blitz again. Tip into two bowls and serve.

Thanks so much to everyone for all the nice feedback on my video tutorial on how to to make ice cream! Seriously. I was braced for complete indifference, at best. And now I'm currently working on the second one: a salute to homemade pastry. 

Title via: Cat Stevens' lovely song Peace Train. And let's all just take a moment to appreciate what a babe young Cat Stevens was.

Music lately:

Like I said, I was away this weekend, and when I got home I um...listened to Mariah Carey's monumentally good MTV Unplugged album at least four times in a row. So, no change since last week, I'm afraid.

Next time: I'm not sure, but I'm in the mood to do some proper baking. 

13 September 2011

whether drunk or sober, ice is getting colder

When I was 12, I became pretty obsessed with a lady called Linda Goodman. All I could do was re-read her books over and over again, loitering by the 00 section of the local library in the hopes that there's be something new (pre-Google, I wasn't to know she'd died in 1995, thus making new book output unlikely.) Linda Goodman dealt in the subject of horoscopes, and I completely believed every word she said about my sign of Aries. Eventually I lost the level of interest in her writing but I've never been able to quit starsigns altogether - I'm always gravitating towards the newspaper to see what direction my day could take in spite of every negative prediction causing me to sternly tell myself it's over.

Is it longing for guidance in this uncertain world? Is it actually the cosmic truth? Is it that I'm a bit self-absorbed and like to read things about myself and think, "oh, that's so typically Aries of you, Laura!" Probably definitely the last one. Anyway, I bring this up because my horoscope today said "Your plans are more ambitious than you first realised, (cue Homer Simpson style "aaagh!" from methough they are still very much within the realm of possibility. ("Phew!")  You will need a lot of help. ("D'oh!")

Of all the horoscopes to read when you're planning on debuting your YouTube video tutorial on how to make homemade ice cream! So I decided to cautiously ignore it, except for the bit about the "realm of possibility." I want to go to there!

I know, would I ever stop talking about ice cream? But two things prompted this into existence: the Ice Cream Guidelines list I made last time got me thinking that I could be even more demonstrative, and after having some delicious cider on Friday night I got to thinking that its sparkling, crisp apple flavour would be ideal in ice cream. And the reason I was drinking cider, was because I won some from Old Mout, just by tweeting them. And here I am talking about them! Ten points to their marketing team. And to me too, because it's really delicious cider.

Let me defensively acknowledge some things first so you don't have to: Yes, it's distinctly amateurish, as I have but a phone to be filmed with. Yes, there are a lot of cuts and it's a little quiet. Yes, I was in a post-lunch downwards spiral, but there was no other time to make the ice cream. Yes...I am pretty toothy. It's from my mum's side. On the other hand, it was really fun, and the pilot episode is always a bit shaky, right? (Unless you're, like, Game of Thrones) Honestly, I really enjoyed this, and while it's a little bit nervous-making putting yourself out there on YouTube, I'm already on here. If this blog is all the thoughts in my head, the videos are a bit like what you'd hear if you were sitting at my dining table with a cup of tea, or perhaps walking past me on the street, where I'm still very likely to be talking about custard.

Suggestions for the next one are welcome (although "Please! No more!" will be studiously ignored like a bad horoscope) but I must warn you, I'm already thinking about pastry: one batch traditional and buttery, one batch gluten free. What say you?

Cider Ice Cream

4 egg yolks
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups cream (plus - optional - an extra 1 cup cream)
1 cup apple cider (I used Old Mout's Classic Apple. Use what you like - I also love Bulmer's.)

Find a freezer-safe container of about 1 litre capacity. 

In a wide pan, carefully heat 1 1/2 cups cream. Don't let it boil - turn it off once you start seeing steam rising off it. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and sugars till thickened and a little bit lighter in texture. Carefully pour a little hot cream into the yolks and sugar, stirring thoroughly, then pour in the rest.

Wipe out the pan and tip everything back into it. Stir continuously with a spatula over a very low heat, till it's the texture of a good thickshake. Remove from the heat, continuing to stir - you now have custard. Once it has cooled a little, whisk in the cider, and scrape it all into the container. Freeze. 

If you like, once the ice cream is partially set, you can whisk up the extra cup of cream till thickened but not whipped and mix the two thoroughly together. This gives it a creamier texture, and of course, gives you more ice cream. But frozen custard on its own is all good.

As I said, I thought it up on Friday night and foolhardily tweeted about it, which, in my dubious code of honour, means that it had to happen. Luckily, it tastes spectacular - the apple flavour shines, with a mysterious hint of fermentation, which gives it a strangely sophisticated edge that you wouldn't get from mere apples alone. Yet the cider flavour isn't overwhelming either, with any threat of pub-carpet scent fades as the mixture freezes. I was a bit nervous that the aggressively bubbly structure of the cider would bubble right into the custard and break it up, but apart from a little fizzing, the two liquids settled into each other nicely.

Alcohol doesn't freeze, so the cider content keeps this lusciously soft - I spooned the scoops of ice cream you see above straight from the freezer. It's truly delicious stuff. 

While on the subject of shoddy video editing, my mission to turn Poppy the kitten into an internet sensation continues with her first video.

ALSO, I recently had an article published for the clearly excellent and discerning 3news.co.nz, called How To Hunt a Cookbook. If you've ever thought long and hard about how to get more second-hand cookbooks in your life, this might help you out some.
Title via: Local wonder David Dallas and his bouncy, affable, and crocodile-snappy tune Till Tomorrow from The Rose Tint.
Music lately:

Mariah Carey's MTV Unplugged album is so brilliant, it caught me by surprise and I listen to her enough to forget that she really was, and still is, monumentally talented. Listen to her sing Make it Happen - when she cries "Grrrrouuuund-aahhh" towards the end I nearly cried from the amazingness of it all.

Neil Young, Don't Let It Bring You Down - one of my favourite songs of his. Having been about six years since I lost my copy of his biography Shakey, I can't remember how exactly he got into singing (what with that improbable voice) but I'm so glad he did.
Next time: Possibly...a drink called Purple Jesus. Or the very sensible pea soup that I promised last time.

10 September 2011

sit down you're rocking the oat

You could say that I was wronged by authority-driven physical education at an early age. Or, that I seriously hated gym, sports, and PE and it all hated me. These days, while I appreciate that a lot of people love and enjoy sports, I don't feel like I owe it anything.

But, it can't be denied that the Rugby World Cup is happening in New Zealand right now. It's going to be hard to avoid. Last night instead of watching the game (Tim did though) I had a charming evening with excellent host Jo Hubris, Sebastian the cat (also a good host; he sat on me) two Chileans and lots of wine.  Here's some things that could fill the rest of my time while it continues:

- Locate season two of Twin Peaks.
- Bake a Hummingbird Cake (had a really nice one at this cafe in Auckland called Fridge on Monday)
- Attempt bacon ice cream.
- Work more on making the cookbook that I want to write more likely to happen
- Sort out the minutes upon minutes of video footage of Poppy the kitten on my phone.
- Ummm....that's it really. But this suggestion compilation by Laura McQuillan is a good start, as is The Wellingtonista's list-a. Plus, Twin Peaks is very consuming. And ostensibly I could use up quite a lot of time thinking up things to use up the time.

To the food! While I love to eat, so much (that also works without the comma) unfortunately my breakfast habits can be a bit shocking. Eating breakfast is one of the best things you can do for yourself, and whenever I miss it, I always end up feeling all light-headed and empty. Like Ron Swanson, I have a lot of time for the foods of this eating genre, as so many of the best things to eat are associated with it: bacon, waffles, pancakes, yoghurt, scrambled eggs, poached eggs, fried eggs, French toast, hash browns...oats.

You can tell just by looking at oats, mealy and dust-like, that they're going to be cheap and good for you. However, unless you put in some effort, they don't always taste fun. There's a fine line between luscious porridge and wallpaper paste, so if you're looking for a new weapon to add to your artillery of breakfast wholesomeness, then I present to you: Baked Oatmeal. It might not sound that fun, more like regular porridge that just takes way longer, but picturing a cross between fruit crumble, cake, and flapjack might make the argument to try it more powerful.

So yes, there are swifter breakfasts out there. And if there's a puritan nature within you that you're trying to keep hidden, it might rise to the surface after reading about the cream and eggs in this. But firstly, they help keep it luscious and tender and puffy and cakey, preventing your breakfast from resembling warmed woodchips mixed with drywall scrapings. Secondly, they make it taste so good. And that's all the argument I need.

Baked Oatmeal

I found this recipe on a blog called Macheesmo. I've adapted it a tiny bit.

1 can apricot halves OR 1 ripe apricot/peach/nectarine (etc) halved.
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup milk (I used buttermilk)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped dried fruit - eg dates - or seeds - eg pumpkin (optional)
Pinch salt
Brown sugar for sprinkling
Butter for buttering the dishes.

Mix together everything except the apricots, brown sugar and butter. Leave it for at least 25 minutes, so the oats can absorb some liquid, but if you leave it overnight in the fridge it'll be even better. 

Set your oven to 180 C/350 F.

Thoroughly butter two ramekins (if you don't, the oats will be as superglue to their surfaces) and divide the oat mixture between them. Press an apricot half into each dish (and if you like, you can push one below the surface and then put another on top, like I did) sprinkle with brown sugar, and bake for 20-25 minutes. It'll be really hot at first - sit the ramekins on plates or in bowls and be careful not to touch them!

Serves 2.

This is delicious (well obviously, or I wouldn't be blogging about it) but in a simple, calming way - the cream-swollen grains becoming richly nutty and yielding to the spoon, the brown sugar on top bubblingly caramelised, the already soft fruit dissolving juicily in your mouth. The oven-time gives a slightly cake-esque solidness to the surface and the egg helps keep it from being challengingly dry. It's worth putting in some effort the night before, or just getting up earlier than usual, with this as your reward.

Tim and I ran into our much-loved friend Dr Scotty on Thursday night, who has been around since the bad old days of this blog (by which I mean...when this blog started, it was pretty bad. Not that there were elaborate scandals happening, alas) and I said I'd mention him here, there's mutual benefits though, as he used to leave the nicest comments, and I'm hoping to entice him back to my comments box (not a euphemism.)

On Tuesday night Tim and I went to the launch of the NZ on Screen shipping containers on the waterfront. I think they've got one in Auckland too, and there's going to be a travelling roadshow round the South Island. If you see it, I completely recommend that you take a look inside - it's dedicated to all things onscreen in New Zealand, past, present and future, and the level of detail and technology involved is stupendous. And there's this thing where you can green-screenly insert yourself into a famous movie or TV show - so we now have a photo of Tim looking appropriately nervous at Bruno Lawrence during the railway track scene of Smash Palace.

(I feel I should disclose that in 2003 I had a big crush on Doug Howlett and so became very interested in the world cup coverage that year. I think I ended up with three separate copies of that issue of Metro magazine with him and Joe Rokocoko on the cover, sent to me by caring family members. The crush has since cooled down and he's not in the All Blacks anymore so between that and my aggressive disinterest in watching sport, I don't have much reason to pursue the games this time round.)

Title via: Sit Down You're Rocking The Boat from the musical Guys and Dolls. The movie is cool (Marlon Brando, phwoar to the phwoar) and that version is probably the one you'll have seen if you know this song. However the recent Broadway revival's version has Mary Testa in it and therefore is also very much worth your time.

Music lately:

On Wednesday night Tim and I got to go along to see Detroit's Elzhi, who could both take on Nas' Illmatic and a capella verses with ease, style, and respect for the original text. And, bless him, it was all over by midnight so I was able to get up the next morning without too much pain. Check out One Love and move around from there.

This morning Radio Active played Garageland's song Fingerpops which I can't have heard for at least ten years. Not Empty is my favourite but this is still special stuff.
Next time: while drinking Old Mout cider last night I thought it'd also make a cool (haaa!) ice cream flavour. So that's what I'm going to do. 

6 September 2011

i dug right down to the bottom of my soul, to see how an ice cream felt

I emerged from the weekend at home with my family looking like I'd got caught up in a knife fight. Luckily this wasn't the case. It's just that of the three things that bring Mum and Dad's new kitten Poppy earthly joy, two of them are clawing and biting. The third is steadily ignoring the heavy disdain of the other cat Roger by chasing after him whenever possible.

So yeah, I'm pretty scraped up. I described Poppy on Twitter as being part Jessica Wakefield, part Bart Simpson, and part baby raptor, and I stand by it. Just when you think you need a tetanus shot and want to swear off small animals altogether, she'll do something like this:

And then I forget what I was so mad about. The sting of her needle-claws fades away as I gaze into those inquisitive eyes.

It was hard to say goodbye to her, knowing I hardly ever get to go up home (you too, Mum and Dad) but on the other hand, there was Banana Pudding Ice Cream waiting in the freezer for me back in Wellington. The latest in a long, chilly line of ice cream recipes that I love, this takes a bit of work but is worth every single moment of your time, and rewards you tenfold with every spoonful.

Before I get into the recipe though...As I make a lot of ice cream, I thought it'd be nice to mentally spatula my brain for a list of ideas and helpful thoughts in the hopes of converting you all into the level of ice cream love that I have. And if you have any of your own to add, feel free to do so in the comments section.

7 Habits of Highly Effective People Who Make Ice Cream (these aren't even habits, but I don't like the word 'tips' and "Ice Cream Policy and Guidelines" sounded way harsh.)

1) You don't need an ice cream maker. That's just what ice cream maker manufacturers want you to think. It would be really cool to have one, but really, just freeze the stuff in a container, stir it occasionally, and you'll be sweet as.

2) You do still need equipment. A food processor is essential if you want to make Instant Berry Coconut Ice Cream, otherwise all you need to find is: an average wide saucepan, a spatula, a whisk, and some good-sized tupperware or empty takeaway containers.

3) Don't feel held back by what you can or can't eat. From cream and butter (see below) to the cleanest of vegan ice creams, there are so many options. Coconut milk or cream is an amazingly versatile substitute for cream, both on its own and in custard-based recipes. Unless you're adding a pre-prepared ingredient (like a particular chocolate bar) all ice cream should be gluten-free. Check out my recipe index if you're not convinced, as somehow most of my ice cream recipes have ended up being vegan or dairy-free.

4) Imagine all the ice creams. Once you've got a good 'base' vanilla ice cream recipe, you can stir any number of cool things into it to make a spectacular pudding for yourself or a crowd. For example: chopped up dark chocolate and/or fudge; walnuts toasted in a little butter and brown sugar; whole raspberries; bashed up chocolate chip cookies; a whole bag of smarties/m'n'ms; it goes on. Your four options in order of most to least easy are: a couple of cans of coconut milk mixed with sugar (for a vegan base); about 500mls/2 cups cream whipped softly with 1/2 cup icing sugar; egg yolks and sugar beaten together with whipped cream then folded in; and finally a full-on homemade custard, which you'll see in the recipe below. If your own mind is fleeced, be inspired by other people - searching "ice cream" on Tastespotting would be a good start.

5) Keep stirring. If you're making a custard based ice cream, it may feel like the mixture is taking forever to thicken but the moment you leave it to check Twitter/etc it'll overheat and you'll have weird scrambled eggs on your hands. A spatula ensures that all the mixture gets lifted off the wide surface area of the pan and moved around. This also applies to rule 4. Keep stirring...stuff into your ice cream.

6) Accept the differences. The texture of homemade ice cream isn't going to be exactly the same as the stuff in two litre tubs from the supermarket. The main difference is it'll likely freeze harder, meaning you just have to let it soften a little on the bench for 15 minutes before you serve it. But you'll be able to control exactly what goes into yours - no emulsifiers or stabilisers or soya lecithin (what even), it's very likely to be cheaper than bought stuff, and you can get as creative as you like with the flavouring.

7) Don't be scared. There's a lot involved in homemade custard - from separating the eggs to heating the cream to carefully and slowly cooking the two together. However. As long as you keep stirring with your spatula and have a low heat, you will be just fine. Nigella Lawson recommends having a sink filled with ice cold water to sit the pan in quickly if you get nervous, I've never had to do that but it might give you peace of mind. I cannot overstate how clumsy I am, and not once in my entire life have I screwed up ice cream. Neither will you. And if you do, just step back a bit and try the more simple methods first.

And then try this. Bananas aren't my first choice of fruit but this recipe capitalises on all that they have to offer - the quick-to-caramelise sweetness, the creamy texture, and the light, almost lemony flavour. It is SO good.

Banana Pudding Ice Cream

From The Lee Brothers Southern Cookbook.

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup (tightly packed) brown or muscovado sugar
2 bananas, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons dark rum (I used Gunpowder Rum)
2 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups full fat milk
2 cups cream

(note: I also used 1 cup buttermilk and 2 1/2 cups cream, because that's what I had. Was fine.)

In a pan over medium heat, melt the butter till it's frothy, and stir in the brown sugar. This will become a delicious, bubbling caramel in a minute or so, and at this point, stir in the banana and cook till softened. Pour over the rum, allowing it to sizzle and bubble away for a minute or so. Remove from the heat, and spatula everything into a food processor bowl.

In a bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly then add the 1/3 cup sugar. Continue beating til mixture is thick and light. In the same saucepan you cooked the bananas in, gently heat up the milk. Don't let it boil, but let it get good and hot.

Remove the pan from the heat and take half a cup of milk from it, pouring it into the food processor with the bananas and blending the lot till very smooth.

Pour the rest of the milk carefully over the egg yolks, whisking while you do so. Now spatula all this back into the pan that the milk was just in, and heat very, very gently over a low heat, stirring all the time. It will take a while, but it'll thicken up into a light custard. At this point, take it off the heat (still stirring) and tip in the contents of the food processor, mixing it all together. Refrigerate till cool. And try not to eat it all at this point, rummy banana custard on its own is extremely delicious.

Finally: whisk the cream till it's nice and thick, fold it into the banana custard, tip the lot into a container and freeze, stirring occasionally.

According to the Lee Brothers cookbook, banana pudding itself is a bit of a die-hard American thing, but for all that, it's not necessarily particularly delicious. This ice cream is their take on it - for some reason I do love puddings that are variations on other puddings - and it's luscious stuff. I really like that there aren't huge quantities of everything, unlike other ice cream recipes which might ask you coolly for 9 egg yolks. The butter, brown sugar and rum elevate it above the ordinary, their dark caramel flavours not entirely muted by the freezing process. The result is a magnificently flavoured, velvet-textured, pale yellow ice cream. A very good idea would be to make a caramel sauce and add some of the rum in it, or even just do as we did and pile the ice cream into a glass and tip a capful of rum over the top. As you'll see in a couple of the photos, I dusted it with cocoa - the bitter plain chocolatiness of which was an excellent match.

Here's where I poured more rum over - the ice cream slowly and saucily melts into the alcohol. The spicy rum gives your mouth a hard-liquor kick which is then cooled by the ice cream. Meant to be.

As well as finally meeting the kitten over the weekend, Tim (who flew up to meet me) and I also caught up with heaps of my family and had a huge number of gifts pressed upon us - a jar of homemade lemon curd, a cake tin, socks, duck and hen eggs, bowls, and mugs. On Saturday night at my request Mum made corned beef, which she does with a level of amazingness I can only attempt to reach. I left feeling very happy and loved, and also nervous about the eggs, but miraculously they didn't break on the journey back to Wellington.

Thanks heaps to Jason who helped me with the html stuff on this blog. Explaining html difficulties is like explaining dreams, in that they're both boring to other people and it's really hard to properly convey the fear and drama. But I assure you, whether or not you find it interesting, he's the reason that you're seeing a new font here.

Title via: One of my favourite musicals, A Chorus Line, and its charmingly conversational and surprisingly twisty song Nothing. I don't really like the movie (it cut the important Music and The Mirror??) but it luckily doesn't mess with this song in any way.

Music lately:

While endlessly gazing at Poppy I realised she was almost identical to the kitten in David Dallas' very cool new video for Take A Picture (ka-chiiiik! Can't help it.) The eye colour is a little different, but apart from that...totally twins.

The Real McCoy, Come and Get Your Love. I know the whole omgilovethe90s! thing has lost all impact, but this is unquestionably (in my mind) one of the best songs of the last 20 years.

Next time: Could be this delicious baked oatmeal recipe I found, or maybe this pea soup recipe which is basically just peas and water. It's not only extremely financially friendly, it's also surprisingly fantastic to eat, too.