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_MG_1525Sev­er­al stor­ies up, down a cent­ral city side street, Wel­ling­ton food blog­ger and cook­book author Laura Vin­cent is seated on a couch in the spa­cious loft apart­ment she shares with part­ner, Tim Her­bert. After a fest­ive photo shoot involving tin­sel and Santa hats, fol­lowed by some deli­cious salad and equally tasty craft beer, she’s ready to talk shop. Her­bert places an album by Amer­ic­an soul music sur­viv­or Lee Fields on the record play­er, and with little prompt­ing, Laura med­it­ates on Christ­mas and what it means to her. “I have done almost exactly the same thing at Christ­mas every year since I was a baby,” she says with a reflect­ive smile.

Christ­mas for Vin­cent and her fam­ily, hail­ing from the rur­al town of Waiuku, was, and is, a thing of ritu­al. Every year they gath­er with her mother’s rel­at­ives for lunch, before head­ing over to friends for din­ner. “I usu­ally make a pud­ding,” she says. Aside from food, there is a lot of group singing, and a box of well-loved Christ­mas CDs and cas­sette tapes dat­ing back to the 1980s.

This year, as per tra­di­tion, she intends to return home again, offer­ing the pro­viso that she might go to Herbert’s fam­ily home for Box­ing Day. “I only go home about once a year,” she admits with a laugh. “I’m not a very good daugh­ter, so it feels import­ant that I’m always there for this.”

Vin­cent is recog­nis­able with­in the loc­al food media land­scape for her blog Hungry and Frozen, a concept that made the jump from digit­al to phys­ic­al at the end of August this year when Pen­guin pub­lished her first cook­book, Hungry & Frozen: 150+ oh-so-deli­cious recipes, from fast to fancy. A pro­lif­ic diary writer through­out child­hood, Vin­cent feels like she had always been search­ing for an audi­ence and an out­let in one way or anoth­er. “I think it was always there – my need to share my life, what I’m doing, and I guess cook as well,” she muses. “The blog just became the home for it.”

In 2006, after Vin­cent returned from a gap year in Eng­land (where she met Her­bert), writ­ing on the Inter­net presen­ted itself to her while the couple were both study­ing at Vic­tor­ia Uni­ver­sity. “Tim was work­ing all of these ridicu­lous shifts at McDonald’s. He wouldn’t fin­ish until mid­night,” she recalls. “I had a lot of time to myself, and I found these blogs. There was one run by an Aus­trali­an woman who was cook­ing every single recipe from Nigella Lawson’s book How to Eat. There was anoth­er by this guy in New York. He wrote about music and pop cul­ture. He would obsess­ively recap every America’s Next Top Mod­el epis­ode, or write deep-think pieces break­ing down a Mari­ah Carey song. I loved that he was pas­sion­ate about things that might not be seen as fine art.”

Inspired, she star­ted a blog her­self, post­ing meal recipes and pho­to­graphs, and her own obser­va­tions about life and pop­u­lar cul­ture. “The pho­tos were ter­rible, but the writ­ing was fine,” she laughs. “As soon as I star­ted it, it made sense. It was like it had always been there.”

Soon after launch­ing Hungry and Frozen (named after a line from her favour­ite music­al, Rent) as a blog, Vin­cent joined Twit­ter, and began net­work­ing and pro­mot­ing her writ­ing. Through these two plat­forms she developed her funny-yet-thought­ful writ­ten voice. “I respond really well to people who are hon­est, open and vul­ner­able about them­selves,” she says. “At the same time, I under­stand that not every­one might want to talk about them­selves. Every­one doesn’t have to share everything, but some­times it’s nice because it makes you real­ise how uni­ver­sal some exper­i­ences are.”

Three years later, with a steady fol­low­ing of read­ers check­ing in weekly, things stepped up a notch. At the time, Her­bert, hav­ing moved on from McDonald’s to Star­bucks, really wanted to find a bet­ter work­place. With a decent day job under her belt, Vin­cent offered to sup­port him dur­ing his search for more gain­ful employ­ment. While Her­bert was out there hunt­ing, Vin­cent men­tioned in a blog post that he was look­ing for work. “I got an email from the Sunday Star Times,” she says. “They said, ‘This isn’t a job as such, but we read about how Tim quit his job. We like you, so would you guys like to be our new café review­ers?’” Her­bert has since found a new job, and the two have tag-teamed writ­ing reviews ever since. “It has got­ten me through so many doors,” Vin­cent enthuses. “No mat­ter what people say about news­pa­pers, there is some­thing about being attached to one that is quite useful.”

_MG_066Between blog­ging and review­ing for the Sunday Star Times, Laura began to con­sider ser­i­ously pur­su­ing a child­hood dream: author­ing her own cook­book. To pre­pare for this she star­ted really step­ping up devel­op­ment of her recipes, and applied her­self to writ­ing like nev­er before. “I tried really hard to make myself as easy as pos­sible for a pub­lish­er to come along and pick up,” she admits.

In Janu­ary 2012, vin­cent received an email from Pen­guin ask­ing if she would con­sider writ­ing a book for them. I think the email I sent back was way too long,” she laughs. “It was like, here is the story of my life, and here are all of my feel­ings. Luck­ily, they replied.” Describ­ing the pro­cess of pitch­ing her cook­book idea as com­par­able to mov­ing up stages in a vin­tage plat­form video game, Vin­cent says that come May 2012 Hungry & Frozen: 150+ oh-so-deli­cious recipes, from fast to fancy was con­firmed and signed off on. All that remained was com­pletely devel­op­ing the recipes, writ­ing them, and shoot­ing the imagery.

Quit­ting her day job to focus on the pro­ject, and with the assist­ance of Her­bert, pho­to­graph­ers Kim Lauren­son and Jason Aldous, and styl­ist Kate McLeod, Vin­cent fin­ished the writ­ing and imagery over three intens­ive months. “For quite a while I would take my laptop to Cus­toms Brew Bar or Six Bar­rel Soda Co., write for three hours, then come home and test recipes,” she recalls. In the pro­cess, she came to real­ise the massive respons­ib­il­ity inher­ent in author­ing a cook­book. “Even though you could see it as a rel­at­ively frivol­ous item, you’re telling people how to make a par­tic­u­lar meal, so it actu­ally has to work… It’s got to be foolproof.”

Thank­fully, the mix­ture of recipes for mouth-water­ing brunch, din­ner, baked foods and longer week­end pro­ject dishes con­tained with­in its pages are exactly that. Equally import­antly, the enthu­si­asm and char­ac­ter with which Vin­cent presents them points to her deep­er love of food. “When I was in fourth form I caught a bit of Nigella Lawson’s tele­vi­sion show,” she says. “She was so dif­fer­ent to everything I had seen before. I real­ised then that I hadn’t seen a lot of pas­sion, love and human­ity in cook­ing shows or cook­books. A lot of them were really dry and sterile. You could trust them, but they didn’t have per­son­al­ity. You didn’t get to know why a recipe was in there, or what it meant to the author. I wanted to bring con­text and feel­ing into it.” Suf­fice it to say, Vincent’s dishes – includ­ing cheese brownie, noodles with miso but­ter and spring onions, hal­loumi cheese­cake, and a vari­ety of ice creams – accom­plish exactly that.

A pivotal assist­ant when it came to logist­ics, spread­sheets and see­ing the big­ger pic­ture, Her­bert also got to eat the food, and fit­tingly, wash up all the dishes. How­ever, it’s import­ant to note that, while he gets to par­take in Vincent’s cre­ations, feed­ing him isn’t her primary motive. “It’s not like, I must cook for my man love,” Vin­cent laughs. “I just love to cook, and Tim hap­pens to be there… I like to cook because I like to cook. Cook­ing is a really nice thing to do for your­self. You’re tak­ing time out for you – really valu­ing yourself.”

A self-described small-town girl with big-city dreams, Vin­cent has VLaura incent has seen her real­ity begin to catch up with her dreams in the years fol­low­ing the launch of her blog. “When I was a stu­dent I was spend­ing my course-related costs on pomegranates. Our house was damp, fall­ing to bits, and full of spiders, but we ate pretty well… Now I’m a pub­lished author. I can lit­er­ally say that. I wish I could go back and tell my teen­age self that. I love our flat, and I live in the city like I always wanted to,” she says. “What I would like to be able to do is make a liv­ing off this one day. I have a day job, because I have to pay for rent, bills, cof­fee and craft beer, but it would be nice to be able to write more and not be so rushed… I think [as an over­all brand] Hungry and Frozen is about hav­ing ridicu­lous goals, and then try­ing to turn them into things that actu­ally happen.”

Hungry & Frozen: 150+ oh-so-deli­cious recipes, from fast to fancy is avail­able in stores now.[/info]

Christmas salad of asparagus, beans, pomegranate, basil and marinated feta



  • ½ red onion
  • 200g feta
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp fen­nel seeds
  • 2 tsp cori­ander seeds
  • 1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 150g green beans, ends trimmed
  • 1 red cap­sic­um, finely sliced
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 300g pack­et cos lettuce leaves
  • 1 large hand­ful basil leaves, whole
  • ⅓ cup hazelnuts


  1. Very finely slice the red onion, and crumble the feta. Place both in a bowl and mix in the vin­eg­ar, olive oil, lem­on juice, sug­ar, and fen­nel and cori­ander seeds. Pour over a little more vin­eg­ar and olive oil if the mix­ture looks like it needs it. Allow to sit for at least an hour to let the acid soften the harsh onion fla­vour (truly, it works!) and the spices to per­meate the feta.
  2. Slice the asparagus and beans into pieces roughly 3cm long. Place in a pan with ¼ cup water, cov­er with a lid and cook over a low heat, just until the water has almost entirely evap­or­ated. Remove from the heat.
  3. In a large bowl, mix togeth­er the cap­sic­um, the seeds of the pomegranate, the lettuce and basil leaves, and the hazel­nuts. The best way to get the seeds out of the pomegranate is to halve it and smack each half repeatedly over a bowl with a wooden spoon. It feels odd, but it does the trick.
  4. Stir the asparagus and beans into the bowl, and finally the feta and red onion, scrap­ing in every last bit of the mar­in­ade. Stir care­fully, adding a little salt or more olive oil if you like, and serve.

Serves 4

Christmas pulled pork

pulled porkI know pulled pork isn’t neces­sar­ily what springs to mind for a tra­di­tion­al Christ­mas meal; in fact, it’s prob­ably pretty far down the food chain after tur­key, chick­en and so on and so forth. How­ever, I have endeav­oured to imbue this tender, shred­ded pork with so much Decem­berif­ic fla­vour that you can’t help but won­der why we ever bothered with tur­key in the first place. And, if Christ­mas isn’t part of your life, you could of course change the title and just call it cran­berry cin­na­mon pulled pork (which some­how sounds even Christ­massier, sorry!)


  • 2kg of belly-cut pork or just plain pork shoulder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 or 4 cloves (or ½ tsp ground cloves)
  • 1 tsp mus­tard powder
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup strong black coffee
  • 2 tbsp Cointr­eau (or the zest and juice of an orange)
  • 2 tbsp tomato-based chut­ney or tomato paste
  • A hand­ful of dried cranberries


  1. Heat your oven to 140˚C and place the pork in an oven dish. I have a the­ory that ceram­ic or glass ones are best for slow cook­ing as they don’t con­duct heat so well as, say, met­al or enamel. But really, just an oven dish of some descrip­tion is what you want.
  2. Mix togeth­er the spices, sug­ar and salt in a small bowl, and spoon nearly all of it over the cut side of the pork. Then turn the pork over and rub the remain­ing mix­ture into the fat. Cook the pork, fat side up, for four hours.
  3. Mix togeth­er the cof­fee, Cointr­eau and chut­ney. Tip this into the roast­ing dish once the four hours are up, sprinkle over the cran­ber­ries, and cov­er the dish tightly with tin­foil. Reduce the heat to 130˚C and cook for anoth­er half-hour or so.
  4. Once this time is up, remove the tin­foil and care­fully shred the pork to pieces, includ­ing the crack­ling (unless it makes you feel icky) – I use a fork and a pair of tongs. Stir the pork through all the sauce and fattened cran­ber­ries, and then serve with masses of pride and all the usu­al trim­mings – or some fresh rolls and home-made slaw if you are head­ing to the beach.

Hungry & Frozen Christmas Cake

9 Christmas Cake copyAs much as mar­ket­ing would have you believe it, not everyone’s granny has a tried and tested Christ­mas cake. If you are in the pos­i­tion of not hav­ing a reli­able recipe to hand, but you want to try said hand at mak­ing a fruit­cake, why not let mine be your new tra­di­tion? Ooh, now who’s using mar­ket­ing speak! But really, this is a bril­liant cake. It has rummy, gingery depth and lasts pretty much forever, as a good Christ­mas cake ought to.


Dried fruit

  • 700g sul­tanas
  • 300g dried pears, dried apricots or dried apples (or a mix)
  • 375ml bottle ginger beer
  • ½ cup rum, plus extra for soak­ing later


  • 300g but­ter
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 1 can sweetened con­densed milk
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp Boy­aji­an orange oil, or the zest of an orange
  • 1 tsp bak­ing soda
  • 1 tbsp cocoa
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 300g flour


  1. Place the sul­tanas and dried pears in a large bowl, and tip in the ginger beer and rum. Leave overnight. Drain the fruit and retain ½ cup of soak­ing liquid for the cake recipe. Don’t dis­card the rest: keep it to pour over the baked cake later.
  2. Line the base of a 23cm cake tin with a double lay­er of bak­ing paper and then, as best you can, line the sides. Pull out a long piece of the bak­ing paper, fold it in half length­ways, make it into a loop and then shove it into the cake tin so it looms evenly out of the tin by sev­er­al cen­ti­metres, and hope for the best – that tends to work for me.
  3. Melt the but­ter, sug­ar, con­densed milk and spices togeth­er gently. Remove from the heat, stir in the fruit and the ½ cup of soak­ing liquid, the orange oil or zest, the bak­ing soda and the cocoa. It might fizz up a bit at this point. Beat in the eggs, then care­fully sift and stir in the flour, mak­ing sure there are no lumps.
  4. Tip the mix­ture into your pre­pared tin, and bake at 140˚C for 2½ hours – though check after two hours. Pierce it at vari­ous inter­vals with either a cake test­er or a piece of dried spa­ghetti once it’s cooked, then tip over a cap­ful or three of rum. Ice how you please, or leave per­fectly plain.


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