Category — Includes a recipe!

An Abundance of Spearmint 2

September 21, 2017

 

I recently put out a plea on Instagram, asking what I should do with my spearmint. I planted the spearmint a long time ago and suddenly it is everywhere. Reaching, spreading, thriving, abundant. I’m new to gardening and this is how my growing goes. Nothing, nothing, nothing, SO MUCH OF SOMETHING. It’s either drought or overwhelm. It’s as though my garden is channelling my particular brand of enthusiasm: ALL!!!! or nothing.

 

You, good people, gave me some stellar ideas for utilizing my spearmint. Ideas for drinks and sauces and baking, just to name a few. I put several to the test and came up with a winner to gift back to you…

 

 

Abundant Spearmint – The Winner:

 

Chocolate & Spearmint Slice

Adapted from Chelsea Winter’s Peppermint Slice recipe, this slice uses fresh spearmint and is topped with a silky smooth dark chocolate ganache. The use of fresh leaves will make you look a bit fancy, but it’s not a difficult recipe to make, despite the three steps.

 

Ingredients

Base
225g butter, at room temperature, cubed
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 large free-range egg
1 cup plain flour
1/3 cup dark cocoa
1⁄2 cup fine desiccated coconut

Fresh spearmint cream filling
3 1⁄2 cups icing sugar
50g butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup cream
1 tsp pure peppermint essence
1 big bunch fresh spearmint leaves, finely chopped

Chocolate ganache topping
150g good-quality dark chocolate (at least 60% cocoa)
2 Tbsp cream

1tsp peppermint essence

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Grease a slice tin.

To make the base – cream the butter and sugars together, then beat in the egg until well incorporated. Sift in the flour and cocoa and add the coconut, if using, and mix until combined. The mixture will be sticky so press it into the tin in an even layer with a moistened spatula (or your hands)

Bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin.

To make the spearmint cream – beat the icing sugar with the butter and cream until very pale and fluffy (about 5-8 minutes). Add the peppermint essence and fresh spearmint, and beat to combine. Spread over the cooled base and smooth out with a warm knife.

To make the ganache topping – break up the chocolate and melt in the microwave in short 10 – 20 second bursts, stirring in between bursts. Once just melted, add the cream and stir together until completely combined. Add the peppermint essence last and stir again until all ingredients are combined and silky smooth. Cool slightly, then pour or spread over the peppermint filling.

Cover the dish with cling film and set in the fridge for at least 1 hour. When set, cut into squares with a sharp knife. It’s pretty rich so you’ll want to cut the squares small (approx 1.5 inch x 1.5 inch).

Keeps in an airtight container in the fridge for about a week.

 

 

Abundant Spearmint – The Runner Ups: Spearmint & Rosemary Jelly, Spearmint Tisane, Mojitos and Mint Chutney

 

Aside from the delicious slice I really enjoyed making a spearmint and rosemary jelly, using this recipe. I substituted the mint for spearmint and added about ten big sprigs of rosemary during the final ten minutes of boiling. It is so good with lamb or served with quick-boiled peas – yom. A spearmint tisane shouldn’t be ignored either – simply soak in boiling water, like a tea, and voila. This is such a refreshing drink, my kids love it and the colour is a vibrant lemony-green. As an alternative beverage you could always make mojitos (and invite me over. Or else). Lastly, this recipe for a traditional mint chutney (pudina) was recommended to me, which I haven’t yet had the chance to try but is firmly on my list as the spearmint continues its relentless rampage.

 

All your great ideas for using my spearmint got me thinking about reaching out much more often when something in my garden gets presidential ambitions. I can ask you what to do with it, you can tell me your tips and tricks, then I can cook, mix, test and report back. That way you can check here when it’s your garden’s turn to get abundant and I can check back when spearmint is once again going bananas and I’ve completely forgotten what to do with the pervasive little beauty. Hey, look at that, it’s almost like a club! We both win! Well, apart from the spearmint.

 

Thanks again for all your tips, do keep ’em coming,

With love, in abundance,

Hannah

 

P.S. Thank you to author, John Green, for his book “An Abundance of Katherines” which inspired the title for this post. Mr Green, if you ever need more spearmint in your life please let me know.

In: From Hannah, Includes a recipe!

Chocolate…Spheres… 2

August 10, 2017

Have you noticed the proliferation of balls these days? (Ahem.)

Coconut bliss balls, pineapple balls, power balls. All these things are rolled into spheres and exude health and trendy seeds–and every time I pass by a counter with things on a square plate labeled ‘balls’, my mind goes immediately into the gutter. Yes. Sorry. I can’t help it.

 

 

Perhaps you are familiar with (or have been happy to forget) the South Park ditty of yore that did a lot to cement this toilet-thought tic of mine? If not, you may look it up. Or you may not. I won’t offer any more info. Regardless, I find I am now quite unable to keep a straight face when describing a rolled, sticky confection of dried fruits, nuts and other usually-wholesome ingredients. I just couldn’t title this post chocolate balls.

I’m a odd human, I know.

 

 

BUT! These…spheres…are very delicious! You should make them. Let’s now talk about how righteous they are with toasted walnut, deep cocoa, just enough maple syrup to keep them from being savoury and enough chew to satisfy the biggest chocolate fudge craving. They’re easy to put together and even easier to devour. If you’ve read this far, thank you for humouring me and my silliness, and please, go get yourself set up in the kitchen with these ingredients. Chocolate balls await.

!!!

 

 

Chocolate-Walnut Spheres

 

Ingredients

1 cup coconut flakes (medium length, unsulfured is best)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

8 dried dates, pitted and chopped

1/3 cup cocoa

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup almond butter (or cashew, or hazelnut…)

1 tbsp psyllium husk (or sub wheat germ)

3 tbsp maple syrup (a little more if you like it sweeter)

large pinch salt

 

Spread a piece of waxed paper over a cookie sheet.

Toast the walnut pieces over low heat in a dry pan, being careful not to burn them. Let them cool to room temperature before using, or they’ll make the mixture much stickier. Put the coconut and the chopped dates into the bowl of a food processor and run it for 5 to 10 seconds, scraping sides, then running again for 5 seconds. Add cocoa and walnuts and pulse to chop the nuts. Add remaining ingredients, including walnuts, and pulse several times, until the mixture gets sticky and pulls into a ball. It’ll be very soft, but still rollable.

Using your palms, roll walnut-sized balls of dough until smooth and round, and place on the cookie sheet. You should be able to make about 16 at this size. Chill in the fridge to set. To store, separate layers of the spheres with wax paper in an air-tight container in the fridge.

 

XO

Ria

In: Food, From Ria, Includes a recipe!

Accidental Greatness 0

May 31, 2017

We have been getting up early in our new house. Really early. And not by choice. Our soon-to-be three-year-old (aka The Tiger) has decided he is a morning person in the most yawn-inducing way. He’s now sharing a room with his older sister, so we can’t just send him back in to play or chat to himself like we used to in our old house. One of us has to get up. At 5am.

I’ve discovered that after the initial shock and rubbing of heavy eyelids, I’m quite an early morning person. Helps that it’s summer and all the days he’s chosen to wake us up have been blue sky, golden light mornings. But even as I grouse about the lack of sleep and how exhausted I am by 9pm, I’m enjoying the still, quiet mornings.

Our new house is a ten minute walk from the beach and the other day The Tiger and I wandered down there–he exclaiming at every car that drove past (colour and size being the most important details). The sea looked almost motionless and the air was salty and sharp with the smell of seaweed. A few ducks drifted across the glassy water. Down the beach, a woman did yoga beside her sunbathing dog. Gulls called.

It was exactly where I was glad to be.

 

 

And the same happened at lunch a few days later, when I overcooked some white beans and couldn’t use them for their original purpose. I tossed them with roast veg and made a dressing based on this one I wrote about, and it was the best warm salad I’ve had in years. The kids ate carrot sticks and cheese and crackers and I devoured a bowl and a half of accidental greatness. Below is the recipe, which isn’t much more than a combining of things already made, but here you go.

 

Roasted Vegetable and White Bean Salad

Ingredients

About two cookie sheets’ worth of cut roast vegetables (I used carrots, green beans, onion, beets and cauliflower)

2 1/2 cups cooked white (navy) beans

1 recipe basil viniagrette (I didn’t have enough basil so subbed half chives and it was delicious)

 

Combine everything in a large bowl while the roast veg and beans are still warm (but not hot). Toss to coat with the dressing. Serve at room temperature or warmer.

 

 

 

Early wake-ups, unexpected recipes–these things happen. I’m so glad they do.

XO

Ria

In: Food, From Ria, Includes a recipe!, Kids and Parenting

How chocolate mousse saved the day. 0

May 24, 2017

Oh man, life is busy these days. B1 has just started playing netball, which requires two additional early morning wake-ups, and she’s taking an art class every week. B2 is keen on “ripper rugby” and pretty much every other activity that gets advertised at school. Did I mention B2 has started school? Two times the homework! B3, on the other hand, is occupied rearranging my plastic containers and whatever I’ve just recently folded or put away. Do you ever feel like just as life feels as busy as it can get…it gets busier? How on earth to fold in the new ingredients?!

 

All I can advise, from my very limited experience is – gently and one at a time. I learned this from chocolate mousse.

 

 

…………………

 

Dark Chocolate & Sea Salt mousse

A rich, cool and elegant dessert. Serve in French jam jars or pretty glasses.

 

Serves 6

 

Ingredients

 

1 ¼ cups of heavy, whipping cream

3 egg whites from fresh, organic eggs

8 ounces / 230g of good quality dark chocolate (containing at least 65% cocoa solids)

½ cup milk

½ teaspoon of sea salt

 

Method

 

Place the chocolate, milk and salt in a small bowl and microwave in short bursts until the chocolate is melted (usually two sets of 30 seconds). Mix together until well incorporated and set aside.

 

Place the whipping cream into a large, chilled bowl and whip until there are soft peaks. In a separate bowl whip the egg whites until they are very white with stiff peaks and set aside. In the large bowl with the cream, very slowly and gently fold in the melted chocolate and milk mixture. Aim to maintain as much air (that you whipped into the cream) as possible.

 

Once the chocolate is evenly mixed in, add the egg whites and continue to fold gently until all three elements are completely incorporated. Then, divide the mousse among six containers and chill for at least four hours. Serve chilled, topped with a spoonful of fresh whipped cream, chocolate shavings or fresh summer berries.

 

………………………..

 

 

Another couple of ideas for remedying busy-ness, also from chocolate mousse:

 

1) Share. I can’t thank my similarly-harried friends enough for making room in their lives for my complaining and eye-rolling. They help take my kids to this or that and send  inappropriate GIFs to brighten my day when it all goes pear-shaped. Also, so many arguments on whether to pronounce it GIF or JIF. Don’t get me started.

 

2) If a day does go pear-shaped – or in the case of the mousse, split and separate – it’s probably best to laugh and start again. The next time is likely to work out better and there is probably left over dark chocolate to devour from the first attempt.

 

What helps you cope with the busy days?

How good is chocolate mousse?!

 

With love,

Hannah x

In: Food, From Hannah, Includes a recipe!, Kids and Parenting

How She Does It: Sara Alexander 0

May 3, 2017

Welcome back to our ongoing author series, How She (or He) Does It, wherein we explore the fascinating (and often delicious) lives of creative people we love and admire. Here and here are a few of our faves if you want more of a taste.

Today we bring you the delights and musings of Sara Alexander, a British-Sardinian author whose new novel, Under a Sardinian Sky is all about the things we love best here at Fork & Fiction: food, adventure, love, seductive places, food… Sara has been kind enough to answer a few of our questions and then she’s given us a glimpse into her kitchen and the kinds of things she’d cook for a languorous, aromatic Sardinian meal.

 

 

Welcome, Sara! It’s so nice to have you here on the blog. Let’s start with the basics. Tell us a little about yourself–your background and family.

My husband, two children (10 & 4), my parents and I all live together in a house in a London suburb. I’m a born and bred North West Londoner. I’ve been acting since I was a child and hovering in a make-believe world since I can remember. I’m a passionate foodie and love nothing more than a house full of folks, friends and family feasting together. I’m a descendant of some culinary wizards with a reverence for superstitions and a keen tinkering of magic….(the digestible kind, of course).

That sounds like a flavourful life! What part of the writing process brings you the most joy?

Fleeing to another time and space, the mutability of floating between characters’ outlooks, passions, desires, thoughts.

 

 

 

What do you enjoy least about writing a novel?

The sticky middle where you doubt whether you should ever have begun in the first place. That sparse blank page. The nagging voices of negativity I’m forced to work through, be it the university lecturer who told me I suffered from written constipation or an off-hand remark from a well-meaning friend about a blog post being over-written a decade ago. That sort of thing.

Oh, the sticky middle is the worst, isn’t it? Those ugly voices always shout in the quagmire. Can you tell us which books made the biggest impact on your life and why?

I adored trailing through Chaucer at school and Jane Austen because our teachers were phenomenal – they passed on their passion in spades. I also adore Isabel Allende, Joanne Harris and Tracy Chevalier for the worlds they float me to, their fierce attention to detail, their reverence for feisty and sensitive female protagonists.

Who would be on your dream dinner party guest list and why?

What a wonderful question! I think I would need to balance some literary genius with a robust amount of gregarious personalities; Cleopatra beside the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen. Audrey Hepburn for elegant conversation. Grace Kelly to spin me on the dance floor after dinner. Marcus Aurelius to lead some philosophical meanderings, perhaps Buster Keaton to liven up proceedings and Amelia Earhart for stimulating descriptions of adventures to keep us all entertained.

Oooh, a dinner to remember. Perhaps a new, experimental novel idea?? We’d love to hear the conversations around that table!

Can you describe the best meal of your life? (We know it’s hard for foodies to pick just one, so a compound answer is just fine.)

That’s a toughie! Amongst the top ten is a Brazilian feast we ate at a churrascaria in San Francisco. The meats were phenomenal and the salad bar was strewn with dishes prepared with such passion and care, you could taste the attention poured over them back in the kitchen. A close second is the fish feast we have annually at my favourite restaurant L’Artista, in San Teodoro, Sardinia. The freshest seafood, cooked simply, with high quality ingredients accompanied by excellent wine – heaven.

 

 

What is always in your fridge or pantry?

Coconut milk. A dairy’s worth of parmesan and pecorino. Pasta and lentils of any colour. Monsooned Malabar coffee beans.

Why are you drawn to write about food?

Food is a language. It’s expressive. It describes the feelings of the cook, the state of mind they were in during prep. It’s laced with messages about the care the cook feels for the people they prepare for, and, for themselves. It’s an act of vulnerability and creativity. It’s the magic of alchemy. When I’m having a bad day I take the making of a broth very seriously and show myself a little love. For my Sardinian family, who are of few words, this is how they express their deepest feelings.

 

 

We couldn’t agree more (and couldn’t be more charmed by your Sardinian family)! Can you describe how you feel about the intersection between food and writing? Perhaps share some cooking tips or a recipe?

My favourite part of the writing process for Under a Sardinia Sky was delving deeply into the descriptions and acts of preparing food. It is important to me that food, much like sex, should not appear in a story for it’s own sake but because it reveals something deeper about the character and their personal journey. Food is an incredibly sensual way to explore character and story. I love trying new things, creating dishes and growing our own produce. Food is a portal to other lands, and, sometimes as close to time travel as you can get without drawing on the complexities of Quantum.

If I prepare gnochetti and fresh sauce to perfection I am in my grandma’s kitchen aged 6. To summon the spirits of Sardinia: Tip a couple of fists full of dried gnochetti (do not confuse with potato gnocchi) per person into plenty of salted simmering water. Whilst they’re cooking heat a smushed clove of garlic gently until it begins to soften in two tablespoons of olive oil. Add a bottle of passata, season well, bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer. Stir in a little sugar or nub of dark chocolate and, when it’s cooked through (20 mins or so), tip in several fresh basil leaves, immediately turning off the heat. Allow to infuse. When the gnochetti are cooked, drain and stir them into the sauce pan, coating every little nub with the sweet tomato. Be generous with some more grated pecorino.

Delicious. Thank you, Sara. We’ll be scouring the internet for the next flight to Sardinia. All the best with your beautiful novel, and may the gnochetti-eating commence.

Ria and Hannah

XO

In: Books & Reading, Food, From Hannah, From Ria, How She (or he) Does It, Includes a recipe!, Interviews, Travel, Writing