Posts from — October 2013

Exciting News and a Celebration Scone 11

October 27, 2013

I’ve been itching to say it and now I can…my first novel, Nobody’s Dog, has been shortlisted for two children’s literature awards here in Canada–the Rocky Mountain Book Award and the Silver Birch Award! Huzzah and cue confetti! I find it charming that so many of the children’s literature awards in this country are named after trees or flowers or natural physical features. How Canadian. It’s so exciting to be part of these programs that encourage kids to read and vote for their favourite book.  The ceremony for the Silver Birch Award is in Toronto next May, so this is me hoping I can get out there to experience some book award fun.

Needless to say, it’s feeling a bit festive around here. I don’t usually never need an excuse to bake. But the thing is, I’ve made these particular scones three times in the past two weeks and while that will not surprise you when you taste them (and you will, of course), a big reason why they taste so good is the amount of fat in them. I’m not going to go on a low-fat rant here, though I do sit in the full-fat-is-the-bomb camp. But that said, these scones kind of make me feel guilty.

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In: Food, From Ria, Writing

Sweet Little Something 1

October 25, 2013

This week’s Sweet Little Something is a little morsel from each of us that we would love your comments on. A photograph, a link, a poem…a tidbit of inspiration. Leave us a note or create a haiku for a photograph if it takes your fancy. Have a wonderful weekend!

From Hannah:

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From Ria:

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In: From Hannah, From Ria, Sweet Little Something

Made in Melbourne 5

October 19, 2013

When I was 21 I moved to Melbourne, Australia. I had two bags, no job and nowhere to live. It was my big, bold thing. I needed to do something brave at the time, to prove to myself I wasn’t meek or incapable of being independent. I’d finished University, had a rough year, eventually dusted myself off and decided it was time to be gutsy. When I look back at my life and the aspects I am proudest of I can generally run my finger from whatever it is back to that time. The decision to move to Melbourne gave me something important, it’s inadequate to call it “courage” and it’s definitely not been unfailing, but it’s something like that. Sometimes, when I doubt myself, I remember leaving to live in Melbourne and think “Well, I did that.

 

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So it’s with little hesitation that I agree to go back to Melbourne (for pretty much any old reason). A little while ago my friend from Macau – who got me liking good champagne and never fails to make me laugh, what a combo – suggested her and I and our other darling mate now living in Tasmania – who is charmingly pessimistic and endlessly stylish, another great combo – meet up in The Great City. It took us about five minutes to work out a date and agree. It takes me four months to arrange a catch up with a friend across town but in a blink flights were being booked in three different countries. Meant to be; clearly.

 

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Aside from Melbourne being the site of my growing-up-(ish)-ness, which I will always be grateful for, it just happens to be one of the coolest cities in the known universe. Not that I am biased. It’s quirky and fascinating, full of hidden alleyways and street art. The food is outstanding, the people kind and creative, the weather moody. Bars are hidden in the tiniest of places, cafes stuffed into every corner. I love its imperfections, its graffiti, gritty and grimy bits as well as the silvery, sleek places by the river, magnificent fire torches by the casino and elegant terrace houses. People say that it feels European and I guess it gets close to being a European kind of city. Certainly by Australasian standards. Grand old buildings, jangling trams, good town planning. But it’s truly Australian too. How? There’s a kind of confidence to it, a boldness, a deep love of sport (especially this one), loud, squawking birds, the grass dessicated and golden in the summer and backyards smelling of charred meat+spilt beer+sunscreen.

 

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So, my highlights from this particular (whirlwind) trip. My good friends – top of the list. Best food: a soft shell crab souvlaki from Gazi. Holy. Best market: South Melbourne. Best clothes shop: Seed (I got a dark green scarf with cranes on it. Mentioned my scarf obsession lately?!) Best macaron: Green apple from Shocolate. Best place for a cup of tea: Sweet Source, Rathdowne Village (I had linzer torte with my orange pekoe in honour of my friend, Ria Voros) Best book buy: Kissed by the Moon by Alison Lester.

 

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This post was not sponsored by the Victorian Tourism Board. It’s just a reflection of my personal love affair with a wonderful place, which happens to house some of my favourite things. And, more significantly, favourite people.

Which city or place was the making of you?

HUGS, Hannah x

In: From Hannah, Markets & Food Stores, Travel

Sweet Little Something 4

October 18, 2013

This week’s Sweet Little Something is a little morsel from each of us that we would love your comments on. A photograph, a link, a poem…a tidbit of inspiration. Leave us a note or create a haiku for a photograph if it takes your fancy. Have a wonderful weekend!

From Hannah:

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From Ria:

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In: From Hannah, Kids and Parenting, Sweet Little Something

The Ferment 7

October 13, 2013

I have no trouble admitting I am a big fan of bread. Fresh from the oven, white, seeded, whole grain, whatever. Low carb I am not. I bought Jim Lahey’s fabulous book on his bread a few years ago and then made a pilgrimage to New York City to taste it in his bakery (okay, that was not the reason for the trip, but it did entail a fair commitment to way-finding and map-consulting in Manhattan). And the bread was transcendent. We brought home one of his huge panettone. I don’t remember if we waited until we got off the plane to dive into it. Something tells me we did not.

So when I bought Michael Pollan’s new book, Cooked, I knew there was some new and serious cooking in my future. Maybe not the BBQ whole pig, seeing as I haven’t eaten meat in 13 years, but definitely the fermented things. The pickles. The kraut. The sourdough bread.

Here’s my first sourdough starter in a bubbly moment.

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Maintaining a sourdough starter is like having a living and ongoing science experiment in your kitchen. Which is to say, awesome. You basically create an environment hospitable to friendly microbes (yeasts and bacteria) that give off that familiar bready, yeasty smell. You culture them, feed them, strengthen them and then use them to leaven and flavour your bread. It’s a pretty amazing deal. Yeah, you have to feed the starter on something of a schedule and factor that into your holiday plans (if you want it to stay happy), but there’s this amazing payback. And not just the bread. I love the jars on the counter, bubbling away, the smell of the busy microbes at work when you give the starter a stir. The rhythm of feeding and discarding, building it up for a planned baking day and watching it colonize your flour, turning a powdered grain into something alive and way more nutrient-dense. It feels ancient, deeply satisfying. Before commercial yeast, the kind we buy in jars or bars, all yeast breads relied on the ‘wild’ kind–captured from whatever happened to be floating around in the air.

Here’s an early attempt at a sourdough. It was the wettest dough I’ve ever made. It would drip off a spoon. And the instructions said to shape it into loaves. Uh huh.

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One thing I found fascinating, and somehow freeing, about Pollan’s book is the fact that fermentation–sauerkraut, say–relies on the microbes on the food to start fermentation. It’s a reminder that all we eat–no, all we are and all we touch–is covered in microbes, and a lot of them are really friendly to us. We need them. They make our food so much better and better for us.

And here is a fairly successful loaf–white/whole wheat/rye–that lasted on the cutting board exactly a quarter of the time it took to make it.

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I have a new mantra: fermentation is beautiful.

What’s your favourite fermented food?

XO

Ria

In: Food, From Ria