30 December 2015

but i tell ya, it's gonna be a champagne year

the kale gaze

How do I know I'm getting old? I'm delighted that I get asked for ID when buying alcohol, instead of being righteously indignant, and you can barely make eye contact with me without me leaning in conspiratorially and saying "this year has gone so fast, hasn't it!" Luckily I have immaturity of spirit and a confusingly youthful face on my side should things get all too ancient up in here (people tend to think I'm 21 or 22, I am in fact staring down the barrel of thirty entire years old.) And how do I know it's nearly a new year? Because the talk of how fast the year has gone increases alarmingly, and one's thoughts turn to things like self-improvement and goals and horrifically hi-def introspection. 

2015 has been a year of surprises and changes; of staying broke, of things not going how I wanted them and things going better than I ever thought possible in ways that I still have and in ways that are now gone to me. But I have managed to finish it sleeping well for pretty much the first time, in the best job I've ever had, and somehow closer than ever with my two best friends Kim and Kate.  

The next year though, is going to be the year of the following for me - just a few low-key easily achieved resolutions, because I love to make things easy for myself, don't I: 
  • eat a vegetable but for real this year
  • drink a ton of water, stay hydrated 2K16
  • hustle more and blog harder and really do things with this blog because it's so great and generally just shine really bright
  • go to more fancy dinners
  • save money so that living paycheck to paycheck isn't the norm, and eventually so that I can actually save money to travel again
  • stay on top of the anxiety 
  • get buffer arms so that I am better at lifting the glass bins at work and also look powerful
  • give the illusion of being bordering-on-terrifyingly hot without making too much effort really 
  • move to a nice apartment in town that feels like a haven and then damn well make it a haven
  • try to not ruin good things or get stuck in bad things
  • know who I am and be peaceful about it
  • cook as much as possible since I know what kind of hours I work so can't use that as an excuse really even thought I looooove using things as an excuse
  • get a good liquor collection finally, like, seriously 
  • drink more Real Champagne
  • read more books
  • dance heaps
  • pay off my credit card debt (loooooool! But y'know, go big or go home)
  • keeping some form of planner/diary so I remember things more often
  • probably more things that I've forgotten about 
So it should surprise no-one, with this in mind, that my head start on the goals comes in the form of eating some kale. Which itself comes in the form of this very pretty salad.

I read about massaging kale in the Little Bird Unbakery raw vegan cookbook, which is where you put sea salt and a olive oil on your leaves and give them a good rub to soften them somewhat, I'm guessing because they absorb the oil as the salt draws out the moisture. Kale is combatively healthy and does have a fantastic flavour but tends towards a kind of off-puttingly hostile toughness of leaf; doing this process - despite making me feel like I should've asked my salad "was that good for you?" - does in fact help make everything more delicious and approachable. And it's not like you have to make eye contact with it, or indeed anyone, while you're doing it. 

And then, in case you're all, "just one noted superfood in this recipe? Why don't I just go eat literal garbage?" I've also included pomegranate seeds. These beautiful red jewels look incredible against the green leaves, and they provide a sourness that both melds with and uplifts the potential heaviness of the oil and salt. They're also crunchy! Which is fun!  

 not entirely convinced that pomegranate is real. What are thoooooose.

Quantities in the recipe are vague as, since this is summer (or at least, it is in New Zealand, where I am) and I don't want your brain to overheat, and also because you can increase or decrease things depending on your needs. While this would be delightful with some avocado, fried halloumi or crumbled feta added, as a complete salad on its own it's very excellent. I ate the lot for a late lunch yesterday (I know it's just salad but it was soooo hot outside and I could only face food that was 90% water) and upon consuming it I could practically feel my red blood cells smiling beatifically as they scooted around my in my veins.

baby kale and pomegranate salad

a recipe by myself

two or three handfuls of baby kale leaves
seeds from half a pomegranate (or a whole one! live your truth) 
five or six cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
quarter of a cup sunflower seeds or small nuttish thing of your choice
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
mint leaves
basil leaves
a tiny pinch of cinnamon

Put the kale leaves into a good-sized bowl, sprinkle over a pinch of sea salt and drizzle over a generous quantity of olive oil (but okay, about a tablespoon or so) and massage the leaves, like, just do it, all you have to do is rub them between your fingers and thumbs till they soften a little and change to a darker green. When you can no longer deal with this, stir in the pomegranate seeds, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, cinnamon, and as many mint and basil leaves, roughly chopped, as you like. 

Give it a taste and if you think it needs more olive oil and more sea salt then go hard. I feel like there's not a salad in the land that doesn't benefit from being oilier and saltier. 

I had a distinctly wonderful Christmas, spent largely with rad work people eating lush barbecue food and brining myself in generous quantities of Real Champagne. The weather was searingly hot and yet I managed to not really get sunburned, and both Santa and family members charmingly got some parcels sent to me in time so I had presents to open on the day. I'm also looking after a friend's adorable cat which means waking up to a curled up wee ball of fluff beside me every morning! It's all I've ever wanted! He's also fearsomely bloodlusty though, which made Christmas Eve a little interesting. The cat seemed to want to recreate the Gifts of the Magi story for me, presenting first an enormous dead rat, and then the world's vastest cockroach. I was like, what's next? Frankincense? Me? Is it me? But luckily a Christmas miracle occurred and the third gift was the gift of no more corpses.

I hope your Christmas and/or general holiday December times have been equally charming and way less rat-filled. I am going to be working New Year's Eve and New Year's Day and am quite chill with that, since there are worse ways to spend an evening than making drinks and earning money. I'm also going to try and eat more kale between now and the end of the year (tomorrow!) since I am the actual greatest hero this world has ever known.
title is from: St Vincent's achingly slow and gorgeously gorgeous song Champagne Year. It feels appropriate and even if it didn't it's still (threefold!) gorgeous. 
music lately:

Say Anything, I Want To Know Your Plans. This band which has been around forever has been one of this year's very very best discoveries for me.

Dark Dark Dark, Patsy Cline the lyrics to this are so sad that you should put a helmet on your heart before listening. Like, do yourself a favour and don't listen to it. (But do! But don't.)

Primal Scream, Movin' On Up. In summary, it's so summery!
next time: it'll be 2016! Laura's time to shine!  

16 December 2015

i see christmas lights reflect in your eyes

chocolate candy cane bark the herald angels sing

It's less than ten days to Christmas and it's times like these that one's thoughts turn to...how it's less than ten days till Christmas. There has been so much going on in my life and also in the lives of others that are plaited into mine and as such it has been a bit hard to blog with my usual aggression; or at least that's what I assume it is that's slowing me down? - every time I've sat down with my laptop and been all "hello old friend, we meet again, let's tango" I've instead got really lethargic and rapidly blacked out with tiredness and woken up an hour later drooling lavishly into my own cleavage. Oh sure, it's funny the first like, seven times! But now it's nearly literal Christmas and I still haven't got this blog post out. However, you are reading this, which I suspect means I have finally done it. 

So anyway, every year with charming self-absorption I present you with a list of recipes I've blogged about over the years which would also make excellent Christmas presents. And it's that time of that time of year again! Oh sure, material goods are an unmitigated delight, but unless you're surrounded by brats I am supremely confident that there is an impressive number of people in your life who want nothing more than to be presented with something completely delicious that they can tuck into with impunity, rather than, say, a small cow figurine or an earnestly hideous vase which they then have to pretend to feel joy about when in fact it is an insult to their carefully curated personal aesthetic.  

cornbread cookie squares with maple buttercream: aka found footage of heaven

Honestly though, say it with eat-y stuff. Whether or not Christmas is a thing that affects you or that you pay attention to, there's no harm in having a delicious arsenal of ideas for things you can make for people at any old time to express your gratitude and selflessness. This is just a time of year where gift-giving is impressed upon us as being really important. And so, here I am to help. Okay, yes, the rise of the dawn of the planet of the Buzzfeed has rendered this entirely superfluous but what my list has that buzzfeed doesn't is...me! So much me! It has actually been fairly unusual compiling all these old blog posts and reading through the million different people I have been, but the recipes still absolutely hold up (as does the writing, obviously) and there's not one thing in this list that I wouldn't love to be presented with, before presenting it directly into my own mouth. 

So here goes: the hungryandfrozen edible gift idea round-up.

Category One: Things in Jars.

We are no longer quite at Peak Mason Jar, and thank goodness tbh, but: jars will never die. Jars are gonna save you this Christmas. 
  1. orange confit (This is basically just slices of orange in syrup, but is surprisingly applicable to a variety of cake surfaces. And it's so pretty. And so cheap.) (vg, gf)
  2. cranberry sauce (this is stupidly easy and you should make it to go with your main meal anyway) (vg, gf)
  3. bacon jam (Best made at the last minute, because it needs refrigerating) (gf)
  4. cashew butter (vg, gf) (just don't drop your wooden spoon into the food processor) 
  5. red chilli nahm jim (gf)
  6. cranberry (or any-berry) curd (it involves a lot of effort but it's so pretty. Just like me.) (gf)
  7. rhubarb-fig jam (gf)
  8. salted caramel sauce (gf, has a vegan variant) (Salted caramel is kind of the cockroach of food trends, in that it could still be popular in a post-apocalyptic landscape where we all eat dust that has been milled into varying levels of granularity. Salted caramel in a jar is a double whammy.) 
  9. apple cinnamon granola (vg)
  10. strawberry jam granola (vg) 
  11. Marinated Tamarillos (vg, gf)
  12. taco pickles (vg, gf)
  13. pickled blueberries (vg, gf)
  14. peach balsamic barbecue sauce (vg, gf)
  15. berry chia seed jam (vg, gf) 

berry chia seed jam: this is my jam

Peach Balsamic Barbecue Sauce: give a fusspot a pot of fussy stuff. 

chocolate dipped brown sugar cookies: oooh

Category Two: Baked Goods.

Make your house smell glorious, eat some cake batter, wrap the baked things you haven't eaten in rustic-looking brown paper and tie it all up with string, then toast to your own productivity and excellence.

Also first of all, my Christmas Cake is amazing. It just is: deal with my lack of coyness. Even if you decide at the last minute to make it on Christmas Day itself, it will still taste so great. 
  1. christmas-spiced chocolate cake (Also a good xmas-day pudding) (gf)
  2. chocolate orange loaf cake
  3. vegan chocolate cake (It's good! It's easy!) (vg)
  4. chocolate chunk oatmeal cookies
  5. cheese stars (make twelve times the amount you think you need because these are addictive and also great to serve as blotting paper for the inevitable copious liquor that happens this time of year)
  6. coconut macaroons (gf)
  7. chocolate macaroons (gf)
  8. gingerbread cut-out cookies (vg)
  9. coconut condensed milk brownies
  10. salted caramel slice (hello again Salted Caramel! Your persistence is as admirable as your deliciousness!)
  11. fancy tea cookies
  12. chocolate olive oil cake
  13. cinnamon bars
  14. coffee caramel slice
  15. everyday chocolate brownies
  16. cornbread cookie squares with maple buttercream
  17. cranberry white chocolate cookies
  18. peanut butter cookies
  19. secret centre mini-pavlovas
  20. avocado chocolate brownies (gf, df)
  21. bobby dazzler cake
  22. chocolate-dipped brown sugar cookies
Also, if you click on the link to the Orange Confit above, you'll see a recipe for the easiest, fastest fruitcake loaf. It makes an excellent present, for the sort of person who'd like to receive fruitcake. And it's dairy free.

secret centre mini-pavlovas

peanut butter chocolate caramel nut caramel chocolate peanut butter slice caramel

Category Three: Novelty!

This is mostly either homemade recreations of things you can buy from the corner dairy for fifty cents, or sticky-sweet things where you melt one ready-made thing into another. It's frankly the best category and you know it
  1. moonshine biffs (like homemade Milk Bottles!) (gf)
  2. raw vegan chocolate cookie dough truffles (vg, gf)
  3. lolly cake
  4. peppermint schnapps (vg, gf) (this is some harsh moonshine but also SO FUN. Weirdly, more fun the more you drink of it?)
  5. candy cane chocolate bark (No effort, vegan - well, I think candy canes are vegan - gluten free, amazingly delicious, just store it carefully so it doesn't melt)
  6. white chocolate coco pops slice 
  7. homemade cherry ripe
  8. mars bar cornflake slice 
  9. chocolate cookie dough pretzel things  
  10. brown sugar malteaser cardamom fudge
  11. peanut butter chocolate caramel nut slice
Delightful Bonus Category: Stuff to bring! 

A brief list of things you could consider making and taking to the next seasonal party in which there are heavy implications that you need to bring a plate and that it should be something amazing that people will actually enjoy. 
  1. roasted kumara with feta, walnuts, thyme and breadcrumbs
  2. very easy coffee ice cream
  3. fried tomatoes with garlic
  4. double cauliflower salad
  5. fried green beans with chilli and garlic
  6. pasta salad with broccoli pesto, mint, feta and olive oil
  7. fougasse bread
  8. earl grey and maple syrup cake
  9. cinnamon-golden syrup roasted butternut squash
  10. fried potato burghal wheat with walnuts and rocket
  11. wasabi cauliflower cheese
  12. peaches and cream
Whether or not this list is helpful, I'm honestly just so glad that I got this damn blog post done finally so I really am beyond caring. (Kidding, I care ever so much, like, in a completely uncool lacking-in-chill kind of way.) I'm working as much as I physically can over Christmas and new years, and will be spending the day with work family eating and drinking and eating and drinking and so on in that fashion. I can't wait, and while it would be lovely to be going up home to my family, spending my one spare day with people I adore and cooking a ton of nice food for them is something I am super looking forward to. However! Were money something I felt irritatingly mellow about, my Christmas list would look a little like the following: 

- a new leather bomber jacket (my current one is falling to pieces 100% literally)
- timberland boots (2003 called, and I'm ignoring it because I don't care if they're outdated) 
- Marc Jacobs Lola perfume (am never not cursing myself for using up all my supplies last year by calling it "baller deodorant" when I could've just used nivea roll-on) 
- a watch: either something very heavily masculine or something plasticky and stupid looking
- a set of pots and pans, preferably the kind that looks stupidly good in photos; I currently have very little in the way of anything 
- a handbag: my last one basically dissolved into the air within less than a month and I've since been lugging my earthly possessions about in a grubby tote 
- a candle that smells like cinnamon
- several bottles of fancy liquor so I can finally start my liquor cabinet: some nice gin, some sweet and dry vermouth, some fernet (it rhymes with cliche!), a campari and a bourbon...y'know, no biggie.
- A record player - nothing fancy, just something that I can literally play all my records on. 

Whatever it is you want for Christmas, especially if it's world peace, I hope you get it. I'm definitely going to be blogging again before Christmas and that all sounded a bit final, but nevertheless: get what you want! Get it! Go on, now!
title from: 2005's plaintive Athlete song, Wires. It's plaintive but it's still got legs, I reckon. 
music lately: 

Mariah Carey, Oh Holy Night, from her Merry Christmas II You album. That's right, she has other Christmas songs, and this one is classic Mimi. She sounds so good. 

The Wombats, Greek Tragedy. Pop! So poppy! 

Idina Menzel's Christmas album. She is my idol, and I am a completist.

Also: my dreamy summer playlist on spotify. Look, I could either list every song here or I could just link you directly to the playlist, but either way it's very very good and feels like sunshine on your shoulders. 
next time: no sleep allowed! I made some roasted asparagus with burned butter hollandaise which was amazing, however I also haven't made ice cream in ages and am feeling the need. 

3 December 2015

and morning soup can be avoided If you take a route straight through what is known as parklife

It has been a bit of a time for ya girl of late, what with - she says vaguely - one thing and another. Notably I spent the weekend firmly swaddled in illness due to kidney problems, which came with bonus excruciating back ache and the admittedly interesting conundrum of being both hellaciously feverish and shiveringly cold simultaneously. I have no idea what it is or what caused it or what its deal is, but something very similar happened to me back in 2007 so I guess it's just that my kidneys like to act the fool once every decade. Also, when it happened in 2007 it was misdiagnosed as a sprained rib, to which I was like "um, do you even know how unlikely that is and how sedentary I am", to which the doctor was like "nope definitely a sprain", henceforth giving me a lifelong suspicion of diagnoses.

Anyway, I read online that tomatoes are really good for your kidneys - on one of those websites that's all "make a tincture of parsley and sorrel and then when that's ready six weeks later make a rudimentary poultice and apply it to the hurty bit of you" (I had to spend an amount at the after-hours clinic that was so huge it almost made me cry in order to get a prescription for antibiotics, so you see why I was initially trying to cure it on my own using dirt and leaves and stuff.) The antibiotics have more or less swept away all the pain but I figured it couldn't hurt to up the tomato quotient in my life, in an attempt to appease my truculent kidneys.

This Ottolenghi recipe for burnt aubergine soup had caught my eye, but I really wasn't sure when I was going to make it, on account of my opportunities to cook for myself are few and rare. Luckily the hand of fate intervened! I had some appallingly bad nightmares which woke me up at 4.30am the other day, and could not go back to sleep no matter how firmly I squeezed my eyes shut and listened to soothing meditation videos telling me I'm a good person who's definitely relaxed and sleepy. By 8am I realised I really wasn't going back to sleep, and in the feverish grips of all that, decided I might as well be productive with all this time. Making soup suddenly felt like a really good use of my morning, so I hurtled to the supermarket, bought the ingredients (hurrah for having spontaneous cooking whims post-payday) and started making it, all before 9am.

I think I say this in every single post about soup that I've ever done, but...soup usually really doesn't appeal to me that much. It's just a bowl of wet stuff! There's not nearly enough crispness and crunchiness! You can't deep-fry soup! And so on. This soup is super excellent though; the smoky grilled eggplant against a backdrop of rich tomato; the fried cubes of eggplant on top providing proper texture and silky oiliness with every bite, the feta being delicious feta.

The recipe below looks horrifyingly long, and I shan't candy-coat it for you: this recipe does take up quite a lot of time. But it's so easy! And I just wanted to talk you through all the steps to make sure I had explained it all properly. Really all the instructions you need for this soup are grill, fry, heat, stir, blend, eat.

burnt aubergine soup with fried aubergine, tomato and feta

adapted from a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi. I know we call them eggplants here in New Zealand but the recipe itself calls them aubergines and it sounds more poetic. So. 

three large eggplants
plenty of olive oil
one large onion, finely diced
one and a half teaspoons ground cumin
a teaspoon of sugar
a tablespoon of lemon juice
one can of crushed tomatoes
a stock cube of your chosen persuasion
feta cheese

First, deal with your eggplants. Turn the grill on your oven to as high as it will go, stab two of the eggplants a few times with a knife, and then put them on a baking tray preeettty close to the grill. Leave them there for what will feel like hours, but is probably an hour maximum, turning them occasionally. Don't worry if they're all blistered and deflated looking, it's what we're going for here. Remove them from the oven, allow them to cool a little - or don't, if you're impatient like me - and remove the skin, which should be crunchy and fall away with a little encouragement. I ate the lot, discard it if you like. Place the frankly weird looking eggplant flesh into a sieve set over a bowl, and allow it to sit there weirdly while you get on with everything else. 

Take the remaining eggplant, dice it into small squares, and then in a saucepan that you'll later make the rest of the soup in, heat up about an inch of olive oil till it's sizzling. Fry the cubes of eggplant, in batches if necessary, letting them really just sit there in the hot oil so they get properly browned, before carefully turning them over so they darken on the other side. Add more oil before tipping the next batch of eggplant in if need be. Just deal with how much oil this uses. Carefully remove the browned crispy pieces to a sieve over a bowl and sprinkle with salt (this bit is honestly probably not that necessary? Unlike the earlier sieving bit.) And try really, really hard to not eat the lot. 

Okay now you're finally done with all the damn prep stuff, and you can actually make soup. With the remaining oil in the pan (there should be around a tablespoon or so) gently fry the onion for five to ten minutes till it's very soft. Add the cumin, the lemon juice, sugar, can of tomatoes, stock cube and then fill up the tomato can with water from the tap and tip that in. Add another can full of water if you like and want the soup to go further. Let all this simmer briskly till it has thickened and reduced a little and, you know, looks like the makings of some literal soup.

Finally! Add the eggplant flesh to the pan (the burnt stuff, not the fried stuff) and either puree it with a hand-held stick blender thingy, if you have one, or do the stressful thing and transfer it perilously to a food processor and blitz thoroughly. I did the latter, and it doesn't make it entirely velvety but any texture is pleasing, so, whatever. It's just so much more of a pain to clean and also it might fly everywhere and you might spill it while getting it in and out of the processor bowl, but anyway. You now have your soup. Ladle into bowls, top generously with the fried eggplant cubes and crumble over plenty of feta. 

Serves two-ish. You could add another can of tomatoes if you want it to go further. 

As well as changing some details I reduced the original recipe's quantities, but if I were you making this I'd increase the quantities of the liquid and the eggplant just because if you're going to that much damn time-consuming effort you might as well get a ton of soup out of it and feed an appreciatively gasping crowd. Is it worth it just to do all that for yourself though? Of course! There's no one more important than me. Is what you should be saying to yourself. I know I hear it enough to occasionally believe it. For real though, this soup has such excellent depth of flavour and the fried eggplant bits are so compulsively good: it is so much more than just a bowl full of wet stuff.

A bright firework of light through all this is that today is the five year anniversary of my friend Kate and I meeting each other at Mighty Mighty in a breathless, hand-clasping fashion, and ALSO Lucy Liu's birthday. We both love Lucy Liu with the fire of a thousand fires so let's just say it is feeling auspicious up in here. I can't believe my life has been this blessed for five years now and I also can't believe I didn't meet Kim, the third prong in our equilateral triangle of friendship, till halfway through the following year.

one of my favourite photos of Kate and I, this is pretty much how our initial meeting went too. 

All of everything else aside, I know it's a dull take but I CANNOT BELIEVE it's literally December now. I'm not ready! Also December always makes me super introspective and I'm already feeling introspective so it's all just a double helix of feelings. On the upside, the smell of pine sends me into catnip-esque conniptions and we have erected an enormous, splendidly bushy real Christmas tree at work, every time I pass it by I feel more and more seasons greetings-y. Thanks, Pavlov's Christmas tree!
title via: Parklife! Man I used to have the crushiest crush on Blur's Damon Albarn. I literally wrote angrily in my diary in 1996 about him dating Justine Frischmann from Elastica; as if their being together somehow made him less accessible to me than he already was.  
music lately:

Turkey Lurkey Time from the 1969 musical Promises, Promises. It's my own personal Christmas tradition that every time the first of December comes around, then and only then will I rewatch this video of this utterly ludicrous song being performed. Honestly the song is ridiculous but I'm in it for the incredible dancing, especially from Donna McKechnie who blatantly has elastic where her bones should be. It's hard to explain, but this is just weirdly important to me. The video, not the consistency of her bones, I mean.

One Direction, Hey Angel. I had very low expectations for these guys post-Zayn, but UGH this is such a good song. It is just so big and manipulative and I love it heartily.
next time: hopefully some exponentially increasing xmas spirit and exponentially decreasing introspection. And chilled out kidneys.