Clare and Cormac To say a lot has happened over the last 12 months is an understatement, because one year ago today I had my first date with Mountaineering Man and life has been a wonderful whirlwind ever since. There have been many firsts since meeting him, from climbing a mountain (remember the snowy trek up Croagh Patrick?) to cohabitation. It’s been one great adventure after another.

Strangely enough it’s the small stuff, like perusing books together at Chapters or watching a movie at home, that hold the most significance for me. I think the Knight in Shining Armor is the easy bit; any guy can buy roses and do the whole candlelit dinner scenario (and to be fair any woman can do the I-wake-up-looking-this-perfect act, at least in the beginning!). It’s harder to find someone who, despite seeing all your imperfections, still thinks you’re pretty damn perfect – and vice versa.

Before meeting MM it was difficult for me to imagine meeting an extraordinary guy to do ordinary things with, if that makes any sense. It wasn’t a decision I’d made consciously or even something I’d acknowledged to myself, but looking back I was definitely at a place where it just didn’t matter anymore. I was relatively happy but exhausted with dating; perhaps I was simply resigned to living on my own and didn’t have the energy to really try and change what I thought was my inevitable future. In retrospect it makes me sad that I didn’t care, though at the time I felt fine with it. Despite knowing a good number of couples, at times it was hard to fathom how two people ever got together – with so many variables in the equation, it felt impossible. I used to joke to friends that I’d better start collecting cats so that I could live out that age-old cliché of the Crazy Cat Lady later in my life.

Turns out I was wrong, which in this case I’m more than happy to admit. In MM I’ve found a partner and best friend, someone I can be myself with and who gives me a sense of peace. He puts up with my love of Food Network (though he’s recently admitted to becoming a fan of Barefoot Contessa) and I tolerate his croaky Tom Waits impersonations (it’s enough to make dogs howl with pain!); I pretend not to notice that he always puts the cutlery back in the wrong drawer and he accepts that I cannot follow a map no matter how many times he reviews it with me. It’s a happy yin and yang, the two of us.

In a few weeks I’ll be taking MM home to meet my family and friends in Los Angeles, yet another big step in our story. Honestly, I can’t wait.

Happy Anniversary, Mountaineering Man. :) xo

pain perdu 2

Fabulous Pain Perdu

When I mentioned earlier that MM has become a Barefoot Contessa fan, I wasn’t joking. Though he makes fun of Ina Garten’s at-times comical television life – the fabulous gay friends like model T.R., florist Michael and decorator/photographer Miguel; her husband Jeffrey’s obsession with chicken; everyone’s overuse of the word “fabulous!” – he’s always asking me to make dishes he sees on the show. [Editor’s note: Personally I’d give anything to lunch with Ina and her gay posse. Ina, if you’re reading this CALL ME!] He recently became obsessed with Ina’s pain perdu, which she made for her fabulous friends in one episode. I made an adapted version of it a couple of weeks ago and ended up making it for FOUR days in a row as MM just couldn’t get enough of the stuff. (I should note that we had an entire loaf of brioche bread to use up so it was no bother). It’s the perfect sweet-treat brunch dish!

(Serves 2)

1 egg

2 tablespoons heavy cream

5 tablespoons milk

Juice from half an orange

Zest from half an orange

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon caster sugar

4 slices of brioche bread

Couple of handfuls of slivered almonds

Butter

Strawberries or whatever fruit you like for topping

Icing sugar

In large shallow dish, whisk together the egg, heavy cream, milk, orange juice, zest, honey and sugar until thoroughly mixed together. In another shallow dish, add the silvered almonds and set aside.

Now you’re ready to make the pain perdu. Melt a couple of teaspoons of butter into a large sauté pan over medium heat. Take a slice of brioche, dip both sides into the liquid mixture and then dip one side into the silvered almonds. Place the bread almond side down in the hot pan and cook for a few minutes or until the almonds start to turn golden. Flip and cook for another few minutes on the other side. Depending on the size of your pan, you can do 2-3 or even four slices at once. If you’re doing them one by one, simply place in a warm oven (100 C) while you’re finishing the rest.

To plate: Put two slices on plate, top with strawberries (I macerated mine in some orange juice and a bit of sugar) or whatever fruit you like, then sprinkle with icing sugar. Serve immediately.