29 January 2013

it's not for lack of bread, like the greatful dead, darling

This time of year in New Zealand, with the heat and the sprinkling of public holidays and the lazy stretched out sunny evenings giving way to spontaneous happenings, it's good to have a few snacky options in your brain should something arise that you want to make food for. I mean, most people are happy with a few bags of chips. But if you want to provide a little something extra now or anytime of year, and you're into cooking anyway (I presume that's why you're here in the first place, although I unsecretly and vainly dream of the day that people who don't even care about cooking read this because it's just that damn good) then I suggest this dip. Its credentials are near-flawless: it's fast. It's very cheap. It's vegan. It tastes so, so good. And it has a flashy name. Tarator. Now that is something.

Being the contrary person I am, I kinda hate all this heat - which makes me sweaty and frustrated - and long for the biting cold of winter. Which makes me feel alert and snuggly. Like a cat! But it's here, and how, particularly in Wellington - today was so punishingly hot I actually started crying a little in the street without really realising it. It was just discombobulatingly, dizzyingly hot. Which was great because then I had to go to the gym to buy a membership from the stunning and charming person who I've been consulting with while I'm there. Yes: gym membership. No-one is more surprised than me that I've been really enjoying myself. My arms are getting bufty, I have more energy, and most of all - for that one hour that I'm lifting weights or kicking into the air - I am not thinking. This is crucial. I am always overthinking things. I'm overthinking right now. But not while I'm at the gym. So even though it's a significant expense in our lives, I can, and am happy to, make some space for it in the budget. 

So: tarator. It sounds a lot more exciting than it looks. And also it sounds a lot more exciting than the list of ingredients looks. The bulk of this saucy dip, or dippy sauce, is in fact just bread and water. There are also walnuts, which is good, because they taste wonderful but also allow you to explain this as being a Turkish walnut dip, as opposed to blended up bread and water. The mint leaves are also important. Not because they necessarily add to the flavour - although their cooling pep helps lift the richness - but because of the inherent social code that exists which means you don't have to explain to your guests that this substance is edible. They gaze upon your table of snacks and without even realising it, they think "Aha! That sprinkling of greenery is letting me know that this is not just suspiciously formless brown paste, but in fact imminent deliciousness in which to insert my crisped bread or sliced vegetable of choice!" (See: always overthinking. Even garnish.)


This recipe is adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's rather lovely book River Cottage Veg Everyday. I upped the bread a little and lowered the oil, just to make it a little more affordable. Use what you like, as long as it's a little thick-cut and doesn't have grains in it - I used Freya's light rye, hence the colour of the finished product. It's very forgiving, so add more dampened bread, oil, or lemon juice as you need till it tastes right.

70-100g walnuts
1 large garlic clove
4 slices decent-ish, non-grainy white or light rye bread, either fresh or pre-sliced from a packet.
5 tablespoons olive oil, or more to taste
1/2 a lemon
Salt, to taste

Blitz the nuts and the garlic clove in a food processor until fairly finely ground. Run the slices of bread under cold water and squeeze out a little - it will feel weeeeird - then throw them in the food processor and blend to a thick, thick paste. Add the olive oil, the salt, and the juice of the lemon and continue to process, adding more oil or even a little water to thin it down a little if necessary. Taste for salt or lemon juice, then scrape into a serving bowl. 

It's astonishingly, intriguingly rich - in that same plumply smooth way that pate is. It's intensely savoury and yet oddly light and creamy. It just tastes like good times, okay? I feel like it lends itself to being more than a dip - a sauce for pasta salad, for example - but for now, while this weather insists on being so infuriatingly pleasant, it's perfect just heaped into a bowl and speared with slices of cucumber and carrot. 

Important-ish: Tim and I saw the Les Miserables movie with our friends Kim and Brendan last week. I've grown up with the original London cast recording ever since I used to dance around to Castle on a Cloud as a child, and have seen the musical several times, so was prepared to scrutinise it sharply. Well. A few details aside, (Russell Crowe, who was like, fine, but no Norm Lewis) Tim and pretty much adored it. If nothing else, we certainly had a lot of feelings about it. We analysed it all the way home. We then watched the 25th anniversary DVD. We then discussed it on and off for the entire following week. While no-one really is clamouring for the notes from our two-person roundtable, I will say this. If you hate musicals, nothing, least of all the bombastic and earnest Les Mis, will win you over. But it's so monumental and enormous and beautiful that it's pretty delightful to be sucked into it, to let those emotionally manipulative refrains draw hot tears from your eyes, and to daydream about wearing red coats with epaulettes.

Finally: our friends Kate and Jason are back from Europe after two months away! I was so heart-poundingly overexcited when Kate txted me on Saturday morning to ask if we wanted to come along to brunch that I ended up doing this:

Says it all, I believe.

PS: Thanks for the super cool response to my new segment, I Should Tell You! I am nothing if not punt-taking but it's still always an utter relief when it doesn't fall over flat.

PSx2: Hannah Hart of My Drunk Kitchen is coming to New Zealand! This is So Important! (I love her, I thoroughly recommend her youtube channel if you're unfamiliar with her stuff.)
Title via: The titular song from the musical Hair. Hot damn I love musicals. 
Music lately:

Tim and I have been playing the new Cat Power record Sun over, and over, and over. The songs are so new but feel like they're already worn in and familiar, like the softest flannel sheets. I love Manhattan.

All these epic musicals with convoluted storylines are naturally making me re-obsessed with Chess.  Idina Menzel singing Nobody's Side is too, too much.

Even after watching it a squillion times, Frank Ocean singing Bad Religion live on Jimmy Fallon still makes my heart explode but also melt at the same time.
Next time: Might be another I Should Tell You! Dun dun dunnnn.

25 January 2013

i should tell you: Anna Coddington

Welcome to this new segment of my blog! What?
  • Weekly, or fortnightly if I can't get my act together, I'm interviewing musicians who I like but who also respond to my very earnest emails (it's a genre unto itself) about food.
  • Each person gets the same three questions. 
  • I post their responses verbatim here. 
  • We all learn a little something about the musician, and maybe even ourselves.
  • My usual recipes and finding-myself will still continue as reassuringly weekly-ish as ever. 
But why? Well, I thought it up one evening and wanted to see if I could make it happen, plus I thought it might make this blog a little bit more sparkly and new after five years. In case you're hissing "so off-brand" in a stage whisper, hungryandfrozen.com has always been full of music, plus I find interesting people talking about food to be doubly interesting - so maybe you will too. Just like this blog itself, I've named this thing after a quote from the musical RENT. The quote appears in several different numbers. My naive hope is that you'll go listen to the whole thing and fall in love like I did. 

I am super happy to be starting it all with the bodacious and talented Anna Coddington. If you're after a bio the one on her website is plenty comprehensive. What I will add is that I love her music - it's breezy and gorgeous and snappy and as a starting point I recommend Little Islands from her latest album Cat and Bird, and Never Change from her 2008 debut The Lake. 

Thanks Anna! And now the interview will begin...now.

Where's somewhere you've eaten that you kinda like to brag about or drop into conversation? 

This story started out as one I didn't want anyone to know- ever- but now that I have enough time between me and the event, looking back at it the hilarity finally outweighs the horror. Just. 

I was staying with my friend in Paris. She's a fellow musician, a big time foodie, and a vegan, and she was excited that a vegetarian (me) was in town because she'd been wanting to try this fancy pants restaurant called L'Arpege that apparently specialised in vegan degustation. I thought, "treat yourself", and mentally prepared to spend maybe 100Euro on a nice Parisian dinner. Outrageous. 

My friend went online, entered her credit card details to get a reservation, and we taxied there in the evening. We were seated and as I looked around I immediately got the sense that someone like me didn't belong somewhere like that. My friend ordered two vegan degustations and we were served course after course of ummm... vegetables. Some delicious. Some meh. Here's some turnip. Here's like 3 beans. Here's one tiny beetroot. Etc. Couldn't eat the last couple coz I was too full. Finally they brought us the bill: 600Euro. (That's 300Euro each aka about NZD$500.) I wanted to spew. I glared at my friend across the table- had she known it would cost this much? She didn't even flinch. 

The waiter told us we got to keep the knife we ate our meals with and I felt like saying "how about you keep the fricken knife and knock 50Euro off my bill?". Didn't though. We paid (it hurt my feelings so bad), left, and held each other as we shrieked in disbelief along the streets of Paris at how lolz and silly we were. She'd had no idea. Luckily coz I would've killed her if she did. My friend's solution to her feelings was to go drink whiskey that night and we stayed up till 4am talking about money management and general musician things (musicians always talk about their careers, you see). 

My solution was to go running the next morning which I made us do despite the hangovers and we found a pretty flower park that made everything seem slightly better. We found out that day that L'Arpege has 3 of them Michelin star things. 

The knife from that restaurant is still hiding in my sock drawer as my secret shame. 

What do you fix for yourself, or where do you go to eat, when it's just you on your own?

I make "Make-do special" when it's just me because it's a good way to try use all the food that need using and doesn't matter if it doesn't quite work out coz only you have to eat it. Usually it's some kind of stir-fry or salad or hot-pot type thing, and usually it's pretty good. Also at the moment it would incorporate something from my garden which is going nuts. Cooking something from my garden makes me feel like a real human in the world of nature. 

What's one of your favourite food memories from your childhood? 

Our parents used to give us Pelion kalamata olives in our christmas stockings. I still love them. Have a can in my fridge right now in fact.

Thanks Anna Coddington! You rule. 

22 January 2013

i've got thirty-six expressions, sweet as pie to tough as leather

Like all weeks are really, this one just gone by was kinda strange. On Monday morning - at work, shoes miserably saturated with rain, bag weighed down with a cake I'd baked for a new person's welcome, planning to watch relaxing TV shows later on - I got a call from Tim. And while I'm not psychic (good thing too, with the weird and sinister dreams I get) I just knew, as soon as his name flashed up on the screen, that he would be calling to say his grandmother Jude had died. 

So, two gas station pies and seven hours later, we were in Wairoa. Which is where we stayed until late Thursday evening. By which stage I'd eaten a million Osler's pies (Jude was an Osler); attended my first Catholic rosary (she was intensely devout, but like all things, she seemed to exuberantly enjoy it); slept fractiously in a tiny bunk bed with an enormous spider overlord; drank endless cups of tea; washed dishes as much as I could to try and be useful; and cried harder at a funeral than I ever have before. I don't know why I normally feel so rigidly dry-eyed at funerals, but this time it started pretty much as soon as we walked through the door. Though, I felt lucky to have known her as long as I did, having been with Tim for ages now.  Jude (she was called Jude by all the family, not grandma or nanna) was incredibly beloved, a real life-of-the-party kind of person, and very involved in the community and her large family's life. The sort of person where the void left by their absence makes itself felt very, very quickly, and often. 

Gotta say, it's also the first funeral I've been to where the music everyone proceeds out to is the Bird Dance. Which maybe gives you a better picture of things than anything else I've said so far.

The other strange thing that happened this week is that I ended up on a list of 20 People of Influence and Effect in a national newspaper and its website. I say ended up, but I knew it was happening, but I thought it was going to be much smaller - maybe a little paragraph in the lifestyle section about food trends for the upcoming year, with a thumbnail picture of my face. Instead I'm there beside like, Kimberly Crossman and Emily Perkins and businesspeople and activists and a rugby player. (Kimberly Crossman was an actress on a local soap opera, now making good on every single opportunity coming her way; Emily Perkins is a brilliant author, in case you're not familiar/not from here/not inclined to google them.) My brain being what it is, I was partly all "whoa, cool! I love this kind of thing! I've got a blog and a cookbook coming out! Go me!" and partly all "this seems like a grave mistake somehow. Is watching Bunheads and painting your nails on a Saturday night influential?" And partly feelings about my photo and wondering if my eyes are actually that crooked. But the whole thing is truly, very cool and exciting. 

The comments have been...interesting though. Everyone who knows me in one way or another has been really enthusiastic about it (sample: my nanna txted me to say "Wow what an honour to b 1 of 20! Yr my girl!" - lovely). People who don't know me, and who specifically comment on the stuff.co.nz website, are TERRIBLY OUTRAGED. Either by a food blogger being on there, or by the whole concept altogether. One person was so angry they said they'd stop reading stuff.co.nz altogether! Which is what I usually say when they publish something, say, racist or homophobic! But I told myself firmly to stop reading the damn comment already, and also, more practically, that people wouldn't be complaining about you at all if you weren't on the list of 20 influential people and so it's still pretty thrilling and all part of the package deal of being in the public eye (or in my case, attempting to be.) 

So there's that.

If you're new here, either prompted by my status as influential, or hate-reading for sour kicks, I acknowledge this particular post is very long and full. They're always like that. But finally - since this is a food blog, after all - a recipe!

I made this for an impromptu picnic at the Botanical Gardens while watching some live music. Which is quite a fun thing to just say you're doing, all carefree and summery and instagrammy. The execution was fun too - hanging out on a blanket with great friends; their flatmate's band The Concerned Residents playing (great name, huh?) as well as surprisingly endearing opening act Lost Bird; a tiny dancefloor, made up of scarily cool Wellingtonian children; chocolate and Doritos and cider and beer and this pie. Which I found in a cookbook that's proving to be one of my most favourite and most-used: The Favourite Recipes of America: Desserts (And Party Beverages). It was called Ozark Pie, which I found fascinating - I presume referring to the Ozark Mountains of America, although I'd like to think Mrs N.B Knightlinger of Port Clinton, Ohio, who submitted said recipe, was just really into the TV show Ozark Jubilee (hilariously, sadly: "the centerpiece of an unsuccessful strategy for Springfield, Missouri to challenge Nashville, Tennessee as America's country music capital") or Ozark Henry, the Belgian musician.

Semantics aside, this pie is so easy to make, and can be changed to suit whatever fruit you have to hand. It's not particularly flashy - just a sturdy, sugared dough with fruit on top - but it honestly takes less than five minutes to put together and it's ideal for a picnic, being easy to transport, great hot or cold, and, as I said before...sturdy. Picnics are no time for meringue towers or souffles.

Ozark Pie

Adapted so liberally from the Favourite Recipes of America: Desserts (and Party Beverages) book that it's really not the same recipe any more, but I do like the name Ozark Pie. You can call it Apricot Pie if you wish. This mixture is quite small, so don't go eating any of the batter as you mix it. You need every last skerrick of it.

1 egg
3/4 cup sugar, plus 3 teaspoons extra
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 apricots

Set your oven to 180 C/350 F and grease a 20cm pie plate or springform caketin. Whisk the egg lightly, then add the sugar and beat for about a minute, until thick. Fold in the flour, baking powder and vanilla, then dice one of the apricots and mix that in as well. Spread this thick mixture on the base of the pie plate or cake tin, then slice up the remaining apricots and arrange them on top of the batter. Sprinkle over the extra sugar. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes. 

Because the base is so utterly plain, the vanilla extract really shines, and adds to the voluptuous summery sweetness of the apricots. Should your apricots be very ripe, you might not feel that you need the extra sprinkling of sugar on top - mine were firm and tart and refusing to soften up, no matter how many bananas I tried to pair them with (apparently sitting certain fruits beside each other has an effect on them...a bit like people.) I'd leave the sugar in though, as it gets a little crunchy and textural once it has been in the oven a while. The original recipe called for chopped apples and nuts, which would've been brilliant, had I actually had either in my possession. I'm sure this'd be excellent with many things though - pears and ground ginger; canned peaches; nectarines, whatever you've got handy.

It feels like there are a million other things that happened this week that I could write about, but this is already so long so I'll leave it there and say adieu to you all, regulars, new readers, and new hate-readers (I bet if I was hate-reading this I'd smirk at "adieu".)

Oh wait: one more thing. In the spirit of this being my blog and I can do what I like with it, I'm starting a new segment this week. I mean, there have never been any "segments" before and I don't know if I like that word - but anyway - what's happening is: a short post where I interview musicians, very briefly, about food. It'll either be happening weekly or fortnightly, depending on how many people I can actually get involved, but it's looking promising so far, and will be starting this week with Anna Coddington who is way excellent. What day will it be starting? Um, as soon as I think of a cool/uncool-pun-related title for it. I'm not saying that so you'll check back every day. I'm just waiting for that pun to appear.
Title via: Somewhat fittingly, Barbra Streisand effortlessly belting out I'm The Greatest Star, a song I've always identified with, from Funny Girl. Ugh, she is so great.
Music lately:

Mathematics, by Mos Def. For a record that came out well over ten years ago, this feels incredibly, urgently fresh. I love it.

Idina Menzel, I Feel Everything. It's not my favourite of her songs, but it has become one I've grown to love a lot more over time. And I adore this live clip of her changing the arrangement to be much more rocky. And also I adore her.

Jessie Ware, Wildest Moments - I've linked to this song before, but it's so glorious, and I'm so glum about missing her and Bat For Lashes at the Laneway festival next week...
Next time: this pasta recipe I thought up - very simple, just what you want in the middle of summer when you can't be bothered thinking too much. 

13 January 2013

love is just a dialogue, you can't survive on ice cream

Who am I, anyway? Asks Paul in the opening number of the wondrous musical A Chorus Line. I've been wondering the same this week. I guess it's not surprising that lots of people go to the gym in January - if headlines in certain women's magazines are anything to go by, there is literally no other choice of resolution for your new year - but for me it's not so straightforward. As I said in my last blog post, I want bufty arms this year. I want to be able to lift things without making an involuntary "nghghghhh" noise and straining my neck. A month's free trial gym membership came to my attention. It all made sense to sign up and try some classes and so on. 

Without going too deeply into my long and complicated history of just being myself, I will say this: until very recently it was difficult for me to reconcile doing exercise with general enjoyment and feeling good. Exercise to me was either compulsory institutionalised punishment (PE class ahoy!) or self-enforced to burn maximum calories for as long as I could stand it. (I completely understand and appreciate that PE/gym class is really enjoyed by lots of people, and also that wanting to lose weight is a personal choice and exercise is a way of doing that.) To me, exercise was all tied up in unhappiness and distress. It was all very black and white. Interestingly, my years of dancing sat outside of exercise in my mind - that was to music, and telling a story, and using expression and emotion and acting. And fun. That running or cycling or punching a boxing bag or playing, I don't know, football, could fulfill that same function for someone else - I couldn't make that leap of understanding. 

So anyway, as a result I was nervous about going to the gym, having never been to one before - what if I'm useless? What if I get panicky? What if it's really cliquey and my pants are wrong? And...what if I forget that I'm just here for enjoyment and to get strong? Does that make sense? But in fact, it was fun challenging myself, and I had friends there beside me, and I felt comfortable pausing when my legs simply refused to lunge once more. And this morning my muscles were constricted and sore, but in a good way - reminding me of all the effort I put in yesterday and how bufty they're going to be soon. Nevertheless, I found myself tweeting things along the lines of "going to the gym, who am I?" as if to reassure myself...that I was still myself. But who else could I possibly be. 

If you're seeking a small challenge yourself, maybe this ice cream could be it. A calm, easy recipe which makes just enough for one or two people, depending on whether or not you want to share. (I don't really like to share, but Tim lives riiiiight here in the same house and it would've been a bit weird not to. Plus, sharing leads to compliments on your cooking abilities! Which is probably not the main reason you should be sharing things.) This is good if you've never made ice cream before and want to start small in case it all goes horribly wrong (it won't, though.) Or if you have made ice cream before but have a tiny tiny freezer. Or if you only have a small amount of ingredients to hand and don't want to go to the shop. Strange as it seems, there are a number of situations where a small quantity of ice cream can be just as advantageous as a large quantity.

Small Chocolate Ice Cream

A recipe by myself.

Makes around 300ml. Am not very sure how well it would double - maybe if you're feeling more ice-cream-confident, search through all my recipes on this blog for one to make, hey hey?

250ml (1 cup) cream
50g dark chocolate (I use Whittaker's. Because I love its flavour like no other.)
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg

Gently melt the chocolate and cream together in a pan on the stovetop, or gently microwave the chocolate in the microwave and then stir in the cream. Either way, go slow, because chocolate burns quickly and will go all gritty if it happens. The ice cream will still be fine, but...gritty.

Remove from the heat and stir in the cocoa and sugar. Which give it a further depth of chocolate flavour, and a little bitterness-counteracting sweetness. 

Break the egg into a bowl and mix it up with a fork, so that the yolk and white are all incorporated. Stir in a tablespoon or two of the slightly cooled chocolate mixture, mixing briskly. Doing this allows the egg to absorb some of the heat of the chocolate mixture and blend with it thoroughly - if you pour in the entire pan of chocolate, you might not be able to mix it fast enough to stop the egg being cooked by the heat of the liquid. And that would taste nasty. Anyway: pour in the rest of the mixture, mixing continuously. Then divide into two freezer-proof bowls, or one small container. Freeze till quite solid. If you freeze it overnight, it'll need to stand on the bench for five minutes or so to soften a little. Being so small, it does freeze quite quickly though. Yay!

The path to success here is very short and simple: this chocolate ice cream just tastes like chocolate ice cream. A little cocoa-bitter, a little sweet, creamy and very cold. And, as I found out this morning, it makes a really good breakfast.

Who am I, anyway? Am I my resume? sings Paul in A Chorus Line. As well as getting used to the fact that I am now a person who goes to the gym because it makes me feel good and strong and stuff, I'm also trying to settle my brain down from racing at a hundred miles an hour. Because my brain does this cool thing where it simultaneously tells me I'm amazing at what I do but also not achieving anything much at all and no wonder. And I tell Tim this and he says "You have a cookbook coming out later this year!" and I say "yeah...but..." It's like the opposite of resting on your laurels. Instead I run towards my laurels really hard and then leap over them and keep running for the next one so fast that the last one seems like it's miles behind me in the dust. Resting on your laurels is a phrase that tends to be thrown around in a negative way, but to me it sounds kind of delightful - like, I achieved something good so I'm going to relax now and take a nap and maybe remind people about the thing I achieved occasionally. Does anyone else do this? Also, I guess, if anyone has any laurels they want me to not rest upon, let me know!

Boy, has this blog post ever got personal and intense. But that is often how life is. Till I figure it all out, if anyone has any tips for how to deal with tense muscles, shocked from their first go-round at the gym, I'd be super obliged.
Title via: The Kills, always skittishly thrilling, with Cheap and Cheerful.
Music lately: 

Ella Fitzgerald, Mack the Knife. Specifically, when she sang it in Berlin and forgot half the words, but elegantly and sorta adorably improvised over the top of the melody with her usual breezily gorgeous voice. What a champ.

Sherie Rene Scott, Goodbye Until Tomorrow, from The Last 5 Years musical. This song always makes me feel pretty emotional. I adore SRS, but absolutely cannot wait to see what Anna Kendrick does with this when the film version of this show comes out.

Faith Evans, Love Like This. Modern classic.
Next time: I made this pasta dish that I kinda like. I will probably write about that.

6 January 2013

a sunday kind of love

I haven't blogged all year! (Sorry, bad joke is bad.) This is my sixth first-post-of-the-year since I started hungryandfrozen.com and it comes with no less thoughtful reflection than any blog post on any day of any month ever, since that's just the kind of self-absorbed person I am. I did, however, make some new years resolutions. I intend to stick to them, too - I mean, in 2011 I vowed I'd get a book deal somehow, and then 19 days later a publishing company emailed me to say they'd like me to write a cookbook. I'm not saying I'm a witch. But I'm pretty sure if you send out waves of furrow-browed determinism, something has to happen, even if that something is just the people around you inwardly sighing oh no, not this rant again. (Related: I'm not saying I'm a witch, but I did manage to roll the dice while playing Trivial Pursuits recently and have it land on the exact number my team were hoping for, several times in a row.)  

New Years Resolutions for 2013:

1: Be intensely successful in everything to do with this blog and my foodwriting and most of all, my upcoming cookbook. I don't think this is particularly surprising, but still.
2: Get bufty arms. It came to my attention recently, when Tim and I moved house, that I am essentially useless in the upper arm region. I'd like to be able to lift stuff with dignity. I'd like to be able to lift stuff at all. So some gentle weight-lifting will ensue. 
3: Eat more vegetables. Moving house, and therefore trying to get rid of all our perishables, plus not having a job, meant for a while there we were doing things like having scrambled eggs on buttered toast, or just plain buttered toast, (or buttered popcorn) for nearly every single meal. I love them, but I don't want scurvy. This year: some snipped chives on my scrambled eggs on buttered toast, at least.
4: Envy: deal with it. Try not to compare my success to that of others. Look, I've been a snappishly jealous person since the beginning - why, in the movie of the story of my life you could have a montage of scenes from little me to right now. Not just general success - relationships and experiences and any old thing, really. It's just not a particularly good item to have in my inventory of personality traits. I can't deny it, but I can work on reigning it in.
5: Add many, many new words to my vocabulary. I love words. Want to win my heart? Use fancy language (or flatter me, I guess - see points 1 and 4). I've got a bit lazy recently, relying on the same old adjectives. I want to know more. Why, I used to read the dictionary for fun as a kid! I want to do that again. 

Will I achieve all of this? Hopefully a devastatingly successful, firm-of-bicep-region, robustly healthy, beatifically mellow Laura will be able to reply "indubitably!" in one year's time. 

It's Sunday night, the new years break is well and truly over and I go back to work tomorrow. I am attempting to keep myself in check from being too petulant about this, since I spent so much time and effort finding a job in the first place. But holidays are just so lovely and they do go by so fast, no matter how hard I try to be aware of every moment as it happens, to cling on to the days with clenched fists and to stay up as late as possible. Especially when these holidays are spent with deliciously wonderful people in an old mansion out in the countryside. 

But anyway, before we all forget that this is even a food blog, here's some food: I decided to meet the back-to-school blues head on by baking up delicious things to be eaten at 10:30am and 3:30pm - when your ebbs are usually at their lowest, right? Katrina Meynink's gorgeous book Kitchen Coquette offered up Pumpkin, Chili and Feta Loaf, which is just the sort of thing I want to look forward to during a working day. It's very fast and easy to make, and has just the kind of ingredients which feel like you're treating yourself to a good time (admittedly, my idea of a good time is relatively low-expectational) but without requiring you to spend lots of money or go hunting endlessly for obscure foodstuffs. And - start as you mean to go on - it has vegetables in it! Peachy! 

Kumara, Chili, and Feta Loaf

Adapted ever-so-hardly-at-all from Katrina Meynink's book Kitchen Coquette. I only used kumara because that's what I could find - it's an unsurprisingly worthy substitute for the original. The recipe also called for a chopped onion and some basil, both of which I left out because I didn't have them.

400g chopped golden kumara (or butternut pumpkin)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 small red chillies, deseeded and finely sliced
Salt and pepper
1 cup buttermilk (note - I just used milk, also I increased it slightly from what the book specified as it looked to need it)
2 eggs
2 teaspoons sugar
450g self raising flour (I used regular flour and 3 teaspoons baking powder)
200g feta cheese

Set your oven to 160 C/315 F and butter a loaf tin. 

Place the chopped kumara on a baking tray, sprinkle with oil, the sliced chilli and salt and pepper. Roast for about 15 minutes, till tender and a little darkened at the edges. 

Mix together the buttermilk (or milk), eggs, sugar, and flour, to form a very thick dough. Crumble in the feta and tip in the kumara and gently mix. Inevitably, some of the kumara will kind of smush into the dough. But whatever. Scrape it into the loaf tin and bake for an hour. Turn out of the tin and allow to cool completely before slicing thickly.

As with the pear cake I blogged about last time, I had to have a slice of this before its intended eating time, in order to be able to describe it on this blog. That might sound a little like my life is being ruled by this blog or something, but hey, I got to eat some delicious baking. And I can tell you authoritatively that it really is delicious. The kumara is sweet and a little nutty, the creamy saltiness of the feta is pleasingly addictive against the occasional bursts of fiendishly hot chilli on the tongue. It has the comforting carb-slab nature of a scone, but is also a bit fancy. And I bet a few days down the track, zapped in the microwave in the office kitchen and buttered abundantly, it'll still be good. 

This is where we stayed over new years. Swoon, right? It's the sort of place where your very existence makes it feel like you're in a gorgeous dreamy novel or movie or something (the point is: dreamy.) I read books, I painted my nails, I gossiped on a four-poster bed, I watched movies, I made a huge vat of mac and cheese and ate many feasts made by others (including woodfired pizza in the shape of a cat), I patted a wayward hund, I drank plenty of gin, and generally had a wonderful time with wonderful friends. 

Tim and me! Me and Tim! Was there ever a dapper-er babe than he? My opinion says nay!

 So engaged right now.

Speaking of dreamy and swoon, the two above photos were taken by the uncommonly talented Sarah-Rose, who, if you're interested in creeping on our holiday, took so many beautiful/hilarious photos during our time away. 

Finally, apropos of nothing: Tim and I bought some furniture. Our new flat is feeling more and more like a home every day. I would like to point out that the Garfield picture was drawn by Tim when he was a kid, and he just put it there as a joke - it's not like, our most treasured, look-at-this piece of artwork. That said, I totally respect Garfield's attitude towards both pasta and Mondays. Also that faux-fur on the daybed (daybed! It's a bed you sit on during the day! Dreamy!) is leftover from when I made myself a lion costume for a party last year. Judge us for buying stuff with "would it look good on instagram?" as a dealbreaker, but not for that furry throw! (I was kind of joking about the instagram thing, by the way.)
Title via: the sadly late Etta James, Sunday Kind of Love. A song that makes Sunday feel like a day to look forward to, not shun. 
Music lately:

Lana Del Rey, Summertime Sadness. Hey, it's still Sunday. Predictably dreamy.

Flat Duo Jets, You Belong To Me. A sexy, languid song, I might never have heard it had their album Go Go Harlem Baby not been rereleased by Third Man Records. Which we then took a chance on and bought when we were at Third Man Records in Nashville. This is a really good song, I'm not just using it as an opportunity to drop in that we went traveling recently or anything.
Next time: at least one vegetable.