Tales of food, sex and friendship




Posts Tagged ‘Strawberries’

Season 2: Episode 7

April 12, 2011

“Why hasn’t he called?” Willow demanded, for about the 700th time that day. She threw down the tea towel she’d been using to dry the dishes and stomped her foot on the ground. “He said he would call!”

Ana and Mia looked at each other. Whose turn was it to placate her? They’d never seen Willow so upset by a man before – she usually just brushed these things off with a laugh and some baked goods. After her “amazing” 24-hour date last weekend, Willow had been floating on cloud nine. But it had gradually downgraded to cloud eight by Tuesday, four by Thursday and today, Saturday, she had moved into negatives. Cloud minus-three. Carlo had said he would call, but he hadn’t.

“He’s probably been busy with, ahhh… work,” Ana was clutching at straws. It was hard when neither she nor Mia had met the man Willow had fallen for so hard, so fast. He sounded great, they couldn’t deny it, but perhaps a bit too good to be true?

Willow sighed. “You’re right. Of course, you’re right.”

Neither of them wanted to be the one to break it to her that, perhaps, Carlo was not good news.

For the first time in ages, the girls were all home together. They had invited Tom and Johnny over for dinner – or, rather, Ana had invited Tom and Johnny over – so they were preparing an easy meal. Although, Ana was beginning to regret the impromptu dinner party invitation. Neither of her co-hosts seemed to be in particularly good sprits, both of them undertaking preparation tasks with about as much enthusiasm as if readying for a trip to the dentist. Mia was doing her best impression of a mime, having barely said three words since she had got home from work. Willow – who had refused to go to the market for fear of seeing Carlo – was making a salad with the ingredients she had made Ana fetch, while she verbally dissected – again – every interaction she had ever had with Carlo.

“So Mia, are you going to see Nick again soon?” Ana said, trying to both move the topic away from Carlo and elicit some kind of conversation from her silent housemate.

“Dunno,” Mia mumbled before turning her attention back to shelling the prawns.

She can’t get hers to stop calling, and mine won’t call at all,” snapped Willow, uncharacteristically.

“Well, maybe you should swap!” Ana bit back, exasperated.

There was silence for a second before Willow gave a sheepish smile. “I sound like a broken record, don’t I?”

She went to the fridge and pulled out a bottle of chilled wine, opening it and pouring three glasses. She raised her glass. “I promise that I won’t mention the C word again. For tonight, at least.”

At that moment, Tom jogged into the kitchen. “Has he called?” he asked Willow, breathlessly.

***

“I’ll get dessert ready,” Mia said, after they had all had their fill of prawns and fresh salad.

She wandered into the kitchen, grateful to be away from the table. She’d felt Johnny’s eyes on her the whole night and was trying her best to be cool, calm and collected, but felt she was failing. Miserably.

She opened the fridge, closing her eyes and letting the cool air rush out and calm her crimson cheeks.

“Can I help?”

She turned abruptly.

Johnny.

Mia smiled shyly. “Sure. Wash these?”

She passed him punnets of fresh strawberries and raspberries, recoiling quickly as his hands brushed hers. They worked in silence for a little while, Johnny washing and hulling, and Mia chopping the berries into bite-size pieces, adding fresh ricotta, honey and mint.

Mia eventually broke the silence. “Sorry about the other night. I had a… work thing on. Couldn’t get out of it.”

Johnny shrugged with a nonchalance Mia recognised but then was thoughtful for a minute. When he spoke, his voice was tentative. “We could try again tomorrow?”

Mia couldn’t suppress her grin. “Yeah, that’d be…” She trailed off. Shit! She’d already agreed to go out with Nick tomorrow. He had a surprise planned, had phoned earlier to make sure she could still come. She couldn’t cancel on him at this short notice.

“Oh, actually, I’ve got another… work thing on tomorrow night. Next week, maybe?”

Just at that moment Tom and Willow strolled into the kitchen carrying a stack of plates each.

“Hey Mia, I keep forgetting to ask. How was your hot date last weekend?” Tom said.

Mia glanced at Johnny. He was holding a bowl of berries so tightly his knuckles had turned white.

“It was no big deal,” Mia said as casually as she could. “Not a date, really.”

Willow snorted and put down the plates. “No big deal?” She turned to Tom. “She has been in love with this guy for, like, ever! And they’re going out again tomorrow night.”

It was as if the bowl just disintegrated in his hands, because all of a sudden Johnny had dessert all over himself, the red berries staining his white T-shirt and trickling down his hands, landing with soft plops on the tiled floor. He held up the two broken halves of the bowl, looking at them in shock.

Tom laughed. “Obviously don’t know your own strength!”

“I’m so sorry…” Johnny sounded as though he was almost in tears.

The others assured him it was OK – it was just an IKEA bowl, a remnant from their student days when the Swedish homewares seemed the pinnacle of affordable design.

Johnny looked down at his soiled clothes. “Guess I’d better get home and soak these.”

He picked up his jacket, said brief good byes and, before anyone could protest, hurried towards the front door.

“I’ll walk you out,” called Mia, following him down the hall. “Look, Johnny, I can explain…” She placed her hand on his arm when they were out of sight of the others, but he shook it off.

“Have fun at your work thing tomorrow,” he mumbled as he walked out the door.

Tom’s Strawberry and Vanilla Bean Jam

January 27, 2011


Tom’s mum taught him this jam recipe. He loves serving dollops of the sweet, sticky jam with croissants and bringing them to Ana in bed. Equal parts fruit and sugar are needed to activate the pectin that holds the jam together – don’t be scared!

1kg strawberries, hulled, halved
1kg white sugar
juice of 1 lemon

1 vanilla bean, split

Wash and sterilise two jam jars and lids. Place strawberries in a saucepan and stir through the sugar. Leave for 1-2 hours while sugar softens the fruit.

With a small sharp knife, scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean and place them with the strawberries. Add the lemon juice then cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the fruit is soft. Remove a third of the fruit. Set aside.

Cook remaining mixture until fruit is mostly dissolved and jam coats the back of a spoon. Divide reserved fruit between the jars then fill with jam. Allow to cool, then seal with lids.


Season 1: Episode 9

January 25, 2011

Ana felt two arms reach around her waist, a strong body pressing up against her.

“Well, that went ok,” Tom said, holding her tentatively as he gave her a kiss on the neck. “Are we friends again?”

Ana turned away from the sink where she’d begun to wash the dishes. She looked up into Tom’s smiling face, his clear blue eyes shining down at her. He was gorgeous. He was in his usual uniform of faded denim, plain T-shirt and trainers. At 29, he could pass for a first-year university student but Ana knew better. The jeans were EVISU, the shirt Dsquared2 and the trainers were Yohji Yamamoto for Adidas. Try as he might, Tom couldn’t mask the fact that he was an architect earning a six-figure salary.

And somehow, despite its beginnings, tonight’s dinner had been unexpectedly wonderful. Willow seemed to sense the tension in the air when she arrived but, typically, pushed right through it. And her good mood had rubbed off on everyone. She’d brought home some hand-pressed olive oil from an estate in Italy that only released 200 bottles a year. Who knew where she found such things? And Mia had baked a loaf of spelt bread, which – although it broke Ana’s rule about no more than one carb per meal –  had complemented Ana’s wild mushroom and goat’s cheese pasta beautifully. Mia’s secret? A splash of maple syrup to help the yeast activate and provide a subtle sweetness throughout the loaf. As always, Johnny had come through with terrific wine.

The girls seemed to love Tom and even Johnny was smitten – particularly when Tom discovered Johnny had played guitar in one of his favourite teenage rock bands. For the rest of the night Tom couldn’t stop raving about some set Johnny had “shredded” back in the 90s. Ana was thankful for Willow and Mia’s discretion. She knew they’d been watching her and Tom most of the night – how could they have forgotten the past two weeks of her behaving ridiculously because of Marc – but they’d been nothing but supportive. She felt lucky to have them in her life and couldn’t believe how irrational she’d been with Tom earlier.

Were she and Tom friends again? “Sure,” Ana said, smiling back at him.

At her response he touched her face, slowly rubbing the back of her neck. Leaning in to kiss her, he pulled her close and enveloped her in his arms. Ana was finding it difficult to resist him – and why should she? Marc had lied to her. He’d said he couldn’t spend New Year’s with her because he had to go to a dinner party, but then he’d phoned her from the airport. He needed more time for his family, he said, and was taking his wife on a two-week holiday to the Maldives. Marc was a fantasy, but Tom – he was real.

Tom reached under Ana’s blouse, all the while kissing her lips, her ears, her neck. She leaned back slightly as he cupped her breast. He unbuttoned her shirt; she could feel him hard through his jeans. She raised one leg around his hip and the other he grabbed, lifting her on to the wooden kitchen bench top.

“Are you sure?” he said, pulling away for a moment and resting his forehead on hers, breathing heavily. “What about Willow and Mia?” She responded by undoing his jeans and slipping her hand down his boxers. “They’re heavy sleepers,” she whispered, nibbling at his ear lobe. He didn’t need any more encouragement.

***

Ana woke to the smell of coffee. She opened her eyes and looked across the bed where she saw Tom laying a tray of croissants, jam and a plunger next to her. He saw she was awake and leaned in for a kiss.

“Good morning,” he said. “Hungry?”

She couldn’t believe how different it was waking up with him. Marc was like a motionless corpse most mornings (or afternoons) when she left,  but Tom brought her breakfast in bed. Ana sighed to herself. What had she been doing ’til now? And where did he get that amazing looking jam from?

She snuck a look at Tom, who was now poring over her modest collection of books. His strong, tanned forearms – hard with muscle through years of rock climbing – were visible under his rolled-up sleeves and dark blonde hair hung across his stubbled face. Here was this good, loving man who only wanted to make her happy, and all she could do was lie to him. Ana knew Tom wanted to get serious. He’d been brought up in a traditional home where all his family members still talked to each other. Hell, his parents probably still loved each other. It was normal for him to get domestic and play house, but it wasn’t for Ana. No, what was normal for her was sneaking around with a married man and feeling bad about herself the whole time. What was normal for her was treating a great guy like rubbish because she was holding out for some arsehole who would never, ever leave his wife. She made up her mind.

“Hey,” she said softly, “about our fight last night.”

Tom sat on her side of the bed and played with her hair. “Don’t worry about it,” he said. “I’m sorry if I’ve been wanting to spend too much time with you. I’ll step back a bit, I promise. I just love being around you, no matter how often. Just let me know what you need.”

“No,” she said, “that’s not it.” She leaned across his lap and picked her handbag off the floor. Reaching inside she pulled out her spare set of house keys and handed them to him. “Here. Seeing you last night with the girls and Johnny… they’re the most important people in my life. I want you to feel like you’re a part of that, a part of my home. I don’t want to see less of you, I want to see you more.”

Tom looked at her, then at the keys in his hand and squeezed them tight. Ana waited for him to say something. Instead, he pulled the covers over both of them and, working up her body, he showed Ana just how grateful he was.

 

Mia’s Homemade Muesli

December 9, 2010


This healthy and delicious breakfast is a favourite of Mia and her housemates. Mia usually makes enough to last a few weeks by doubling or tripling the recipe and stores it in an airtight container. In summer, she loves serving it with sweet, juicy strawberries.

Serve with milk, Greek yoghurt, flavoured yoghurt, labneh or fruit juice and fresh seasonal fruit or compote – serves 8-10.

1 cup puffed rice

1 cup puffed millet

1 cup organic rolled oats

1 cup quinoa flakes

1 cup of dried cranberries

1 cup of whole hazelnuts

1 cup of whole almonds

1 cup of dried orange* pieces

¼ cup pumpkin seeds

¼ cup coconut flakes

Mix all the ingredients together and store in an airtight container. You can add or subtract ingredients to taste.

*Dried Orange: Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Slice 1 navel orange very thinly – each slice should be approx. ¼ inch thick.  Line baking tray with non-stick paper and place slices of orange in a single layer. Bake until the peel is dried and flesh is translucent, approx 2½ hours. Once orange is cool, cut each segment into bite size triangles (approx 6-8 per slice). For slightly sweeter orange slices you can soak them in a mixture of honey or sugar and hot water for 10 minutes prior to baking.

Season 1: Episode 2

December 7, 2010

Mia mounted the stairs to the Pilates studio two at a time. Her long limbs, which usually made easy work of the climb, felt heavy and slow. It was still dark outside but, even though she was exhausted and could have quite happily stayed in bed for hours, she was determined to get in a good workout before her first client arrived.

This time of year always presented a challenge to Mia. She had a very precise lifestyle; a routine that she rarely deviated from. Structure permeated every aspect of her life: what she ate, what she did, where she went and with whom she went. She didn’t like to think of herself as stuffy and uptight, but, well… she didn’t exactly cut loose that often. So the month of December was a nightmare for her sense of control and order. She tried hard to make it to the endless Christmas parties and pre-holiday catch-ups, and she always enjoyed them when she was there, but every late night and cocktail she had seemed to stimulate a little voice in the back of her mind: You’re going to regret this tomorrow.

She opened the appointment schedule to see who her first client for the day was going to be. She really hoped it was one of the many retirees she regularly saw. Instead of a fully charged workout, they were usually more interested in a chat and some light stretches, which was about the tempo that Mia felt capable of today. Her heart skipped a beat as she saw the name filling the slot.

Nick!

Generally, Mia knew exactly when Nick was going to visit the studio. He must have phoned yesterday, after she had gone home, and booked the session. How typical that he – of all her clients – would be coming for an unexpected class the day she’d woken up late, on a morning when she hadn’t even bothered to wipe off the small amount of makeup she’d put on last night, and when she was wearing her single most unattractive outfit.

Nick was charming. He was attractive and funny and had all the older ladies at the studio wrapped around his little finger. He had become her client about eight months ago as part of his rehabilitation for a nasty back injury he’d received cycling through the French Alps. As you do. But even after eight months of weekly visits, at which she’d pushed his injured body to the limits with Pilates, Mia still got butterflies when she saw him. Now, she was aching with anticipation.

Anticipation of what, she didn’t know.

She hadn’t told her housemates about Nick. She knew they wouldn’t understand why she didn’t just ask him out on a date. She wished she could be more like them. They were always taking men out for drinks or dinner; the epitome of empowered, modern women. Although, not so much Ana these days, Mia thought. Ana had been seeing someone for a few months now. Although the relationship seemed serious (in Mia’s mind, dating someone for a few months was commensurate to being engaged!), Ana had never introduced him to her housemates, leaving Mia and Willow to assume the nights that Ana didn’t come home she spent at his place. Either there or at work.

* * *

Mia focussed on getting prepared for Nick’s arrival. She hadn’t eaten breakfast at home, bringing instead a take-away tub containing her homemade muesli and a water bottle filled with organic soy milk. With slightly shaky hands Mia transferred her breakfast into a bowl. She didn’t cut any corners with her muesli and it was rich with whole hazelnuts, puffed rice, dried orange, almonds and cranberries. A few ripe, cut strawberries were thrown in for good measure.

She knew she had to work off some of her nervous energy, so she lay down on the Pilates Reformer machine, carefully placing the bowl of muesli next to her. This gave new meaning to the term working breakfast! She put her foot on the support bar and gracefully lifted her right leg towards her at the same time as pushing the carriage away with her left. The spring-loaded machine allowed her to both stretch and strengthen at the same time. She took in a deep breath as she pulled her leg closer towards her, increasing the intensity of the stretch. The butterflies were back with a vengeance. She exhaled slowly, bringing the Reformer carriage back to neutral and trying to calm her mind.

Why does he have this effect on me?

She closed her eyes, breathed in slowly, and pushed the carriage away once again.

* * *

Someone was gently stroking the sole of her foot. Inhaling through slightly parted lips, she opened her eyes and found Nick gazing at her. He slowly ran his hand down the inside of her leg and rested it on her inner thigh.

She exhaled.

Without taking his eyes off her, Nick’s firm touch travelled up her torso. He paused slightly, cupping her small but firm breasts. Her whole body felt electrified. She inhaled and arched her back slightly, longing to feel him closer. He brought his mouth close to hers and, teasing, gently caressed her neck. Mia clutched the side of the bench and used it to arch her body up further towards his.

In his hand he held a segment of strawberry, plucked from the bowl by Mia’s side. He gently placed it in her belly button, letting his hand forge a lazy trail between her legs before running his tongue along her stomach to collect his prize. Moving his mouth closer to hers, he transferred the strawberry to her swollen lips with his own.

She exhaled slowly, every part of her body tingling with desire.
She could wait no longer. Their bodies entangled, rhythmically pushing and pulling, pushing and pulling as she…

“Mia!”

Mia jumped, unsettling her bowl of muesli and spilling it all over herself and the Reformer machine as she scrambled to get up. A lone strawberry tumbled across the floor, only coming to a stop when a hand reached down to pick it up.

“Late night? You were sound asleep.”

Mia looked up to see Nick standing a few metres away. He tossed the strawberry in the air and caught it.

“I… err… I…  yes. Late night,” she stammered, her face bright red. Oh my God, please don’t tell me I was talking in my sleep!

He winked at her. “You looked like you were dreaming about something good, at any rate.”

* * *

Mia closed the front door behind her. It was good to be home. She ran her hand through her hair, finding a rogue seed that had obviously planted itself there during the breakfast mishap. Since her morning session with Nick she hadn’t been able to think straight all day. Every time their hands met she’d jumped back as if electrocuted. She was terrified he’d been able to tell what she had been dreaming about. She liked him, but wasn’t quite sure what she’d do if he actually liked her back.

There she was, completely out of her depth.

As she walked further down the hall she was surprised to see a large bouquet of flowers on the hall table. Her heart stopped.

They couldn’t be from him! Could they?

She peeked inside at the attached card, hopefully.

Ana. Thanks for this morning. M.

“M?” Mia was confused. She thought Ana’s boyfriend was called Tom? She let disappointment wash over her for only a second before closing her eyes and rewriting the card in her head: Mia. This morning was incredible. Yours, Nick.