Apricot cake 0

February 13, 2018

 

Nothing says summer like an abundance of apricots.

 

You might be a nectarine fan or a lover of plums or mad-keen on those scarlet, seed freckled, early season strawberries, but apricots are the summer fruit for me. When I was a kid my Dad loved them best and, well, I loved my Dad (still do) so apricots it was. Suede-skinned, so easy to split, sweet and soft – how can you not be biased?

 

This cake might not be the prettiest to look at, but it’s the perfect pedestal for summer apricots. It’s got a good moist crumb and the base and edges are slightly crisp from being cooked in the skillet. The topping is rich, sweet and jammy; adding rosemary and a pinch of nutmeg lends a lovely warm and woody flavour.

 

I served this cake to my book club (over discussions about Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel) with silver cake forks I inherited from my Dad’s Mum, my Nana. I also made it for my youngest daughter’s birthday. It’s a great cake for taking to a barbecue, dishing up for afternoon tea or slowly devouring with someone you like, slice by slice, lying on a picnic blanket in a fragrant garden, bumblebees in the lavender, cicadas acting as violinists. Up to you. However you choose to share it (or not) I suggest accompanying it with handfuls of fresh berries and big dollops of cream that has been whipped with a little vanilla paste. If your rosemary is in flower you can snip off a few purple flowers and scatter them on top too.

 

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Apricot Cake

 

For this recipe you will need a 10 inch well-seasoned cast-iron or heavy non-stick skillet at least 2 inches deep

 

Topping ingredients

  • 113 grams (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 10 or 11 small (2 – 2 1/4-inch) fresh apricots, halved lengthwise and pitted
  • Handful of fresh rosemary sprigs, roughly chopped
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

 

Cake ingredients

  • 1  3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 113 grams (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature for 30 minutes
  • 3/4 cup plain greek yoghurt

 

Step 1: Topping:

 

Note: for your cake – preheat your oven to 375°F / 190 C on fan bake now

Heat butter in skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides.

Reduce heat to low and sprinkle brown sugar evenly over butter, then cook, undisturbed, 3 minutes (not all of sugar will be melted).

Remove skillet from heat and arrange apricot halves, cut sides down, close together on top of brown sugar. Scatter over rosemary, salt and nutmeg.

 

Step 2: Make cake batter:

 

Sift together flour, baking powder and soda, and salt into a small bowl.

Beat together butter, sugar, and extracts in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes in a standing mixer or 3 to 4 minutes with a handheld. Beat in eggs 1 at a time then beat until mixture is creamy and approximately doubled in volume, 2 to 3 minutes.

Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 batches alternately with yoghurt, beginning and ending with flour mixture, and beat just until combined.

Gently spoon batter over apricots and spread gently and evenly.

 

Step 3: Bake cake:

 

If your skillet isn’t ovenproof, wrap handle with heavy-duty foil (or a double layer of regular foil) before baking. Bake cake in middle of oven until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean, around 35 – 45 minutes.

Wearing oven mitts, immediately invert a large plate over skillet and, keeping plate and skillet firmly pressed together, invert cake onto plate. Carefully lift skillet off cake and, if necessary, replace any fruit that is stuck to bottom of skillet. Cool to warm or room temperature.

Devour.

 

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Pregnant Woman Keeps Working 3

January 24, 2018

Well now, that’s hardly a headline is it? How many millions of pregnant women are working at this very moment? You might have done it yourself; you might be doing it right now. But what if that pregnant woman is the leader of an entire nation?

 

image via http://www.labour.org.nz/

 

Last week Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand Prime Minister, announced her pregnancy in a post featuring a photograph of three fishhooks, including a tiny baby fishhook curled into a larger Mama fishhook (her partner, Clarke Gayford, is known for his love of fishing). Ardern explained on Twitter and Instagram:

 

And we thought 2017 was a big year! Clarke and I are really excited that in June our team will expand from two to three, and that we’ll be joining the many parents out there who wear two hats. I’ll be Prime Minister AND a mum, and Clarke will be “first man of fishing” and stay at home dad. I think it’s fair to say that this will be a wee one that a village will raise, but we couldn’t be more excited. I know there will be lots of questions, and we’ll answer all of them (I can assure you we have a plan all ready to go!) But for now, bring on 2018.”

 

And just like that, in the age of politicians making casual social media announcements, Jacinda Ardern is set to take her place in an exclusive club of heads of government who have had babies while in office. The only other Prime Minister in this club being Benazir Bhutto, who, in 1990, gave birth to her daughter, Bakhtawar, while serving as Prime Minister of Pakistan.

 

Of course, not everyone is a fan of Jacinda Ardern. She is a politician after all, it’s an occupational hazard. Some voters were terrified this is exactly what would happen if we allowed a woman of a “child-bearing age” to lead the country. In fact, Ardern was only chosen to lead her party, Labour (oh, the puns will be great!), only 54 days out from the national election. Then, during the election, Ardern’s party did not receive the majority of votes, they went to the incumbent National party. Talk about being behind the eight ball. Following the election Jacinda managed to form a coalition with smaller parties, New Zealand First and the Green party, which made it possible for Ardern to become Prime Minister of New Zealand on the 26th October 2017. In the space of less than one year Ardern will have become leader of her political party, Prime Minister of New Zealand and first time Mum. Did I mention that Ardern is the world’s youngest female head of government, having taken office at age 37?

 

I’ll admit it – I had tears in my eyes when I read Ardern’s baby announcement. Various personal politics aside, I know many women who reacted exactly the same way. Clearly there’s nothing new or unique about pregnancy, but this declaration felt special. Special and important. A Prime Minister is saying to the world it’s possible to be a leader and a woman, a leader and a Mum, that we can (and will) do these things despite resistance or in the absence of precedent. Ardern’s example, with her partner Clarke Gayford, demonstrates so many things: that ambition and family are not mutually exclusive, that fathers can parent well and equally and that it’s high time for old gender stereotypes to be shattered.

 

While writing this my three children (all daughters) have interrupted me approximately forty-five times. It’s summer school holidays and the weather is bad, the tensions running high. One daughter is currently wearing a winter hat and a swimsuit with a jammy muesli bar stuck on her index finger. When I explained to them what I was writing about (and why I had tears in my eyes) my eldest daughter, age seven, simply shrugged. She was completely unfazed by the news that the leader of our country is going to have a baby. Her attitude said it all – “who cares?” I briefly felt a bit sad about her apathy. But then I realised – this is exactly the point. A pregnant woman is just doing her job. This is no big deal. This is my daughter’s normal. And isn’t that just the best thing about it?

 

Love,
Hannah

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Book Crush: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel 1

January 16, 2018

 

Days after reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and I am still thinking about it. But, I’ll be honest, its fantastical premise initially put me off.

 

“One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as The Travelling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.”

(from Knopf jacket copy)

 

So in Station Eleven we have: a near-future world in which electricity, oil, cities, law and borders no longer exist due to a pandemic that wiped out most of the world’s population, a travelling troupe comprised of Shakespearean actors and orchestra musicians, a prophet and science fiction comic books, all with multiple threads that lead back to a miserable celebrity / actor who, in the first chapter of the book, dies in the midst of performing King Lear. See what I mean? It’s a huge web of an idea.

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Baked French Toast with Panettone and Raspberries 0

January 9, 2018

A one-dish wonder for a breakfast gathering. Hot and custardy, made crunchy by the baked sugar on top, this pudding-ish breakfast is punctuated with tiny, jammy, sweet-sour, in-season raspberries. An easy crowd-pleaser which can also be eaten the next day, cold or warmed, with a drizzle of pouring cream.

 

 

I do love a breakfast that looks a bit fancy but requires minimal effort. This might also apply to my taste in fashion (no ironing!) and hair and homeware and just about everything. Lazy-fancy. That’s pretty much my modus operandi. A recipe has to be intriguing and delicious enough to beat simply buying in food, but quick and easy enough that I can be bothered. There’s a fine balance going on and this recipe absolutely fits the bill.

 

Speaking of Bill… this recipe is based on an excellent Bill Granger recipe from Bill’s Basics  (and we all know how I love things to be basic). French toast is a favourite but I’m not too enamoured with standing around frying individual pieces of bread while everyone else is happily chatting. All this dish requires is assembling, sliding into the oven and retrieving once baked – much easier than french toast. Plus, I really love pudding and am keen to find recipes that allow me to get away with serving it for breakfast.

 

I find that it really only takes one interesting ingredient to make a basic recipe seem fancy. In this simple dish the fancy element is panettone. Panettone is a cakey-bread given and served at Christmas time in Italy, a favourite to have with a dark, strong espresso. Panettone is light and sweet – a bit like brioche, but even fluffier / lighter – and studded with candied citrus; you will have seen the tall, impressive cardboard boxes at your supermarket.

 

This raspberry dotted dish is a winner for when you have guests staying and you need to serve breakfast for a crowd. It’s delicious, pretty and easy so it ticks all the boxes. Panettone translates to “Tony’s Bread” so if you happen to have a friend named Tony you could (probably should) invite him over and impress him with this.

 

 

Baked French Toast with Panettone and Raspberries

 

500 ml milk

250 pouring cream

4 eggs

zest of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons softened butter

80 ml maple syrup

1 Panettone (sliced)

100 grams raspberries

3 tablespoons Demerara sugar

 

optional / to serve: greek yoghurt

 

Method

 

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade / gas mark 4 / 360 fahrenheit

Whisk the milk, cream, eggs, lemon zest and vanilla in a large bowl. Butter an ovenproof dish (I used an approximately 30 x 20cm rectangular one) and drizzle the base with the maple syrup.

 

Arrange the panettone slices in the dish, tucking the raspberries between the slices as you go (save some raspberries for the top). Pour the milk-cream-eggs mixture over the panettone, scatter with the remaining raspberries and top with sprinkled demerara sugar. Allow to soak for ten minutes.

 

Bake for 50 – 60 minutes and serve with thick greek yoghurt, if you fancy it.

Any leftovers can be eaten the next day, cold or hot, with a glug of runny cream.

 

Love, Hannah x

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Look Back, Step Forward 4

December 20, 2017

In keeping with the end of old things and start of new, we have an announcement here at Fork & Fiction. After almost six years of collaboration, inspiration and fun, our team of two will soon be one. Ria is stepping away from her part of the blog to focus on her writing, career and other mystery projects. It’s the end of an era and we’re both very sad, but also excited for what 2018 holds for both of us, and for Fork & Fiction. So here’s Ria with one last collection of thoughts to round out an eventful year and a beautiful, powerful partnership in words.

 

 

I’m going to miss you all so much. Working on the blog, creating posts, thinking about things by writing them down here, has been a blessing and a joy. We’ve had babies, bought/sold houses, moved to new cities and countries and written and published numerous books, all while recording it here. That’s no small thing.

So I thought I’d take a look back at a few of the posts I most enjoyed, whether it’s for the writing, photos, event that inspired it, or the conversation it sparked. Those are the things that matter to me most, and the things that I will carry with me forever.

Lavender Honeycake. This was such a pleasure in all ways—I was alone in the house (can’t recall why), the summer air was hot and sweet, I made this delicious cake and got to enjoy it before everyone else came home. Luxury. I can’t wait to make it again next summer.

To Life. I admit, I love an excuse to take pictures of piggies. And caterpillars. But this one was also unexpectedly sobering (which I think comes across in the post). It was that great balance of bittersweet that DH and I love so much. Which is just the way life is, right? And there were some thoughtful comments and conversations afterward that really made me think. Love that too.

Our whole How She/He Does It series was so much fun, but I especially enjoyed interviewing Hannah. It was back at the start, when we were just figuring out what we were doing (or have we ever??) and it was a way to introduce ourselves and also learn more about the other. And reading it now is also a trip because we’ve changed! Our families and locations have changed! Life has really moved on, but the foundation, the truest parts of us, are still the same. And what a great way to go forward into 2018, with a look back and an understanding of where we’ve come from.

So with that I want to send out the HUGEST hug to my fantastic collaborator and wonderful friend, Hannah, with whom I’ve been so honoured to create this blog. I know you’ll do amazing and creative things with it in the coming months and years and I look forward to seeing it evolve.

As for me, I’m off to do some scheming and planning for a new website and finish the lovely labour of my latest novel, out in 2019. I can always be found on twitter and Instagram as @riavoros and for now, through my soon-to-be-replaced website www.riavoros.com . Thank YOU, our readers, for giving us your time and thoughts and good energy. It’s been wonderful connecting with so many of you.

 

With much love and hope for 2018,

Ria

 

 

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