Vegan Chocolate Pie and New Christmas Traditions

Soundtrack: Tripping with Nils Frahm

I don’t want to read your ramblings, I just want the recipe: Vegan Chocolate Pie from Healthy Living James.

Star Rating: FIVE FUCK YEAH STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Well it’s been a while since I wrote. My last post was pre-quarantine, pre-moving in with my boyfriend, pre-watching the madness of 2020 unfold in a way that would be comedic if it wasn’t so terrifying. We are very fortunate and are able to work from home and serendipitously had signed a lease on a place that has enough room for us to have our own workspace without being on top of each other before we knew we’d be both living and working together for at least a year. Remember when we were horrified to think we’d possibly be working from home until summer 2020?

Being home so much, I have cooked a lot this year. And with (theoretically, at least) so much more time on my hands you’d think I would have written more about the things that I’ve cooked, but alas… I did start another Instagram account to keep track of some of the better things I’ve made, so you can follow @Foodziemagoo if you’re so inclined. I don’t update it very often either.

Anyway, I made a ridiculously delicious vegan chocolate pie that I found on @healthylivingJames’ Instagram account, and it’s a winner. Full recipe can be found in this post, and I recommend following his account too because he posts loads of delicious looking food.

I made this pie a couple of days before Christmas because I like cooking and had some time to kill one afternoon. Turns out I only needed about 15 minutes to make the whole pie, and then it needs to sit in the fridge for at least 3 hours to set. I have literally no changes or suggestions to make to improve this pie – it’s bloody delicious as it is, and doesn’t need anything else. I would put some baking paper in the bottom of the tart pan because the base did get pretty clingy and hard to remove, but it’s possible if I’d greased the pan better this wouldn’t have been an issue.

I couldn’t find ground almonds, so I just put whole almonds into the Ninja blender and ground them up that way. They were a little courser than the ground almonds in the video, but I didn’t want to push it too far incase I inadvertently made some kind of almond butter instead. The chunky almonds in the base were super tasty and was a nice textural balance to the creamy filling.

I’ve now decided that this will become a Christmas tradition, preferably to be eaten while watching Klaus, which is hands down the best Christmas movie I’ve ever seen. We cracked into it on Christmas Eve Eve, because we’re goddamn adults and we make the rules around here. Now, days after Christmas there’s still about a quarter of the pie in the fridge because it’s pretty rich, and because Derek also had half a Yule Log to work his way through (a very kind gift from a friend who knew her and her husband wouldn’t eat a whole log by themselves) and some crack brownies left from the batch I’d made for our neighbours. There’s a fair amount of sugar and chocolate in our house right now.

Zucchini slice and too many zucchinis

A twist on an Aussie classic.

Listening: Armchair Expert – Experts on Expert – Peggy Orenstein

I don’t want to read your ramblings, I just want the recipe: Jump to the recipe

Star Rating: Four stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I re-started deliveries from Imperfect Produce this year, and I like that it challenges me to find some different recipes outside of what I’d normally make. I love trying new recipes but I’m also often lazy, and when there’s a bunch of tasty stuff I know how to make with my eyes closed, I fall back on my go-tos when I’m feeling tired or too busy or just lacking in imagination.

This week’s deliver had both zucchinis and summer squash and while I’ll make some into zoodles and probably roast some cut into chunks, there were way too many to use before they go off.

Enter the humble zucchini slice. This is an Australian favourite – I should try to delve into where our obsession came from, but I remember working at Yahoo!7 in the late 2000’s and zucchini slice was the #1 recipe for SEO at the time. The Aussie version includes bacon and cheese, so I tried to make a different version that was still delicious but didn’t depend on these ingredients for flavour. I almost managed it, but I’d make some changes next time (mostly salt related).

Also, I’ve reintroduced eggs into my diet. I have no trouble not eating dairy. Not eating meat has been easier than expected. But eggs – man. My friend, Anthea, exclaimed “But eggs?” when I told her I had become vegan, and we waxed lyrical about how wonderful eggs are. I did a bunch of research, and there is a brand called Misty Meadows Farms  which are pasture raised, organic, and cruelty free and come from just outside Seattle. I’m happy to pay a little extra to get them, and this has also made me much more mindful of my consumption.

So the recipe. Really, I made this up by combining the general base of a zucchini slice and stealing some of the ideas from Ottolenghi’s cauliflower cake. I used nutritional yeast to try to give it more of a cheesy flavour, and added a lot of garlic powder and paprika too. I still needed to use much more salt, and I’m sad I hadn’t thought about lining the pan with a mixture of black and white sesame seeds à la Ottolenghi. Regardless, it’s a good base and the addition of fresh herbs mixed through and perhaps something a little crunchy like pepitas on top would elevate this even more.



Half a head of cauliflower, cut into florets

Half a head of broccoli, cut into florets

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

2 x medium zucchinis (or summer squash), grated

Half an onion, roughly diced

1/2 cup chickpea flour (60g)

1/4 cup nutritional yeast (20g)

6 large eggs

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

Salt and pepper to taste (you’ll want to add more salt that you think)


Fresh herbs – whatever you have to hand

Black and white sesame seeds to line the pan

Pepitas, friend onions, Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel seasoning


  1. Preheat oven to 360F/180C
  2. Boil a large pot of water
  3. Add cauliflower to boiling water and set timer for 8 minutes
  4. After 3 minutes add broccoli to boiling water
  5. When timer goes off, immediately drain cauliflower and broccoli into a colander and rinse with cold water. Fill the pot you just used for boiling with cold water and add cauliflower and broccoli to cool down further. You will need to make sure that the pot isn’t still hot so might need to rinse a couple of times.
  6. Meanwhile grate your zucchinis into a large bowl.
  7. Dice onion and add to bowl.
  8. Add chickpea flour, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper; mix together.
  9. Crack eggs into separate bowl and whisk to combine.
  10. Drain broccoli and cauliflower, add to large bowl. If you’re adding herbs, add them now.
  11. Add eggs to large bowl with another generous grind of salt and gently stir to combine so mixture is evenly combined, but don’t over mix and break up vegetables.
  12. Grease a shallow dish (I used a 15cm x 30cm glass dish) with olive oil. If you’re using sesame seeds, now sprinkle across surface of dish. Try to distribute evenly, but don’t worry if there are some denser pockets.
  13. Pour mixture into dish and smooth out so it’s spread evenly.
  14. Place in oven. Check after 30 minutes and if it’s not quite done, leave in for another 5-10 minutes. Slice is done when I knife comes out clean.
  15. Let cool for 10 minutes, slice and serve by itself or with salad or any other side. Goes really well with hot sauce.

Note: Freezes well and is good to have on hand when you’re in a rush. Defrost on counter and heat in microwave or oven, depending on how much time you have.

Spiced Chickpea Stew with Coconut and Turmeric and Plant-based Eating

 Watching: Reply All Episode #155 – Friendship Village

I don’t want to read your ramblings, I just want the recipe: Spiced Chickpea Stew with Coconut and Turmeric (this might also be paywalled – I’m really taking advantage of the NYT Cooking free trial that I’m not even sure how I enabled – so I copied the recipe below).

Star Rating: Three stars ⭐⭐⭐

At some point in the last year I was sucked into the Dax Shephard ‘Armchair Expert’ podcast. I can’t remember which episode I listened to first, and I definitely don’t recall loving it out of the gate, but overtime I’ve been wooed into those long episodes of meandering conversations. If there’s one episode I recommend you start with it’s this one with California’s first Surgeon General, Dr Nadine Burke Harris, talking about the impact that childhood trauma has on health and longevity. Certainly not a conversation I expected from that random dude on Punk’d.

I got a little behind on my listening and late last year while playing catch up I was taken by the episode with Jonathan Safran Foer. He was the novelist wunderkind in the early 2000’s who wrote ‘Everything is Illuminated’ and ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’. More recently he’s turned to non-fiction covering factory farming in ‘Eating Animals’ (highly recommended read), and climate change in ‘We Are the Weather’.

A few events coalesced very early this year which made me seek out more information about climate change – most notably the fact that the majority of my home country, Australia, is on fucking fire. Australia’s successive governments have ignored all climate change warnings and continue to be in the pockets of the coal industry, and it seems like this fire seasons we’ve really reaped what we’ve sown. Current estimates suggest that over 1 billion animals have died so far, and those that remain will not have an ecosystem to support them. It’s been the hottest year, in the hottest decade, on record. Fires have been burning for over two months without any sign of when they’ll stop. If this isn’t the time for action, I’m not sure when is.

I wanted to know what I could do on an individual level to reduce my impact on the planet. Recalling the topic of the podcast I listened to late last year, I downloaded ‘Eating Animals’ and devoured it (don’t worry – books are vegan) in a matter of days.

And something in that book changed me.

I’m not going to go into the science – I’ll misrepresent it, or get it wrong – but factory farming, beyond being incredibly cruel and producing meat with literal faeces in the flesh, is one of the biggest – if not the biggest – contributor to climate change. The logic of moving to a plant-based diet was so clear that it was hardly even a decision. One of the most impactful actions an individual can make to reduce their contribution to climate change is to significantly reduce, if not totally eliminate, animal products. (The other three are getting rid of your car, flying less, and having fewer children.)

Now, I love meat. Steak is delicious and tasty and incredible. Nothing makes me happier than seafood in all its forms. While I’m not a massive fan of pork chops or bacon, you can pile me up with salami, prosciutto, and jamon, and even though I know it’s really, really bad you could find me guiltily eating foie gras about once a year (and LOVING it).

I do have a head start on the dairy part, seeing as I haven’t been able to eat dairy basically my whole life, but especially in the last 15 years. Even a small amount will have me in the foetal position within 20 minutes so it’s a non-starter. I’ve been told that for most people moving to a plant-based diet it’s not the meat that’s tricky to avoid, but dairy. I have a decade and a half of experience doing that dance and this is literally the first time I’ve been thankful for it.

The only one animal product I’m really going to miss (and TBH I’m trying to source a workaround for this) is eggs. God I love eggs. But even if you buy ‘cage free’ ‘organic’ or ‘free range’ they’re still basically factory farmed. Example: for eggs to be classified organic in the US, the hens must be fed organic feed, must not be in cages, and must (here’s the kicker) ‘have access’ to the outside. This could be one square foot of outdoor area that’s only accessible via a tiny opening in an enormous, overcrowded structure which houses literally thousands of hens. The hens are still overcrowded, and while their living conditions are very slightly better than caged hens, it’s only by mere degrees of difference, and the chickens still suffer. Their feed and light is manipulated to optimise growth, and they still produce enormous amounts of waste which needs to go somewhere. If I can find a local source for some happy chickens then I will still eat eggs occasionally – but even with those I’ll be more mindful of my consumption because maybe eggs shouldn’t be an every day food?

So… what does that mean for what I’ll be cooking this year? My diet already contains a lot of vegan food, but everything I write about here is going to be vegan moving forward. Thankfully plant-based food is delicious, and something everyone should be encouraged to include more of in their diet whether it’s for health reasons, or climate, or simply to mix things up. I can’t promise that the food I like is going to be the same as what you like too, but what I can promise is to be honest about the things that I make. If they suck, I’ll say that they suck. If I’ve made changes to the recipes, I’ll outline them. And if I’m super enthusiastic about something (like these chickpea pancakes which I’ve been making for about two years now and feel as passionately about as I did when I first made them), you’ll know about it.


So after all that – on with the show.

I was meant to cook dinner at Emily and Andy’s on Monday this week. And then it snowed very lightly in Seattle which means the whole city shuts down and Seattle’s notoriously terrible drivers get even more dangerous. We rain checked for the following night, but more snow ensued, and then our re-reorganised Thursday night was also a bust, so I didn’t actually get to make this recipe for an audience as I’d hoped.

That probably wasn’t the worst thing, because while this was good, it’s going to need some playing around with to make it great. It was missing some kind of extra earthy spice base like cumin or curry to add to the turmeric and coconut – the flavour just wasn’t deep enough. I seasoned it only two out of the four (!!) suggested times and still found it to be a little salty, but I think I’m particularly sensitive to salt. When I make it again I’ll season once while sautéing the onions and aromatics, and then once more after the stew has reduced for about 30 minutes as I think it got too concentrated in the reduction process. I had some fresh coriander in the fridge so I added that as garnish with the mint, as well as some thinly sliced radishes because they needed to be used and have become my latest obsession. I finished it with a squeeze of lime which helped cut through the salt and made the whole dish a little brighter.

I served it with Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Medley, which was delicious AND a good source of iron. I was turned away from giving blood yesterday because my iron levels were too low, so now I’m paying special attention to how I can boost my intake. This is not something my body is doing in reaction to my new diet – I’ve been anaemic for ages, even while eating meat. If anyone has any hot tips (beyond the vitamin C one) for how to increase iron intake and absorption, I’m all ears.

Overall, there were elements of this dish I loved (the mashed chickpeas to thicken the stew especially) and I think it would be really great if the flavours were a little more robust. I’d also add another vegetable, like broccoli or zucchini, to bulk it up a little more.

If you’ve made it this far, well done. When I started this blog I promised myself the intros wouldn’t be any longer than three paragraphs because GODDAMN no one cares, but here we are.

Spiced Chickpea Stew with Coconut and Turmeric


  • ¼ cup olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 (2-inch) piece ginger, finely chopped
  •  Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground turmeric, plus more for serving
  • 1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more for serving
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, kale or collard greens, stems removed, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup mint leaves, for serving
  •  Yogurt, for serving (optional)
  •  Toasted pita, lavash or other flatbread, for serving (optional)


  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and ginger. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until onion is translucent and starts to brown a little around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes.
  2. Add turmeric, red-pepper flakes and chickpeas, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, so the chickpeas sizzle and fry a bit in the spices and oil, until they’ve started to break down and get a little browned and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove about a cup of chickpeas and set aside for garnish.
  3. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, further crush the remaining chickpeas slightly to release their starchy insides (this will help thicken the stew). Add coconut milk and stock to the pot, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, scraping up any bits that have formed on the bottom of the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until stew has thickened and flavors have started to come together, 30 to 35 minutes. (Taste a chickpea or two, not just the liquid, to make sure they have simmered long enough to taste as delicious as possible.) If after 30 to 35 minutes you want the stew a bit thicker, keep simmering until you’ve reached your desired consistency. Determining perfect stew thickness is a personal journey!
  4. Add greens and stir, making sure they’re submerged in the liquid. Cook a few minutes so they wilt and soften, 3 to 7 minutes, depending on what you’re using. (Swiss chard and spinach will wilt and soften much faster than kale or collard greens.) Season again with salt and pepper.
  5. Divide among bowls and top with mint, reserved chickpeas, a sprinkle of red-pepper flakes and a good drizzle of olive oil. Serve alongside yogurt and toasted pita if using; dust the yogurt with turmeric if you’d like.

Sweet and Spicy Tofu and Soba Noodles and Renewed January Enthusiasm

 Watching: Cooked on Netflix

I don’t want to read your ramblings, I just want the recipe: Sweet and Spicy Tofu with Soba Noodles from New York Times Cooking (might be paywalled so copied below as well. I’m not sure if that’s legal but given about three people read this blog I hope it’s OK?).


It’s been a while. Like a super long time. In 2018 year I set myself the goal of cooking 52 new recipes and writing about them. I didn’t get even close, writing up only 14 new recipes (even though I definitely cooked more than that – but nowhere near 52) and 16 in total. In 2019 I did no writing at all. So why take it up again? The most useful benefit I found of having written about what I’ve cooked is that I can easily find the recipe again, and I have notes on what I changed – which is the most important part as I normally make a few tweaks and fail to remember them the next time around.

So onto the food. This recipe was wonderful and has opened my eyes to the idea of combining colder salad vegetables with a hot base. The noodles have a real kick to them because of the black pepper, and this touch of spice pairs nicely with the cold cucumbers and radish. You could absolutely add broccoli, spinach, shredded carrot or zucchini, mushrooms, snow peas, or any number of other veggies if you wanted to mix it up too – the noodle base would match with most ingredients.

I thought I hadn’t changed much this time, but it turns out there were a couple of small tweaks. I doubled the amount of garlic, because two cloves is basically no garlic at all, and I do this with everything I cook. I also halved the oil (another common adjustment), and there was still plenty for both cooking the tofu and coating the noodles. I did all the vegetable prep ahead of time (not my normal process, but slicing green onions into matchsticks is very time consuming) and pressed the tofu for about 20 minutes to remove a bunch of the water so it would brown better. I also finished off the bowl with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds because they never go astray.

One change I would make next time is to season the tofu before frying. It could have handled a little bit more of something – tofu being the flavour void that it can be. The comments on the recipe suggested mixing the noodles in 3/4 of the sauce and then coating the tofu in the sauce separately as it was easier (and could potentially address the above issue), but mixing them both to get them evenly coated wasn’t too difficult. YMMV.

This comes highly recommended, and I give it bonus points because you can also eat it at room temperature making the leftovers good for lunch.

Sweet and Spicy Tofu With Soba Noodles


  • 1 ½ (14-ounce) packages firm tofu, drained
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 (8-ounce) package all-buckwheat soba noodles
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 small bunch green onions, white and green parts separated, cut into 2-inch matchsticks
  •  cup soy sauce or tamari
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  •  Pinch of red-pepper flakes
  • 4 mini or 1 large, thin-skinned cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced
  •  Handful of cilantro leaves, for serving
  • 1 lime, cut in wedges, for serving


  1. Drain the tofu in a colander, or dry on paper-towel lined plate while you prep the remaining ingredients, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a boil for the soba noodles.
  2. Cut tofu into 1-inch cubes. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil. When the oil shimmers, add the tofu in a single layer, in batches if needed and cook until golden on all sides, turning as needed when the tofu releases easily from the pan, about 8 to 10 minutes total. Lift the tofu out of the pan with a spatula and transfer to a new paper-towel-lined plate.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the soba in boiling water for 5 to 8 minutes (or according to package directions), until just al dente, stirring frequently. Drain and rinse in cold water until the noodles no longer feel sticky.
  4. Add garlic, ginger and whites of the onions to the skillet, along with the remaining tablespoon sesame oil, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the oil is fragrant, stirring constantly, about 1 minute.
  5. Add cooked and drained soba noodles to the pan, along with soy sauce, sugar, black pepper, red pepper and reserved green onions; toss together until the noodles are coated. Gently toss in the tofu until all the pieces are covered in the sauce.
  6. Remove from the heat, and sprinkle cucumber, radish and cilantro on top. Serve warm or at room temperature, with lime.

Crack Brownies and Showing Love Through Fat and Sugar

Soundtrack: Michelle Obama’s ‘Becoming’ on Audible

I don’t want to read your ramblings, I just want the recipe: Salted Caramel Crack Brownies by Anna Jones

Star Rating: FIVE FUCK YEAH STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

If you want to make people feel simultaneous happy and special, and if you are also interested in being showered with love in return, then this recipe is for you. You can also make these brownies lactose-, gluten- and nut-free and they still taste incredible, meaning you can cater to various intolerances without compromising on the final product.

This is another Anna Jones recipe, and I cannot sing her praises enough. Her vegetarian cook books (‘A Modern Way to Cook‘ and ‘A Modern Way to Eat‘) over-deliver on taste and inventiveness while still being approachable and easy to make.

The reason I first made these brownies was Anna’s own intro to the recipe “Find me someone who doesn’t like these and I’ll deliver you a batch myself.” I have made these probably about 20-30 times and have never had any left over, and in one case someone swiped a whole bunch of them when I took them into work which, while annoying, is definitely high praise.

There is only one tricky bit to these and it’s the only part of the method that I don’t agree with. The caramel for these brownies takes much longer to make than the recipe would suggest, and it took me many attempts before I realised that I had to let the caramel bubble for an additional ~5-10 minutes so that it would set properly.

Also, there is a point during the caramel making process where you add the milk (or milk substitute) to the melted sugar and butter and the cool milk shocks the molten hot sugar and fat combination into a petrified candy ball. DON’T FREAK OUT. The recipe seems to suggest that you just need to put the saucepan back on the stove and in a few minutes it will be thick caramel. Instead, I always have to spend a lot of time beating that ball into submission while the milk warms up (but doesn’t boil) around it. I’ve tried using warm milk and this does help a little, but simply put the temperature at which sugar melts will always be higher than the temperature of the milk added.

Finally – make sure you use BAKING PAPER and never waxed paper to line the shallow tray you’re going to pour the caramel in. I have made this mistake so many times that I threw out my waxed paper (which I can’t recall ever having an actual use for, so I’m guess I bought in error in the first place).

Making the brownie batter is really straight forward and adding the caramel to the brownies is too. It’s also important that you line the pan they’re baking in because these are some sticky brownies.

The recipe says to cook them for 25 minutes, but I always check at 20. The caramel will have turned into molten pools of deliciousness, which can make it difficult to check whether the brownie mixture is cooked underneath. My preference is a consistency that’s like a dense fudge in the middle, with a little crunch around the edges. They will continue to cook when you take them out of the oven so I err on undercooking and they have always turned out great.

And that’s it! Once they’ve cooled they won’t last very long. They are appropriate for all occasions including (but not limited to): Holiday Parties, Break-up Commiserations, ‘Just because’ for your co-workers, Birthdays, Dinner Parties, New Babies… Really for anyone who likes things that taste nice and who you want to make the world a slightly brighter place for a moment.

Lentil and Spinach Polpette and Divided Opinions

Soundtrack: The Nod Podcast – Nobody Looks Like Me

I don’t want to read your ramblings, I just want the recipe: Spinach and Lentil Polpette

Star Rating:

Polpette: Four Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Sauce: One Star ⭐️

Honestly, I don’t know how to rate this meal. And it’s really making me interrogate how I use the star rating system. One part of this meal (the polpette) was excellent and I will definitely make them again. However, the other part (the sauce) was just strange. I would not make it again, nor would I recommend anyone else does.

So let’s unpack these separately.

I’m always skeptical about meat-free replicas of meat recipes. They seem to offer a promise they can’t deliver, and I’d prefer to either have the real thing or nothing at all.

However, these ‘meatballs’ have all the characteristics of a good meatball. They have a resistance when you bite into them, they are really flavourful, and have a salty sharpness from the pecorino. They’re pretty easy to make, wilting spinach in a dry frying pan and smushing up the rest of the ingredients in a blender. Roll them into balls and cook in the oven for 20 minutes and their done.

The sauce, while just as easy, was kind of a strange, sloppy mess. Full disclosure, I do not have a proper blender or food processor so the almonds didn’t break down as finely as the recipe probably intended, so part of the textural problem could be equipment based (although you do know what they say about workmen blaming their tools…) The flavour was… fine? It was just kind of sharp, and sour, and watery all at once and made the meatballs soggy which detracted from them entirely.

So the meatballs get four stars, and I will make them again as an appetizer, hors d’oeuvres, or to add to salads. The sauce was a solid one star and I will not make it again. If I gave an average that would make this a 2.5 start attempt, but that would be burying the lede. Sigh.



Pesto and Poor Organisation Skills

Soundtrack: Salt Fat Acid Heat on Netflix

I don’t want to read your ramblings, I just want the recipe: Some version of this pesto (more or less)

Star Rating: Four Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I’m really behind on this whole ‘make one recipe a week and write about it’ project, but in my defence I have been pretty busy. Let’s just conveniently ignore the fact that the last time I actually wrote about a recipe I made was April 4th…

This weekend was my first full weekend at home since late July. I had grand plans to make this spinach and lemon polpette from Anna Jones, until I realised that parts of my blender were sitting next to my desk at work. Yes, at work.

This is not the first time, nor the first workplace, that my cooking tools have found their way to. I remember getting ready to cook 8 hour pulled pork in my tiny Sydney studio (or ‘The Pod’ as we affectionately called it) only to realise that the last time I’d made 8 hour pulled pork was at work and I’d never bothered to bring the massive pot home, because laziness.

This time a colleague had returned the various instruments I’d left at her place when I’d cooked her and her family dinner post-baby. None of the pieces are nearly as large as a stewing pot, but they are still sitting next to my desk, because laziness.

So when it dawned on me that I didn’t have the blade or bowl for my mini-blender, and I wouldn’t be able to blend almonds and other various things, I decided to put off this recipe until Monday night.

Of course, I only made this discovery after I’d been to the supermarket, so I did have a whole lot of fresh ingredients in my house. And after a glorious day of flying, then seeing Bohemian Rhapsody with friends, I returned home to finally watch ‘Salt Fat Acid Heat’.

Serendipitously, in the first episode (Salt) she shows a gorgeous Italian woman making pesto with a mortar and pestle. The six pesto ingredients (basil, garlic, hard cheese, olive oil, pine nuts, salt) were all in my house, and I have a mortar and pestle (for mostly decorative reasons), so ever the opportunist I saw this as a chance to quickly make up for lost time AND to have a delicious dinner.

For those of you who know me, you know that I can’t eat dairy. HOWEVER, I can eat limited amounts of goat and sheep cheese. I’d bought a chunk of pecorino, which is basically sheep parmesan, and it was also burning a hole in my fridge. This made this meal a real treat because I LOVE cheese. It just doesn’t love me.

I really enjoyed making this. It’s so easy – roughly chop the basil and put it in the mortar (I just had to look up which bit is which), add the oil and some salt, and crush with the pestle until it’s fairly broken down. This is kind of therapeutic, TBH.

Once it’s semi paste-like, add finely diced garlic and lightly toasted pine nuts and keep pummelling. Once you’re happy with the texture, add grated parmesan/pecorino and keep blending. Now you should taste to see whether you need any more salt or oil or garlic. The cheese will keep breaking down, so be conservative with your seasoning (I sound like I know what I’m doing, but totally stole this tip from the link above).

Cook your pasta until it’s al dente and rather than mixing with the pesto in the pan, put a few dollops of pesto in the bottom of the bowl and then add the pasta straight from the water using tongs. Mix thoroughly and keep adding pesto to taste. I also added a good squeeze of lemon juice and lots of freshly cracked black pepper.

God this was good. So much so that I can’t believe I’ve never made pesto before! For something with so few ingredients, it’s very impressive and it’s probably the only time in recent history that I’ve licked the preparation bowl and I wasn’t baking.

I used some weird vegetable pasta that apparently has a bunch of servings of veggies in it which explains the really green pasta in my photos. I liked the earthy flavour, but it would obviously also be good with regular pasta or even better – fresh, homemade pasta.

Things I’ve learned from seven weeks on the road

It’s day 45 of a 61-day work adventure and I have learned almost nothing useful about how to travel better besides always knowing where your lip balm, passport, and clean knickers are. The rest is just survival. Here’s my Top Ten Travel Tips anyway.

  1. Never get the 6am flight. You will not ‘make use of the day’ by getting the early bird flight. It means you need to get up at 3am, which means you need to go to bed around 9pm, which means you kind of ruin two days. Also, you get to your new location too early to check into your hotel, which means you have to drop off your luggage and kill a lot of hours before you can lie down again, which is basically all I want to do when I haven’t slept well the night before. Book the noon flight, wake up in time for some breakfast and then enjoy a more leisurely trip to the airport. Your body will thank you. (Caveat: if the noon flight is ludicrously expensive then get up at the break of dawn, you lazy sod. Are you made of money?)
  2. Ideally don’t travel with only black or grey possession. When your toiletries bag is the same colour as your knickers, which are the same colour as most of your tops and jumpers and jeans and tank tops, you will spend your whole trip performing the Sysiphean task of unpacking and repacking because everything looks the bloody same.
  3. Snacks. You will totally eat too much while you’re traveling (my jeans are the feeling a bit snug right now) but food will appear in your life in concentrated fits and spurts. There will be periods of time when some combination of available currency, opening hours, or opportunity means you just can’t secure anything to eat. A few Rx or Kind bars in your luggage will go a long way.
  4. You really don’t need to bring that fourth pair of shoes. Regardless of how much you love them, you will swear at them each time you force their awkward shape back into your suitcase, questioning why you thought four-inch strappy wedges would ever be appropriate or safe on the cobbled streets of Europe.
  5. Always have a fully charged back-up charger. Turns out your hotel in Rome will have no electricity when you return at 11pm with 12% battery and an early morning flight the next day. You will scrounge the remaining 27% battery from your laptop and sleep with one eye open, terrified more than usual that you won’t wake up, while also not wanting to check the time too often because this will drain whatever remaining battery you have. Which, by the way, you also need to order an Uber to make your stupidly early flight (see point #1 above) because you received a text at 11:30pm letting you know the taxi you had organized ahead of time had cancelled on you. Also, packing will be a nightmare because have you tried to pack in the dark? That flashlight on your phone would have come in real handy right now. All of this could have been avoided if you had bothered to charge the absolute unit of a charger you have been lugging around Europe – yet recklessly failing to plug in so it would actually be useful in this exact situation, you genius.
  6. Actually, charge everything when you have the chance. Like using the bathroom because you’re unsure when you’ll be around one next, just plug in when you can.
  7. Accept that you’re going to feel only half put together at any point in time, and that’s OK. Washing and drying your hair in a hotel bathroom with questionable water-pressure and decades old, fire-hazard hair dryers just won’t be the same as at home. Ditto for doing your make-up in terrible hotel bathroom lighting, and the generally crumpled state of your clothing from being repeatedly forced into and retrieved from your bag because of point #2. It’s OK. No one cares. You’re also going to look tired, because you are.
  8. Also accept that you will never be fully hydrated the entire time you’re away. Sleeping in air conditioning, plane travel, late nights and early mornings, the general lack of public bathrooms in Europe – you just can’t drink the 3+ liters a day you do when you’re at home. This will wreak havoc with your skin, make you look much more tired than you already are, and cause your pee to be the violent shade of yellow you’re only used to seeing after a particularly big night out. Do your best when you can, but don’t stress about it too much. You can always hydrate later.
  9. Throw your fitness out the window. Sure, you have grandiose ideas of running five times a week, but when you’re working both EU and west coast hours, moving hotels or countries every few days, and occasionally waking up at 4:45am to get to work by 6am, you’re just not going to do it. You’re not lazy, you’re not poorly disciplined, you’re fucking tired. It’s fine.
  10. Coffee is your friend. When the only option is to just keep going, caffeine will get you through. One word of warning: If you have five espressos before 9:30am you will start to think you can see through space and time, and may be alarmed to find yourself locked in the bathroom, only to realise that you momentarily forgot how doors work.

Bonus tip: Accept that you’re going to miss vegetables. Rather than focusing on their absence, look forward to the glorious moment you’re reunited when you get home.

Sweet Potato Red Curry and Falling Behind

Soundtrack: Startup Season One (yes, I’m very late to this)

I don’t want to read your ramblings, I just want the recipe: Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Curry

Star Rating: Four Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This recipe is from two weeks ago and I am a bit behind on this project, so I’ll keep this short. This meal is good and I recommend that you make it if you want something healthy and quick. Red curry is delicious, and this one is meatless but still filling and the sweet potato takes the carb role without needing to overfill yourself with rice.

My biggest takeaway from this recipe was using roasted cauliflower and broccoli in place of rice. I would have normally just cooked the cauliflower in the curry, which can make the sauce a little watery and the cauliflower mushy. By roasting and pouring the curry on top it allowed the cruciferous vegetables to maintain their texture and act as a great carrier for the sauce.

Some notes on how I amended the recipe:

  1. I added a lot of other vegetables to the recipe (shocker) such as peas, spinach, and mushrooms.
  2. I waited to add the coconut milk right at the end once the sweet potato was cooked through. Coconut milk splits when it boils, so this kept the curry creamy.
  3. I omitted the sugar. It just wasn’t necessary.
  4. I didn’t add the curry powder to the cauliflower before roasting – if not done well, it can taste a bit too burnt and earthy, and my curry powder is dubious quality at best.

When I make this again – and I will make it again – I’ll add more chili and a bit more salt. Besides that, it’s a filling, warming, healthy, and fast. If you like vegetable curry, make it. Bonus points as it freezes well.

Hot Cross Buns and Busy Sundays

Soundtrack: My Favorite Murder, Episode 112

I don’t want to read your ramblings, I just want the recipe: Classic Hot Cross Buns from Donna Hay

Star Rating: Four Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

If I have one criticism about America (yes, yes, go home if I don’t like it), it’s their approach to Easter.

In Australia and the UK the Easter long weekend really emphasizes ‘long’. We get both Good Friday and Easter Monday as paid public holidays, the weather is generally still good enough in Australia that you can go camping, or possibly to the beach, and unlike other religious-based holidays (I’m looking at you, Christmas) there is no expectation that you’d spend this time with family. The only downside is that bottle shops (liquor stores) aren’t open on Good Friday and I have been caught short going to BBQs without planning ahead. If that’s the biggest inconvenience for a day off work, I’ll take it.

In the US, Easter passes without much fanfare. They aren’t big on Easter Eggs – you can find them, but for a country which can produce novelty candy for seemingly any occasion, it’s shocking to see so little innovation in this area. I particularly miss the dark chocolate Lindt easter bunnies because I’m lactose intolerant and these are the only eggs that I can eat. Cheers to my friends and family who send them to me each year. Or carry them around the globe for me, as my Dad once did.

This is not the only food that’s missing, and why we’ve arrived at this week’s recipe.

Hot Cross Buns are fucking awesome, and you can’t find them, or can’t find good ones, here. Please note that I don’t even have a high bar for HCBs – I’m happy with a 12 pack of Coles or Woolies soft, sweet, slightly chewy, golden buns which have been lightly toasted and drowned in butter (or whatever non-dairy substitute I can find).

I made a callout to Facebook asking for a good HCB recipe and my friends (as always) delivered. There were a number of suggestions which required rubbing butter through flour and this activity is something I don’t need to spend my life doing, so they were cut from the list. I checked out the ones on but they seemed a bit… basic so those were passed over too.

Then we landed on Donna’s recipe. Now Donna is not a friend of mine, but Australians are all on first name basis with her. Donna Hay has been the doyenne of Australian culinary culture for a long time now, and her recipes are virtually foolproof. Despite my long-held fantasy of baking bread each weekend, I’m not overly familiar with using yeast so I wanted to start with a recipe that many people had already managed to not totally mess up.

Here’s something I didn’t think about. Rising dough waits for no one. I made the first part of this recipe on Sunday morning before heading off for a flying lesson. I got home to a very risen and gorgeous looking ball of dough, which I promptly turned into rolls and fit into a pan.

I had a 2 hour window for both the second rising and 30 minutes of baking, and at the halfway mark I realised that the buns were not proving at the rate I had anticipated. Thankfully resting the pan on the warm stovetop (thanks to the heated oven) sped things up and I was able to get the buns to prove to my timeline.

So how were they? Freaking delicious – so much so that I ate four for dinner that night. They were light and spiced and not too sweet, and and they made my whole apartment smell like Easter.

One word of warning – the following morning, even after being stored in an airtight container, they were already pretty stale. Apparently without a bunch of preservatives and sugar they don’t keep like the store bought ones. I highly recommend making these for a group of people and eating them almost immediately. I will salvage the leftovers by using the stale buns to make Easter bread and butter pudding next weekend, which is a pretty good consolation prize.

All up, these were pretty easy to make, but they do require time so I’m unlikely to make more than once a year. I highly recommend making them on a day when you’re pottering about the house, rather than trying to fit them in between plans. And remember – I have given you permission to eat as many of them as possible while they are hot and delicious.