What do the best & worst stories do?

I’ve set myself a goal to write something substantial by the end of the year, maybe a few really good short stories, maybe even a novel, and so I’ve been thinking a lot about the best books or pieces of writing that I’ve ever read, and the not-so-good ones, and why they made me feel like they did…

What do the best stories do?

  • Provide a safe and enjoyable world that you can return to time and time again
  • Describe things in a delicious way, so that you consume the writing with ravenous hunger
  • Make you feel empathy for others and their journey in life
  • Make you understand the consequences of your actions
  • Urge you to be good and want to be good
  • Make you feel as though you have lived other lives, traversed other continents, sampled multiple time periods and experienced new things

What do the worst stories do?

  • Take you on an unadventurous journey that leads to an unadventurous end. Note – adventure doesn’t necessarily mean drama – it can be subtle and like every day life
  • Make promises they don’t keep
  • Serve no purpose
  • Take a brilliant concept and tell it in a mundane way

Red Onion, Fennel & Goat’s Cheese Flowers

This recipe is inspired by a very similar one in which the ingredients are wrapped up completely in filo pastry, which is then twisted at the top to create a little parcel. These were called ‘goat’s purses’, which my boyfriend and I found hilarious, but our version is a little different and so I’ve given it the rather more attractive and delicious-sounding name of ‘flowers’!

Each flower makes a perfect starter as it’s so light, and if you have any left over they are just as delicious the next day for lunch! This recipe makes about 8.

Ingredients:

  • 1 red onion
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 100g of goat’s cheese
  • 1 tbsp of brown sugar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tsp of butter or margarine
  • A pack of filo pastry
  • Mixed salad and balsamic glaze (for serving)

Method:

1. Slice the red onion and fennel then fry over a medium heat with a good glug of olive oil until they begin to soften.

2. Turn down the heat and add in the brown sugar and a splash of balsamic vinegar and stir until the sugar dissolves and the mix begins to go wonderfully sticky.

3. Take the pan off the heat and unwrap your filo pastry. Use one sheet of filo folded in half to make one flower.

4. Make the filo flowers:

Lay one sheet onto a flat dry surface and fold in half. Take one corner and bring it to what is roughly the centre of the sheet, then fold it back on itself to form a petal.

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Do this with the other three corners. As filo sheets are usually rectangular, it’s quite difficult to get all the corners to fold in equally, so you may need to overlap them. Don’t worry about it looking a bit untidy – once it’s in the baking tin it will look more like a flower.

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Carefully pick up the flower and gently pinch the centre of it from underneath, to bring all the petals together, then take a cake tray and place the flower in one of the moulds…

5. Repeat this process for the other flowers, then in the centre of each one, add a teaspoon of the caramelised red onion and fennel mixture, then place a dollop/chunk of goat’s cheese on top.

6. Melt some butter in a pan, then brush this over the petals and place the tray in a hot oven (around 180°) and bake for about 12 minutes, checking the flowers half way through. When they go a lovely golden brown you’ll know they’re ready.

7. Put a small pile of dressed salad on each plate then place a flower on each one; drizzle with balsamic vinegar if you’re feeling fancy, and they’re ready to serve!

 

At bottom, no one believes in his own death…

“At bottom, no one believes in his own death, or, to put it another way, in the unconscious every one of us is convinced of his own immortality. Towards the actual person who has died we adopt a special attitude – something almost like admiration for someone who has accomplished a very difficult task.”

– Sigmund Freud, ‘Thoughts for the Times on War and Death’