Tales of food, sex and friendship




Archive for August, 2011

Season 3: Episode 13

August 30, 2011

Ana let herself into her old house with the key that Willow and Mia insisted she keep. She felt a bit strange returning when she no longer lived there – almost like she was trespassing on her own property – but, the others had told her she could come and go as she pleased and although she wasn’t planning on doing it often, she felt OK about it today. She was spending her last night as a single girl there, because tomorrow she was getting married.

A smile played around the corners of her lips as Ana walked down the old hall, recollections of all the fun times the three girls had here flooding back: The multitude of dinner parties, watching the royal wedding, meals in the sundrenched courtyard, Willow’s many baking extravaganzas. Granted, a lot of the memories were a tad hazy on account of the amount of champagne present when said memories were formed, but the overall vibe was a good one. She was so glad that she was spending tonight with her favourite people in the world: Willow and Mia.

Well, second favourite, she thought, recalling Tom’s sparkling eyes, wide smile and strong, tanned arms. She felt a shiver of pleasure run down her spine, once again thanking her lucky stars that everything had worked out perfectly between them.

Ana had finished work a few hours early and had come over with the hope that she would be able to locate her grandmother’s brooch that had mysteriously vanished in the move. She still had a few boxes stored in the house and thought that perhaps she’d put it in one of those by mistake. She didn’t expect anyone else to be home this early, but as she moved towards the kitchen she heard footsteps thundering down the stairs as Mia and Willow toppled over each other to greet her.

“It’s the nearly-bride,” shouted Willow jumping up and down on the spot and clapping her hands together in excitement.

Mia joined in and soon all three of them were bouncing around the house in a crazy display of anticipatory delight.

“Where’s your dress?” asked Mia, pausing for a second to catch her breath.

“In the car,” Ana said. “Along with the rest of the stuff.”

I’ll ask them about the brooch later, thought Ana, as the girls bounded outside to help her carry her things in. I don’t want to bring the mood down.

***

Once the dress was unpacked and hung properly – followed by the requisite oohing and ahhing – it was unanimously decided that it was champagne o’clock. They adjourned to the living room, which Willow had set up with a picnic blanket and colourful lights. She’d made a playlist of their favourite girly songs that was already humming along in the background. Mia had constructed an amazing and unique nicoise salad for them to feast on – correctly assuming that Ana wouldn’t want anything heavy the night before her wedding – and had procured several bottles of French champagne.

“Here’s to you, Ana,” said Willow, raising her glass, “and to many happy years of marriage to your prince charming.”

***

It was almost 10pm by the time Sarah made it home. She had stayed in the office because Tom had worked late, wanting to get everything finished up before the wedding tomorrow. She took it upon herself to bring him dinner and then, later when he looked completely exhausted, insisted that he stop and share a beer with her to relax.

She heard giggling and music playing as soon as she walked inside and paused in the door listening for a minute, trying to catch the conversation. Padding silently down the hall she walked into the living room and saw the three of them sitting on the floor having a carpet picnic. Her entrance had been so inaudible that they didn’t notice her immediately, Mia squealing when she finally saw her.

“Sarah! We didn’t even hear you come in! Here,” she said patting the floor next to her, “come and join us.”

“Sorry I’m so late,” she said, accepting a glass of champagne. “We had so much on at work that we both had to stay back.”

“Both?” asked Ana, cocking an eyebrow.

Sarah nodded and took a sip of her champagne. “Tom and I. He’s so busy at the moment that I couldn’t just leave him there on his own. He wouldn’t even have eaten dinner if I hadn’t given him some of mine,” she added, laughing.

The other joined in with her laughter remarking on how typical it was of Tom to be working late on the night before his wedding. Ana felt a knot form in her stomach. Sure, her instincts had been wrong before, but it just felt like this new girl was… well, that there was something not quite right about the whole situation. She glanced at the faces of her friends wanting to know if they felt it too, but they had moved onto another topic and were giggling at something else that Sarah was saying.

“By the way,” said Ana as casually as she could. “You didn’t happen to find a white gold brooch in your room when you moved in did you?”

Ana was sure that Sarah’s eyes darted away for a fraction of a second.

“Not your grandmother’s?” gasped Willow, before Sarah had a chance to answer.

Ana nodded.

“But you’re wearing it tomorrow, aren’t you?” asked Mia.

“I will if I can find it,” she said, looking again at Sarah.

“Her grandmother gave it to her just before she died,” explained Mia to Sarah. “It was going to be the something old that she wears.”

“Oh Ana, that’s terrible,” said Sarah, her eyes opening wide and her hand flying up to her mouth. “I haven’t seen it, but you’re more than welcome to come and look in my room if you think you lost it there.”

***

 Hours later, Sarah lay on the bed and stared at the ceiling, watching the headlights from the passing traffic bouncing off the walls. She was light-headed from the champagne and was enjoying the feeling of the whole room swirling around her as she lay still.

Life was good.

She reached under her pillow and felt around until her fingers grasped the cool metal of the brooch. She held it in front of her, turning it gently in her hands so the fleeting lights sparkled on the purple stone.

It really was very beautiful.

Linguine with Roasted Garlic, Preserved Lemon and Capers

August 25, 2011


500g fresh linguine

2 heads of garlic

Handful fresh parsley, finely chopped

2 tblspn capers

2 tblspn butter

1 preserved lemon, finely chopped

Extra virgin olive oil

Ground pepper

Fresh grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 200 deg C. Chop the top third off each garlic head and discard, placing remainder on foil. Drizzle generously with olive oil. Wrap in foil so the garlic is completely covered and roast until garlic is very soft, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly and squeeze garlic out of husks. Set aside.

Bring large pot of water to boil. Add pasta and cook until tender. Drain and place in serving bowl.

As the pasta is cooking, combine a dash of oil and butter in small pan over medium-low heat. When butter melts, add roasted garlic, preserved lemon, parsley and capers and cook for a minute or so, until ingredients are warmed through. Toss through pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan and season generously with pepper. Serve immediately.

Season 3: Episode 12

August 23, 2011

Sarah carried the last of her boxes into the house and plonked down contentedly on a bar stool in the well-let kitchen. Being a Thursday afternoon, Mia and Willow were both at work and she had the whole house to herself. She too should have been at the office, but Tom – now officially the best boss in the world – had given her some time off to move into her new place.

“Take the day,” he’d said. “Moving is exhausting and the last thing you want is to be stressing about work. You can just make it up by working extra hard tomorrow,” he’d added with a wink.

She dangled her legs beneath her happily, like a little kid in an ice-cream shop, looking around the kitchen with excitement.

I’ll have to do something extra nice for Tom, thought Sarah, to say thank you for everything.

She couldn’t believe how well her new life in Melbourne was working out; she’d landed an amazing job, her boss was just wonderful, she’d managed to find a room in a fantastic house and her housemates – Willow and Mia – seemed absolutely lovely. She liked that they seemed to have their own lives but still enjoyed each other’s company. It was a nice change to other share houses she’d lived in where the general tone was punctuated with slamming doors and sour looks.

Sarah thought the house itself, with its large rooms and glossy wooden boards, was beautiful. Her new room had an ornate ceiling rose from which an antique light hung. She thought it was terribly romantic, like something out of a novel, and she had spent a significant part of the morning looking up at the ceiling in her bedroom and sighing in happiness. As Sarah didn’t have any furniture of her own yet, Ana had kindly left her old bed in the room.

Ana had always slept with the bed pushed up hard against the wall, but Sarah wanted to be able to lie in bed and stare up at the embellished ceiling. With difficulty, she heaved the bed across the carpeted floor until it was in the centre of the room. The dust from underneath it circled upwards, the afternoon light catching it as it meandered through the still air. She wrinkled her nose and sneezed. Dusting was obviously not one of Ana’s fortes.

Amongst the expected pen lids and odd socks that were always found underneath old furniture, a small blue box caught Sarah’s eye. She leant down and picked it up, flipping the stiff lid open. Inside was an intricate white gold broach set with a large purple stone. Sarah frowned. She fingered the delicate piece of jewellery carefully, gazing at the colours that skittered across the top of the jewel.

***

It didn’t take long to put her belongings away and once Sarah had set up her room she felt like celebrating. Perhaps Mia and Willow would be home tonight and she could cook them all dinner and they could share a bottle of wine? She sent them both a quick text message but they replied that they were going out for a drink with Ana to discuss the final details of the wedding and wouldn’t be home until later. Sarah was momentarily hurt that she wasn’t invited too. The rational side of her knew that these girls had been friends forever and she was a total newcomer. Besides, they had already done plenty to make her feel welcome, such as Ana and Tom had inviting her to their wedding next week despite the fact they barely knew her. But still, her new housemates could have asked her to come along and meet them after they’d done their wedding chit chat.

Sarah chewed her nails thoughtfully. Suddenly she had an idea. She grabbed her handbag and jacket, checked her makeup, and left the house.

***

Tom was putting the finishing touches to a simple meal of linguine with roasted garlic, preserved lemon, parsley and capers when the intercom sounded.

“Hello?”

“Tom, hi. It’s Sarah.”

Tom frowned. Sarah?

“I just wanted to drop off a small thank you gift.”

Oh, that Sarah. “Come on up,” he laughed buzzing the safety door to let her in.

A few minutes later, Tom let her inside the apartment.

“Ana will be sad that she missed you,” he said, taking Sarah’s jacket. “She’s gone out for a drink with the girls – pre-wedding stuff.”

Sarah smiled. “Oh well. Next time.”

“Have you eaten? I just made some pasta and there is plenty for two.” Tom asked.

Sarah shook her head. “No, no. I don’t want to interrupt your evening. I just wanted to drop this off.”

She handed him a wrapped box that she had picked up on the way to his house. Tom opened it. Nestled inside were two bottles of Veuve Clicquot.

“Come on,” he said leading the way into the kitchen. “Lets open one.”

“What about Ana? I thought you could share them?”

Tom looked momentarily torn, but instead started unwrapping the foil from the cork. “There are two of them. We can have the other. Besides,” he added, “It’s terribly rude if someone brings you a bottle not to share it with them.”

Sarah smiled. “All right. And maybe I will take you up on the offer of dinner. I’m starving and it smells delicious.”

***

When Ana came home hours later Tom was already asleep. She noticed the empty bowls and champagne glasses in the kitchen and smiled, glad that it looked like he’d had a good evening too. She didn’t know that he had plans to catch up with anyone, but being Tom he had probably just forgotten to tell her.

She’d had a wonderful night spending time with Willow and Mia. She’d only moved out the day prior, but already she missed them. They were being so great about all the wedding preparations and had gone above and beyond the call of duty to help out. The catering was organised, her dress was ready and everyone – especially her – was getting very excited. She couldn’t believe that in only a week she would be married!

There was only one small niggle that she couldn’t shake. On the big day, Ana had wanted to wear something old, new, borrowed and blue. It was corny, but she liked the sentiment. The new, blue and borrowed were all sorted but the old was proving very evasive. She had been planning to wear a brooch which had been left to Ana when Grannie Bessie – the only member of her family that Ana had genuinely got along with – passed away several years ago. She had searched all her boxes, to no avail. She didn’t want to ask anyone about it just yet, because as soon as you did that, it was admitting that it was lost.

Ana yawned and stretched. Time to curl up in bed with her Tom.

It will turn up, she thought. Tomorrow I will find it.

Apricot Delicious Biscuits

August 18, 2011


1 cup self raising flour

1 cup caster sugar

1 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1 cup chopped dried apricots

100gm butter melted

250gm white chocolate
Melt butter. Mix dry ingredients together, then mix butter in until a dough is formed.
Press into a baking paper lined dish. Bake at 180c until the top is golden brown (approx 10-15 mins). Allow to cool and cut into squares. Melt white chocolate over a basin of hot water and then dribble over the biscuits. Allow to harden and serve immediately.

Season 3: Episode 11

August 16, 2011

Warm smells of baking wafted through the house as Willow opened the oven door and removed the batch of apricot delight biscuits. She’d gotten the recipe from a wonderful online baking community that she had stumbled across one day. The tops were golden brown and she had white chocolate melting slowly over a basin of hot water that she was going to drizzle over the top. She hadn’t baked anything since her ill-fated dinner with Robert Fortescue the previous week and was finding the familiar actions very cathartic. For a few days after the dinner, Willow had been furious with Robert but this had given way now to confusion. On paper, she shouldn’t really like him, but he was everything she thought about. She certainly didn’t understand why he would pursue her like he did only to leave without so much as a good-night kiss or a follow-up phone call.

Men, thought Willow. Bah!

She shook her head to dispel thoughts of him; it wouldn’t do her any good to be distracted by that now. Tonight, the girls were interviewing for a new housemate. Willow and Mia were devastated that Ana was leaving. For years now they had enjoyed a pretty much perfect household: The three girls who were so different from each other but each knew they could rely on the others for a shoulder to cry on, a willing champagne partner or a special occasion meal. But all good things must come to an end – or at least diverge a little – and Ana had found her Tom and he was, well, perfect for her.

Ana herself had been in denial about the fact she would no longer be living with her best girlfriends. Tom was completely wonderful and amazing, but just didn’t have the same ability to gossip over a bottle or three of champagne. She initially hadn’t wanted to stay for the interviews at all, but Willow and Mia had begged Ana to sit in.

“It’s your house,” Mia had pleaded, “and don’t you want to make sure anyone who moves in is going to get along with you too? Just because you’re getting married doesn’t mean that we’re not going to keep hanging out all the time.”

Ana conceded that Mia did have a point and so was reluctantly preparing the living room for the anticipated arrival of the first prospect.

***

At 5:30pm, the girls were seated eagerly and nervously in the living room, sipping cups of tea and trying not to eat all of Willow’s amazing biscuits before any of the interviewees arrived.

At 5:45pm the first girl still hadn’t arrived.

The doorbell finally rang at 5:52pm. Mia answered in and ushered Marianne – “call me Mazza” – into the living room. Willow, Mia and Ana had already independently decided there was no way that they would ever call her Mazza and thus the prospects of her being invited to join the household were slim. But, they pushed aside their prejudices… for about three and a half seconds.

“I’m so sorry I was late,” Mazza said, tucking into the biscuits without being offered, “But Deal or No Deal was fucking awesome tonight and I couldn’t get my arse off the couch.”

The plastic smile was plastered over Ana’s face as she made eye contact with Willow.

“Don’t suppose you could switch on the telly could you? Neighbours is on now and I never miss it.”

“The television is broken,” lied Mia, “and we’ve got another person arriving in a few minutes. We’ll call you.”

Mazza grabbed another biscuit for the road as Willow, politely but firmly, showed her to the door.

“She farted on the way out,” whispered Willow in disbelief, walking back into the room.

The others started laughing hysterically and Ana jumped and went into the kitchen. She reappeared moments later with an open bottle of red wine and three glasses.

“I don’t think tea is strong enough for us to endure any more of these,” she said, filling the glasses.

***

Jenny was next and, having very recently broken up with her boyfriend, spent fifteen minutes sobbing about the injustices of the patriarchy regarding their ability to completely destroy a woman’s life by deciding they wanted to hang out with their mates and play poker rather than settle down and have 2.5 children and a white picket fence.

“How long were you together,” asked Willow softly, stroking her back as Mia handed her a box of tissues.

“Th-th-th-three weeks,” sobbed Jenny, emptying the contents of her nose loudly into a tissue. “It was my longest relationship ever.”

“I didn’t even think that three weeks constituted use of the term boyfriend,” said Ana after she left.

She topped up the three glasses with wine.

***

Sofia – a stunning Russian national – seemed nice enough, until her phone rang and she proceeded to shout into the handset for ten minutes, pacing around the room and making lewd hand gestures to no-one in particular. None of the girls spoke Russian, but they were pretty sure she wasn’t making polite chit-chat with the caller.

“My muzzer,” she explained, hanging up and slamming the phone back into her bag. “Vot a beech.”

“I don’t really get along with my parents either,” said Ana, who understood something of dysfunctional families, but not a whole lot of Sofia’s strong Russian accented words and took a punt that she was talking about her mother.

Sofia made a snarf noise in the back of her throat and nodded enthusiastically. “Ze beech vants me to have lunch vis her Saturday, but I am getting my nails done. She doesn’t understand how important eet ees.”

***

By the time Natalie “I don’t eat anything with carbs, fat or sugar”; Steph “I think my boss is trying to kill me. Actually I think everyone is trying to kill me. You’re not trying to kill me though, are you?” (They didn’t actually have to reject her as she decided about two minutes after she got there that they were, in fact, trying to kill her, and ran from the house.); Bridget “my favourite thing to do on a Saturday night is to have wild sex with a stranger”; and Molly “I don’t like to wear underwear”, had come and gone the girls had polished off three bottles of red wine and were falling around the living room in fits of giggles.

Ana’s ringing phone quietened them momentarily until they heard it was Tom and then they started grabbing the phone and making kissy noises into it.

Tom laughed good naturedly, indulging them until he had Ana on the line again.

“Sweetheart, I know it’s late notice, but have you filled the room yet?” he asked.

“Not yet,” said Ana, “You should have seen some of the people who came through.”

“We have a new girl at work who just started last week and she needs a place to live pronto. I completely forgot to tell you the other day about her. She’s really sweet – you’ll love her. I’ve already mentioned to room to her. Can she come over now?”

Ana shrugged. “Sure, why not.”

“Her name is Sarah,” said Tom before hanging up.

***

Twenty minutes later Sarah rushed into the room breathlessly.

“Thank you so much for seeing me,” she gushed, words tumbling out of her. “Tom told me about the house and I’ve just moved over from Perth and need a place to live and he said that you were all so wonderful, especially Ana of course.”

Her cheeks were flushed from the cold and she had a pleasant smile. She was pretty in a plain way and had a wonderfully sweet vibe about her. She detangled herself from the swamp of coat, hat and bags and sat in the chair that was proffered by Mia. The girls liked her immediately.

“Oh, I almost forgot.” She jumped out of her seat again and ferreted through one of the bags, producing a Tupperware container.

“I made these for the people at work today,” she said removing the lid and offering it forward. “But architects don’t eat too much when they’re working and there are heaps left.”

The girls peered into the box.

“Aren’t they…?” Willow trailed off, looking at the plate of biscuits on the table next to her.

“They’re called Apricot Delights. I got the recipe from this great baking website.”

The three girls all burst out laughing simultaneously and Ana held forward the plate of identical biscuits.

“Here’s some we prepared earlier!”

Spaghetti Bolognaise

August 11, 2011


This is a hearty and delicious meal that will always have people coming back for more: A perfect winter dish!

Serve with fresh linguine, green salad and warm bread. Serves 2-4 (depending on how hungry you are!)

500g organic lean mince

1 large onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, sliced wafer thin

6 roma tomatoes, diced

6 mushrooms, sliced

1 stick celery, sliced

1 carrot, finely chopped

1/2 zucchini, finely chopped

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon beef stock powder

1/2 cup dry red wine

Dash Worcestershire sauce

Dash Tabasco

Dash balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup fresh herbs (Basil, oregano, parsley), chopped

Salt and Pepper, to taste

1 tblspn olive oil

In a pan, heat oil on low and add onion then garlic and celery, cooking until translucent (be careful not to burn). Add carrot and zucchini and cook for 3-5 mins. Add the meat and cook until brown, breaking up any large lumps. Add tomatoes, red wine, sauces, vinegar, stock and herbs and simmer gently. You can simmer until the sauce has reduced and the meat and veges are cooked (about 20-30 mins) or you can put it over a really low heat, add a bit more wine, cover and cook for 1-2 hours (just make sure it doesn’t burn – keep adding liquid – either wine if you like it very rich, or water). Yum!

 

Season 3: Episode 10

August 9, 2011

On paper, it should have been a perfect day.

It started with a trip to the Victoria Markets, followed by a spectacular coffee and a warm, flaky croissant at Di Bella in North Melbourne; then home to bake sourdough bread and potter around the house, reading the paper and snacking on the delicious morsels that she had procured from the market – chillies stuffed with cream cheese, smoked trout and fresh cherries (which probably had a carbon footprint larger than that of most small countries given that it was the middle of winter, but she couldn’t resist the plump, red, fruity kisses on display).

Willow, however, was preoccupied and wasn’t enjoying one minute of it. The coffee had made her even more jittery than she already was and the pastry, through no fault of its own, had tasted like cardboard. The snacking was undertaken for something to do, rather than a need for sustenance. Even the beautiful cherries had been consumed without properly savouring the taste.

Willow had to do something this evening that she had been dreading all week. Tonight, Robert Fortescue was coming over and she was cooking him dinner.

She recalled the awful phone conversation that she had with him earlier in the week. He had been surprised to hear from her and had initially been genuinely lovely, much to Willow’s amazement. But then the arrogance kicked in again. He started rattling off the names of Melbourne’s top restaurants, telling her to pick any of them because he would get a reservation, no problem. He reeled off places that you needed to book weeks in advance to get a sitting on a Saturday evening and some that you couldn’t even make reservations. He assured her he could pull some strings. Willow didn’t doubt him for a second. You didn’t get to be like Robert Fortescue without trampling over a few people on the way to the top, but once you were there, there were plenty of people willing to kiss your arse. Some women would have found this display of testosterone and egotism exciting, but to Willow it was just plain patronising. If she’d wanted to go to any of these places, she would have taken herself there. She didn’t need a guy to take her out for a nice meal. The clincher had come when he was recommending a small, recently opened French restaurant, tucked away in Carlton.

“It’s quite phenomenal,” he had said. “The chef spent years living in provincial France learning culinary secrets that are hundreds of years old.”

Willow snorted into the phone. “That is such crap!”

“No, I assure you…”

Willow cut him off. “The chef is a mate of mine called Rob and he learnt everything from his wife’s grandmother, who has been living in Toorak for the last 25 odd years. The whole provincial thing was thought up by some spin doctor, who is apparently very good at their job.”

The silence on the other end of the phone had been stony.

“If it makes you feel any better, the grandmother did live in Paris for a number of years,” she said sweetly.

“Well, seeing as you’re not easily impressed, where would you like to go for dinner,” he had snapped back.

Now it was Willow’s turn to be haughty. “Quite frankly, I’d rather just stay home and eat a bowl of spag bol than go…”

She didn’t get a chance to finish her sentence.

“You’re on.”

“Pardon?”

“You just offered to cook me spaghetti bolognaise at your house and I accepted,” Robert said, laughter twinkling in his voice. “Shall we say eight pm on Saturday?”

He hung up before she even had a chance to respond.

So, here she was, counting down the hours with dread until Robert Fortescue would come knocking on her door.

***

When it came, the knock was about an hour earlier than she’d expected it.

“It took less time to get here than I thought it would,” he said when she opened the door to him just before seven, although his eyes didn’t convey the apology.

He was resplendent in dark blue jeans and a checked white and blue shirt. His hair had been freshly washed and she could smell his shampoo when he leant forward and kissed her on the cheek. Although Willow wasn’t a wine connoisseur like Johnny, she knew the 2006 Penfolds Grange he handed her wasn’t you’re average coiffable red that generally accompanied spaghetti bolognaise.

“You may as well come in a make yourself useful then,” she mumbled, suddenly very conscious of her daggy black jeans and too-large jumper.

She led him into the kitchen where she had only just begun preparing dinner. He rolled up his sleeves and grinned at her, enjoying seeing the flush that spread across her perfect cheeks and nose.

“What can I do, chef?”

Willow clenched her jaw and took a deep breath. Only one night, she said to herself before directing him towards a board set up for chopping garlic.

He lifted the knife up and whacked it down on the chopping board, sending cloves of garlic flying in every direction.

“What the hell are you doing?” she yelled.

He looked at her, surprised. “I’m chopping garlic. Isn’t that what you wanted?”

“Yes, but not like that!”

She grabbed the large chef’s knife from him and showed him how to shear wafer thin slices of garlic that would melt as soon as they hit the oil warming in the pan. He addressed the task with the concentration of a school child learning how to write. It took him five minutes to make it through one clove, but when he did, he looked as proud as punch. She couldn’t suppress the little smile that crept onto her lips.

“I think you might be able to graduate to onion,” she said, which caused him to flush bright red and puff his chest out a bit.

***

The cooking took about twice as long as it normally would, and they didn’t eat until about 11:00pm. Not that it mattered. Robert, despite his false start with the garlic, had proven a worthy and noble kitchen apprentice. He knew absolutely nothing about cooking – citing hotel living as the reason – but took to it like a duck to water. He wanted everything explained to him; from why carrots were chopped a certain way to how Willow made her own passata. Willow had bought some fresh linguine for the meal, but as soon as Robert found out she often made her own, he made her promise to teach him one day. She laughingly agreed, wondering how someone could have made it so far through their life without being able to dice a vegetable.

***

This has been a really fun night, thought Willow, surprised, as they cleaned up from the feast. Probably the most fun she’d ever had on a first date. The kitchen clock chimed one am and they both looked up, astonished that the time had passed so quickly. They locked eyes and Willow felt a tremor go through her body. He’s going to kiss me, she thought, her heart pounding wildly. What astonished her most was that she really wanted him to kiss her. She closed her eyes and leant towards him, terrified and excited at the same time. She felt his face draw closer and could feel his breath, feathery on her face. But just as she should have felt their lips together in a passionate embrace, he seemed to change his trajectory and she instead felt a soft brush on her cheek.

“Thanks for a lovely evening Willow. I should head off. I’ll show myself out,” he said gently.

Before she even had a chance to open her eyes, he was gone.

Willow clenched her jaw and squeezed her eyes shut to stop the tears that threatened to escape. I knew it, she chastised herself silently, furious that she’d let herself fall for him. He’s nothing but a selfish, conceited asshole.

Carrot and Coriander Dip

August 4, 2011


Despite sounding a bit unusual, this dip is a dream. It has got a wonderful fresh flavour and goes well with bread, corn chips, vegetables…you name it. It’s quite light and won’t fill you up too much – the perfect start to any meal.
Serves 4

500g carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp grated ginger
2 cloves garlic
2 spring onions, roughly chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1 lemon
100ml olive oil
1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Cook carrots until tender. Place cooked carrots in a processor with remaining ingredients, except coriander and process until desired consistency (I like to leave it a little bit chunky). Enjoy!

Season 3: Episode 9

August 2, 2011

Willow tentatively opened the front door and peeked her head around to look down the hall.

She exhaled a sigh of relief. Safe.

Every day for the last few weeks there had been some kind of floral bouquet waiting on the hallstand, her name printed on the card. The cards were never signed, but Willow knew who they were from. The daily barrage of foliage made Willow more determined than ever that she was not going to go out with Robert Fortescue. She was not a girl who was bullied into dating someone by the constant provision of fresh flowers. Yet, it was becoming increasingly apparent that Robert Fortescue was not a man who took no for an answer.

“Willow, is that you?” Ana’s voice called from the kitchen.

“Yep,” she called out, dumping her bag in the hall and picking up the small tub of carrot and coriander dip that she had collected on the way home. Unknown to Ana, Willow had been doing some research into different catering companies for the wedding. In Willow’s opinion, Ana and Tom hadn’t put nearly enough thought into what they would feed their guests. She knew that they didn’t want a big fuss but, seriously, food was the most important thing about any party, wasn’t it? For the last few weeks she had been secretly bringing home samples from different places and getting Ana to try them, dropping subtle hints about what should be got from where. Willow was desperately hoping that Ana and Tom might ask for her assistance so that she could create a bespoke wedding feast for them, but she didn’t want to impose herself on their wedding planning and therefore resorted to clandestine missions to tucked away delicatessens and gourmet food stores.

“Hey Ana,” she called as she walked through the house. “I picked up some wonderful dip today that you should try. It’s from this tiny company based in…” She trailed off as she entered the bright cooking area and was confronted by a huge bunch of wild orchids making their way across the room. From somewhere behind them came Ana’s voice again.

“Seriously Willow, just go out with the guy already. Then he can stop clogging up our house with bloody flowers.”

Willow groaned. And here was she thinking that she’d escaped the floral arrangement today. She had made it perfectly clear to Robert on more than one occasion that the flowers were about as welcome in her house as a tiger snake, and for him to keep sending them was presumptuous and thoughtless and… and… just plain rude!

“How do I know that he’ll stop though?” snapped Willow.

A small piece of card was pitched from somewhere behind the flowers and landed on the bench.

Go on a date with me and I’ll stop sending flowers. R.F.

Ana plunged the stems into a bucket full of water and stepped out from behind them.

“These are quite pretty though,” she said begrudgingly, admiring the arrangement.

Even Willow had to admit that she was right. The delicate purple flowers were nestled amongst lush, green ferns and wisps of babies breath. The overall effect was… well… gorgeously elegant.

Ana caught sight of the dip that Willow had bought and lifted the top, inhaling the scent of fresh coriander and immediately scooping some up with her finger

“Delicious!” she muttered, helping herself to more, this time with a spoon.

Willow looked smugly at her, momentarily forgetting the flowers. It’s the sign of a good dip when you don’t want dipping implements sullying the flavour, she thought. This one will definitely go on the list of potentials.

Ana gave Willow a sideways glance amidst spoonfuls. She really didn’t understand why Willow didn’t just give this guy a chance? Sure, she understood that post-Carlo Willow had vowed off men, but maybe this one was different. If nothing else, he certainly appeared to be attentive, which was more than she could say about the Italian.

“Willow,” Ana began softly, “why don’t you just go out with him once. You never know, he might be really nice?”

Willow rolled her eyes. Ever since Ana and Tom had made up, Ana had been trying to get both Mia and Willow paired off as well; she was so sublimely happy with her partner that she wanted everyone to feel the same way. She didn’t entertain the notion that perhaps her housemates didn’t want their own relationships. Willow certainly did not want a boyfriend – particularly one as disagreeable as Robert Fortescue – and she was positive that Mia wasn’t interested in anyone.

What Willow didn’t know was that Ana had actually met Robert. He’d come to the house one day to speak with Willow. She hadn’t been home, but Ana had. Ana thought that Robert Fortescue was handsome, polite, charming and completely smitten with Willow. She had told Robert to persevere on his quest and she would help out in anyway she could. She didn’t see it as a betrayal of her best friend’s confidence, rather that she was doing Willow a favour by helping her discover something that she didn’t yet know she wanted.

Willow crossed her arms across her chest and began what had become her standard defence.

“For one thing Ana, he nearly knocked me down in his car. Then he tried to bully me into tutoring his son. And lets not forget that he has demonstrated a blatant disregard for my personal space by invading our house with flowers. And…” She paused for dramatic effect, even though Ana knew what was coming next; she’d heard this speech a few times. “I’m his son’s teacher, Ana! Ethically or morally or whatever it is, there is something just not right about dating a parent of one of my students.”

“Were,” said Ana, folding her hands over her chest.

“Pardon?”

“You were his son’s teacher. He’s in a different class this year, right?”

Willow made a non-committal noise.

“And he didn’t actually hit you with his car – for which he apologised, right? – and he offered to employ you to tutor his son, didn’t he? Hardly slave labour.”

Willow huffed and puffed a bit before Ana grabbed her hands. “Please Willow. For my sanity, go out with him just once.”

Willow shook her head.

“Please?”

“No”

“Pretty please?”

“Absolutely not”

“With a cherry on the top?”

“No way.”

Ana smiled. “If you go on just one date with him I’ll let you choose all the catering for our wedding.”

Willow was about to say no again, but paused. She looked thoughtful. “Including the cake?”

Ana nodded.

Willow thought for a long time. It would be quite something to organise every single morsel for her best friend’s wedding…..

“OK. But you have to agree with everything I suggest.”

Ana stuck out her hand. “Deal.”

They shook hands solemnly before Ana fished Willow’s mobile out of her bag and handed it to her.

“Now call him.”

“You can’t back out of our deal though, even if Tom doesn’t like it,” said Willow before stalking into the next room to make the call in privacy. She was damned if she was going to give Ana the pleasure of listening to her humiliate herself by begging for a date with the man she swore she’d never go out with.

Ana chuckled to herself. She and Tom had already discussed the catering and were going to ask Willow anyway.

Ana clasped her hands together in delight; she had a good feeling about this one. Now she just had to find Mia a fellow and then she could leave her housemates happy in the knowledge that they were as blissfully in love as her.