cooking

Thinking of you

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Sometimes do you find that the longer you leave a conversation, the harder it is to have? I'm not talking about "tricky subject" conversations necessarily, even something as lovely as a catch-up with a dear friend. If you haven't seen or spoken to your friend in weeks or months, a quick half-hour catch-up over coffee just won't do it: there's too much to say, too much to retell! And so you put off the coffee until you can plan a dinner, or a whole afternoon. But time races on and you never do find the enough time to do that, and all the missed conversations between you accumulate, and something as ineffectual as a half-hour coffee catch-up seems even more ridiculous. 

That's a little bit how I feel about this blog right now. There's so much I have to say and share that I don't even know where to start. And I don't really have the time to be telling all the stories, but I miss this blog. I've put off writing in here because I feel too busy to tell the full story. But then all I do in the meantime is collect more stories, and neglect this little space. 

Last week I was hunting for a blog post I'd written a while back and, as I scrolled through my own archives, it made me so happy and a little nostalgic to read back through all those stories. I called my blog "Naomi Loves" because I wanted it to document the things I love: things made, discovered and celebrated. I have protected it as my own space, choosing not to monetise or do anything else that would let this blog belong to someone else. It is my happy place, and yours if similar things make you happy. And reading back over it the other night did make me happy. 

So I'm back, even if only for a half-hour coffee chat. A similar equivalent is when I tell my letter-writing students not to always feel they have to write a grand epistle. Sometimes, the weight of writing an amazing letter gets in the way of writing any letter at all. So I tell them, "Write a postcard. Tell the person, 'I'm thinking of you.'" This is my postcard to my blog, and to you. I'm thinking of you! 

Here are some things I've been doing lately... 

* Wrote and launched my Create with Confidence mentoring program and e-course, which is up and running now (I can't wait to share all the amazing things my students are creating. They are the most incredible bunch of women.) 

* Gave an interview to Issue 23 of Flow magazine, and took over their Pinterest board for a month

* Learned how to make pasta properly at a children's workshop (pictured) hosted by Lunch Lady magazine with the lovely Julia Ostro. (Four-year-old Ralph also learned how to pronounce orecchiette to perfection) 

* Visited Orange in NSW for the My Open Kitchen gathering, an entire weekend of wisdom, inspiration and community, and chatted with Skye Manson on the My Open Kitchen podcast about art, books, community, and kindness

* Talked to In Clover magazine (volume 4) about letter-writing and slow living, and how to make mail-art

* Finished writing my book The Art of Mail, finalised the cover art, sent it to design, and am now finalising the last of the illustrations to go inside

* Nervously joined sales coach Jessica Lorimer on her podcast to receive on-air coaching about how to sell my courses with integrity, gentleness and consideration

* Finally convinced my family to go camping with me. We were woefully under-prepared, and froze all night, but the children are still talking about it with joy months later 

* Had the most lovely natter with Miranda Mills on the Tea & Tattle podcast, all about letter writing and forging real connections

* Shared my thoughts about the joys of letter-writing in the family issue of Peppermint magazine  

* Wrote a mini e-book for people who struggle to find the time for their creativity, called Time to Make (it's free for subscribers to my newsletter and you can get a copy here)

It seems like a lot when I write it all down like that. No wonder I'm so tired! I hope you'll share what you've been up to, too. It's time I stopped talking, and started listening! 

 

Talk soon, Naomi xo

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Pistachios and eggs

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Recently I purchased a time machine. It was humble to look at: a recipe book, printed in 1893, called Cakes and Confections à la mode by Mrs de Salis.

You know how scent and taste can transport you to a moment in your past? Take you right back to that first bite, and to everything that happened around it? This book represented someone else's food memories (Mrs de Salis' food memories), and I knew that her words on the page, if I followed them, had the power to carry me backwards 123 years in time.

Mrs de Salis was a famous home-cook, the Nigella Lawson of her time, with a best-selling range of "à la mode" titles covering everything from "Dressed Game and Poultry à la mode" to "National viands à la mode" and even "Floral decorations à la mode," among many more.

But that was a long time ago, and her techniques are foreign to me, and some of her ingredients even more-so (angelica? alum? greengage? ammonia!? pyrogallic acid!?). How were these cakes supposed to taste? I have no idea. What did they look like? Again, no idea. Mrs de Salis leaves no hints, assuming that her readers are already familiar with these types of dishes.

But if I attempt these recipes, and follow them faithfully, I will be stepping into a late-Victorian kitchen. Cooking by the light of the window, squinting over the words on the page as the afternoon shadows gather, by candle-light or maybe, if I am lucky, gaslight. The fire burning in the cast-iron AGA stove keeps me warm. There must be hens in my yard because many of these recipes call for copious numbers of eggs. For the same reason, I imagine I will be serving up smaller slices to my family than my 21st-century counterpart might do; these recipes read heavy! Victorian-era Naomi will have wonderful muscles in her arms, patiently grinding almonds or pistachios into meal to be used in place of flour.

In the process, lost flavours are rediscovered, forgotten meal-times reignited. This is time travel.

 

Pistachio Cake (Mrs de Salis, 1893)

Blanche a pound of pistachio nuts and pound them in a mortar with a little orange-flower water. Then add the beaten white of an egg and a little grated lemon-peel, six ounces of castor sugar, the yolks of ten eggs beaten lightly, and the whites of eight beaten to snow. Mix all the ingredients thoroughly, have ready a buttered mould, and bake for an hour in a moderate oven. When cold, ice it with pistachio-nut icing. 

Ten eggs, my friends! Yeesh! Also, as far as I can see in my book, Mrs de Salis doesn't actually supply a recipe for pistachio-nut icing. She does however provide a general icing recipe, which I have copied out for you here:

Icing for Cakes (Mrs de Salis, 1893)

Take some icing sugar, mix twelve ounces of it, and mix it in gradually to the whites of four eggs whisked to a stiff froth, beating it well to make it smooth; mix in the strained juice of a lemon and two drops of pyrogallic acid*, and lay the preparation on the cake with a very broad knife. Put it in a cool oven to harden, but be careful it is not hot enough to discolour it.

Let me know if you bake this. I'd love to know how you go.

* NOTE: Please skip the pyrogallic acid if you try this recipe, as it is apparently poisonous!

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