Tales of food, sex and friendship




Posts Tagged ‘Markets’

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.

Season 1: Episode 8

January 18, 2011

Tom looked at the shopping list in his hand and shook his head. He had no idea what half of this stuff was, let alone what it looked like. But, Ana needed it for dinner tonight and he wanted to make sure everything was perfect.

She had mentioned a stall that her friend Willow said he should go to…Lorenzo’s? Tom dived into the market, hurrying past deafening salesmen all trying to entice him with cut-price fruit and vegetables. He looked around him for a stall with wicker baskets hanging above it and spotted something up ahead. There, he thought, that looks like it.

Tom walked over to an old man wearing a leather apron. “Lorenzo?” he asked. “Willow sent me.”

The man’s eyes lit up and he ushered Tom to his stall. Even Tom could see this guy’s stuff was exceptional, way above the standard of the others at the market. As Lorenzo busied himself getting everything on the list, Tom couldn’t help but think of Ana. Tonight was a big night for him and he wanted it to go well. Ana was introducing him to her best friends for the first time and Tom was feeling like the new kid at school all over again. It had been a long time since he’d fallen hard for someone but he knew it was happening with her. He had never met anyone like her in his life. He couldn’t believe it had only been four months since they met. And now that he was going to be in Melbourne for a while – no more work trips or holidays (unless they were with Ana!) – he was excited about spending more time with her. Just thinking of her brought a smile to his face. Determined, passionate, beautiful… and the sex! The thought of her naked body writhing in those crisp, white Egyptian cotton bed sheets made him hard with desire. Maybe if they had time before dinner he could take her upstairs and…

“Mister? Here you go.” Lorenzo’s voice cut through his thoughts as he handed Tom two bulging plastic bags. Tom awkwardly held them over his rapidly bulging groin. Lorenzo then passed over a box of fruit: nectarines, plums, peaches and apricots. “For Willow,” Lorenzo explained with a smile, “you tell her we say hello. And tell her not to forget she has to come and meet Carlo.”

***

By the time Tom got to Ana’s house, he knew she’d be stressed. It had taken him way too long to find Lorenzo and then traffic had been a nightmare going through the city. But he didn’t know just how angry she could get.

“Where have you been?” Ana demanded as she snatched the shopping bags out of his hands. “They’re going to be here in an hour!”

Tom stammered through an apology, inwardly kicking himself for running so behind schedule. The box of fruit wobbled in his arms. “I’m sorry. I’ll chop, I’ll stir, whatever. Just let me help,” he pleaded.

Ana turned her back on him and walked into her large, immaculate kitchen. A red pasta machine was midway through a chunk of dough. “Don’t worry about it, it’s faster if I just do it myself,” she snapped. She set to work slicing the mushrooms; the razor sharp stainless steel of her chef’s knife glinting in the late afternoon sun that streamed through the window.

Even when she’s angry, she’s gorgeous, Tom thought.

But even after Tom had poured her a glass of wine, put on some music and laid the dining table, Ana still wasn’t talking to him. He didn’t get it. He knew he’d stuffed up but surely this was going overboard? Then he noticed a large bunch of roses sitting in a vase in the corner of the living room. A postcard showing tropical blue waters lay crumpled next to it. He turned it over:

You should try to get here sometime. You deserve a holiday!

Thanks for all your hard work,

M.

“Your boss sent you these flowers?” Tom called through to the kitchen.

Ana quickly looked up from the bench. “Oh, yeah,” she said, hurrying over to Tom. She picked up the postcard and crushed it in her hand. “We break our backs for weeks getting the campaign done and he gets to just jet off with his wife to the Maldives! Like it doesn’t matter!” Ana’s voice had become a little shrill. Tom looked at her quizzically.

“Does it matter?” he said. “I mean, wouldn’t we all like to go to the Maldives if we could?”

Ana glared at him and walked back to the pasta machine. “The flowers were late, anyway. He got back two weeks ago.”

Tom was worried. “Ana, what the hell is wrong? Why are you so mad at me? Is it because I was late?” He tried to take her hand but she pulled it away.

“No,” she said, “I’m just feeling a little…a little…suffocated at the moment. You’re just always in my space.”

Tom was shocked. He’d never even spent the night at her house! Not to mention the fact that he’d been away in South East Asia for the last few weeks, and had only seen her twice since he’d got back a fortnight ago.

Just then, Willow came bursting through the door.

“Where is he?” she demanded, a tight smile on her normally relaxed face. “Where is this man who’s stolen our Ana’s heart?”

 

Coq au Vin

December 16, 2010


Willow uses her favourite Julia Childs recipe for Coq au Vin and adds her own special touches to it. She loves the rich flavour of beautiful red wine and the tender chicken pieces. It’s a bit of work but a great dish to serve when you’re trying to impress someone!

Serve with smashed potatoes and french green beans, drizzled lightly in olive oil and lemon juice.

115 grams slab bacon, rind removed and cut into 1/2 inch dice

6-8 pieces organic chicken breast and/or drumsticks, skin on

fennel spice rub

1/2 cup all purpose flour

2 tablespoons olive oil

10 shallots

1 carrot, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 bottle of excellent quality dry red wine (burgundy, pinot noir or similar)

2 crushed garlic cloves

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1 cup chicken stock

15-25 pearl onions

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 large field mushrooms, sliced (approx 2cm slices)

course salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons brandy

1 tablespoon butter at room temperature

1 1/2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat and then add the bacon, stirring until crisp, (approx 5-7 mins). While the bacon is cooking, salt and pepper the chicken all over and coat thinly in flour. Move the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside.

Add chicken in a single layer skin side down and brown. Turn the pieces over to brown the other side. Repeat if the chicken doesn’t all fit in a single layer. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

In the same pan, add onion, carrot, and garlic and cook until soft and slightly browned (approx 5-10 mins). Add the tomato paste and cook with the vegetables for a couple of minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the thyme and bay leaf. Reduce to about a cup and a half of liquid (approx 15 mins). Add the cup of stock and bring to a boil. Ladle out about 3/4 cup of the braising liquid and reserve for cooking the mushrooms.

Add the bacon and chicken back to the pot, including any accumulated juices on the platter and put the lid on the Dutch oven. Place this in the oven. After 15 minutes, check the pot to make sure it’s not boiling too rapidly. Adjust the oven temperature to maintain a simmer. Check the dish after another 30 mins to make sure it is immersed in the liquid. Cook for another 60-75 mins.

While the chicken is braising in the oven, prepare the mushrooms and onions. Heat the butter and/or oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the onions first and then a few mins later the mushrooms, stirring to coat with the oil and butter. Cook for approx 15-20 mins. Add brandy and simmer for 5 more mins. Put the mushrooms and onions aside until ready to finish the dish.

Remove the chicken dish from the oven and place the chicken pieces and the vegetables into a separate bowl. Combine the softened butter with the flour and stir, making sure there are no flour lumps. Whisk into the liquid and boil for a few minutes, thickening the sauce. Add the chicken, vegetables, mushrooms and onions back to the pot to reheat everything (approx 15-20 mins). Serve immediately.