Posts from — June 2013

Strawberries 5

June 18, 2013

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Yes, it’s June. It’s strawberry time. (Does that mean that July will be raspberry time? You bet!)

The year we moved into our house we planted a strawberry patch, and finally we have a decent harvest. This coincides with Little e’s first toddler summer and wanting to explore/taste everything in the garden. Strawberries hold great nostalgia for me. They are firmly embedded as the fruit of my childhood because they were the ones we picked at the U-Pick farms every year. Raspberries, blueberries–we ate those too, but we didn’t pick them like we picked strawberries. [Blackberries are a whole other bowl of fruit, another strong memory: the end of summer, roadside brambles that looked as high as houses. Another post…] And what is it about berry picking that incites the search for perfection? I remember scouring the strawberry patch for The One–not necessarily the biggest, but the roundest, plumpest, most even-skinned berry, and once finding it, showing it to whoever was within proclamation distance, and then eating it, the satisfaction of the find intensifying the flavour.

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Right now we have a bowlful of strawberries coming out of our patch daily, so I needed to find something to do with them. I’ve made Jeni’s strawberry buttermilk ice cream and a lovely sorbet, but the thing I’ve been making lately, perhaps a holdover from winter comfort desserts, is crumble. And what is strawberry’s best friend this time of year? Yup: rhubarb, or if you ask Little e, woo-bab. And we have a whole lot of it. So I got the two together and then raided my flour collection for the topping. (Yes, one can have a collection of flour. Just as one can have a collection of chocolate. I just exposed my extreme food geekiness, didn’t I?)

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I’ve been inspired the past few months by Smitten Kitchen’s endlessly riff-able fruit crumble recipe, to the point that I no longer look at the ratios (although sometimes this nonchalance does me, and my crumble, in). This time I went for rustic: whole wheat, barley and corn flours and rye flakes for texture and bite. I like corn with rhubarb because there’s something really balanced about this combination, as evidenced by this recipe, which I’ve talked about before. I always think of rye in terms of heavy, rustic breads, so I wanted to try it in a dessert because I don’t think my preconceived notion about it is justified. And barley might be my new favourite baking flour. It makes baked goods creamy and light-crumbed and a little nutty.

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Here’s my take on Deb Perelman’s recipe:

Mix and Match Crumble

Topping:

1/4 cup oat flour (which can be made easily in a food processor using rolled oats)

3/4 cup rolled oats (or flaked grain of your choice–rye, spelt, barley–do as you will)

1/4 cup ground almonds

1/2 cup whole wheat four (or a combination of others)

Up to a 1/4 cup brown sugar (I sometimes add less depending on the flavour of the flours)

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg (Adding some orange zest would also be lovely)

a few pinches of sea (or kosher) salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup of oil (Deb suggests olive, but I’ve also used grapeseed. The olive will give a stronger flavour)

 

Fruit:

About two pounds of fruit: strawberry/rhubarb, or just apples, or blueberry/apple, or blackberry…

1-2 tablespoons cornstarch (It depends on how much liquid will come out of your fruit when it cooks. Blackberries will be the juiciest)

Sweetener of choice: brown sugar, turbinado sugar, agave, whatever

1 teaspoon lemon juice

[Cheater’s method: I sometimes sub strawberry jam for the sugar to bump up the berry flavour and increase general jamminess)

 

Preheat oven to 350. Combine fruit with cornstarch and lemon juice in a largeish  ceramic or glass baking dish. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients for topping up to the butter and oil; mix well. Then add the butter and oil and combine to form a wet mass of crumbly chunks. That sounds unappealing, but the idea is to only mix until the crumble forms, not to mix it into a paste or wet sand (also unappealing). Pour this over the fruit and spread evenly. Bake for about 30-40 minutes, until you can see the juices from the fruit bubbling around the topping, and the crumble is starting to brown. Let cool a few minutes before serving.

 

XO

Ria

 

 

 

In: Food, From Ria

Winter Picnic 3

June 16, 2013

I seem to be out of sync with the universe. In the last forty-eight hours I’ve managed to back my car into the gate, twist my ankle in the local playground, bruise my hip on the kitchen bench-top and receive a parking ticket. [Insert expletive] Bye-bye wing mirror, a little pride and a whole chunk of change.

Do you ever feel as though you’re constantly bumping into walls or tripping over yourself? That you’re just not in harmony?

I probably shouldn’t read into it too much. We moved into our new house this week, so life has been a bit chaotic, boxes all over the show and I’m still not used to where bench-tops and gates are. On top of that, B2 has decided it’s the perfect time to get more teeth, so sleep has been broken. Oh, and I found a pair of glasses I’d previously packed, tried them on last night and I think I might actually need to wear them. Like my optometrist recommended. When I’m driving, for example…

 

Stanley Bay

 

So those are the obvious and practical reasons for being out of sorts; to be expected really. But I prefer to over-analyse. Usually I’m okay with a little disorder and I can handle bumps and bruises, but lately I’ve been so enraged about every single knock. I’ve been taking it so fist-shaking-ly personally; which is not like me. My theory is that the reason I’m off my game is because I’m not writing. It’s driving me bananas. I have a book idea inside my head that is restless and urgent. If I don’t start writing it soon I think I might explode.

And the thing about writing? For me? Is that despite it being challenging and at times maddening – it makes me feel like myself. I thought that when I found the right work it would feel like a tropical holiday; that it would be relaxing and easy. Nuh-uh. It’s not easy but it does makes me feel like me. So when I’m not writing I just don’t feel right. It’s a blessing and a curse to know what’s wrong and how to fix it because sometimes it’s just not possible to put the cure to work. Like when you’re moving house and you have two little people to look after and a partner neck deep in a new job.

So, what to do with my grumpy, battered self? The not-feeling-at-all-like-myself-and-peeved-about-it self? Avoid my battered car for a start. Opt for taking the stroller instead. Step past the child having a tantrum (it’s not my fault, she’s three, she just needs to work through it). Move around the kitchen bench-top instead of trying to walk through it. Pack a bag of food, a picnic blanket with a waterproof underside, hats, jackets and paper towels. Stroll through the fading afternoon light to our local beach. Although the saying makes no sense – breathe in the view. Ahhhh. Can you taste the salt in the air?

 

Stanley Bay Auckland

 

This winter picnic dinner made my week. It reminded me that life is really not that bad, that my problems are (very) ‘first world’, that this too shall pass – both the not being able to write and the times when B1 reverse parks herself into my lap and insists on laying her head against me. These are sweet moments, even if they’re not absolutely perfect, and deserve savouring too.

Our Enid Byton-esque Picnic Contents:

Ham sandwich triangles with lots of butter

Apple slices

Gingernut biscuits

Then, when it got too dark to be outdoors, we went home for vanilla ice cream, a hot bath, brushing of teeth and straight into pyjamas.

 

Dark at Stanley Bay

 

HUGS, Hannah x

In: Food, From Hannah, Kids and Parenting, Writing

Sweet Little Something 7

June 14, 2013

A Friday ritual – a wordless post: a personal photograph that captures a moment from the week. One photograph from Hannah, in the Southern Hemisphere and one from Ria, in the Northern Hemisphere.

And if the mood strikes, leave a “Haikument” in comments inspired by one of these photos. We’ve had some fantastic ones! Check them out here and here. No poetry degree required! You can use the  5/7/5 syllable count rule if you like, or create something unique. If you want to find out more about Haiku (and who doesn’t?), check this out.

From Hannah:

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From Ria:

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In: From Hannah, From Ria, Sweet Little Something

It’s a Book! 8

June 12, 2013

 

The time has arrived–huzzah!–to reveal the cover of my new book, which will be released in September by Scholastic Canada. I’ve been privy to the draft version for a while, but now everyone can see what I’ve been secretly clapping my hands about:

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Yes, it’s about geeks. And opposites. But so many other things too, like brownies. It’s the story of 16 year old Gretchen, whose love of poetry makes her a geek, even though she’d hate to use that word on herself. It’s also the story of James, Gretchen’s crazy-smart chemistry tutor, and Dean, James’s cousin. Together, these three are unstoppable. Nothing can ruin their good times. Gretchen can forget being dumped by her former best friend, James doesn’t have to worry about being bullied for being different, and Dean–well, Dean can focus on trying to get Gretchen to go on a date with him. Until one night that changes everything and everyone. Suddenly Gretchen has to find her way through a world she doesn’t recognise and make a stand for what’s right. Poetically, of course.

The idea for the book came from two different places: the poetry of high school and the social hierarchy of high school. I was interested in the poetry because at the time, I was finishing a Master’s in writing and poetry was one of my focuses. I also wanted to explore the world of high school through the lens of poetry. [Confession: as a high school student, I co-authored an epically long rhyming poem about the trials and tribulations of grade 11. It was a work brilliant to no one but its authors.]

The second perspective, how the social environment of high school works, was fascinating to me because I had been on the periphery myself but always wondered what made the different cliques tick. I still don’t know the answer, and there probably isn’t just one, but working on this book forced me to come up with some interesting possibilities. I was one of those kids who hated being stuck in school–I just wanted to graduate so I could explore the world and move beyond the limits of adolescence, become someone new. So I guess going back there through this book was a way for me to try again, meditate on what it all meant, but from a (hopefully)wiser place.

So I recently went back to the source to find out what was really going through my head when I was 16. I dug out the Holy Binder that contains not only the aforementioned epic poem, but a cringingly large collection of memorabilia from a teenage life. Circa 1995-1996. This time capsule contains way too much stuff to process in one sitting, so I was only able to skim the surface (and believe me, that’s a relief). But I did find a few things to share here.

A randomly selected page of the epic poem of Grade 11. You may notice the rhyming couplets. Particularly the awkward revision of “prance” to rhyme with “France.” This is the kind of writing that takes a lot of courage to read almost 20 years later. I am working on that.

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And of course this doodle on the back of the binder. I don’t think I need to say anything else.

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So in the coming weeks, there will be more on all things TOOG. (Doesn’t this acronym remind you of cave-man speak and a failed palindrome of TOO GOOD all at once? Yes, that’s just what I was going for with this title.) And maybe even more teenage reminiscing. Maybe.

XO

Ria

Excellent side note: It’s been really interesting to hear other authors and bloggers talk about where book covers–specifically YA book covers–are going, and have been. Check out these amazing infographics from Kate Hart.

In: From Ria, Writing

How She Does It: Zoe Daniel 7

June 9, 2013

Now this is the way to start a week!! We are very excited to bring you this How She Does It for June – an interview with Journalist, Mama, Writer and Friend – Zoe Daniel. Zoe shares with us how she manages to juggle life as SouthEast Asia correspondent for Australian Broadcasting Corporation, whilst writing a memoir, parenting her two lovely littlies, Pearl and Arkie, and being married to her wonderful husband – Rowan Reid. 

Malawi 2005

I first met Zoe in Melbourne, through my flatmate and friend, Beth Hulme (who runs a gallery! Talent McTalented!). You never forget meeting Zoe Daniel, she is an instantly inspiring person. She is driven and frank and smart as a whip. She’s full of energy, funny and has a contagious, loud, throw-your-head-back kind of laugh. I was always impressed at how ambitious she was, while remaining honest, sensitive, loyal and compassionate to boot. She’s one of those people who is completely, utterly themselves, no matter the circumstances; which, over and above all her incredible accomplishments (like, ahem, interviewing Aung San Suu Kyi, thankyouverymuch!) is the aspect that is truly inspiring about her.

When I was living in Melbourne, Zoe and Rowan used to host fantastic dinner parties in their sweet little weatherboard house; the kind of dinner parties that went on and on into the night, ending in dancing about to Nick Cave. I knew she had to be part of our How She Does It series – telling us about her life and work, her family, her favourite books and memorable meals…

Now, to start with, how did you come to be the SouthEast Asia correspondent for ABC?

Did a journalism degree, then worked for ABC as a producer, presenter, reporter on radio and TV in the country and the city, was the ABC’s correspondent in Africa for two years a while ago, stopped to have baby one (Arkie) in 2007 and baby two (Pearl) in 2008. Then lived in Darwin and Cambodia for a while for Rowan’s work and have been in Bangkok doing this job since the start of 2010.

What about your work brings you the most joy?

I get to visit people on their own turf and get a window into their world through their own words. Much of my work has been in developing countries and my stories often deal with tough themes like poverty and conflict. I’m very lucky in that people allow me to spend time with them in their homes and communities and tell me their stories with honesty and courage. Sometimes the stories can be very painful, even horrifying, yet people are prepared to open up and talk about their experiences. It’s very gratifying as a journalist to be able to help people tell stories that wouldn’t otherwise be told.  I also get to visit some very special places.

What do you enjoy least about your work?

What I love about my work I also hate – travel. It’s such a fantastic thing to see and experience other places but I still really struggle with being away from my family so much.

Who is your biggest cheerleader / supporter?

My husband and my Dad are my two rocks. My Dad has always pushed me higher and higher to help me achieve my goals, now my husband helps me balance, and when I fall down he dusts me off!

What do you have to sacrifice or compromise in order to do the work you do?

The biggest sacrifice is time. I cover nine countries so I am frequently away. When I’m at home I’m constantly monitoring what’s happening in the world and I need to be ready to respond to breaking news at any moment but I try to spend quality time with the kids at the same time. That can be a real juggle and probably means that if anything is truly compromised it’s time for myself. It’s the same for most mums I think! Going to the gym or to get a hair cut can take weeks of scheduling.

What quality do you think is the most important for a person to be successful in your field?

You need to be very organized and adaptable and have a cool head in a crisis. It’s important to be curious and interested in people and places and to be sensitive to the needs of others. At the same time you sometimes need to be very tough depending on the situation without becoming pushy and cynical.

in front of burning Centralworld Shopping Centre Bangkok May 2010

What do you still hope to achieve in your field? Secret dreams!

I’ve just finished my first book – a memoir of work and family and life as a correspondent. I hope to follow it up with a novel.

Which book made a big impact on your life?

This is a tough question. Nelson Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom” had a huge impact on me, no doubt partly because I was living and working in South Africa at the time. It gave me a real insight into what the country had been through. In terms of fiction, Louis de Bernieres’ “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”, the most tragic love story I’ve read and a real life lesson – recognize what you have, value it and don’t let it go.

Who is your favourite author? Why?

I love Tim Winton’s books because they’re so lyrical and quintessentially Australian.

If we could “beam you up” anywhere in the world for a meal, where would it be, what would it be and with whom?

Australian lamb BBQ’d on the deck of our little shack overlooking the sea in Australia with family and friends, or a romantic dinner of fresh fish, Greek salad and wine at Santorini, just my husband and I.

What is the most important non-food thing in your kitchen?

Slow Cooker

The best meal of your life was….?

Anything at a street stall in Penang, Malaysia.

What is always in your fridge and pantry?

Vegemite. Rice. Ice cream. Tropical fruit, preferably mango.

Who is on your dream dinner party guest list?

I can think of a million different lists but for an interesting group dynamic – Aung San Suu Kyi and Burmese president Thein Sein,  Barack and Michelle Obama, actors Matt Damon and Jennifer Lawrence, Australian singer and comedian Tim Minchin and actor Rebel Wilson, plus my husband of course!

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? 

If you’re not happy, change something.

Who are you are most inspired by?

My children. Every day they show me something new and demonstrate such potential. It keeps me striving.

Photo credit: Vicky Leon

Photo credit: Vicky Leon

Sum up your life right now in three words

Intense. Busy. Fulfilled.

Thank you so much, Zoe, for taking the time to chat with us here at Fork and Fiction. I found myself nodding away to all your answers…especially the bit about “time for myself”! So proud of and inspired by your achievements and blending of work, passions and family. Looking forward to the day when we can reinvent the dinner parties of old – with bottles of wine, old tunes and lots of laughter! Wishing you all the very best for your work and the novel idea that is simmering away in that beautiful head of yours! 

HUGS, Hannah x

P.S. Check out May’s How She Does It here, and April’s here.

In: Food, From Hannah, How She (or he) Does It, Interviews, Kids and Parenting, Writing