Category — Markets & Food Stores

The french pastry you’ve never heard of. 5

June 14, 2017

 

Is it a croissant? Is it a brioche? Is it a kind of donut?! Nope, it’s kouign-amann.

 

My romance with kouign-amann began with a hunt for the setting for my next novel. Already a Francophile I had a few ideas about where I wanted to set A French Wedding but needed a specific location. The story of a group of old college friends, gathering together to celebrate the fortieth birthday of one of their own – musician Max, who relocated from London to Paris – required a setting that wasn’t too flashy, a bit rough around the edges. Not too far from Paris (an easy drive for a man who likes fast cars) and by a beach but not one that is too pretty or too full of tourists. A village where people turn when a foreigner walks in the door to the pub, who have unpolished, unpretentious lives, who buy their food from the local market not because it is trendy but because it’s what generations before them did, because it is practical. Real people.

 

Dordogne and Brittany were top of my hit-list, two of my favourite regions in France. Dordogne was quickly ruled out because of the lack of beach. Why I needed a beach I’m not quite sure; but the story just didn’t make sense to me without one. Armed with my laundry list of needs, I met with a friend of a friend, a French teacher, Veronique, and discussed my desire for just the right setting. Perfectly, Veronique turned out to be from Brittany. We hunched over a map as she described the various parts of Brittany. The Finistere region is so west it is considered to be “the end of the world” and I loved it immediately from Veronique’s descriptions. Small, rugged villages with locals who fish for sardines, with inclement weather and few tourists. I scrawled down all the places Veronique mentioned. One of those villages, Douarnenez, is known for a particular kind of pastry – kouign-amann. To say that my ears pricked up at this is an understatement.

 

 

Kouign-amann originated in Douarnenez. It is made simply with butter, sugar and dough, but tastes, like all simple, traditional French treats, exquisite. Sweeter and toothier than a croissant, less bready and more caramel than brioche. Unfussy and delicious. The name translates to “butter cake” in the local Breton language and kouign-amann can be found in most bakeries and at local weekend markets. During a research trip (more on that soon!) we visited Treboul market in Douarnenez and encountered a row of sizzling cast iron saucepans, each filled with kouign-amann, the contents still bubbling and blistering with butter and sugar. The smell was unreal. Though sometimes served in individual portions, like the one pictured above, all the kouign-amann I ate in Douarnenez were wedges cut from a larger circle. They were dense and sweet and crisp-topped. The pieces I couldn’t manage to finish left dark, grease shadows in their paper bags. My husband, Matt, wasn’t too sure about travelling to the other side of the world motivated by a pastry. But after eating his first kouign-amann declared that “this might be the best thing I have ever eaten”.

Have you heard of kouign-amann? Have you tried it? Are you part of the smug club that knows and loves it?

 

With love,

Hannah

 

A French Wedding, published by Doubleday, launched June 6th in the U.S. and Canada. For the month of June we are going to be celebrating the themes of the book with posts about France, feasting, friendships and family.

 

To win two copies of the book – one for you and one for your favourite reading partner – go to the Fork & Fiction Instagram or Facebook page and don’t forget to tag a friend. Winners drawn and announced Sunday 25th June.

 

*Kouign-amann tips! For Auckland / NZ-based folk I recommend the kouign-amann at Rendez-vous café, located next to The Pumphouse theatre in Takapuna. For Sydney / Australia-based folk I recommend the kouign-amann from Sonoma bakery. The latter is served “American style” – in individual portions with custard and a little jam.

In: Food, From Hannah, Markets & Food Stores, Travel, Writing

5 Christmas Crafts for Lazy Crafters. 2

December 2, 2015

“Why buy something for $7 when you can get all the materials from a craft store for $92 and make it yourself?”

 

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Ah, yes. I love the idea of making things for Christmas. I have time! The receiver will luuuurve it!

I’ve nearly always made my own wrapping since I was a teenager. I’ve spray-painted, I’ve potato stamped, I’ve done it all. There was even a time I forced my Mum to drive me out to the middle of nowhere to pick up a stack of chinese takeaway boxes for use as gift boxes and the other time I custom wrapped matchboxes with ribbons as envelopes for Christmas messages. That’s what normal sixteen year olds do, right? It’s no wonder I’ve grown into a stationery-obsessed, ribbon-addicted weirdo…

 

But, despite my penchant for silky bows and pretty paper, I am lazy. Not keen on attempting something I probably cannot manage or master. Not keen on crafts too complicated or time consuming. I want results and I want them fast. That knitted nativity set? An itty bitty iced gingerbread house that sit on the rim of your teacup? Pffff. Not never ever going to happen. In case you too are similarly inclined I thought I’d share my list of very lazy crafty-christmas efforts. And if crafting isn’t your deal then believe me when I say – no judgement at all from me. Pour me a gin, I’ll be with you shortly.

 

Book Advent Calendar

Materials: Books (your own, borrowed, second-hand or library), wrapping paper, goodies to pop inside

 

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For the second year in a row I am doing a Book advent calendar for the kids. I have collected several Christmas-themed books for it, but mainly I request Christmas-themed picture books from my local library. The goodies I include are: chocolate covered pretzels, marshmallow sticks, candy canes, carob bears etc. You could also use stickers or art supplies etc. If the goodies are unwrapped I wrap them using a twist of baking paper. Then I write or stamp the dates : 1 to 25 – as well as one of my kids initials on the paper. The books are unwrapped, the treats devoured and somewhere in there we do some reading. Before arguing about whose turn it is tomorrow.

 

Pickled Beetroot

Materials: Beets, white vinegar, sugar, peppercorns, bay leaves, cloves, mustard seeds, cinnamon stick, salt, jars and lids.

Recipe from Best Recipes. 

 

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Here’s the truth: Matt grew a lot of beetroot. We have two vegetable gardens, one mine, one his, and we compete to see whose is the most productive and impressive. Matt won on the beetroot front (insert poor loser face here) so we were left with a ton of it to do something with. A long time ago, when B1 was just a tiny babe, we went to a canning workshop on Saltspring island and on a whim bought jars, lids and accessories we never used. Five years on, I suddenly remembered them AND the fact that my Dad is mad about pickled anything. Voila. I may give my family food poisoning from inadequate sterilization but… don’t they look sweet?

 

Hand-painted gift wrap

Materials: Plain paper, paint, small children.

 

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Lay your paper out on the table or deck. Arm your small children with paints and brushes. Set them to work. Results may vary. Generally a big hit with grandparents.

 

Pom-pom garland or gift tags

Materials: Wool, cardboard, scissors

Tutorial from YouTube. 

 

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It’s been a number of years since I made pom poms. I will admit that they do take longer than you think and they are a bit fiddly. But, they are gorgeous, nostalgic and tactile and you can make them while you binge-watch Narcos on Netflix. So, that’s a win.

 

Peppermint bark

Materials: candy canes or peppermint sweets, white and dark chocolate, cream, peppermint essence / extract, baking paper, jars / boxes

Recipe from Orangette.

 

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Peppermint bark is my Chrissy go-to. I’ve gifted it to family, friends, neighbours and kids’ teachers. I once paid a tradesperson with it (okay, accompanied by a six-pack of beer). I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like it and it’s no-bake and low fuss. Because of the crushing and setting and HUGE quantities I now have to make, it can take some time. However, if I skipped a year I think I might be lynched. And, as a bonus, I eat all the off-cuts while making it.

 

It really is true – christmas crafting can be fun! Or it can be a headache. My advice is: make only what you love to make, don’t compare yourself or your efforts to others, laugh if it all goes wrong and get your young people involved. It’s kind of like child-labour but totally socially acceptable. You can even Instagram it.

 

Love and Christmas cheer, Hannah x

In: Food, From Hannah, Includes a recipe!, Markets & Food Stores, Seasonal

Tasting Notes: A Tour of Nanaimo 0

July 29, 2015

You know when you discover something new about a person you’ve known a long time, something that radically changes the way you view them? Secret talents, long-forgotten epic travels, famous grandparents—something that inspires a perspective shift so that you’re suddenly looking again, looking closer at this familiar old friend, who suddenly seems just a little bit…exotic. Nuanced. Evocatively complex. Definitely more interesting.

So, I don’t have a friend like this. (Do you? Because if so—awesome. Love it when that happens.)

What I have is a town like this. A town I’ve lived in for more than five years, that I thought I’d pretty much figured out. And now it goes and shows me stuff I didn’t even know it had. I was recently offered the chance to participate in a food tour organized by Vancouver Island Expeditions—a tour of local food and beverage creators that, as I’ve said, were not on my mental map of This Is Nanaimo.

 

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In: Food, From Ria, Markets & Food Stores

The Local: An Ode 1

March 11, 2015

 

For your reading pleasure today, Fork & Fiction brings you some hot chocolate, a fair amount of plastic food and a substantial serving of (best served hot!) poetry.

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In: Food, From Ria, Kids and Parenting, Markets & Food Stores, Writing

Les Vacances – Part Two 5

August 10, 2014

Fork and bib ready? I promised and I will deliver. Here, my friends, are The Absolute Best Things I Ate in Europe. Nom nom nom.

 

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Starting this post was like facing the dessert buffet. I was dumbfounded and flustered. My mind went blank. What did I eat in Europe? What didn’t I eat in Europe? What was good? What wasn’t good? You get the picture. (Like the one above – yes, I always look that earnest and worn and edgy when making food choices. I don’t deal well with food envy.) It was lining up to be a pretty dull, not to mention confusing, piece of writing. The only thing I could do was what any somewhat obsessed person would do – create an ULTIMATE DREAM MENU, based on all the things I devoured. (Eeeeeeeee!)

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In: Food, From Hannah, Markets & Food Stores, Travel