Christmas is done, and the New Year is almost upon us. We had a quiet Christmas up at my mother-in-law’s place in Maldon, where we ate loads of lovely food, W gorged herself on homemade chocolate biscuits, and we enjoyed the array of weather that Victoria has to offer – sweating in shorts one day and rugged up in scarves the next. We’re back down in Melbourne now hanging out with friends and family for another week of holidays and eating and chatting and beers and playgrounds and coffee and all kinds of nice things.
I don’t generally go in for new years resolutions, but for 2016 I’ve resolved to only read books written by women, with an emphasis on women of colour. Last week I was reading Rebecca Solnit’s fantastic essay ‘Men Explain Lolita To Me’ (she nails it every. single. damn. time.) and the final paragraph struck a chord:
“You read enough books in which people like you are disposable, or are dirt, or are silent, absent, or worthless, and it makes an impact on you. Because art makes the world, because it matters, because it makes us. Or breaks us.”
I was talking with a friend recently about my favourite reads and realised that too many of them are written by old white guys. Given that I know there are many, many women out there writing interesting, amazing, challenging work, the least I can do is make the effort to find it. And read it. I’ll come at you with some recommendations in the new year, but in the meantime I want to leave you with a list of some of my best reads of 2015. Some are old, some are new, all of them are great.
- Small Acts of Disappearance by Fiona Wright: a beautiful collection of essays charting the author’s experiences with hunger and anexoria over the course of a decade
- Eating My Grandmother by Krissy Kneen: a powerful collection of poetry that Krissy write after the death of her beloved grandmother (I wrote more about it here)
- Drown by Junot Diaz: a short story collection with sparse, minimalist, evocative writing offering a snapshot into the American dream for a young Latino man
- Bread, Wine & Thou: the first edition of a new Melbourne-based magazine that explores food culture with unique perspectives and witty writing
- Beasts in My Belfry by Gerald Durrell: a light and funny autobiographical novel by one of my favourite authors
- The Coal Face by Tom Doig: a chilling account of the fire that burned in one of Hazelwood’s mines next to the town of Morwell, Victoria, for over a month last year
- Near & Far by Heidi Swanson: a visually luscious tactile recipe book that is also part travel journal
And now from books to food, because the two are of course the greatest of companions. I wouldn’t normally post two sweet recipes in a row, but this one is an ideal way to use up leftover cakes or cookies from Christmas (I made it using the domes that I cut off of this cake). If you don’t have apricots you could easily replace with peaches or nectarines (or perhaps pear or apple for those of you in the other hemisphere). Otherwise this simple Eton Mess(ish) is decadent in all the right ways – the yoghurt gives the cream a sour tang which pairs beautifully with the sweetness of the cake and fruit, and the nuts add just a hint of texture.
Happiest of new years to all!
Baked Apricot Eton Mess(ish)
6 – 8 apricots
1 tbsp honey
1/4 cup pistachios, shelled
100ml Greek yoghurt
300ml heavy cream
1 tbsp orange blossom water
1 cup cake or cookies, broken into shards/bite-sized pieces
Preheat the oven to 180°c.
Halve the apricots and remove the seeds. Lay cut-side up, single layer, in a baking dish. Drizzle the apricots with the honey (whisk a drizzle of water through the honey if it is too thick to drizzle). Bake for 15 – 18 minutes, until apricots are soft but still holding their shape. Set aside.
Combine the yoghurt, cream, and blossom water in the bowl of a mixer. Whip until firm peaks appear in the cream.
Roughly chop or crush the pistachio nuts.
In the bottom of two medium-sized jars, bowls, or glasses, put a generous dollop of the whipped cream. Top with a layer of cake/cookie shards, then a layer of apricots, then a sprinkling of pistachios. Keep layering until the jars are full, being sure to finish up with a final dollop of cream and sprinkle of nuts.