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.

 

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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

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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

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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 →]

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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

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Our Anzac baby 2

April 25, 2017

 

The sun has set on another Anzac Day, the day New Zealanders and Australians commemorate those who served in wars. It is a public holiday and always rather special – even aside from the important acknowledgment of our forces and our country’s current peace – it is the beginning of autumn, often a bright, bluebird kind of a day, close to Easter and the last public holiday for some time. The meaning and beauty of the day lends itself to family catch-ups, walks, feeling grateful and baking. But five years ago someone made this day significantly more special for us.

 

 

B2 was born before dawn, in time to see the sun rise, in a manner that is just like her: on time and textbook perfect. B2 is a stickler for rules. She’s also the only one of my births that went to some kind of plan and didn’t require assistance, as B2 hardly ever requires assistance. I still remember my sleepless, post-birth elation, staring at this perfect being – smooth, flawless skin and rosebud lips, bundled up like a glowworm. B2 was the baby of the family for some time but we should have known she wasn’t destined to stay that way with her resolute independence, huge roar and ceaseless curiosity. She was born in the year of the dragon and has lived up to that creature too – both fierce and shiny, full of fire and magic; something you can’t help but stare at. I cannot wait to see the life she leads. For now she’s off to school and not half-excited about it. She’s been begging for homework for months, literally climbing the walls (well, the columns in the hallways, shimmies up them with her feet like a monkey) when we drop big sister off to her classroom and is busting to join the ranks of the big girls in the playground at lunchtime. I really hope she thrives there. I hope they are prepared for handling her particular brand of firework.

 

 

In honour of our joyful, full-of-life, always singing / giggling / roaring Anzac baby and because they happen to be the best version of an Anzac biscuit I have ever eaten, I am sharing this recipe for Anzac squares. These biscuits are caramel and oat, crunch and chew, in exactly the right balance. The trick, in my opinion, is the addition of walnuts, which don’t often feature in an Anzac biscuit but, quite frankly SHOULD. I’m sure you’ll agree after you taste them. They give the biscuit an edge. A complex, resin-y, tannin-y, all-round-pleasing kind of an edge.  Drizzling your squares with chocolate is entirely optional and I won’t judge you for doing so. Share these with your babies and the ones that are no longer babies, those that are lurching off on their own new adventures.

 

 

Anzac Squares

Ingredients

1 cup flour

1 cup coconut

2 cups rolled oats

120g walnuts, chopped

pinch of salt

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

230g butter

4 tsp golden syrup

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla paste / essence

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees / 350 fahrenheit and line a shallow baking tin (approx 30cm x 45cm)

Combine flour, coconut, rolled oats, salt and walnuts in a large bowl. Add the sugars and mix well.

Put the butter, golden syrup, sifted baking soda in a saucepan and melt gently together over a medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until the mixture begins to froth. Pour into dry ingredients and add vanilla paste / essence.

Stir until well combined and then press mixture evenly into your shallow baking tin.

Bake for 10 minutes and then rotate the tin. Bake for a further 5 – 10 minutes until it is golden brown.

Cut into squares while it is still hot. Cool till warm before transferring to a container and storing airtight. Will last up to a month, if they are not all devoured within 24 hours. Can be drizzled with melted chocolate, if you are that way inclined.

Makes 40+ squares

 

With love,

Hannah

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