29 May 2013

fancy plans and pants to match: La Boca Loca

That's right, sometimes one must take a trip to fancy town. It really doesn't happen that often - that I get invited to a Free Exciting Thing - considering that the last time I wrote under this heading was back in February - but as I said then, occasionally I'll be taking a diverting from my usual recipes to indulge in some full disclosure. As I said back in February:
"It's also something I've felt really awkward about disclosing. Oh sure, I'll post the occasional instagram or tweet or passing mention, but I've never quite been able to reconcile the joy of free extravagance with the fear of making lots of people hate me by talking about it. I mean, I'm the type to immediately assume people would sneer and be resentful if they read about me writing about fun free dinners and events, rather than being interested in the dishes and so on, since, in all honesty, I tend to roll my eyes at such writing myself. Unless it's really good writing - which it often isn't.
So what made me change my stance? Guilt! No, I'm kidding. I like to challenge myself, and I think it is a decent challenge to write about this kind of thing without sounding like a dick. Also there's the fact that it may actually be of interest to some people - hearing about what ideas and innovations are happening in restaurants, about exceptionally delicious food, about my stumbling-baby-deer attempts to describe the wine I drank. And I do like expanding on this blog's scope every now and then. 
I've decided to dub this segment Fancy Pants and Plans To Match, a quote from the woefully underwatched but utterly brilliant 90s TV show News Radio, spoken by the character Jimmy James. I could let this devolve into a ranty essay about why you should watch NewsRadio but I will instead say this: it's a better title than my original idea "Sometimes I get free stuff PLEASE DON'T HATE ME."
I feel like I've been a bit oddly cryptic and circular, as per, so here's the thing: I got invited to a product launch and dinner at La Boca Loca. 

The pitch: La Boca Loca is launching a new range of food products that you can buy instore and soon online, and so they had a dinner as part of this on Sunday night. 

It was quite dark: hence the grainy photos. Everything looked a lot nicer in person, I promise. 

What happened: Tim and I arrived, mingled a little awkwardly, as is our wont, and then made our way down to the back of the restaurant to find a place at one of three large tables. Marianne Elliot started us off with an overview of what was going down, and Lucas Putnam (her partner, co-owner of the place with her, El Jefe and Master of Tequila - what a title!) followed that up by telling us about the journey to get to this point, including collaborating with villages in Mexico to get their amazing ingredients out here in New Zealand while simultaneously supporting their local industry. Then affable head chef Will Michell gave us a brief cooking demonstration, saying "If I can cook Mexican food - and I'm from Bristol - anyone can". He mixed organic masa (a rough flour made from corn) into a pliant dough, then squashed balls of it, heated them, then chopped them up and fried them to demonstrate how quickly you could make both tortillas and corn chips. Food was then brought out to each table - addictively sweet-salty lime-tinged roasted sunflower seeds, and punchily hot roasted peanuts. Bowls of corn chips made from white, yellow, and blue corn masa, bafflingly creamy guacamole, zingy salsa verde, and smoky, mild salsa ranchero. Bowls of poblano cream chicken, shredded beef, slow-braised in their master stock, and pork that - damn it x a thousand - I can't remember what they did with, but it was faint-makingly good. We were then given a product catalogue which lists all the things you can buy - the salsas, the hot sauces, the spices, and so on.

Coolest bit: Firstly, Marianne is one of the coolest, most interesting people I know (seriously. This woman.) So it was great just to be there and to talk with her and hear her speak and support La Boca Loca and so on.

Also: I only drank a chargrilled pineapple and black pepper margarita like it was no big thing.

Pineapple's sweetness, especially when intensified by heat, can handle a lot of spice. As can tequila's sinuous robustness. It was an excellent update on an already mighty concept. The food was exceptionally good, and I liked the convivial nature of it - passing bowls around the table, everyone filling their own tortillas exactly how they fancied, exclaiming over how utterly drinkable the salsa verde is with complete strangers. And it's always good to be reminded of that there's not just heat or an absence of chilli when it comes to, well, chilli. From tiny as a Christmas tree light and fierce, to large, disconcertingly floppy, and sweetly smoky in flavour.

And finally, I was given a bottle of banana vinegar! Those two words feel like they shouldn't go together, but in fact it's bizarrely good. Made from the abundant platano muchas of the Mexican State of Veracruz, it has a delicate, rounded fruity sweetness and I can't wait to try and use it in something. I feel like it might be quite amazing with avocado, but also maybe in a ceviche with lime?

L-R - Salsa Verde, Salsa Ranchero, Guacamole. Don't make me choose a favourite, I can't.

Freshly made yellow corn tortillas

 My dinner. Very artistic.


Wild herbs and dried chillies. Yes, I know. The photos got worse. 

From a scale of 1 to "Is This A Dream?" 5. On the one hand, the dinner was very fun and relaxed, but on the other hand, I was at a product launch and got a bottle of banana vinegar and a bag of beautiful, leathery chillies. Thrills!

Would I do this for not-free? Any day of the week. I adore La Boca Loca. And it is very reasonably priced, which is good because plain adoring a place is not always enough to feasibly get you through the door.

Earnest thanks for making me feel fancy to: La Boca Loca, 19 Park Road, Miramar. Ph 04 388 2451 

21 May 2013

i got a new rose, i got her good

Me: I'll lock you in the Fever Hospital and run away.
Tim: I'll befriend the ghosts and they'll let me out and lock you in. And then be angry at you for locking me in. Ghost gang!
Me: I'll turn the ghosts against you. You will not win this ghost war, Tim. Because...I am a ghost.
Tim: I knew that.
Me: Oh. That wasn't the dramatic flourish I thought it would be.

(We were discussing potential photography for our far-off wedding, and how it would be cool to find a spooky old house in Wellington to get shots taken in, and then it escalated. Actually in fairness this wasn't an escalation, what you see here was more or less the whole conversation.)

Speaking of photos. Oh yeah. Guess who cooked something in the middle of the day and took advantage of the natural light to photograph it in.

You'd think I'd never seen natural light before. Could not stop photographing this cake. I really could take or leave sunshine most of the time anyway (which is lucky, since I live in Wellington) but it does help a cake look swell.

I am enamoured. I took so many photos that I could write this entire blog post in these stilted, sassy little sentences with images interspersed rather than my usual three-abreast enormous paragraphs. (I don't know, I notice these things.) But will I? Ha! Folly!

Am currently riding the wobbly bicycle of two consecutive nights of appalling sleep. I had to stop - I counted - twelve times while typing the small paragraph directly above to yawn. For a while there it felt like I was back on the sleep wagon, but for the last month or so I've been reliably having horrifying visions just as I shut my eyes. I won't even go into them here because I don't want to freak you out too much (although, hmmm, a tamer one was a skull with two flailing arms reaching through the eye sockets) but there's nothing like a chilling vision to make you suddenly very awake. I've also been waking up very early on weekends. Sigh. I'd happily be nocturnal if I didn't have to also be administratively functional in an office during the day. But here I am. On a less alarming note...or is it...when I have managed to sleep, I have been having so many dreams about instagramming things. A majestic whale, swimming near the crystalline shore; a dazzlingly pink cherry tree in full bloom; a sunset as richly orange as a roasted apricot. What an age we live in! What an age I live in, in my head!

Back to the cake. On Sunday I wanted to bake something to be able to take along with me to augment my appalling work lunches (that's a whole other story, but the condensed version is: for someone who likes food I'm not very good at feeding myself sometimes!) and I had a feeling we'd be seeing some friends later on in the day. "I'm going to make a goddamn marble cake" I announced with steely purposefulness, like some hardened cop in a buddy-movie having a moment of clarity. About deciding to make a marble cake. It was reading through old cookbook that I found in a bookfair once that reminded me of this confection: basic buttery sponge cake, divided into as many bowls as you like, each flavoured with a different tincture of some kind, and then dolloped back together to make a thrillingly dappled baked good. Back in my day, before I'd ever heard of the word "ombre" (and for shame, I read the dictionary for fun as a kid) marble cake was pretty high impact.

This one appealed to me particularly with its swirling of rosewater and dark chocolate-tinted cakes. Being fairly susceptible to romantic notions, eating something scented with roses feels gratifyingly sybaritic. Of course, rose isn't for everyone - it's a very particular flavour, delicate and sweet, but pour in too much and your cake will taste like shower gel. Here it subtly perfumes its half of the batter, contrasting the darker, plainer chocolate with a slightly floral, almost lemony burst of flavour. For a while I was a little sad I didn't have any red food colouring to make the rose half of the batter pink, but decided it could be representing white roses. I also expressed some disappointment at no longer having that bunch of dead roses from while ago, which could've been in a vase in the background behind my rose cake. But then Tim said "mmm, synergy" and I didn't feel so bad. In case you don't work at an office of some kind, sometimes particular words or phrases get ruined through their overuse in work-related documents and communications. Don't even get me started on "deliverables". No wait - that word ruins itself. Enough of that ugliness though: this cake is very easy to make, it tastes like a dream, and looks pretty jazzy, especially if you do the old dusting-of-icing-sugar trick. If you're really not sold on the concept of eating a cake that tastes like flowers, or indeed, if you just don't have access to rosewater right now - I'd use a generous splash of vanilla instead, or anything you want, really. Peppermint extract could be fun, or you could make one half chocolate and one half orange.

Chocolate Rose Marble Cake

Adapted from The Chocolate Lovers Cookbook, one of a million bearing that title, but this one was published in 1985 and is by someone called Audrey Ellis. Thanks, Audrey! Ring tins are a little nervewracking because you can't really line them with baking paper, but this cake slid out easily. Also: what they lack in that department, they make up for in being stupidly easy to cut nice even slices out of. I don't know why, and I'm not sure I even care. It just happens.

1 tablespoon cocoa
2 tablespoons boiling water (this is a ridiculous quantity to boil, make yourself a cup of tea while you're at it.)
250g soft butter
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
250g flour
4 teaspoons baking powder (sounds like a lot, yes? But go with it.)
1 tablespoon rosewater or 2 teaspoons rose flavoured essence

Set your oven to 180 C/350 F. Grease a ring caketin with butter, then shake a little flour round in it, getting rid of any excess by tapping at the base over the sink. In a small bowl, mix together the cocoa and boiling water (this helps intensify the cocoa flavour). Beat the butter and sugar together till light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs, followed by the flour and baking powder.  

Spoon roughly half the batter into another bowl. Into one bowl, mix the cocoa-water mix, and into the other bowl, the rosewater. Thoroughly mix each, then drop alternating spoonfuls around inside the ring tin, I mean, it's not going to be perfectly checkerboard-like by any means, this is just a guide. As you can see, I just went for...whatever. Quickly swirl a knife once around the ring through the cake batter-  you don't want to overswirl, or you'll lose the pattern as they merge together while baking - and smooth out the top a little with the back of a spoon. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until springy on top. Leave in the tin for five minutes, then carefully turn out onto a plate. Dust with icing sugar.

Friends did indeed come round for coffee that afternoon. In a bid to prove I hadn't just put the tablecloth out to make my photos look good on my blog, I left it there all day - in fact, it's still there now, but I think the reasoning has progressed from justification to laziness. It was an excellent afternoon: we listened to records, made idle plans, caught up on happenings, ate a lot of cake. Idyllic stuff. Just the kind of thing I want to be doing with my Sunday.

Speaking of idyllic: I'm going to learn to knit! Snuglife! I can't wait. That is, if I can bear to bust into this oddly adorable, leporine ball of yarn. Yeah, I really need a pet. Maybe I could knit myself one. Maybe I could knit myself a life and then dream about instagramming it. That's if I ever fall asleep again! This is far too bleak a note to be ending this post on, let's look at cake again.

Phew. Going to try to knit a beret-ish hat, in case you're wondering. Winter still hasn't quite started officially yet - that's the first of June - but it's certainly cold enough to try and make my life as plushly cosy as possible. In hindsight, knitting myself a life and then dreaming about it does have a rakishly Michel Gondry air to it, so who knows? Maybe everything's working out the way it's supposed to.

PS: tomorrow it's one whole year since I found out for sure my cookbook was getting published. Feelings!
Title via: The Damned, New Rose. I love the start - "Is she really going out with him?" and those heartbeat-fast drums. 
Music lately:

La Vie En Rose, Edith Piaf. When one's thoughts turn to roses...this song is just too pretty and yearning, damn that beautiful French language and her amazingly guttural vibrato! C'est lui pour moi, moi pour lui? Quelle swoon.

Bloodletter, by Delaney Davidson and Marlon Williams. From Sad But True, their record that we just keep turning over and over and over and over.
Next time: I'm gonna sleep on it (fingers crossed.)

18 May 2013

i should tell you: Janine and the Mixtape

Well hello there, and welcome to the eleventh i should tell you, where I interview cool musicians who will answer my emails. The same three questions about food, every time, just to see what kicks can be achieved. This time I'm talking to the super duper fly Janine and the Mixtape, who is from New Zealand but has made Brooklyn, NYC, her new home. Lucky thing.

I seriously love this lady, not least because of her aspirational ways with eyeliner. That's quite a big part of it, really. She has one of the biggest, richest voices you'll ever hear, but uses it kinda sparingly and carefully and doesn't bust out the American Idol-style melisma just because, which is what I would do given the same set of pipes. She writes, produces, makes beats, does it all, and what you get is r'n'b with 90s excellence (let's face it, a lot of 90s r'n'b, even the most drum-machine-keyboardish stuff, is untouchably good) plus a lush yet moody spaciousness. I know that possibly doesn't make sense but I can't fight the adjectives that appear when I listen to music, okay?

I adore her song Bullets, but you should really listen to her new single Hold Me, which premiered on Vibe.com, what! It's way beautiful, and is from her upcoming album Dark Mind. (Love that name.)

Thanks, Janine! (Who signed off her email to me as Janine and the Cookbook, which I thought was pretty cute.) The interview will start...now.

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

Haha, so I'm gonna be honest with you. You'll quite often catch me bragging about "The Cherokee Spot" where I live, in Brooklyn. It's not exactly classy, but who doesn't love a breakfast burger and and a Sunny D (Orange Juice thats 5% Juice) for $2.75?

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

I love cooking. I'm pretty experimental with whatever I have in the house. I make pretty sweet omelets, any time of the day and night. I also eat a lot of chocolate chip cookies! 

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

Man, that's pretty tough. Living at home was always amazing for "the pantry" and still is when I go visit! But I'm gonna have to say my favourite memory is when me and my best friend Nikki used to make cooking shows and make mum film it. I can still hear her voice from behind the camera saying, "Janine, don't do that, stop being silly"...  

i should tell you archives:

Coco Solid (April 19)
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)

15 May 2013

running through the whisker wheat chasing some prize down

I have been so damn verbose lately (verbose, fittingly, has so many delicious synonyms - pleonastic, circumlocutory, prolix) and more than a little negative (in fairness, there is much to be negative about out there. Maybe I'm just being myself) that I'm aiming for this post to be snappier and sunnier.

So, here are some succinct, happy things, before I get to the food (note: an insuccinctly massive list of succinct things)

Slowly but actually diminishing credit card debt // Getting home from work, forcing my slatternly self to immediately hang up my coat and put away my clothes, and chaging into one of my softest, oldest tshirts and underwear right away. The winter auxiliary mode includes options like adding thick fluffy socks, or not adding socks and sitting right by the heater, or rolling yourself in a blanket like you're a cinnamon bun // a healed tattoo and oh so specific daydreams about more // Yoga // Dusky grey and pastel coloured nailpolish // A letter from dear Ange in London, the breathless opening and reading of which had distinct Pride-and-Prejudice-era thrills to it // Coffee, always coffee // Carefully planned spontaneous dance parties (also just spontaneous ones) // Looking after myself a bit, in various ways // Game of Thrones has had a lot of scenes featuring amazing butts lately // Buying a very cheap and probably utterly useless trenchcoat I bought online, in the hopes of looking like Bel Rowley from The Hour (I also want to look like Lix, with her high-waisted trousers and gorgeous blouses, all the better to drink whisky in. Marnie's party dresses, less so, but I just wanted to mention Marnie. Um.) // Balancing imminent cookbook panic with flights of fancy about pretty much charming the world in interviews and being a cool person and stuff plus reminding myself that panicing about a cookbook means I've still written a cookbook // txts from friends that are mostly encouraging emoji // Watching episode after episode of Elementary with Tim, we're pretty obsessed (also: Bob's Burgers) // Parks and Rec renewed for a sixth season // The warm tofu at Tatsushi, it's celestial // Google imaging lop-eared bunnies // Kissing // Laughing so hard with friends at Rose Matafeo's brill comedy show, also saying hi to her afterwards and not screwing it up in my usual socially awkward manner // Going to a doctor who actually listened to me about my anxiety and other bits and pieces, unlike the last one who I paid $60 to be dismissive // Spontaneous and swoonful cherry pie at Six Barrel Soda.

Also: The Carb on Carb Agenda.

Remorse hit as soon as I started heaping this upon the large white dish. Like, it's not even a plate, I think it's more for putting cakes on. Who do I think I am. Some kind of...food blogger? Well, okay. But tiny grains and a flat surface are not practical for extracting spoonfuls of. It looked dramatic and pretty though, and what price that? Anyway, stepping back a little, what you are looking at here is golden, fried tiny cubes of potato, stirred into soft, spiced burghal wheat, jeweled with walnuts and nigella seeds and rocket. Carbohydrates, be they bread or pasta or rice or noodles or couscous, or, in this case, wheat and potatoes, have this "everything's gonna be alright" filling warmth to them, and so it goes that carb-on-carb is doubly comforting. Potato pizza. Marmite and crisps sandwiches. Spaghetti on toast. Dipping hot chips into potato and gravy. And this. Which I thought up myself, although I'm sure I must have seen it somewhere before - I'm good, but not that good.

Really, you can just fry the potatoes and stir them into burghal wheat and you'll still have a meal fit for a Khaleesi. But the extra bits and pieces make it superlative-worthy.

Fried Potato Burghal Wheat with Walnuts and Rocket

A recipe by myself. Serves two, with some left over for just one person for lunch the next day. 

Two medium or three small potatoes. Or however many feels right. In your heart.
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup burghal wheat (this is also known as bulghur wheat.)
1 teaspoon ras-el-hanout (or a mixture of ground cinnamon, cumin, and cardamom)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 handful walnuts
1 handful rocket leaves
1 teaspoon nigella seeds, or sesame seeds, or anything small and garnishy, really.

Slice the potatoes into very, very small squares - a few millimeters to 1cm wide. Don't actually bother to measure them or make them uniform, or even square. It's the smallness that matters. 

Heat the oil in your largest saucepan, and tip in the pieces of potato. Spread out so they're roughly in one even layer, and cover with a lid for five minutes - the steam will help cook the potato through. Then remove the lid, turn up the heat to high, and simply let the potato fry for about ten - fifteen minutes, stirring only occasionally, till the cubes are largely golden and crisp. It really doesn't take too long but at the same time, does require some patience.

Meanwhile, tip the burghal wheat into a bowl, and add the ras-el-hanout and coriander seeds. Bring a jug of water to the boil, and once it's done, pour into the bowl so it's about 1cm above the level of the burghal, and then sit a dinner plate on top of the bowl - a plate bigger than the bowl, obvs - for about five minutes. 

Once the potatoes are good and crisp, lift the dinner plate off the bowl to reveal fluffy, enfluffened, fluffed up (yes) burghal. Remove the potatoes from the heat, tip in the burghal, stir it all around, tip that into a serving bowl, and sprinkle over the rocket leaves, the walnuts, and the nigella seeds. 

I can see how this might sound a little nose-wrinklingly odd, but the crouton-crunch of the potatoes against the fluffy, nutty, spicily warm burghal is AMAZING. Predictably, I dug for more crispy potato bits with the spoon, but both elements work so beautifully together. Also, on a distinctly lazy note, it's nice to eat something with potatoes in it, but to not have to wait at least forty-five minutes for them to cook. This is surprisingly fast. And monumentally delicious.

On Sunday afternoon I had this sudden, intense notion that we should cut loose and go somewhere and do something. I sort of hate Sunday evenings, with their muffled, melancholic anticipation of the Monday to come, and their post-Friday/Saturday comedown, but sometimes it's oddly pleasing to sort of bask in it, drive as far as you can go and stare listlessly at the sinking light in the sky and the landscape skidding by. And so we did. (Okay for all my romantic talk, it was more like this. Tim: why are we going to the beach? What? Me: I 'unno, we could instagram the skyline, try to take photos of me jumping in the air by the shore like I'm a happy carefree person. Tim: Well, okay.) So we drove, and drove, and drove, out to Wainuiomata Beach.

The beach was isolated, and empty of all other people. The sky was mauve and orange, the colours fading into each other like a beautiful eyeshadow compact that I would look at admiringly but probably never wear.

And then the sky got darker and the beautiful moon appeared. And we drove home. Completely ruining the moodiness with our laughter.
Title via: Joni Mitchell, Coyote. Complicated and stunning. Like a coyote. Okay, not really. But I stand by the first bit. Plus, coyotes might have hidden depths we just don't know about. 
Music lately:

Janine and the Mixtape, Hold Me. Brand new. Beautiful. One to watch, this one. 

Dave Brubeck, Take Five. The jauntiest damn tune there ever was.

Rachel Stevens, Some Girls. Mmmhmm. The odds were possibly against it, Stevens being an ex S Club 7 and all, but it's so, so, sosososo good.
Next time: I have the feeling I'll be in the mood to bake this weekend. So you might see some of that.

8 May 2013

"That was Groffle: The Awful Waffle, a book that I wrote on behalf of my education initiative"

As you can see, my photos lately either take the form of badly lit dinner, or nicely lit but faux-artless scenes of plates and knives and forks. Or both. This scene is real, for what it's worth (or I would've moved the damn lens cap out of the way.)

I have a theory. Well, that implies that it's well thought-out - at this stage it's less of a theory, more of a sentence on a blog. But: I swear food can sense fear, like horses can. (I know, I had a horrible horseriding accident at age ten. Sustained whiplash and a respectful terror of horses.) I have been on a ruining rampage in the kitchen lately, and it's as if the food can tell I'm all nervous and have bad instincts about it. My latest screw-up was a salted caramel slice where I burned one can of condensed milk in the pan, and then, obtusely, the next batch refused to cook. Just wouldn't. Slid around, off the base, which I'd already baked but which managed to somehow un-bake itself under the liquidy topping. I called it fail-slice. And ate most of it anyway over the next day or two, because the ingredients themselves still tasted okay.

That seemed so much more door-slammingly dramatic in my head, but to be fair, every time I ruin something I'm cooking it feels like the first and only time in humankind this has happened. The waste of ingredients, the bass-drop letdown after all that anticipation, the hangdog way that I have to impart the disappointing news to any expectant eaters. With that in mind, I am amazed that these falafel waffles, with their high level of novelty-induced-anticipation, and with their delicate, unbuttressed structure...worked. Worked just fine. Despite my nerves. So maybe food can't smell fear, and all I have is a sentence, not a theory, and a lot of coincidentally recent cooking mistakes. The point is, I also have falafel waffles, and their relative success has helped my kitchen nerves no end, like in Sonic the Hedgehog when you gather up lots of sparkly rings, so it doesn't matter if you lose a few here and there, because you will still have more rings to spare. (I played a lot of Sonic the Hedgehog one time.)

Sliced my lemon this way because I saw it in a fancy magazine. It looks so pretty but is kind of stupidly wasteful since you only get two slices per fruit. And now I'm in an aesthetics vs practicality food blogging quandary. Which is kind of like a metaphor for the waffles! (Or perhaps just kind of like the waffles.)  

I like a good portmanteau-ing as much as the next person, and "fawaffle" is pleasing, but I think I better enjoy the rolling assonance (hey...oh?) of falafel waffle written in full. I first heard of these when a friend Kat (who I've met all of once, but you know, the internet!) emailed me with some suggestions of things to do in New York while Tim and I were there in October last year. She mentioned that we should definitely try falafel waffle. We never made it to this mystical place but the idea stuck in my head. Falafel mix, but instead of baking or frying it, clamp it between the crenellated arms of a waffle maker. There's significant aesthetic outcome involved, sure, but falafel is delicious and enwaffling it is surprisingly practical. It makes a lot at once, you don't have to watch it, it's really cute.

Let me first apologise hugely though, for posting a recipe that you need specialised equipment for. I try not to do this. In my defensive defense, not one of the bajillion ice cream recipes that I've posted on this blog needs an ice cream machine. But I really can't see myself getting around the waffle maker thing in order to make waffles appear. I don't know if there's some alternative that involves indenting pancakes with the end of a fork or something. I...hope not.

Falafel Waffles

Makes two. Recipe by me. Concept not mine. To cold-weary to google them.

2 cans chickpeas (I'd really wanted to soak chickpeas overnight and blend them up, but continually forgot.)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon tahini (or peanut butter, in a pinch)
1 handful chopped herbs: coriander, parsely, chives, or all three. I only had a tablespoon of chives, but still.
1 teaspoon ground cumin, more if your cumin has been sitting around for years
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 egg

To serve: anything at all - lemon slices, thick plain yoghurt, more tahini, mustard, chilli sauce, tomato sauce, whatever.

Drain the chickpeas and blend them up in a food processor (more specific equipment, sorry, I'm on a roll here) till quite well-blended but not pureed - you want a a mix that's nubbly in places yet smooth in places. Basically: be half-hearted about your processing and it will probably turn out how it's supposed to. Add the salt, tahini, herbs, cumin, cinnamon and egg and pulse briefly to mix. 

Heat up a little oil in your waffle iron, putting it on a very high setting. Once you're sure it's good and hot, spoon in half the falafel mix, pushing it round evenly with the spoon, and shut down the lid. Leave it for a good solid five minutes, maybe longer - till it really seems cooked through. Use a spatula to carefully lever it away from the bottom grill, then lift it up and onto a plate. Repeat with the remaining mix.

I know two damn waffles doesn't sound like much at all, but these are ridiculously filling, and when you think about it, each embossed heart segment is like a whole falafel on its own. There's not that deep-fried crunch of the real thing, but it's still excellent, outside of its looks. The cumin is rich and aromatic (that feels stupid now that I've written it down but it just is, okay) the indents making for maximum crispness within the baked-not-fried context, and chickpeas have a nutty deliciousness all of their own. Plus I covered mine in tahini and thick plain yoghurt and mustard and lemon juice, which made it look appalling but taste even better.

Is a waffle iron even worth it? Kinda. I adore waffles, but they are best if someone else is making them for you, otherwise I tend to get tired/bored halfway through the bowl of batter. Also they just aren't as good as ones from a cafe generally. But on the other hand: waffles! Whenever you want them and also have the energy and ingredients! Tim and I got ours through Fly Buys, which is this points-gathering rewards scheme that takes forever to accumulate (one point per $25 spent on groceries. I mean really. Anyone rich enough to gather up enough points to get anything with that kind of system doesn't need the system!) After seven or so years we scraped together enough points to get this waffle iron though, so...hooray for the system. The system is sound.

As well as apologising for your needing a waffle iron to make waffles, I'd also like to apologise if this particular post seems grave and unenthused: I have a cold and every word I type feels like an effort, the kind of effort when you're trapped in a dream and you have to try and wake yourself up with an exhausting push of the body because it feels like a house is flattening you. I may also feel like the only person who has ever had a cold before, but it doesn't help that work is so busy this week that I can't take a forseeable sick day anytime soon, despite feeling deliriously atrocious. Even with my dramatics, that's pretty much telling it like it is without too much embellishment. Which is all I'll say about that - I'm always nervous to talk about work on here in case I get pulled into an office and am told "you said the word 'work' on your blog. That crossed a line between the professional and the personal. You're fired and/or arrested." (I'm basically always nervous, in fact.) I'm hoping I can outwit this cold with my smarts though, like Liam Neeson in Tooken 2. I still currently retain my sense of smell and taste, and the coughing only happens at night when I'm trying to sleep, so there's that. I have ginger and whisky and vitamins and determination to get better by the weekend. And an immunity boosting ego trip from successfully making falafel waffles!

Between the cold and work I've been either running around or laying low but I had a good wine-fuelled impromptu-dance-party on Friday night, swooned frequently over Lost in Austen (it's silly, but wins on swoon-per-capita) and saw this cool cat on Sunday at book group. Someone commented on instagram that this cat's face is a bit like my natural face in photos. What a compliment! (That's not sarcasm.) Like a horse smelling fear, or a recipe possibly smelling fear, cats can normally tell how badly I want to be their friend and so, being the bloody-minded creatures they are, remain aloof. But despite its sneer here, this cat (Oscar) was in fact super friendly and flopsy and nuzzlingly ridiculous.

(hands up who wants a pet cat more than ever now)
Title via: Occasionally I quote things other than songs here. And really, who is more glowingly waffle-proud than Parks and Recreation's glorious hero, Leslie Knope? (She's a TV character, in case you don't know. And if you didn't: find out.) But also I suspect Leslie Knope would really hate falafel waffles, on account of their being full of legumes and lacking syrup. But still: waffles. So important.

Music lately: 

Flip Grater, The Quit. Quiet and smoky, I love it.

What I Did For Love, from the musical A Chorus Line - just one of the most gorgeous songs in the world. The lyrics are so, ugh, just so good. "Look, my eyes are dry, the dream was ours to borrow..." I predictably love Idina Menzel's version which she sang for President Obama, no big.

Robin Thicke, TI, Pharrell, Blurred Lines. Cannot quit this song.
Next time: Something non-specialised like waffles, something gleaming with triumph because I definitely won't have this cold anymore, no way. No ma'am.

4 May 2013

i should tell you: luckless and nadia reid

Well hello there, and welcome to volume twelve of I Should Tell You, where I interview musicians about food. My strict criteria is that I like them and they answer my earnest emails. Same three questions every time, just to see what happens. It's more or less weekly, but has slowly relaxed down to fortnightly lately, and because I'm a bad person, it didn't even happen on its scheduled Friday morning this week. Sorry, kids.

This time round I have both Ivy Rossiter of Luckless and Nadia Reid treading the boards, because they'll be touring the whole damn country together during May, what! It's New Zealand Music Month, but you get the presents. (Deeply curious about this potluck dinner in Wellington, by the way.)

Nadia Reid and Luckless Tour Dates

Thursday 9 May – The Darkroom, Chch
Friday 10 May – Hilltop Tavern, Little River
Saturday 11 May – Chick’s Hotel, Port Chalmers
Sunday 12 May – New Edinborough Folk Club, Dunedin
Tuesday 14 May – Federal Diner, Wanaka
Wednesday 15 May – Donovan’s Store, Okarito
Thursday 16 May – Barrytown Hall, Barrytown
Friday 17 May – The Boathouse, Nelson
Saturday 18 May – The Tin Hut, Featherston
Monday 20 May – Evil Genius NZ Music Month Potluck Dinner, Wellington
Wednesday 22 May – The Moorings, Wellington
Thursday 23 May – Rhythm Upstairs, New Plymouth
Friday 24 May – The Wine Cellar, Auckland
Saturday 25 May – Funky Fish, Bayly’s Beach
Sunday 26 May – Golden Dawn, Auckland

The music of Luckless and Nadia Reid seems to have a natural affinity, to my naive ears, anyway - both have strong, unique voices and a little delicious dark melancholy going on. Nadia Reid's EP Letters I Wrote And Never Sent is available to listen to and download free - it's not very long, so you might as well listen to the whole thing from start to finish, but if you contrarily want to listen out of order, I recommend the gorgeous Young Girl/Mother's Lying Heart. Luckless, whose name I love, being fairly luckless myself, has a rich, moody sound and dreamy, shadowy music videos - I rather adore the recent release Skin & Bones and 2011's Hummingbird Heart. 

Thanks, Nadia and Luckless! The interview starts...now.

Nadia Reid

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

I've talked smack over a pint and a plate of Lyttelton's Wunderbar Nachoes, I've supped on a Courting Rachel cocktail at Darkroom followed by late night drunken cheese & mixed bean toasties made by T'Nealle, I've had post breakfast regret at Sweet Mothers Kitchen, such sweet regret, eaten everything off the menu at Coco's Cantina & wined and dined at New Flavour & Barilla in the city of sails. 

What do you fix for yourself, or where do you go to eat, when it's just you on your own? 
I am all about edamame beans these days, maybe some boiled kumara, goats cheese, avocado, fresh lime, and a poached egg. I like a lunch with an identity crisis. 

What's one of your favourite food memories from your childhood? 
Eating my mother's nut loaf every Christmas, drizzled in gravy. I can taste it right now! So comforting. I also have fond memories of the 50c mixtures from the local dairy, eating them in the park, trading off the bad ones and spinning out on sugar. 

Ivy Rossiter of Luckless:

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

When I went traveling as a teenager on a school choir trip (nerd alert!) we went to a food court where just about anything could be ordered, including "Pig's Organ Soup".  Heart, lungs, kidneys, hooves, and many more even less seemingly edible parts of a pig.  I didn't order it, but it's a good appetite-killer at a dinner party of less-adventurous eaters - or a conversation starter at a dinner party of vegetarians.

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

Most of the time, living in self-imposed-destitution, I'm a big fan of making food stretch as far as it will go.  Now that it's getting cold, that means a massive pot of soup, hopefully with some chilli and spices in it to keep the bones warm.

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

We would visit my extended family in Canada for Christmas every now and then, and my Nana, who had been strictly 'no-lollies-ever' with her own children, was quite happy watch us get high on sugar and food colouring.  She had a 'lolly-tree': a small, 10-inch tall Christmas tree made out of twigs, which we then stuck gumdrops to to make a multicoloured sugar-sparkling vision.  It was very pretty, until our regular trips to sneak "just one" had stripped the tree back to it's naked twig state.

i should tell you archives:

Coco Solid (April 19)
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)