I’ve had a bit of a bad week… I’ve been struck down with the cold that’s been doing the rounds. Annoyingly my main symptom has been a cough – cue not getting much sleep and feeling like a zombie all week! But every cloud has a silver lining and being sick means spending lots of time resting. And spending a lot of time resting = lots of time to read! So I whizzed through my chosen book this week.
The Twins – by Saskia Sarginson
The Twins is the story of identical twins Viola and Isolte. It switches between present day 1987 – where Isolte is a successful fashion editor for a magazine and Viola is fighting for her life in hospital as she battles with anorexia – and 1967, where the girls are growing up in rural Suffolk. Joined at the hip in childhood, where they lived an idyllic existence with their hippy mother, Rose, their lives are now distant, that closeness they had in childhood severed by a dark secret.
As Viola struggles to stay conscious in hospital, we are taken back to those childhood days as she tries to relive the past and hang on to the life she lived back then. In contrast, Isolte tries to hide her past from all those she’s close to. What’s the secret that binds the two, yet has also thrown them apart?
Through a series of flashbacks and Isolte returning to Suffolk to seek closure and satisfy Viola’s demands, we gradually learn what happened to drive Viola to anorexia, to cause their mother to commit suicide and Isolte to hide behind a facade. Don’t worry, I’m not going to ruin the story and reveal the secret!!
This book started well and was pretty engaging from the start, but my interest kind of waned by the end. It has potential and deals with some quite hard hitting issues like suicide and anorexia, yet it just didn’t quite touch me in the way I was hoping and so by the end of it, discovering ‘the secret’ didn’t really have the impact you’d expect from this kind of book. It did feel like a book I’d read before in another form – interesting enough premise, but the execution was a little bland. I am the type of reader that will see anything through and as I said, I whizzed through this one, but it’s very forgettable! This is a Richard & Judy book and I suppose that’s kind of telling – despite dealing with hard hitting issues, it’s pretty safe and there are probably some interesting discussion points but it doesn’t make waves. I was somewhat underwhelmed by this book, which is a shame!
But not every book can be amazing and luckily I have another 49 to get through this year, so I am sure I’ll discover some gems!
As for my recipe… well I must admit, while reading it I did struggle to think of something! Food does not play a big role within the book unsurprisingly! The only mention of food is when Rose kills the girls’ baby goat and cooks him in a stew! Well, I don’t eat meat so goat stew was out and I don’t think it’s the easiest meat to come by anyway. So a little creativity was needed – instead I decided to focus on the theme of twins, which got me thinking about eggs and so I thought – what about a dish that requires you to split eggs and use the yolk for one part and the white for another part… so I thought meringue and custard. And hey presto, I remembered someone on Masterchef making oeufs a la neige or floating islands: poached meringue in a creme anglais. Genius!
Now I don’t normally make this kind of food, but I am a big fan of Michel Roux Jnr and I’ll do anything to get closer to him! So I made his recipe.
Well… let’s just say, I don’t think Mickey Roux would be impressed by my attempt at his recipe! It was a dis-aaaast-er (said in Craig Revel-Horwood voice). Yikes! The recipe basically consists of three elements: a custard, made from egg yolk, milk and sugar; meringues that are poached in milk & water and a caramel made from yet more sugar!
You start with the custard – this requires infusing milk with some vanilla and then adding this gradually to whisked egg yolks and sugar. You are supposed to do this gradually so as not to cook the egg with the hot milk. So far so good I thought. Then you return this to the pan and cook until thickened. Well mine didn’t thicken – it split! I tasted a bit…imagine a sweet, vanilla-ey, eggy thing… yuck!!
Here’s a pic….
Not exactly custard like! Never mind, I thought, it might set in the fridge (yeah right) so I just went on to stage two – the meringues.
Now I’ve made meringues before but never the poached variety. So all went well as I whisked the egg whites to stiff peaks and adding the sugar until glossy, yada yada yada. When it came to poaching though, I had another disaster. Now the recipe clearly says ‘make sure the liquid doesn’t boil’ because it’ll ruin the meringues. Thing is, I got distracted by throwing away the custard mix as I’d decided to give it another shot. Next thing I know – meringue armageddon! The whole thing has boiled over and the meringues look like a big mess…
By this point, I’d decided that I don’t want to even eat this concoction so why even bother starting over?! So the whole lot went in the bin… sorry Michel! So I guess I’ve failed, but I tried. Moral of the story: don’t attempt elaborate French desserts. Stick to apple crumble or something you can just plonk on a plate!