Tag Archives: blog

treehousekitchen – a book

I’d finally come to understand what it had been: a yearning for a way out, when actually what I had wanted to find was a way in.
~ Cheryl Strayed

At some point, one of my dreams morphed into fear.

The child who had penned an earnest letter to a publisher overseas, who had felt a secret glow of pride at having her essays published in her school’s book of “model essays” – found herself trembling at the laptop, sitting by the bin … shredding journals by hand.

Once upon a time I saved up my words and felt sure I was destined to be an author. Praise felt like confirmation of what I already knew. Later on I still wrote, but I also loved the relief of discarding records of my truest thoughts. Not caring felt bad, but easier than caring.

Every so often, as I tried to make sense of things I could not articulate, I would try to inspire myself to ‘work on something creative’. Something light … not too close to the hurting parts of my heart.

I thought I would write a cookbook. Easy – it would be about something I enjoyed, but not something that required too much of ‘me’. After all, whenever someone asked me if I had thought of writing a cookbook, the idea would excite me. Whenever I wrote down things to work on, ‘cookbook’ made the list.

I would get excited, write earnestly for a while, filing photos by category to accompany my words. Then difficult emotions would resurface, and inertia. I would write, edit, and sigh in exasperation at my useless, overworked sentences.

Ego … pride … sigh.

I marvelled at the ways of the heart. So pure, yet deceitful, too.

I discovered the crippling power of anxiety, discontent and looking back at the past.

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One afternoon, last week or the week before? – I lay down the weight on my shoulders.

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I clicked my way to Zno (who, by the way, print fabulous photo books and deliver promptly). I found a folder on my computer in which I had stuffed various full-size photos from my blogging adventures / more recent cooking experiments.

I clicked and dragged. Within an afternoon, I had pages of complete layouts. Just images – no words. I showed two friends the online sample.

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Thankfully, Cathy suggested that I could “sprinkle a few words or comments across the pages like chocolate drops on a trifle”. :-)

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So I did. I let go of the desire to impress. I just had fun. I clicked “Save” and ordered five copies.

They arrived on Monday morning this week.

They are by no means complex or impressive works of art, or the most wonderful food book ever published.

But when I flip through the pages, I remember many good moments. And my body feels as light as meringue.

That’s good enough for me.

[UPDATE: you can order one, and receive a bonus with it – click here to find out more!]

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Bacon, tomato & mandarino spirals

On my birthday last month, I drove purposefully to Sabato. One has to be strong (as I learned) to shop there with self-control! On this particular day, full from brunch with friends, I thought I might manage …

When I got there I was greeted with a smiling face, pleasantly-stocked shelves, a table with various oils and vinegars to taste. I took my time, dipping cubes of bread into oils and vinegars, gazing at cheese and chocolate. It was difficult to maintain my resolve to pick up just dinner ingredients and a treat or two. In the end, I left a little guiltily with a brown paper bag filled to the brim with goodies.

After all of that, I didn’t enjoy our dinner that night that much, though J complimented me very kindly on it.

But this dish, made a few nights later with one citrusy Sabato purchase, won both of us over.

    Bacon, tomato & mandarino spirals 
    Ingredients:
    Olive oil
    Pasta spirals
    Fresh heirloom tomatoes – halved
    Garlic cloves, minced (we used 3 for 2 of us)
    Shoulder bacon, roughly diced (we used 100g)
    Sundried tomatoes, chopped
    Handful mushrooms, sliced
    Chilli flakes
    Ormond Rich Cream or white wine (optional)
    Mandarino* oil by Marina Colonna
    Salt
    Pepper
    Method:
    Bring a saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Salt it generously, then add in pasta spirals**. Ensure that the pasta is well covered with water. Cook till al dente, stirring every so often to prevent the pasta from sticking.
    While the pasta is cooking, place a skillet over moderately high heat and add in a tablespoon or two of olive oil. When the oil is warm, fry the tomato halves until they smell sweet and begin to collapse, then remove and set aside.
    Add in a little more oil if the skillet is too dry. Throw in the chilli flakes, minced garlic and sun-dried tomatoes – sauté. Once you can smell the garlic, deglaze with a splash of Ormond Rich Cream (you can also use any white wine or water) and cook for a minute or two till it evaporates. If you add in too much liquid at this point, just take some of it out with a spoon and set aside.
    Add in the bacon, fry till they turn a rich pink and brown in bits. Add in the mushrooms. Add in excess liquid from above if any – or add another splash of cooking wine / water, as well as a tablespoon of water from the pasta pot. Stir and lower the heat. Add the cooked tomatoes back in.
    When the pasta is ready, drain it, shake off excess water and stir it into the ‘sauce’.
    Now for the finishing touch*. Drizzle on the Mandarino, and serve immediately. Add freshly ground salt and pepper as you wish.
    * In lieu of using Mandarino, perhaps you could leave it out / experiment with another infused oil, or perhaps with adding a pinch of sugar, some chopped preserved lemon or a squeeze of fresh orange juice?
    ** Depending on the cooking time of the pasta, you may wish to adjust the order of cooking so the pasta and bacon ‘sauce’ are ready at the same time.
    Measurements are not exact as I cooked this rather spontaneously (i.e. without measuring things) – this post is intended to serve as a guide / inspiration rather than a definite ‘how-to’. :-)