Category — Food

How to Make a Perfect Salad 0

February 20, 2018

 

Summer was made for salads. Or is it that salads were made for summer? Our summer has been incredibly hot, tropical and steamy; far too hot for cooking. I seem to be able to bear the heat for cake making (like this one, summer fruit skillet cake) but not for regular cooking. Priorities? 😉

 

So, what’s the secret of a good salad? In my opinion it’s all about balance. Here are the flavours and textures you want to include, with examples:

 

Neutral base: Greens or rice or pasta or beans

Sweet ‘n’ juicy: Cherry tomatoes, apple, pear, roasted carrot, roasted eggplant

Protein: Chicken, bacon, feta, mozzarella

Salty: Shards of parmesan, tiny slices of preserved lemon

Sour & Pickled: Capers, pickled ginger, quick-pickled radish

Herb: Mint, oregano, dill, parsley

Texture: toasted pine nuts, croutons, toasted rice, crushed peanuts

 

You could add some of these aspects by throwing on a sauce or dressing, but I think the best salads have these components as direct ingredients. Plus, nothing worse than a soggy, overdressed salad.

Finally, make sure to season your salad. If it needs it- taste first! – add a bit of olive oil and vinegar.

 

So, with that “formula” in mind, here is my current favourite summer salad –

 

 

Beetroot, Feta, Caper-berries & Fennel Flower Salad

 

Base: Cooked beetroot cut into quarters

Sweet ‘n’ juicy: apple cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks

Protein: soft feta, broken into chunks

Salty: a couple of pieces of preserved lemon, sliced

Sour & Pickled: caper-berries, stalks removed and cut in half

Herb: Mint leaves, torn + a few soft fennel fronds

Texture: Fresh fennel flower tops (tear the tops off small, soft ones)

Season: salt + pepper

 

My fennel is giving me more flowers than I know what to do with and I love the little pops of aniseed flavour they give to this salad. You’ll need to use the small, soft, baby flower heads as the more mature flowers can be too overpowering. If you don’t have fennel flowers in your garden you could try toasted cumin seeds or sesame seeds, toasted pinenuts or croutons. Apple cucumber can be substituted with regular cucumber. Preserved lemon can be left out if you don’t have it but if you do – please use it! Preserved lemon – salty, jammy and tangy – is my new addiction.

 

What is your “formula” for a perfect salad? What is your current favourite salad?

H x

 

In: Food, From Hannah, Includes a recipe!, Seasonal

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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In: Food, From Hannah, Includes a recipe!

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

In: Food, From Hannah, Includes a recipe!

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

 

 

In: Food, From Ria, How She (or he) Does It, Includes a recipe!, Interviews, Kids and Parenting, Seasonal, Writing

Not Your Regular Gift Guide : A christmas stocking challenge 0

November 30, 2017

It’s the first of December and the Christmas books are wrapped for our annual book advent calendar. There are outdoor lights waiting to be draped over the deck (whose entanglements nearly disentangled our marriage last year) and piles of tinsel that the kids have already started to use as reins – galloping wildly and nearly strangling one another whilst dropping shimmering, shining hairs all over the house. In short – all the old traditions are ready to go. Mess, madness, fun and frenzy! But, is it time for some new traditions?

 

We are really fortunate to be able to have a Christmas that is colourful and plentiful, packed with the kind of crazy we like best. Which mostly means hordes of family feasting for about a fortnight (slide into your stretchy pants, folks!) but also includes being able to afford gifts, including those from Santa, and all the extra expenses this time of year brings. We know it’s not the same for everyone. This year, in addition to the regular traditions we’ve grown fond of, I decided to set myself a new challenge to do something a bit different from the usual frenzy. Namely – to buy all our Santa / stocking gifts from charity shops.

 

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In: Food, From Hannah, Kids and Parenting