Tales of food, sex and friendship




Archive for March, 2012

Asparagus Rolls

March 29, 2012

A quick, delicious snack or entree for a dinner party. Follow the Ravenous girls’ lead and serve with plenty of wine.

Makes 12

3 sheets puff pastry

12 fresh asparagus stalks

melted butter

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.

Thaw puff pastry sheets and cut each into 4. Wash and trim the asparagus, so the ‘woody’ bit is cut off.  Lay 1 piece of asparagus diagonally along a square of pastry. Salt and pepper as desired, and then roll up so that the asparagus sticks out from either end. Repeat 12 times. Brush the tops with melted butter.

Bake until pasty is fluffy and golden (7-10 mins). Enjoy immediately!

Season 5, Episode 11

March 27, 2012

Ana reached her hand towards the half-full bottle of wine that was sitting in the middle of the living room floor. She was lying on the couch and seemed to think that if she stretched hard enough the wine would just magically come to her, without her having to move. Giving up, she collapsed back onto the cushions, her empty wine glass hanging from her hand. “Can you pass the bottle Mia?”

“You’re so lazy,” Mia said, grinning, as she unfolded her long legs from her position on the floor.

“I’m not lazy,” said Ana, “It’s just that when I sit up, the room spins.”

“Tell me about it,” Willow said. She was sitting on the floor, her back against an armchair, tugging at a part of the carpet that was slowly starting to unfurl.

“Nothing that more wine won’t fix,” said Mia, topping up the three glasses, a bit wobbly herself. Seeing as none of them had really eaten, she considered passing the asparagus rolls that Willow had made around the room as well, but settled for shoving the plate in the general direction of the others. They were delicious – puff pastry wrapped around fresh asparagus, brushed with butter and baked until crispy and golden – but at the moment, the wine was a tad more popular amongst the present company: probably something to do with the fact that asparagus had less of an anesthetising effect than alcohol.

“I cannot believe that I’m getting divorced,” Ana groaned, downing half her fresh glass of wine and then popping an asparagus roll in her mouth. “I mean,” she continued amidst sprays of puff pastry, “who gets divorced less than a year after getting married?”

“You and Kim Kardashian,” Willow said.

“Well at least I’m in good company then,” Ana said, laughing.

She took another sip of her wine, sneaking a glance at her friend, who was still tugging at the carpet. “The whole room will unravel if you keep doing that,” Ana said, jokingly.

“Sorry,” Willow said. She stared picking at a loose thread on her jumper instead. To Ana, it seemed as though she were somewhere else entirely tonight. Considering everything that had happened, this was not unexpected, but there was something… Ana couldn’t quite put her finger on it.

“How are you holding up?” Ana said lightly.

“I’m doing OK,” Willow said, smiling warmly. “Honestly.”

“Well if you need to talk….”

Willow took a gulp of her wine. “Well actually, there is something I need to talk to you both about.” She picked at her jumper for a bit longer, before eventually telling them about the engagement ring that had been found on Robert’s body when he was taken to the hospital.

“Holy shit!” Ana exclaimed, forgetting her wine-induced dizziness and abruptly sitting up. “He was going to… I mean, you were going to… married? You were going to get married?”

“It sort of looks like that, doesn’t it?” said Willow, laughing lightly.

“That’s… well, that’s huge news,” Ana said.

“Yeah, I guess,” said Willow. “But that wasn’t what I needed to talk to you about.”

“It wasn’t?”

“No. Not exactly.” She sighed, trying to formulate the words in her mind. How did you break this news to your friends? “The thing is,” she said slowly, “It turns out the ring was worth quite a lot of money.”

“How much is ‘quite a lot’?” said Ana, confused.

“Around two million dollars,” Willow said, awkwardly.

The sip of wine that Mia had just taken found itself being spat across the living room floor. “Two million dollars!

“Yeah,” said Willow, embarrassed.

“Can we see the ring?” Ana asked. “I’ve never seen a two million dollar ring before.”

“Um, not really,” said Willow. “I already sold it.”

“Hang on,” said Mia. “That means you’re a… millionaire?”

“When you put it like that…” Willow trailed off. “I suppose I am. In a way.”

Ana and Mia stared at Willow, their mouths open.

“What are you going to do with it?” asked Ana when she’d regained her senses. “Buy a house? A car?” She laughed, excitedly. “You could buy both and still have change for a whole new wardrobe!”

“Well….” Willow trailed off and looked nervously at her friends. “I was thinking about going away maybe.”

“On a holiday?” said Mia.

“Sort of,” Willow said. “More like an… extended lifestyle change.”

“You’re going to leave Melbourne?” Ana gasped.

“I think so.” Willow said. “And I was wondering if you both wanted to come with me.”

Mia sat straight up, upending her wine glass on the floor by accident. No one noticed. “What?”

“Come away with me,” Willow said. Her eyes were shining with excitement.

“Just pack up our lives and leave?”

Willow nodded.

“Why not,” said Ana, slowly. “I mean, what’s left here?”

“Wait a second,” Mia said. “You’re not seriously considering…” Her voice trailed off. She could tell by the look in Ana’s eyes that she was, in fact, serious.

“But… where would we go?” Mia said.

“Anywhere we liked,” Willow laughed. “The world, as they say, is our oyster.”

“Hold that thought!” Ana leapt up and darted from the room. The others heard the sound of objects being hastily displaced in her bedroom before her footsteps came thundering down the stairs.

Ana presented them with an old fashioned globe; one of those ones that stood on the table and spun on its stand. “I knew I kept this for a reason,” she said triumphantly. She turned to Willow. “Go on then. Pick somewhere.”

“I can’t make the decision,” Willow said. “Shouldn’t we all do it?”

“I know,” Mia said with excitement. “Why don’t we spin the globe and when it stops you can put your finger on it and then wherever it lands, we’ll go.”

Willow agreed. They placed the globe on the small table in the middle of the room and sat around it.

“Wait!” Ana cried. “I need to be way drunker for this. This is our lives we’re talking about.” She sloshed some more wine in the general direction of the three glasses, some of which actually managed to find its targets, but most of which landed on the floor.

“Ok, I’m ready,” she said. “Oooh, I hope it lands on Spain. Tapas and Sangria.”

“Somewhere in Asia,” Mia said, crossing her fingers. “Where it’s really warm all the time.”

Willow closed her eyes tight. Mia and Ana both put their hands on the globe to spin it. Even though the orb was rusty and old, it seemed to spin on its axis forever. When it finally slowed to a halt Willow jabbed her finger down.

“How old is this globe, Ana?” Willow said after she opened her eyes. “I’m pretty sure the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics doesn’t even exist anymore.”

“Second time lucky?” said Ana.

They spun it again, holding their breath. Willow placed her finger down. She opened her eyes. “Oh!”

Mia jostled to get a closer look. “Where is it? Where is… Oh!”

Ana leaned over and nodded slowly. “I’ve never been there. Could be fun.”

“I suppose that’s decided then?” said Willow.

Ana held up her glass. “Here’s to our new hometown,” she said.

The three friends clinked glasses and, for the first time in ages, looked forward to what the future would hold.

Moroccan Mint Tea

March 22, 2012

A refreshing change from the standard cuppa.

Serve anytime of day. Makes four cups.

12 sprigs fresh mint, gently crushed between the palms of your hand to release flavour

2 teaspoons green tea

1 teaspoon black or earl grey tea

2 tablespoons agave or honey (more or less to taste)

4 cups water

In a teapot, place mint, agave, green and black tea. Cover with boiling water and allow to steep for 5 mins. Serve immediately or chill and serve over ice.

 

Season 5: Epsiode 10

March 20, 2012

Ana sighed, frustrated, as she crushed fresh mint between her palms and put it into the tea pot. Back in the old days, she would have been lucky to find time to shove a tea bag in a mug and add water, yet here she was, in the middle of the working week, preparing Moroccan mint tea from scratch. Ever since the evil S girl – whose name she had forbidden from being spoken in the house – had ruined her career, Ana seemed to have nothing but time on her hands.

She’d tried everything she could to salvage her shattered business, but the grapevine had been working overtime and it seemed every single person in Melbourne had heard the initial rumour that Ana had stolen from a client. It didn’t matter that it was not in the least bit true; people had a tendency to believe the first thing they heard.

So, Ana found herself with no clients and in a whole heap of debt, paying for an office space that wasn’t being used. As an absolute last resort, she’d borrowed a significant amount of money from her parents to ‘tide things over’. She hated being in debt to her parents. She felt as though it was yet more evidence she had not succeeded in the ways they had wanted her to. Even worse was the fact that she had been forced to move back in with them for several months.

The ringing of the doorbell startled her and she walked quickly down the hall to answer it, loathing herself for finding this tiny distraction the high point of her day. Her jaw dropped when she opened the door to find Phyllis, her mother, standing there, resplendent in Ralph Lauren. Her blonde hair was pulled back into a perfect chignon and she wore a strand of pearls around her throat. Ana recognised it as her ‘casual’ look.

“What are you doing here?”

“Can’t a mother spontaneously visit her daughter?” Phyllis retorted.

In all the years that Ana had lived in this house, Phyllis had been to visit her a grand total of once, and it most certainly had not been spontaneous. But, she invited her mother in and led the way to the kitchen, putting the finishing touches to the mint tea as Phyllis surveyed the eclectic room with a single raised eyebrow.

Ana glanced sideways at her mother, wondering what on earth she was doing here. Phyllis and David – Ana’s father – had never seemed particularly enamored with their only daughter. Sure, they helped her out with cash when she was desperate, but god forbid she’d ever need a shoulder to cry on or a hand to hold. Ana always suspected she had been a product of keeping up with the Jones’ – everyone else was having kids, so her parents did too. Only one though. No need to go overboard.

They had embraced parenthood by enrolling her in horse riding lessons, French classes, Ballet, sailing, summer school; anything and everything that would keep her out of their perfectly coiffed hair. There seemed to be the unspoken understanding that they would give Ana what she wanted and she would do her best not to embarrass them.
When, at the age of thirteen, Ana got busted for smoking and making out with one of the summer camp leaders behind the craft shed, they threw their hands up in despair. They had given her everything and this was how she repaid them? As their form of punishment, the horse riding and sailing lessons were withdrawn. Ballet was off the agenda and French classes were a thing of the past. She was swiftly, and without a scene, removed from her exclusive private school and hand-delivered to the local public school, where she would see out the rest of her education without the eyes of the Melbourne bourgeois watching her every move.

Ana was thrilled. Her parents were not.

“Any other young lady would kill for your life,” Phyllis had said, taking a languorous sip of Pimms as she relaxed after a tennis lesson with her coach, Adolfo. She could barely manage to take her eyes off his firm buttocks as he wandered around the court collecting balls. “I just don’t understand it,” she sighed.

Ana never knew whether she was referring to Adolfo not falling for her cougar charms or her daughter not wanting to follow in her mother’s footsteps.

Years later, Ana slept with Adolfo in her parents bed, making sure her mother found out. It was her final fuck-you before she moved out of home.

***

“How is life treating you?”

Ana looked at her mother, exasperated. What kind of question was that? She knew exactly how life was treating her. Ana had – after all – been living with her parents for the last few months due to that psycho Sarah hijacking her old room, Tom booting her out of their house, and Ana not being able to afford a place of her own on account of her career being in shambles. At least now, with Sarah gone, Ana had moved back in with Mia and Willow.

“Well Mother, everything is just peachy,” said Ana sarcastically.

“And Tom?”

“He’s just great!”

“There’s no need to be snippy,” Phyllis said. “If you want my advice…”

“I don’t.”

She ignored the interruption. “…then you’ll take Tom back. And soon.”

“What do you care?” Ana snarled. “All of a sudden you’re taking an interest in my life?”

Phyllis smiled sadly and put her hand over Ana’s. “I know that I haven’t been a… great mother,” she said, “but Tom is a good man who loves you and who will always love you. Don’t give that up for anything.”

“Is that why you and Dad stuck it out for all these years?” Ana said bitterly. “Unwavering love for each other?”

Phyllis laughed. “Oh my dear, your father stopped loving me a long time ago, if indeed he ever loved me at all.”

Ana squirmed uncomfortably on her chair. She’d never heard her mother be so candid about her  own life. Ana had always assumed she liked the way it had turned out; that it was exactly as she had chosen it to be.

“Of course he loved you. Loves you,” Ana said, although she didn’t really know that it was the truth.

Phyllis waved her hand dismissively. “What I’m trying to say is that I don’t want to see you make the same mistake I did.”

“What mistake?”

“Letting go of the one person who will make you happy for the rest of your life.”

Ana frowned. “What are you saying?”

“I let my arrogance and stubbornness tear me away from the one man who could have made me truly happy.” She paused, wringing her hands. “It doesn’t matter now, of course. My life is as it is. But I would hate to see you end up… like me. Despite what you might think Ana, I’ve only ever wanted what is best for you. I just didn’t know sometimes what that was.” She smiled and patted Ana’s hand, then stood up and smoothed her already-perfect hair, thanking Ana for the tea. “I’ll show myself out,” she said as she disappeared down the hall.

***

A few hours later, Ana arrived at Tom’s house. The conversation with her mother had been replaying in her head all afternoon. Phyllis had said that you shouldn’t let go of the one person you love with all your heart; the person who will make you happy for the rest of your life. Ana agreed. What this afternoon had made her realise was that, for her, Tom wasn’t that person.

Tom opened the door, the smile lingering for only a few seconds before disappearing. He sensed why she had come. “You’re leaving, aren’t you.”

Ana nodded.

“Please Ana.” His voice was choked. “I’ll do anything. Please just forgive me.”

“I do forgive you,” Ana said. “What’s happened to us… It wasn’t your fault, Tom. The whole Sarah thing wasn’t the root of our problems. She was just the catalyst who brought them to the surface.”

“But if I’d just believed you,” he moaned, “then this would never have happened.”

“Who’s to say that another Sarah wouldn’t come along in the future?” she said. “What would we do then? Go through exactly the same thing all over again?”

“No, it would be different.”

“It wouldn’t,” Ana said with certainty. She sighed. “I’m as much to blame as you for this whole mess, Tom. We rushed into this marriage. You were still angry at me for my affair with Marc and I was trying to prove that I was committed to you. We just thought that getting married would fix our problems.”

“But it didn’t,” Tom said miserably.

Ana shook her head sadly. “No.”

“Give me…us… another chance.” He took her hands gently in his own. “Please?”

Ana looked up into his eyes; his gorgeous, blue, sparkling eyes. “I can’t,” she said softly. It was everything she could do not to fall back into his arms, sobbing. “I’m sorry. I just can’t.”

After a few minutes, Tom pulled his hands away and let them fall limply on his lap.

“I know,” he said finally. And, deep down, he did.

She smiled at him briefly and stood up. Her mother had been right about one thing. If you find your one true love, you should never let them go. But Tom wasn’t that person and in order to have some hope of one day finding them, she had to let him go.

“Goodbye Ana,” Tom said. He kissed her on the cheek, feeling the salty, wet tears slide down her face.

Ana lifted her hand in a final farewell, letting herself out of his apartment, and his life, for good.

Warm Barley and Cauliflower Salad with Almond Gremolata

March 15, 2012

This salad is a textural sensation: Chewy barley with smooth cauliflower and crunchy almonds. It tastes amazing too, the freshness of the gremolata perfectly complementing the nutty grain and seasoned cauliflower.

Serve with a side of blanched green beans for a light meal, as an accompaniment to a main, or as an appetizer. Serves about 4.

Barley and Cauliflower Salad

1.5 cups pearl barley

1 head cauliflower, cored and broken into bite-sized florets

Extra virgin olive oil

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Gremolata

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoon roasted almonds, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind (use the medium side of your grater, not the smallest one)

1.5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1.5 tablespoons olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.

In a large saucepan, bring 2.5 litres of water to boil. Add barley and 1 tsp salt. Return to boil, then turn heat down to low and cover, simmering until barley is cooked but chewy – about 20-25 mins.

While barley is cooking, toss the cauliflower florets with a good slug of olive oil and half the lemon juice and spread in a single layer on a baking tray. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender and lightly browned – about 20-30 minutes (depending on your oven).

Drain and transfer the barley to a large bowl and add the rest of the lemon juice and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil (you want the barley to be coated, but not dripping in oil). Season with salt and pepper.

Make the gremolata by mixing all ingredients together and allowing to stand.

Add half of the cooked cauliflower to the barley, transferring the other half to a food processor and pureeing. Plate before serving by diving up the puree and putting onto individual plates. Add the barley and cauliflower salad on top of this, then evenly divide the gremolata and pile on top. Serve immediately. Yum!

Season 5: Episode 9

March 13, 2012

Johnny tested a mouthful of the cooked barley thoughtfully. It needed more lemon. He added another slug of olive oil and some black pepper too for good measure, tasting it again. Perfect. Or at least, it would be, he thought, if I were making if for people that I liked. Or even knew.

He looked across his small kitchen to where Cecelia was standing, chopping lettuce to make a green salad. She was humming to herself and glanced up, beaming at him. Johnny smiled stiffly back. For about the millionth time he wondered why he had agreed to today at all; hosting her entire family for lunch was not his idea of fun. But, Cecelia was pregnant, he was the baby dada, and this was just one of those things that came with the territory.

If someone had told Johnny a year ago that this is where he would be now he would have laughed in their face. He wasn’t  stupid enough to get someone pregnant! Let alone someone he barely knew, who was adamantly opposed to abortion, and who would be disowned from her very traditional catholic family when they discovered she was with child but without husband.

She’d wanted to get married, but Johnny knew he couldn’t. “I’m just not the marrying type,” he’d said when she’d pushed him for a reason. Not to you, anyway, he thought. He felt no connection to Cecelia or their child, but despite this, he couldn’t forget his own childhood and how hard it had been. With absent parents and estranged grandparents, Johnny had grown up almost alone. If it wasn’t for his older sister looking out for him, there was no way he would have made it to where he was now. He had always been envious of people who had large families and no matter how he felt about the current situation, he wouldn’t – couldn’t – subject his child to the same thing. So, he and Cecelia had come to an arrangement of sorts: They would tell her family they were engaged, planning to marry within the year. In a month or so the happy couple would be shocked – but delighted, of course – to find out Cecelia was with child, nearing the end of her first trimester.

Being engaged and pregnant was apparently not as bad as the other options.

The happy – and now expecting – couple would announce they were postponing the wedding until well after the birth, by which time it would be too late, and they would break up. They would blame the demise of their relationship on the pressures of having a child and decide – amicably – to part ways. Cecelia’s family would put up a fight, but they would be so besotted with their first grandchild that it wouldn’t last for long. Cecelia would move interstate to be with her family, Johnny would get his life back and everyone would live happily ever after. The End.

It wasn’t a perfect plan, but at least it seemed to be working. For now.

Johnny didn’t expect anyone else to understand his decision. He had picked up the phone so many times to call Mia and tell her everything, but couldn’t go through with it. After all, what the hell was he meant to say? “Hey Mia. Could you put your life on hold waiting for me while I fake an engagement in order to help out another woman who is going to give birth to my first child?”

Johnny shook his head wryly at the thought. Even he knew that was going a bit far. All he could do was hope that – at the end of it all – Mia would be there and find it in her heart to forgive him.

He sighed as he finished chopping the parsley to go with the warm barley and cauliflower salad. Today he would play the part of the newly engaged fiancé in order to keep his child from being ostracised from its extended family.

It’s for the best, he told himself over and over again, wishing that he actually believed that.

***

“Earth to Johnny,” Cecelia said, laughing. “The salad is done. What’s next?”

“Oh right.” Johnny dragged himself back to the present, glad that Cecelia couldn’t read his thoughts. Even though they were in a fake relationship, he didn’t think she’d appreciate him thinking about another woman. “I’ll set the table. Why don’t you just relax?”

Cecelia flashed him another brilliant smile. “You’re the best fiancé ever.”

Johnny shot her a warning look.

“Fake fiancé,” she added quickly, not wanting Johnny to fall into another one of his moods just before he met her family for the first time.

She sat, thinking yet again how gorgeous and lovely Johnny was and how lucky she had been to get him. Well, sort of get him. She absently played with the trinket on her finger, daydreaming about how great a father he was going to be.

Out of the corner of his eye, Johnny saw something sparkle. He felt his blood turn cold. “What the hell is that?” he said, pointing to Cecelia’s left hand.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” she said hurriedly, putting her hand behind her back. “It’s just… well, if we were really engaged I’d have a ring.”

“So you just bought yourself one?” he said. “Without talking to me about it?”

“It’s not a big deal” she said, dismissing it casually. “It’s not even a real diamond.”

Cecelia of course had other ideas about the outcome of this arrangement. Perhaps it was from watching every romantic comedy out there or reading one too many Danielle Steele books, but she was convinced that it was only a matter of time before Johnny realised he was deeply in love with her, and the fake diamond on her finger would be exchanged for a real one. She glanced at the ring on her hand again, smiling at the thought. She had chosen a copy of exactly what she wanted her real engagement ring to look like. Beyonce had said it best: If you liked it then you should have put a ring on it. Sometimes boys just needed a little encouragement to figure out what they liked. And what type of ring they should put on it when they decided they did like it.

 ***

Within the hour, Johnny’s small apartment was jammed full of Cecelia’s relatives, all of whom had flown in from interstate to meet her new fiancé. They were hugging and kissing and crying, squealing as they admired the ring and telling Johnny how handsome he was.

“Tell us exactly how you proposed,” one of the aunts gushed. “We want every single detail!”

“Ummmm…” Shit, Johnny thought. Should have seen that one coming.

Thankfully the doorbell rang again, and he excused himself, letting Cecelia think of an answer. He pulled the door open, wondering how on earth he was going to cram more people into his apartment. His jaw dropped when he saw who it was.

“Mia!” Johnny glanced behind him and walked outside, pulling the door slightly closed so that Mia couldn’t see in.  “What are you doing here?”

“I need to tell you something,” she said. She was fidgeting and looked very nervous.

“Shouldn’t you be, I don’t know, at work or something?”

“What? Oh, I got fired,” she mumbled. “But that’s not why I came to see…”

“Hang on,” Johnny said, cutting her off. “Fired? Why?”

“It’s a long story,” she said, waving her hand dismissively, “and it’s not important. What is important is you. I mean us. I mean…” she groaned. Honestly, she had planned what she was going to say, it just wasn’t exactly coming out right. “What I mean is that you and I… the way I feel about you is… good. I feel very good about you. About us. I’ve never felt anything like it before. And I think that you feel the same way. About us.”

The words came out in a gush. They didn’t really make sense, but Johnny didn’t care. He had been waiting for so long to hear the truth about how she felt. And here she was, saying words that he had wanted to say so many times before, but hadn’t, for fear that he’d scare her off. More than anything he wanted to throw his arms around Mia and tell her that yes, he felt exactly the same way and had done for as long as he could remember.

It was just that, right now, her timing was so, so awful.

“Don’t you feel the same way?” she said in a small voice, when he didn’t answer immediately.

“I can’t even begin to tell you how I feel,” he whispered, staring deep into her eyes. “But, right now, I can’t talk. Can we meet up later tonight?”

Mia shook her head. “No. If I don’t say it now, then I never will and I’ll regret it forever.” She took a deep breath. “The thing is Johnny, that I am completely and utterly in lo…”

“Johnny?” Cecelia stuck her head around the door, scowling when she saw Mia. “What do you want?” she said.

Mia looked warily at Cecelia. “I just needed to… tell Johnny something.”

“He’s busy right now,” Cecelia said. She put her hand possessively on Johnny’s shoulder. A brilliant flash of diamond nearly blinded Mia.

“No…” Mia whispered, feeling suddenly nauseous. “You’re not…?”

Johnny looked down and shook Cecelia’s hand off, groaning. Fuck.

“It’s not what you think,” he said, trying to get away from Cecelia.

“But you don’t love her,” Mia said dangerously close to tears. “I know you don’t.”

“I can’t talk about this now,” Johnny said, begging Mia with his eyes to understand.

“It’s because of the baby, isn’t it,” Mia said suddenly. “You don’t have to marry her, Johnny… Not in this day and age. People raise kids separately all the time. I’ll help you,” she pleaded, desperate.

“Where’s our future son-in-law?”Cecelia’s father pushed open the door, holding out his hand warmly when he saw Mia. “Ah, you must be one of Cecelia’s friends come to give your congratulations to the happy couple! Well, come inside,” he boomed, grinning. “We’re about to open the champagne!”

Mia looked wildly from Johnny to Cecelia. I’m too late, she thought, her heart sinking. I’ve lost him for good. She willed the tears to stay where they were.

“No thank you,” she said as brightly as she could to Cecelia’s father. “I just wanted to stop past and say… congratulations.” She touched Johnny’s arm lightly, adding “you’re going to make a great dad.”

Then she turned and fled, the tears she had been holding back streaming down her face.

Cecelia’s father looked from Johnny to his daughter’s slightly bulging stomach. “A great dad?” he repeated, realisation dawning on his face.

Johnny closed his eyes. Fuck. Why could nothing just go to plan?

Vegan Chocolate Mousse

March 8, 2012

So rich, so creamy and so not like any other vegan dessert you’ve ever tasted. Will impress even the fussiest chocolate mousse traditionalist.

2 large ripe avocados

3/4 cup organic unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup agave nectar

1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup coconut cream

1/2tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

Fresh strawberries, roasted hazelnuts and coconut flakes to garnish

Method

Cut avocados in half and remove flesh, placing it in a food processor (you can also mash by hand if you don’t have a processor). Mix until smooth. Add cocoa powder, agave, vanilla, spices and coconut cream and blend until combined and smooth. Put into serving individual serving glasses (or one serving dish) and refrigerate – preferably overnight, but a couple of hours will do. Serve with berries, nuts and coconut flakes.

Season 5: Episode 8

March 6, 2012

It was quarter to nine in the morning, and Tom had already been in his office for four hours. He rubbed his eyes, as if this would erase the dark circles that seemed to be a permanent fixture these days. He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d had a decent night’s sleep. He took another sip of his coffee, barely noticing it was cold, and tried to focus on the tasks at hand. In the last few weeks he’d fallen behind on some pretty big jobs, and the clients were starting to notice.
Today’s the day I get back on track work-wise, he told himself. At least then he’d feel like he had control over one small part of his life.

To avoid any unnecessary distractions this morning, he’d barricaded himself in his office, locking the door – something he never did – pretending he wasn’t there. He had almost convinced himself that the self-inflicted seclusion was entirely work related, but the tiny niggle in the back of his brain wouldn’t let him forget the terrible thing he’d done. If he didn’t have so much bloody work to do he would have taken a week off and run away somewhere to try and forget the whole mess. That was the problem with owning your own business though: Holidays became luxuries only other people could afford.
The phone on his desk rang and he snatched it out of the cradle quickly.

“Hello?” he whispered, hoping that if there was anyone else in the office, they hadn’t heard it. He could have let it go to voicemail, but he was waiting on an important client to get back to him regarding new sketches.

“Tom?”

He knew that voice. Should have let it go to voicemail, after all.

“Hi Ana.”

“I need to see you,” she said.

Tom gulped. He knew he was being totally chicken, but he really didn’t want a confrontation. Not until he’d figured out what the hell had happened the other night with Sarah and could think of some reason to justify his appalling behaviour. “It’s not a great time Ana. I’m…errr…there’s a project that I need to get done and…”

She cut him off. “Tom, this is important.”

He sighed. He knew that tone of voice. “OK. What about tonight? I could meet you for a drink?”

“I’m on my way to the city now,” she said. “I’ll be at your office in fifteen minutes.”

Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.

“OK,” he said, as brightly as he could. “See you then.”

He wondered whether Mia had told Ana what she saw. Surely not. Didn’t girls have some kind of pact where they didn’t pass on secrets that might hurt their friends? Or was it the opposite; they always told each other everything? Ana hadn’t sounded mad though, so that meant that she probably didn’t know. Yet.

At least Sarah was coming in late today. Those two going at it hammer and tong again was too awful to think about.
He heard his door handle rattle; someone was trying to come into his office.

“Tom?”

Tom couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry. So much for the late start.

“Uh, hi Sarah” Tom called, silently pleading for her to go away.

“Why is the door locked?”

“I’m…errr…busy.”

“I need to see you. Just quickly.”

He had to get rid of her before Ana arrived. “Why don’t you…errr…take an early lunch break? A long one. We can talk when you get back.”

“It’s 9am,” she said, puzzled. “Tom, open the door.”

Tom slowly lifted himself off his chair, unlocking the door. Why didn’t he have the guts to just tell everyone to get stuffed?
Sarah looked fresh as a daisy and smelt familiar. Kind of like Ana’s perfume, Tom thought. She walked into the office and closed the door behind her, kissing him on the cheek and letting her hand linger on his shoulder for a moment too long.

“What did you need to talk to me about?” Tom said, escaping behind the safety of his desk. It didn’t work. She followed him.

“I wanted to say thank you for the other night,” she purred. “It was amazing.”

Tom looked uncomfortably at the floor. “About that…”

“Yes?”

“Sarah, you know the situation I’m in,” Tom said. “I don’t think it’s fair for either of us to… embark on anything that we’re not ready for.”

“But we are ready!”

Tom shook his head firmly. “I’m not.”

Tears welled in her eyes. “But you told me you loved me.”

I did?

“Ah, sure, of course, but…”

“But what?”

“It’s, well… just as friends.”

Just at that moment the intercom on Tom’s desk buzzed and the receptionist announced that Ana had arrived. Fifteen minutes my arse, he thought. That had been five at the most. What was she playing at?

“Ana’s here?” Sarah’s voice had changed.

Tom gulped. “Yeah, she needs to speak to me about something.”

“Are you going to tell her about us,” Sarah said.

“Um, no. I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Maybe I should tell her? She has a right to know.”

“No!” Tom stood up quickly, steering Sarah towards the door. “I’ll talk to her. Just… do some work.”

Ana walked up just as Sarah was leaving.

“Sarah!” Ana walked forward and embraced her, kissing her on both cheeks. “What a wonderful surprise!”

Sarah looked at her warily. “Um, yeah.”

“How is everything going?”

Sarah looked from Ana to Tom. “Fine,” she said suspiciously.

“So great to see you,” Ana said walking into Tom’s office. “Might see you around. Or not,” she added, shutting the door in Sarah’s face.

Ana turned to face Tom. He looked awful – tired and haggard. Her heart went out to him. “Are you OK?” she said.

Tom looked at her strangely. Was it a trick question? She didn’t seem angry or uptight. She looked… concerned. Tom’s face crumpled. Right at that second he knew unequivocally that he still loved her and, more than anything in whole world, he wanted to make their marriage work. He knew that he had to tell her the truth.

“Oh Ana,” he said miserably. “I’ve been such a fool.”

Ana raised an eyebrow, but didn’t say anything.

“I hope that one day you can find it in your heart to forgive me,” he said. “But the other night I got horribly drunk and,” he gulped, “slept with Sarah.”

Tom braced himself for whatever was coming next. He hoped it was bad. He knew he deserved it.

“No you didn’t.”

He looked at her, confused. “I did. I had dinner at her house and I thought I only had one glass of wine, but I obviously didn’t, and then I woke up then next day in her room.”

“You didn’t sleep with her.”

Tom still looked confused.

“Tom, she drugged you,” Ana said gently.

Tom looked stunned. “No. Uh-uh. No way. Sarah wouldn’t do that.” Would she?

“Think about it,” Ana said. “You said yourself you only had one glass of wine. How is it that you don’t remember anything of the night?”

“I was exhausted, obviously…”

“Tom, I have proof,” Ana said softly. “She put something in your drink.”

“What proof?”

“Please will you trust me on this. Just this once.”

Tom looked out the window, blinking. Sarah drugged him? His mind whirled, slowly trying to make sense of it all. It would explain a lot of things, like the fact he remembered absolutely nothing of that night. He stuck his head out of the office. “Sarah, can you come in here?”

***

“No way!” Sarah’s eyes opened wide. “I would never do something like that! I can’t believe that you’d take her word over mine, after all I’ve done for you…”

“Oh cut the crap,” Ana interrupted. “We know you did it.”

Sarah’s demeanour suddenly changed. “Listen you little bitch,” she snarled. “You need to deal with the fact that it’s over between you and Tom. He chose me. Stop acting like a sore loser. Besides,” she added cooly, “you have no proof of anything. It’s my word against yours and we all know who he’s going to believe.”

She crossed her arms over her chest and looked smug. That was the last straw for Tom.

“Sarah.” Tom turned to face her, he mouth a furious white line. “You’re fired. Gather up your personal things and get out of this office.”

Sarah’s mouth opened and closed a few times; the perfect impression of an inner urban goldfish.

“And leave the La Perla underwear behind,” Ana added.

Sarah’s face flushed an unbecoming shade of scarlet. “I told you I don’t have…”

“It’s stashed in your bag,” Ana said brusquely, cutting her off. “Game’s up, Sarah. Now who’s the one acting like a sore loser?”

Sarah opened her mouth to protest again, but Tom took her firmly by the shoulders and steered her towards the door. “Go,” he said, so furious he could barely speak.

“Oh, I almost forgot,” Ana called after her. “Willow and Mia passed on that they wanted you out of the house today. They’ve packed your things. You can pick them up this afternoon.”

“You… bitch,” Sarah growled, charging towards Ana.

Tom stepped in front of her and caught her hands. “Get out,” he said. “And if you ever come near me or my wife again I will call the police and tell them exactly what you did.”

***

Tom and Ana regaled Mia and Willow with the story many times over dinner. They had just finished one of those perfect meals, which had culminated in a luscious, rich vegan chocolate mousse served with strawberries, blueberries and toasted coconut flakes.

“Tell me again how she flung the bra at your head when she was storming out of the office,” Willow begged, wiping the tears of laughter off her face. Ana smiled, embellishing the story somewhat for dramatic effect. It was so good to see Willow laughing again she would have said just about anything.

“Oh, I’m tired,” Mia said stretching over the chair. She got up and kissed Tom and Ana on the cheeks, giving Tom a small smile that meant she was sorry for doubting him. He grinned back and nodded.

“I think that’s my cue too,” Willow said. “Leave everything. I’ll clean up tomorrow.”

***

Tom stared adoringly at his wife, tucking a strand of her blonde hair behind her ear.

“I’m so sorry,” he whispered for the millionth time that day.

Ana smiled gave him a friendly punch on the shoulder. “I know. Me too.”

“Will you come home?” he said

Ana shook her head slowly. “I don’t think so,” she said. “Not yet. I need… time.”

Tom tried not to look too hurt. He was hoping that they could forget this had ever happened and pick up where they left off. But he didn’t want to rush her. Right now, he would do anything for this amazing woman, including giving her the space she needed.

“Where will you stay?”

“The girls said I could move back in here,” she said. “Until I’m ready.”

“Any idea how long that will be?” Tom asked. “I’m not trying to rush you,” he added hurriedly.

“I know,” Ana said smiling sadly. “But I don’t know how long it’s going to be Tom. What happened between us was… well, it was pretty full on.”

Tom nodded and took Ana’s hand, kissing it. This was not a conversation for tonight. “Take as long as you need.”

Ana smiled at the handsome man in front of her, wishing more than anything she could forget all that had occurred in the last few months. But she couldn’t. And didn’t know how long it would be until she did.

Homemade Crumpets

March 1, 2012

Homemade crumpets are one of life’s little splurges. Sure, they take a while, but they are worth it! If you don’t have a cook to get up and start making them at 5am for your breakfast, then you might like to have them for afternoon tea instead.

 

 

2 tsp caster sugar

1 tsp (7g/1 sachet) dried yeast

2 cups warm milk (not too hot!)

3 cups plain flour

1 tsp salt

1 cup water

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Butter to grease

In a medium size bowl, combine sugar and yeast. Pour in the warm milk and stir until yeast has dissolved. Cover with cling wrap and stand in a warm place until the mixture has become frothy.

Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture, stirring to combine. Cover again with plastic wrap or a tea towel and place in a warm place for 60 mins or until doubled in size.

Deflate the batter by whisking it vigorously (by hand or with electric mixer) for a minute or so. Mix together the water and bicarb in a jug and gradually add this to the flour mixture. Cover and set aside to rest for another 30 mins.

Brush a large non-stick fying pan and metal egg rings with butter. Place the egg rings in the pan over a low-medium heat and put about 1/4 cup of batter in each one. Cook for 5-7 mins until bubbles appear on the surface. The bottom should be golden brown and the top should be set (i.e. not wobbly). Cook on the other side for a minute or two. Repeat until all batter has been used. Serve immediately with plenty of butter, jam and honey. (Can also be stored in the refrigerator for a few days and toasted before serving).