Posts from — May 2017

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.

 

 

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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

The Rhubarb’s Farewell 1

May 17, 2017

This week we left our house to begin life in a new one. A whole new garden of woodbugs, as it were. But before we left, our sturdy, reliable old rhubarb plant gave us a final farewell. Before I moved to that house, I had never seen a rhubarb flower. I didn’t even know it did, or maybe hadn’t considered that such a leafy, quietly steadfast anchor of the vegetable patch could put blooms out.

If you’ve never seen it before, a rhubarb’s flowering can catch you by surprise. There’s something prehistoric about it, something bordering on unseemly. It looks like a kind of plant brain on top of a thick stalk. It’s bold and unembarrassed.

 

 

And when it emerged, it felt a little celebratory. Maybe not in a congratulations-you’ve-sold-your-house-and-are-moving-on-to-exciting-things kind of way, but the timing had me reaching for that sentiment. Go rhurbarb. Go us. Let’s flower the hell out of this season, whatever it brings.

And now we are in our new home and there is a small rhubarb plant in the garden. It isn’t flowering, or even doing as well as our old one. But, bless it, it’s there. The potential for a towering brain-full of rhubarb blossoms is there. Maybe next year. You never know.

 

 

This same rhubarb plant gave us this a few years ago, and Hannah blogged about this yummy recipe a year before that.

XO

Ria

In: From Ria, Seasonal

What we’re readin’. 3

May 10, 2017

Last week we went to our local library (only the BEST LIBRARY IN THE UNIVERSE) and for the first time B1 snuck off to a cosy corner to read by herself. B2 was still keen for me to read to her (read as: shove a book at me before proceeding to wrestle my body into a more pleasing, arm-chair-ish shape with her knees, shoulders, skull and elbows) while B3 careened and screeched and launched herself into the beanbags. Observing them all I had that dawning, cliched realization. It is, my friends, the end of an era. And the beginning of a new one.

 

While the girls are at different stages with books, they all, thankfully, seem to love them. Phew. So now I have the perfect excuse to seek out and read not one but three different kinds of children’s books and I am absolutely loving it. Exploring chapter-book authors with B1 whilst getting picture-book nostalgic with B3; I’m having a ball along with them. If you too love nothing more than a new book / author recommendation then these three lists, based on what we’re reading and adoring, are for you.

 

[Read more →]

In: Books & Reading, From Hannah, 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