30 April 2013

if I rap soup my beats is stock

In a wearily unsurprising turn of events, I undercooked the cornbread in the photo above. I then returned it to the oven and overcooked it. Then tonight I took the crumbly leftovers and mixed them together with eggs and milk and cheese and butter - and then undercooked that. Well of course.

Of all the things I could be queen of, it's not what I'd choose, but if Game of Thrones has taught me anything (apart from don't watch it while eating dinner) it's that sometimes the crown finds you. And I seem to be the queen of false starts. It's not simply just a case of when it rains it pours (by the way, Shakespeare invented that phrase, along with all other phrases and words and probably food blogging) it's more like...getting in my own way, constantly being underprepared for basic things and the general game of good luck roulette that is life not offering any help. I'm not saying I'm cursed or beleaguered or miserable. I mean, good things happen. Life is pretty alright. I just have a lot of cause to say things like "well of course this happened, because I am me."

Like, I sometimes really struggle to leave the house in a hurry. It sounds strange, but time will speed up while my movements slow down, everything feels weird, I can't find anything, I'll drop things, my heart will start racing and I'll feel like I need a shower and a lie-down. Often. But surely pretty much everyone has had that feeling where you're trying to achieve something small and the more you try the more you push it away and break it apart. Oh my gosh, this has turned into the most negative start to this blog post. I was just trying to muse. To ponder. What a damn false start!

Luckily the parsnip soup I made turned out so good, so velvety and creamy and wonderful that I wanted to not so much eat it as to fall asleep on a li-lo drifting around in a large bowl of it, one hand idly trailing into the soup as I float on by. By li-lo I mean inflatable mattress thing for a swimming pool, not the actress Lindsay Lohan. Actually in this day and age I can't tell which reference is less up-to-date and likely to be squinted at in confusion by young people. Perhaps a better solution is an undignified but sensible inflatable ring around my waist, keeping me safely bouyant. Or just eating the soup.

I don't even go for soup all that often, it doesn't seem as exciting as other significantly less formless foods. It's not crisp, it's not chewy, it's not crunchy, it's not deep-fried, all those good things, you know? And yet, whenever I actually get over that and have soup, I'm always like "...oh yeah. Soup." And that's the eloquent response I had to this parsnip soup after making it. It certainly helped me get over the cornbread a little bit.

Dead roses: I really like them.

The texture is cloud-like, aerated and foam-light, yet rich and plushly creamy. Despite not having cream or in fact any dairy in it whatsoever. Which is really good if you're at that days-before-payday stage where there's no money still and there's not the option of running down the road to pick up extra ingredients from the dairy. This is more or less parsnips and water. You do absolutely need a blender though, that's what allows the luxuriant texture to happen, but I'm pretty sure a food processor or stick blender will still be absolutely fine. Without one of those...I'm sorry, maybe make a different soup. Or something deep-fried.

It might look like there's a lot of oil in this - or it might not, I can't even tell anymore - but it's there for the rich buttery olive oil flavour, as well as the way it turns vegetables and water into something with a little more body and soul. So, if you don't have olive oil on you, I'd use actual butter which will provide similar flavour. If not...different soup? I'm sorry, I shouldn't be pushing you away. But c'mon.

Velveteen Parsnip Soup (I don't know how I feel about adjectives in front of recipe names. But I really like the word velveteen. And this soup really is all soft and fleecy and wondrous.)

A recipe by myself. 

4 medium sized parsnips
3 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons of olive oil 
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
Tiny pinch of ground cinnamon
3 cups water

Roughly dice the parsnips, and peel and trim the garlic cloves. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the parsnips and garlic over a high heat for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat, very low, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, cover with the lid and allow to slowly cook for about ten minutes. At this stage the parsnip pieces should be all soft and golden. Stir in the mustard and cinnamon and pour over the water and simmer gently for another ten minutes, or until the parsnip is completely tender. Blend the hell out of it - it's a pain to get the stuff into the blender, but it's worth the nervousness - until not one single lump of parsnip remains. 

Optional caramelised nuts, for sprinkling over, optional since I'm not 100% sure about them

1 handful nuts, eg hazelnuts, almonds, a mix of whatever, whatever. I do have this feeling that peanuts are a no here, though.
30-ish grams butter
1/4 teaspoon/a few drops soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon/small pinch mustard powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar

Very roughly chop the nuts, then melt the butter in a pan - I used the same one I'd cooked the soup in, no need to wash - until it's bubbling and hot. Tip in the nuts, and stir around till they're lightly toasted. Stir in the soy sauce, mustard powder and sugar until it becomes a little clumpy and caramelised. Tip the lot, butter and gritty caramelised bits of sugar and all, into a small bowl and spoon it over your soup as you please. 

(Me: sorry Tim. It's going to be that kind of blog post where I photograph your spookily headless body while you pause mid-spoonful.)

Parsnips have a natural mild sweetness and butteriness that you wouldn't think was there if you just bit into a raw one (have done, not...unpleasant) and which benefits from the slow frying, from the warm rounding out of cinnamon and mustard, and from lots of salt. And what this soup lacks in deep-fried-ness, it makes up for in baffling silkiness, and caramelly parsnip deliciousness. As I hinted at in the recipe, I'm not quite sure about the caramelised nuts that I made to sprinkle over the top - the soy sauce almost made them a little too rich, if such a thing is possible. I think I would've been better off just toasting them in butter rather than trying to be too fancy. And of course, there is the cornbread, all undercooked and stupid. But the thing I thought most of all was not going to work - the soup that I made up on the spot - was pretty perfect.

Talk about false starts, I took the day after a public holiday off on Friday with the intention of getting a lot of writing and blog admin done. I spent the day on the floor, frustrated and sick (when I wasn't throwing up, that is. I always instinctively end up on the floor at times like this.) Oh, and I made some cookies to blog about (I mean, I made them to eat, which is my primary reason for cooking anything, just I thought they'd be good to blog about.) And they really didn't turn out right. Not terrible or inedible, just not what I'd intended and not particularly fantastic. I dubbed them shame-cookies, because drama is its own reward.

Saturday was glorious though, in that I watched The Hour for the, uh, fourth time in about six months. And made another convert to its swooning, heart-punching gorgeousness (Kate.) And made this cake. I know I talk about it a lot, but I can't overstate my love for this show. Fly, don't run or walk, to find it.

PS wanna see my tattoo? Here is a peek of the sneaky kind. I just wanted to hold onto it for a while before I posted a picture of it online, and then of course as I mentioned in my last post, it went a bit gross while healing, which is to be expected.

It's now more or less healed, which means I can wear pants again. But I don't even want to. (No pants are better than pants, as I always think.) But really: I just want to keep gazing at it. You can too, right here.

title via: Beastie Boys, Intergalactic. Sigh, poor Beastie Boys with only the two of them now. 

Music lately:

Let's Get Ready to Crumble, Russian Futurists. I haven't listened to these guys in so long! Literally not since, oh, 2009. And I really like them still. It's hard to explain what they sound like, a little vague and dreamy but also quite punchy. I don't know, it sounds like all that music that you like.

Fear No Pain, Willy Mason. It feels like if he'd released this now, in these post-Mumford times, he'd be intergalactic huge. But then maybe I'd instantly dislike him (I really don't like Mumford and Sons, however I try to just let my ears tell me what music I like rather than letting taste dictate. Otherwise, let's face it, I might not have named this blog after a line from RENT.) Anyway, it's a gorgeous, sunny, Americana-y tune that comfortably lived-in and yet is only about five years old.

The Wayward Wind, Patsy Cline. A beautiful voice, singing one of the most beautiful songs.
Next time: I don't know, but I really hope whatever it is I make it on the weekend and there's decent lighting for taking photos. And that I don't under or over-cook the thing I make.

23 April 2013

umami said knock you out

Birthdays are a very important and special time for me.

Because I'm self-absorbed and love attention. No, I mean, yes, but there's more to it than that. And not just the promise of neatly wrapped consumer items, either. But honestly, so many people said incredibly nice things to me on my birthday. I felt very loved and liked and lucky and a little bit tearful. 

Birthday me. Twenty seven. This was one of about fifty photos that a drunk Tim snapped of me. I hated them all so willfully went for two particularly awkward shots. Can someone please get me some photogenic-ness for a late birthday present?

Like being my own hype man, I'd indulged in some deep pre-birthday buildup. The day itself though, was quiet but pretty ideal. It was raining, which made me so very happy. Tim made me fresh coffee and rice bubbles with canned peaches for breakfast. I did yoga. I had a long bath in which I drank whisky and read Joan Didion, since I enjoy doing things that let me use the words "sybaritic lotus-eater". I met Tim for lunch at the very beautiful Nikau cafe, and had an Aperol spritzer (Aperol is like Campari, which I adore, only with more lunchtime-friendly levels of alcohol) and a quince and raspberry donut. I cried twice while watching Nashville. And later I watched while the NZ government passed the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, meaning marriage equality was indeed A Thing. 

Let's just say: best birthday present ever. To try and articulate it further...I don't know. I kept leaving this page and procrastinating on other pages because I couldn't work out to say. I guess I'm just utterly happy with the result. It's not a magic solution to all the ills and hate of the world, but it will not only do no harm, it will be super amazing. It was just so damn delightful to see politicians from all across the political spectrum - or rainbow, if you will - giving speeches that were eloquent and beautiful and impassioned, or at least vaguely sensible. To hear the vote results announced, and feeling like this was one more step in the right direction of affirming that we're all okay. It made me feel really pretty okay. And proud of all those who had gone before so that we could be watching this debate unfold now in 2013.  And while I should stay positive, I mean, I said in my last blog post that I'd never heard an anti-gay argument that made any sense whatsoever. So it's just really vindicating and hopeful that the law, in this case at least, sides with those of us who do make sense. 

You know how you can pop a balloon, so it explodes with a bang, or just carefully pierce the surface so it deflates slowly, almost imperceptibly, over time? I thought I was going to erupt in scream-tears like a popped balloon when it was finally, finally clear that we'd won. But I didn't, instead just wiping away quiet tears and not even realising how much I'd been crying till later when my eyeliner had rendered my face panda-esque. 

"No take-backs!" I yelled at Tim. Guess we're really-really getting married now! 

Umami is one of those words that gets evoked a lot in the food writing of yonder present times. Unlike many popular and overused words ("om", "nom", "nom", and variations thereof), umami is a perfect and quite irreplaceable term from Japan which refers to the mysteriously savoury. That unmistakeable but pretty elusive quality that makes fried mushrooms and miso soup and soy sauce and gruyere cheese and worcestershire sauce particularly fascinating, and fascinatingly particular. Also can I just step back and point out from this short distance and say that I've made, and will make recipes that illustrate the concept of umami SO MUCH BETTER than these two but I liked the title that I came up with and so insisted on making this all fit.    

Make these noodles once and then commit the concept to memory and ignore the recipe because they're a perfect go-to, fallback meal when you feel like something resembling this end result, and you really don't need to live or die by the below quantities. As it is, what I've written below is not Nigella's original recipe - she was a little more restrained with the sesame oil than I, but it's such an incredible flavour that I just wanted more. They're cold and slippery and nutty and salty and delicious and many other positive adjectives besides.

Sesame Soba Noodles

Adapted just barely from Nigella Lawson's excellent book Forever Summer

200g soba noodles (although they sometimes come in 90g packs, so y'know, two of those is fine.)
2 teaspoons rice vinegar 
5 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
75g sesame seeds, or sunflower seeds like I did. Or peanuts. Or nothing.
Chives or spring onions to serve.

If you've got sesame seeds or whatever, toast them in a dry pan over a low heat, shaking or stirring often to prevent them burning. It will seem to take forever and then they'll burn all of a sudden, so stay patient and you'll be rewarded with a rich golden brown colour.

Cook the soba noodles according to packet instructions in boiling water. This probably won't take long. Drain, running under cold water while you do so. Mix together the remaining ingredients and stir them into the slightly cooled, drained noodles. Finely slice the chives or green onions, and sprinkle over the top. Serves two. 

Apologies that my photos are so weak this week, I adore winter but am in denial about the bad lighting it brings. Will try to do something about it so you can return to the kinda-decent photos you deserve.

Surprise second recipe, it's something I just thought into existence all casual-like, with the hopes that it would work. Oh, how it worked. The butter sizzles in the oven emphasising its - all together now - umami properties, deepening and darkening its already amply pleasing taste. The rum is sweet and sticky and rich but not overpowering, matching the sweetness of the pumpkin and parsnip and making them taste like the best vegetables on earth. Mustard helps it not all taste like pudding, and thyme is my favourite herb (well, that and mint) and I've managed not to kill my potplant of it yet and so I thought I'd throw some in as well.

Pumpkin and Parsnips roasted in Butter and Rum

A recipe by myself. Serves 3-4, or two of us with leftovers. 

1 small pumpkin (or butternut, or a couple of kumara)
2 medium parsnips
100g butter
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 tablespoon golden rum
Half a handful of thyme leaves (or one handful if your hands are tiny-tiny like mine.)

Set the oven to 190 C. Remove the skin from the pumpkin if you like, and slice it into thick chunks. Slice the parsnips into thick sticks. Place in a large roasting dish. Cube the butter and dot it over, then spoon over the mustard. Sprinkle with salt and roast for about 40 minutes, until the vegetables are a little browned and very tender. Pour over the rum and a little more salt, and return to the oven for another ten minutes. Serve. 

Pumpkin and Rum: friendly. (Rumpkin? No, wait, I didn't say that.)

Another thing I did on my birthday was - okay, after the whiskey and Aperol - only drink a tiny bit of cider while watching the marriage equality vote, because I had a tattoo booked the next day. Do you want to see it? Well, you can't. It's currently not fit to be seen, as a result of the long, fascinating, but ultimately sorta gross healing process. As Led Zeppelin and Johnny Cash played on the stereo I went through three solid hours of absurd pain, pausing only to have a fizzy drink or inhale deeply on a small bottle of pepperminty essential oils (which didn't necessarily do that much, but did put my brain squarely back where it should be and made me feel all medieval) while Tim held my hand, and later, hands plural, which also didn't seem to do anything as far as pain-assuaging and yet made me feel better. I was with Gill at Tattoo Machine, and he was brilliant. Super brilliant. And I mean, of course it's going to hurt. I found it very interesting identifying the different kinds of pain - sometimes slicing, sometimes like a small yet mightily-toothed animal was chewing on me, sometimes an odd sensation like a tiny flaming vacuum was moving over my leg, and sometimes more straightforward: like a needle plunging deep into me. I felt weirdly powerful while I was lying there, thinking look what I can do, look what I'm capable of withstanding just because I want to. It's also possible these are things that the brain tells itself while something like this is happening. At not one point, even during the most intense pain, did I think oh no this was the wrong choice. And now: I love it. I'm completely enraptured with it. Also probably 85 billion percent of people in New Zealand have a tattoo so maybe I'm rambling away on something that's not particularly ground-breaking. But I'm very, very happy with mine.

Post-tattoo, while I lay on the couch with stabbed leg aloft, Tim trudged round town in the still-there rain and returned home with Voltarin, Bepanthen, a pie and a bunch of roses. He then made this platter of cheese (oh hey, umami), grapes and crackers to eat while we waited for the pies to heat up and poured me a whisky and patiently waited while I hobbled over to the table and took several goes to instagram the moment to my sufficient liking. Frankly, I'm surprised someone else didn't try to marry him already with behaviour like that, but I'm glad it's going to be, and can be, me.
Title via that gleaming beacon of handsomeness, LL Cool J with Mama Said Knock You Out. Don't call it a comeback! 
Music lately:

Gavin Creel must've bought his voice at the good voice shop or something, because damn son, he renders me unable to write a decent sentence about how great he sounds while singing Going Down from the musical Hair. I love this song anyway, he embiggens it like wo.

Garbage, Push It. Not sure how I missed how utterly terrifying this video was during the 90s. As far as those 90s-scary-subversive music videos go, this one has aged well. The song is brilliant, I bet there's a version with just a static image if you're reading this alone and in the dark. (PS thanks Kate for reminding me how excellent this is.)
Next time: something photographed in better lighting, if I can. Got a yearning to make cookies, and also basically everything, so we'll see.

19 April 2013

i should tell you: coco solid

Well hello there, and welcome to volume eleven of I Should Tell You, where I interview musicians who are cool but who also respond to my earnest email. Same three questions about food every week, just to see what happens. This week I'm talking with the mercurial Coco Solid, who has already livened up this blog once before in the form of a guest post while Tim and I were roaming round America last October.

Multifaceted like an ethically-sourced diamond, Coco Solid manages to hold down a million schemes and creative projects. Like Parallel Dance Ensemble, with whom she was part of one of the best music videos of all time for their track Weight Watchers. There's Badd Energy, there's her own solo work, there's more besides.  She's currently back in Korea on an artist's residency programme, but in the meantime - should you not happen to be in Korea yourself - you can follow her poetic ways with just 140 characters on Twitter, read her blog, and yeah, just watch the Weight Watchers video okay? 

I love this song.

Thanks, Coco Solid! The interview starts...now. 

Where's somewhere you've eaten that you kinda like to brag about or drop into conversation? 
I would say my fav meals around the world include: haloumi and satay pita in Berlin, cherry pie in New York, ramen in Tokyo, soft tacos in Guadalajara, ribs in Shanghai, any goddam thing in Korea. I also champion the food joints of my native Auckland, every suburb hides a deadly secret. 

What do you fix for yourself, or where do you go to eat, when it's just you on your own?
This summer I cooked a recurring breakfast - roast garlic tomatoes with basil, olive oil and balsamic and bread. It's fast, cheap and feels sorta flash.

I'm loving wandering around Seoul on my own, eating here is out of control. Because I rely on signage, body language or amazing smells, every night is a date with destiny lol.

What's one of your favourite food memories from your childhood? 
My Mum is very quiet and unassuming but she is a ruthlessly talented cook. If you prepare anything for her you have to bring your A-game. I remember seeing her throw-down gourmet stuff on a tight-as budget when I was growing up, she was known for it. She taught me about good food minus the pretense. 

i should tell you archives:

Watercolours (March 22)
Jeremy Toy, She's So Rad (March 14)
Hera and Jed (March 7)
Eva Prowse (March 1)
Jan Hellriegel (February 21)
Dear Time's Waste (February 14)
Flip Grater (February 7)
Tourettes (January 31)
Anna Coddington (January 24)

16 April 2013

reminds us of our birthdays which we always forget

As I was eating my dinner and watching Game of Thrones this evening, I thought: I really shouldn't be doing this. Either eat, or watch Game of Thrones, but don't do them simultaneously because the onslaught of viscera (which is also the name of my next band) is decidedly not food-friendly. This has nothing to do with anything, I just wanted to make the point.

It's my birthday in tomorrow! But you get the presents! In the form of a recipe for braised lentils.

Lousy candy heart logic, I don't need you! (Candy Heart Logic being my next band's name after Onslaught of Viscera break up)

Anyway, yes, it's Laura's Birthday Eve, and as such, one's thoughts turn to reflection. Ha. I live every day like it's the contemplative lead-up to further aging (I also dance like everyone's watching) and reflect upon everything I've ever done so much that, like a long-running TV show, the whole process should be able to go into syndication so I don't have to come up with new stuff any more. Instead, just looping around without any effort from me, while I take time out to snooze. I got to have a late, long lunch with the fantastically high-achieving and welcoming Marianne Elliot from La Boca Loca on Saturday, and we talked about everything - the names people will call women but not men to bring them down; standing by things you've said; tacos; and this sense of constantly running towards the next thing having barely achieved the last thing. The latter was oddly heartening, in that basic way that recognition of something can be. I have recently been getting back into that troubled but utterly addictive musical Chess, and there's this line that I never even noticed before that Josh Groban doesn't so much sing as massage into the air with his throat: "Now I'm where I want to be and who I want to be and doing what I always said I would and yet I feel I haven't won at all - running for my life and never looking back in case there's someone right behind to shoot me down and say you always knew I'd fall". Heavy! And yet I was like whoa, Josh Groban, way to pluck words from my brain with your rich vanilla scented-candle of a voice and articulate them perfectly via a convoluted musical that can't even commit to its own plot.

And yet, and yet. I received some final pdfs for my cookbook that I'm driving you all away from with my angst and lentils; and oh wow. As you know a lot of time has been put into proofing the proofs (if you didn't know, the proofs are like, here's what your book will look like but on hundreds of pieces of paper which you will immediately drop, and as they hit the floor they will both papercut the tender vamp of your bare foot and shuffle themselves out of order with the impeccable swiftness of a Vegas croupier.) (Tender Vamp is what I call my solo project after Candy Heart Logic breaks up: also here endeth the joke before it gets the chance to become played out and tired. But know, just know, that I'm thinking it still.)

Oh, so uh, they were really beautiful and I felt every late night and early morning and email back and forth between the publishers and the whipsmart feedback of my friends and team, photographers Kim and Jason and stylist Kate, and every thought Tim had pretty much ever had since he's good with wisdom-requiring stuff like this...was not only worth it, but completely evident in the soon-to-be real pages of this book. Which is out in September so sure, put a circle round that month on your calendar but also don't go rushing into bookshops just yet - she says optimistically - because September is still some significant distance away. As I was reading through it I thought to myself: this book is amazing and you're such a good writer and you deserve this. A surprisingly nice thing to think about one's self. And also...a nice thing to think about a consumer item that you have to eventually put your name to in the public arena and sell copies of.

The word braised: I first heard it when I spent a couple of years at boarding school. It essentially means roasted but in significant liquid, but when the kitchen said "braised steak" was for dinner, they essentially meant wet beef, boiled cheerlessly in a weakly tomato-based sauce. And so...it's not a cooking method I go out of my way to use. I'm not sure what I'm even thinking, trying to braise lentils, second only to tofu as far as maligned leguminous foodstuffs go. But word associations can change, and plus, something about the wilful ugliness of it all makes it almost head back round again to appealing? Well, whatever it sounds like to you - and I mean, it does help if you don't entirely hate lentils in the first place - this is really very delicious. Simple and easy and surprisingly full of rich, bold flavour from the lemon, mustard and herbs, as well as a lot of oil and salt.

A lot of this can be changed for what you have to hand, although while I want to offer options it would be unhelpful not to have some kind of base recipe that I stand by. If you don't have hazelnuts, almonds would be perfect, something like carrots would be fine instead of parsnips, use more rosemary instead of thyme, and so on and so on. But hazelnuts and thyme - my favourite herb - are rich and resinous, parsnips have a natural caramelised sweetness, and in a dish like this, cardamom is one of those stealth spices that lets you know flavour is present without revealing how or from where. But you could just leave it out.

Braised Lentils and Vegetables with Hazelnuts, Lemon and Thyme

Serves two, with some leftovers. A recipe by myself.

1/2 cup dried brown lentils
2 parsnips
2 courgettes
1 capsicum
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice of one large lemon, or two of those stupid tiny near-juiceless ones that tend to dominate the supermarket
1 tablespoon dijon mustard (or wholegrain. I could eat either with a spoon.)
Pinch of ground cardamom, or seeds from two cardamom pods
1 teaspoon dried rosemary (or "rubbed rosemary" as my packet calls it. Which made me laugh. That said, if you don't have it, dried oregano, sage or marjoram is also fine.)
Good pinch salt
1/3 cup whole hazelnuts
A couple of stems of fresh thyme, or a couple of teaspoons of dried thyme leaves

Place the lentils in a bowl and cover with freshly boiled water. Leave to sit for an hour - although the longer the better, really. An hour is fine though, and certainly makes the whole thing more feasible straight after work or at the end of a long day.

Drain the lentils, and tip them into the base of a medium sized oven dish. Trim anything inedible from the vegetables and slice them into fairly uniform strips/sticks, then lay them on top of the lentils in the oven dish. Set your oven to 180 C/350 F.

Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, cardamom, rosemary, and a generous pinch of salt. Pour this over the vegetables and lentils, then pour over a cup (250ml) of hot water. Place in the oven and cook for an hour. At this stage, taste the lentils - they should be firm, but cooked through. If not, return to the oven for a little longer. Then, turn the oven up to 200 C, scatter the hazelnuts and thyme leaves over the top, and return to the oven for a further ten minutes. Serve, turn the oven off and leave the door open to try and heat your house up.

The firm lentils and softly bulging vegetables slowly taking in all that lemony, oily dressing; the hazelnuts giving luxe and depth and crunch; my beatific smile at all of this being filled with more vitamins than my body can physically process. It's a quiet, calming dinner after a Saturday night spent drinking cider while ten-pin bowling; grapefruit daquiris while celebrating the third birthday of coolhaunt Monterey, and beer while loitering at a fancy pub as Devon Anna Smith played records I liked (it maybe looks worse on paper, I was fine.)

Some facts about my birthday:

There are ELEVEN notable ice hockey players born on April 17, according to Wikipedia. 

I'm the oldest child. I was born at 8.50pm-ish. I frowned a lot and immediately got colic and did not stop screaming for six months. Luckily I made up for it by being a very overachieving preschooler.

While I can't afford all the trinkets I want I did buy this cool cat (bottom centre), a print from local artist Pinky Fang. It seems to go well with the sinister cat we bought in New Orleans, and my Devon Anna Smith print. Three cats seems like a good number to have around. 

Tomorrow is the final reading of the Marriage Act Bill which will decide whether marriage equality is happening in New Zealand or not. Every day it seems more and more unfair that I'm allowed to marry someone just because of the ridiculous coincidence that they happen to be a man. I wrote a long thoughtsy thinkpiece paragraph after this and then deleted it because it's much simpler to just say: this bill means a lot to me not quite just because I'm a more-or-less decent person who wants equal rights for all, or because Tim and I are engaged but have decided not to marry unless it goes ahead, but also because I'm also pansexual, as in...not straight. The Q in LGBTQ. Yes. I won't say much more about this, apart from that I realised it an awfully long time ago, but only articulated it relatively recently. Articulating all this was like putting on glasses and seeing things just as they are but a little clearer (I use this analogy a lot, sure, but looking at things is just so great since I got my glasses). Doing so is of course a totally private, personal choice for everyone, and this is just my way. While I worried that I'd left it too long -whatever that means - or that I'd somehow express all this horribly wrong, or that braised lentils wasn't how I wanted to remember it happening in years to come, or that maybe I should say it next time, or next-next time, I also thought I'd just...say it. It's still a scary thing to do. But every day brings us closer to a time when it will be less and less scary to say it. Armed with the knowledge that you're all cool and I've never once heard anything said against it that made the slightest bit of sense, I figure you all know pretty much everything about me anyway, and this is just another thing to matter-of-factly know. 

I'm turning 27. This is an age where people will still say "so old" but also "so young" at you, depending on the person. I'm not sure when that will stop.

Victoria Beckham is born on April 17. When I was in my deadly-fervent Spice Girls phase, sharing a birthday with one was seen as some kind of ancient sacrosanct blessing. (Seen by me, and me alone.)
Title via: Side By Side By Side, from the Sondheim musical Company. The AMAZING Sondheim musical. Please keep having birthdays, Sondheim. 

Music lately: 

Blurred Lines, Robin Thicke with Pharrell and TI. I am addicted to this song like wo. And also reminded of the massive crush I used to have on Pharrell.

Birthday, Sugarcubes. Ones thoughts also turn to songs with the word birthday in the title. Bjork's soaring, growling belting here is outrageously amazing. Extra fun in Icelandic!
Next time: Hoping to have another I Should Tell You interview up on Friday. Who's it going to be? Why, who do you think I am, some kind of organised person? 

9 April 2013

how do ya like them egg rolls, mr goldstone?

Our table, which Tim spent a goodly segment of easter weekend sanding and repeatedly basting in polish, is back. Which means now if I make us breakfast on it, everything suddenly looks 97% more idyllic in photographs. As Prop Joe from much-clasped-to-modern-hearts TV show The Wire said, look the part, be the part, huh? (...he ended the sentence with something a little saltier than "huh".)


I've had a sorry run of egg-related kitchen failures lately. Like these terrible pastry cases that I wanted to make into lemon tarts. I refused to throw out, thinking I could eat them, the burden-of-your-shame-biscuits that they had become, and not waste ingredients - but they were dry and gravelly and yet soggy and falling to bits at the same time. Wasting ingredients and injuring your own self-esteem is a cruel combination. But while nervous, I had a good feeling about these miso scrambled eggs. Miso paste is used with water become a thin, unpromising, yet magically delicious broth. Wonderful as that is, miso paste as a general ingredient gives you this mysterious savoury tricksy flavour that makes everything taste like itself, but better. Like when I put my glasses on and everything in front of my eyes sharpens up.

It looks a little indisposed at first, the miso paste tinting the scrambled eggs a troublingly peachy shade. But it comes right, and if you've got some garnishy thing around to cover it with - in my case, fried shallots, but chives, coriander or sesame seeds would also be excellent - so much the better. Hooray for garnishes.

Miso Scrambled Eggs

A recipe by myself. Serves two, or one very hungry. Or four people a small spoonful each. Or six people, but three of them can only watch. Look, it's 6am when I'm typing this, okay.

1 tablespoon white miso paste (heaped or level, depending on your sodium avidity)
2 tablespoons water
4 eggs
Plain oil for frying (I used rice bran. It has a pleasing lack of oiliness to its taste.)
Fried shallots for garnish (optional) (but way delicious)

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the miso paste and water till smooth. Crack in the eggs and roughly mix, just to break up the yolks and swirl in the miso. Heat a little oil, about two teaspoons, in a saucepan over a medium heat. Pour in the egg mixture and allow to cook gently, stirring with a spatula or wooden spoon to scramble it as it firms. Once thick and fluffy and basically not liquid any more, divide between two pieces of hot fresh toast. 

If you're the easily suspicious kind of person, and I understand how tampering with scrambled eggs might do that to you, be assured that this is ridiculously, non-threateningly delicious. The miso paste gives the eggs a rounded saltiness, the intensity of roasted mushroom or slow-cooked beef, but without changing anything about the texture or basic flavour. It's subtle, but present. It's really, really good. I love breakfast/brunch ever so much, and while going out for it is one of the more exciting things you can do with your life, sometimes it's nice to kick up a fuss in the home. Also like all breakfast foods, this is a perfect dinner. Or midnight snack. Or lunch. Or one of those snacks that you have to help your brain think about what you'll have for lunch. Which is different to brunch.

It's my birthday next week. Birthdays can be stupidly melancholic - wanting to do something but not being sure what; reflecting on everything you've ever done up until this point in vicious detail; wanting all of the trinkets that there are; feeling this frantic stiltedness at trying to make the day a good one, followed by the post-birthday comedown. Bundle of fun, aren't I? On the other hand I keep telling myself that it's possible to enjoy yourself any old day of the year, that a birthday isn't your one shot at a fun time (see, when it's written like that my squirminess seems really ridiculous); and besides, two interesting things are happening: on my birthday itself the government will be making its final decision on whether marriage equality will go ahead in New Zealand. Which is a very big deal for a whole layer cake of reasons. Don't make this a Justin Bieber-esque "worst birthday", oh politicians. Plus, as Tim and I have solemnly vowed not to get married until marriage equality goes ahead, anything could happen! Surprise wedding! (There will be no surprise wedding. I'm terrible at bluffing, I promise I'm telling the truth.) Oh, and the next day, I am getting a tattoo! Wheeee! So far everyone I've mentioned it to has been either very excited, or, more amusingly, very politely reserved and pleasant and smiling brightly about it. I have not had anyone say "how will you get a job you're ruining your life and why, why?" but just in case, I have some answers at the ready:

- I'm doing it for the attention
- Because I'm very influenced by the Spice Girls (these two reasons admittedly apply easily to other areas of my life, but not this one)
- I want it. It's my body and I am in control of it, and isn't it lovely to just want to do something and then do it? What is the point? And when did you last enjoy someone questioning what you do with your body?

I can't wait. I can almost feel it. And what am I actually getting tattooed? No big, just a picture of Tim's face, on my face. To scale.

Ha! I've joked about that so often that I'm now scared someone will overhear me and think it's what I really want and organise it for a birthday present or something. Uh, no, what I'm getting is a cat, on my left thigh. I can already feel some "uhhh-huh" from here (and also some "oooh", I see you cat fiends of the internet) and I don't know, it's just what I want. It came to me in a feverish vision one sleepless night in New York in October, and it has stuck with me so persistently that I decided I'd like it to stick with me literally.

My friend Ange (for whom the Twin Peaks party tolls) has officially left Wellington. I'm terrible at goodbyes, I mean even on the smallest scale, I just never want the party to be over. So there is much wallowingly sad sadness. But also a small bit of selfish delight, because she is letting Tim and I booksit her library.

This is maybe a fifth of the books she gave us.

I used to be the most intensely voracious reader as a child. But these days, with sleep feeling like a waste of time and a million things to write, reading hasn't been a thing I've done all that regularly, apart from my monthly book group chosen text. And yet, like Ange had cast a spell on them or something, last week I read four whole books. They consumed me as I consumed them. Taking a trip in another person's brain for a while, I'd forgotten how good it can be. And that all-consuming need to pick up the book whenever you get a spare moment - it has been too long.

Here's what I've read over the last week:

The Book of Proper Names, by Amelie Nothomb. I yelled "OH MY GOD" after finishing this. It's incredible. I also related to the main character in many ways. The main character was five years old for a lot of the book.

How to Breathe Underwater, by Julie Orringer. Devastating short stories, just the kind I like with sticky hot summers and awkward teenagers and some religious theory. One story was so weirdly close to home I wanted lie under a table and cry after reading it.

Picnic at Hanging Rock, by Joan Lindsay. Dreamy and sinister and full of girlhood and intense friendships and sorrow. Might be too scared to see the movie adaptation, though.

Bonjour Tristesse, by Francoise Sagan. Not nearly as scandalous as the rather skittish blurb on my copy made out, but beautifully worded and excellently sybaritic all the same.

Honourable mention: Who Was That Woman, Anyway? by Aorewa McLeod, which I read for book group on easter Monday. Cantered through it, absolutely loved it.

There are a small number of blogs I really, really read all the time. Le Projet D'Amour is one, as the writing is riveting and the author, Hila, is always writing things I want to, or didn't know I wanted to, read about. My acquiring all these books coincided with my reading Hila's post about the Women Writers Reading Group, and her post about the statistics regarding authors who are women - spoiler alert, their books aren't reviewed or highly regarded as much as those by men. I'd been trying to actively read more books written by women anyway, but this was, like stirring miso paste into scrambled eggs, a delicious intensifier of what was already happening.

I've been txting and tweeting Ange to ask her to continually tell me which book I should read next from her collection, partly because I'm paralysed with indecision and partly because it makes me feel like I'm in a beautiful movie or something about books and hushed correspondence and rainy days (oh, you know what I mean) and so she recommended the first two on the list. Picnic and Bonjour Tristesse are also hers, both of which I chose for myself by picking them up absentmindedly and then suddenly coming to and finding myself sitting on the floor uncomfortably, halfway through reading them. The next one she recommended is Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion. The weather is getting icy colder and I am daydreaming about packaging myself in a soft, soft quilt and reading this book. Even right now, while I'm typing. Which is why it took me so long to write this paragraph.

Read anything good lately? I bet Ange has it in the pile she gave us.
Title via: Rose's Turn, the terrifying break-down ending of the musical Gypsy, the King Lear of musicals. The ageless unicorn Bernadette Peters, all raspy brittleness and witchy power, is one of my favourites in this role. Which reminds me, I have a Gypsy Rose Lee biography to read...
Music lately:

The Four Tops, Reach Out (I'll Be There). So achingly perfect. And I am never not endeared by the "rrrrah!" at the start of the first verse.

I watched Pitch Perfect again over the weekend with friends, and yes, there's a lot problematic about it but ugh, so much good. Some stuff, too good. Anyway, I've been watching this clip over and over and over again since, and am not 'fraid to admit it (I really tried to like the original T-Pain song that it's covering but it's just too empty without the allure of a cappella.)

Sara Ramirez (of Grey's Anatomy but also a Tony Award winning Broadway star) has the most killer voice. Here she is singing a song that always makes my heart melt like an ice cream on a hot sidewalk: Meadowlark.
Next time: Ange also gave/lent us that bodacious babe Ottolenghi's new cookbook Jerusalem. It's really, really exciting. I want to make every last thing in it. 

5 April 2013

i should tell you: Michael Logie of Die!Die!Die!

Well hello there, and welcome to chapter nine of I Should Tell You, where I talk about food with cool musicians who will answer my deeply earnest emails. The same three questions every time, just to see what happens. And oh, does stuff ever happen. In that I've somehow managed to get away with making this thing exist for so long now. I took a largely unnoticed break from posting the interviews over easter but am back for the winter, this week with Michael Logie of Die!Die!Die!

Once you've paused to reflect on how excellent their name is, you should definitely use your attention span to absorb their music, especially if you like it swift, loud, and just a little uncomfortable. Which I sometimes do. If you've never heard Die!Die!Die! before, I recommend Wasted Lands from their 2010 album Form, and Sideways Here We Come from their 2008 album Promises, Promises. Which I presume, (but don't rule out entirely) has nothing to do with the 1968 musical of the same name starring old-timey Broadway hoofer Jerry Orbach.

They also have a new-ish album, Harmony, which you can listen to in its entirety or purchase for your own good times. And if you don't completely hate everything about this so far, then I definitely recommend you try to catch them live: they're amazing. Incredibly energetic, so loud it'll make you cough blood, and every scratchy, sharp note from the recorded music translates beautifully to the stage.

This is their newest video, for Erase Waves. 

It was very late at night when I wrote this and something strange happened when I copy-pasted the interview over here, but I decided to keep the hinky formatting in for dramatic effect. Thanks for obliging, Michael! The interview begins...now.

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

Heart attack grill in Las Vegas. 

Two people have died there.

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

There is this amazing Scottish restaurant we have in New Zealand, they serve all sorts of food from all around the world, but

mostly they serve these amazing German sandwiches called "Hamburgers" and these sides of french potato cutlets called 

"French Fries". Anyway, if you are ever in New Zealand the place is "Mc Donalds"

and if im making something for myself? STEAK STEAK STEAK STEAK STEAK

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

I once went to a buffet and ate only pork, and then had a bowl of
whipped cream for dessert. I went to the bathroom and threw up very
I Should Tell You archives:

Watercolours (March 22)
Jeremy Toy, She's So Rad (March 14)
Hera and Jed (March 7)
Eva Prowse (March 1)
Jan Hellriegel (February 21)
Dear Time's Waste (February 14)
Flip Grater (February 7)
Tourettes (January 31)
Anna Coddington (January 24)

1 April 2013

just pay me back with one thousand kisses

I love Easter so much. The religion isn't me, I swear the chocolate eggs deteriorate in quality every year, but a four day weekend with its reassuring semi-endlessness and total absorption of those late Sunday afternoon blues - it is unalloyed bliss. Catching up on sleep has been my main objective and I've been mildly successful, which is comparatively wildly successful considering how I usually sleep. It is great. Of course, not every day can be a restorative weekend, but it's a start. In other "it's a start" news, I bought some iron pills recently, suspecting that a downward swing in my mood and significant lethargy might partly have that to blame ("Tim, which of these iron pills are the best value for money, I'm too low in iron to work it out, I need some oh-the-irony pills hahahaaha but really") and I think they're helping somewhat in that vague way that iron does. I mean sometimes I just want to kick myself - I found myself saying to Tim that I felt like I was languishing and not achieving anything. To which he, with predictable logic, replied "you've written a cookbook which is being published later this year". And I said something to the effect of "yeah, but...gah." See? Hopefully iron pills can solve all of that. (Oh, I know they won't solve everything. That's what my omega-3 pills are for!) Anyway, that's enough of the weekly Laura's Brain Bulletin. Where was I? I love time off, ever so much.

I've ended up relatively busy this weekend, but with all this spare time one's thoughts can't help but turn to goddamn folly. And so, just because I felt like it and could do it, I decided to bake something from one of my very, very old cookbooks. I have a few of them, and I adore them for reasons that I've gone over before, but in case you're new here - it's their chronicling of history through what people ate or aspired to eat, it's the crisply knowledgeable language, the occasional sincerely-delivered but horrifying-sounding recipe, and the many truly brilliant recipes. Like these kisses.

Which I admit, I was largely motivated to make because of the name. Kisses. Just that. Up with kisses, I say. I mean, isn't kissing just the best? A top five, nay, top three activity? Not to be sweepingly generalistic: you might hate kissing for a number of reasons. To clarify, I'm simply musing rhetorically at myself. Like Homer Simpson with a thought bubble above his head. I then ignore the rhetoricalness and nod emphatically in response. So yes - I was drawn in for fairly shallow reasons, in that the cakes reminded me of stuff I like. But I wouldn't have made the recipe if it didn't sound like the end result would be as delicious as the name. Quickly mixed together buttery sponge, made helium-light with a lot of cornflour, spoonfuls of which are briefly baked and sandwiched together with jam. Just impractical and yet also just practical enough for me.

Shiny, untouchable table in the background. 

Tim, who seems to be appearing an awful lot in this blog post, also saw an opportunity this long weekend, and has been sanding down and varnishing the old table that we bought second-hand earlier this year. This means many things: Our house was covered in a fine layer of dust for a while. For a couple of hours every day there are some strongly medicinal varnish fumes emanating from the table. And...we're not allowed to use it for a week. At first I was slightly put out ("don't you know who I am? I need my attractively distressed table to photograph food on!" was definitely not said) but the push towards not doing my same-old same-old attractively distressed table photography of food was no bad thing.

 ...Yes, I did move the flowers from the benchtop with the bowl of mixture and cookbook over to this table. Purely for the sake of the photo. I care not. (I care so much. Please like me!) (I actually don't care) 

This recipe comes from an Aunt Daisy recipe book that belonged to one of my great-grandmothers. It is full of handwritten notes that I can barely read, because apparently inscrutable calligraphy was the style of the time. But still, I enjoy looking over those notes, trying to get more of a picture of this woman that I never met. The recipe for Kisses had something characteristically unfathomable written beside it. I considered my attention doubly caught.


From Aunt Daisy's recipe book. If you're not from these parts, Aunt Daisy is not related to me. I got thirteen pairs out of this, plus one rogue extra. As always, the recipe is simpler than I make it look. 

225g soft butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup cornflour
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Jam of your choice for sandwiching together, about a heaped teaspoon per pair

Set your oven to 180 C/350 F and line an oven tray with baking paper. 

Briskly mix the butter and sugar together till light and fluffy. Add the eggs and continue to beat the mixture till it's all combined. It will possibly look a little scrambled at this stage, but the flour will set it right, don't worry. Tip in the cornflour, flour and baking powder and carefully stir together - cornflour is lighter than anything and has a tendency to fly into the air in dusty clouds at the slightest agitation. 

Drop spoonfuls about the size of a walnut in its shell onto the baking tray - the mixture is very soft, so you won't actually be able to get them into a perfectly spherical shape, but using one spoon to scoop up the mixture and another to push it off worked fine for me. Bake them for ten minutes, until the balls have flattened somewhat and are a little brown around the edges. Give them a little space to spread - which does mean you can only bake half the mixture at a time. It's kind of a pain, but on the other hand, that ten minutes does go fast. Allow them to cool before placing a spoonful of jam on the flat side of one cake and sticking the flat side of another one on top of it. 

There's nothing like cake and jam to make you feel like you're in an Enid Blyton novel - the good bits, where they had picnics and midnight feasts and camaraderie and talked of vocations and "putting on a show" and had names like Darrell, and Wilhelmina "Bill" Robinson, and Daffy Hope. Not the old-timey sexism/racism/classism bits. The cornflour makes the cakes tender and a little melting upon the tongue, but these are sturdy creations, an indelicate handful of buttery cake giving way to sweet, sweet jam and back to buttery cake again. I used the two jams I found in the fridge - Te Horo raspberry jam, and plum jam made for me by a materteral family friend. If you're not into jam, there's nothing stopping you sticking these together with any number of things - thick lemon curd, whipped cream, ganache, and so on. 

Also: the mixture itself is really delicious. Its deliciousness is indubitably the reason that there was a solo cake without a pair when I'd finished baking these. The lesson being, "if you're going to eat the mixture, try to eat just the right amount so you're not left with a leftover cake without a pair which you can then eat anyway, so really do whatever you like". Probably easier to not eat the mixture at all, but it does taste particularly good and there's something about Aunt Daisy saying "bake in a quick oven" without even specifying how long for (ten minutes was a lucky guess on my behalf) that makes me confident the mixture can stand having its quantities tampered with by my eating some of it.

So recently Google Reader shut up shop. I ignored it entirely till last year, finally started using it in a flurry of new-car-smell novelty, and then ended up subscribing to far too many blogs and ignoring it again. But darn it if it didn't have its place in my life, since it has taken me an embarrassingly long time to remember all the blogs I used to read on it now that it's gone. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, basically reading a lot of blogs can be a little taxing to the modern brain, so Google Reader lets you view them all in one place - a bit like subscribing to a lot of newspapers and magazines which then arrive on your doorstep every morning, rather than having to go to the shops every day to buy them all individually. Useful, no? Anyway, in case you're shuffling around listlessly in its absence, I recommend Bloglovin. I don't love its name (it's no Kisses!) but it's a lot cleaner and better looking than Google Reader, and something about it makes me want to read a lot more blog posts than I ever did. And if you want to subscribe to hungryandfrozen.com using it, she says waggling her sunglasses, why simply click here! Don't miss a single self-absorbed paragraph or strategically placed vase of flowers!
Title via: I'll Cover You, a song from RENT, the musical that I named this blog for. It's one of the lovelier songs not only in that musical but also in the existence of song. And I never, ever exaggerate.
Music lately:

Etta James, Something's Got A Hold Of Me. I'm going to sound a bit ancient when I say this, but as people are always mistaking me for being ten years younger than I am I think it'll all even out: there's a modern, dancy-type song that samples the first bit of this, and it's really pretty cool. But oh damn, there is nothing like Etta's boundlessly soaring voice and utterly sexy growl when she sings this.

Alma Cogan, Never Do A Tango With An Eskimo. Speaking of folly, or genius, I rewatched all twelve episodes of The Hour on Friday with some friends. We did not stop. We drank whisky. It was utterly excellent and also unsurprisingly kinda draining. Anyway, this song is performed in it and while it's completely absurd, as befits a novelty song of the fifties, it's also...it just embeds itself in your brain. I looked up the original version and found one Alma Cogan, a very interesting woman with a seriously endearing laugh in her voice. Which can embiggen even the most ridiculous song, it seems.
Next time: took an easter break on the I Should Tell You interviews, but there'll be another one next Friday. Not guaranteeing that I'll get my act together and blog before then, but I'll try.