I’ve been really excited – and delighted by the response to my latest novel, Earthquake! It is the fifth story about Thomas Radwinter, and it has been interesting how the character of Thomas has changed over the course of what I guess you could call a quintet – unless that just applies to music!
In the first novel, the eponymous Radwinter (I don’t often get to use the word ‘eponymous’!) Thomas is in quite an unhappy situation, for various reasons, and during the course of the story things only get worse – until they get better! Thomas has what you might call ‘issues’ surrounding his childhood, and over the next novels, gradually he confronts and resolves many of these difficulties. So, his character does change, but many aspects of him remain the same. He’s loving, kind, funny, intelligent, self-deprecating, but suffers from anxiety and a feeling of worthlessness on occasions… As his life changes and becomes happier, he is able to indulge in things he enjoys, one of which is cooking (and food in general!)
In this excerpt he is trying to work out how to make an economical meal for his family with the odds and ends he finds in the cupboard and fridge:
I’ve somehow ended up with a pile of sprouts; this does sometimes happens, what with the allotment and Val the veg shop lady who always seems to have something going cheap for me. I guess when the children are older and all eating proper food then we’ll be glad, maybe we should get another freezer…
So what can we do with sprouts? Kylie doesn’t really like them that much and Kenneil doesn’t like them at all, so it’s really only me… I wondered if there might be a recipe for sprout soup, so had a little investigate on the internet and came across a few interesting things, some of which have a list of very extravagant ingredients… Pancetta, gorgonzola, crème fraiche, chestnuts, Marsala wine and duck fat… none of which I have. It would have to be an extraordinary basket of going cheap items in a supermarket which had all of them!
Pancetta… that’s only bacon really, isn’t it? Posh Italian bacon? And gorgonzola, sometimes when we did a cheese board when we were entertaining… wait a bit, ‘we’? By we I was meaning Rebecca and me! I must kick that thought out of the window! But that’s the trouble; you see I’d not thought of Rebecca for a single second for a very long time, and now she seems back in my mind. I still don’t know what her problem is that she wants me to help her with…
Back to sprouts, much nicer to think about sprouts than my past life… so crème fraiche… we don’t have it but we do have plain yoghurt, would that do? I’ve started making my own, so much cheaper than buying it, 60ml of live yoghurt to a litre of warm milk, twenty-four hours later and there’s the yoghurt. Chestnuts and Marsala wine… no… no we haven’t, not anything like it, and duck fat?
I looked at the method and decided to see what I’ actually did have.
I took as many sprouts as I thought I might eat, and I cut them in half, and found the green end of a leek which had gone a bit soft but was OK. I chopped it up and fried it butter and olive oil, and then instead of pancetta I fried slices of chorizo the end of a black pudding which is one of my little treats!
I didn’t have any chestnuts but I had half a bag of cashews I’d brought back from the pub and they went in with the chorizo and black pudding which was smelling mighty good I can tell you. I threw the sprouts in with the leek, and when they’d gone bright green I found ‘a glug’, as the recipe really does say, of one of Paul’s wines. I discovered some rather elderly crème fraiche right at the back of the fridge, a rather large number of days after its best before date, and a bit of very old, leathery stilton… Geoff and Daph had given it to us and the last little bit got lost in the salad drawer.
By this time Kylie had arrived back with the babies and Daph and Geoff had arrived with the swimmers.
“That smells delish, Daddy!” Kenneil announced and Cassie said ‘delish’ too.
“What is it sweetheart, it smells great!” Kylie exclaimed, and before you could say Brussels sprouts, Kenneil and Cassie were wading into what was going to have been my dinner, and I was hastily chopping sprouts and leeks and chorizo to make some more for my wife and our friends! … and none of my family actually like sprouts!!
If this tempts you to read ‘Earthquake’ (a real as well as metaphorical earthquake) here is a link to my e-book: