RECIPE FOR ENJOYING EATING WITH COOL PEOPLE:
- Turn volume up if you are able.
- Click on little triangle button on image below.
- Watch video for introduction and questions.
- Read full interview by scrolling to bottom of this page.
- Pairs well with coffee (morning) or wine (evening).
5 Reasons We Think Claire is Cool:
- The characters in A Map of the Sky stayed with me a long time after I finished the story which was set in Yorkshire.
- The young female heroine in The Runaway explored the rugged, natural world in Wales in a way that stimulated me to put my phone down and take a bite out of life.
- Claire wrote an incredibly cool poem at the start of the pandemic that gently lifted our spirits during a difficult period of time (reprinted at the end of this blog with permission).
- Claire is an adventurous, positive, and life-affirming person.
- She lives in Yorkshire!
Let’s Eat With Claire Wong
RK : What did you always want to be when you were little? (Asked by Gayle)
CW: An author! Even as a child, I knew I wanted to write books.
RK : Do you like to cook? If so, what is your favorite seasoning? (Asked by Berline)
CW: I do enjoy cooking, though I can’t pretend to be particularly good at it! I love adding cinnamon to all kinds of dishes. The smell reminds me of Christmas.
RK: Do you have an old family recipe you could share that you put your own twist on? (Asked by Melissa)
CW: My favourite recipe that my mum taught me is pear and ginger pudding. It’s just wonderful for a cold evening. I’ve switched to using fresh pears instead of tinned so that it’s not quite so sweet. Mum makes an amazing toffee sauce to go with it, but I tend to just serve it up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
RK : What would one of your characters from your second book, A Map of the Sky, like to eat?
CW: Kit’s the main character, and he’s eleven, so he sticks to familiar food like pasta, sandwiches, or his dad’s Sunday roast. He eats in a hurry, because he’s always thinking about running off to explore the next beach or cave.
RK: Do you adhere to any dietary restrictions?
CW: Thankfully, not any more. For several years I had to cut all dairy products out of my life, and it made me rather sad. Although it also made me an expert in alternative milks and desserts!
RK : What is one of your favorite restaurants?
CW: There’s a small Japanese restaurant in Leeds near our home called Hana Matsuri. There’s only room for about four customers at a time, and they make the sushi right in front of you. It’s a really fun experience.
RK : What are some foods you must have in the house?
CW: We are loyal drinkers of Yorkshire Tea by Harrogate. I do love McVities chocolate digestive biscuits. Coffee is another matter. Dave is the one who chooses it. We often buy from Shiloh Coffee Roasters who are based in Leeds. Tea and coffee are my absolute essentials. I also like to have a good stock of baking ingredients so that we can make cakes and cookies at home. Besides checking that the sugar is fair-trade, I just buy supermarket own-brand flour and whatever free-range eggs I can find.
RK : What is the best bite to eat in Yorkshire where you live?
CW: You can’t go wrong with a classic Yorkshire pudding alongside your roast dinner. Covered in gravy, of course!
RK : What is the best bite to eat in Wales where you grew up?
CW: Wales is famous for its lamb, but actually my favourite Welsh recipe to make is bara brith, so much so that it features in my first book, The Runaway. It’s a tea loaf full of dried fruit and spices. I make it to celebrate St David’s Day every March. (Recipe below!)
RK : What was your favorite campus dining memory from Oxford?
CW: Eating dinner at an Oxford college is a bit like stepping into Hogwarts. You put on your gown, sit at long tables in a room that’s hundreds of years old, and try to remember which knife or fork to use for each course. On one occasion we heard that the author Philip Pullman was going to be eating at Oriel College, so we went along too and got to eat in the same hall as him. My main memory from that evening is my friend convincing the waiting staff to let her have an entire tray of leftover desserts for free, and then in an impressive feat, she ate them all herself!
RK : What is the best thing your husband ever cooked for you?
CW: Dave is a brilliant cook, so there’s a lot to choose from there. Probably the best thing he makes is cha siu bao – our friends always want to steal them!
RK : What is your morning breakfast routine?
CW : I start by making a pot of coffee. Then I prepare some cereal or porridge for my two year old son before making my own breakfast. We eat together at the kitchen table and talk about what we’re going to do today. He often steals half my breakfast before I can eat it!
RK : If I could cook for you right now, what would you like me to prepare?
CW: I’ve spent ages sitting here thinking about all the delicious recipes you make so well! Last year you shared on facebook a dish that was roast butternut squash filled with sautéed vegetables and it looked so heavenly that I would love to try that please!
RK : That’s an easy one! Split the squash and remove seeds. Roast face up uncovered at 375F/190C about 40 minutes until soft. Fill each ‘bowl’ with any stir fried veggies and seasonal herbs. My son Lucas gobbled that one! I would love to cook for you while you write. When can I read your next book?
CW: Hopefully soon! I’m working on it right now, so watch this space…
RK: What are the last three books you have read?
CW: They are…
- Hag-Seed, by Margaret Atwood (a clever and funny modern take on Shakespeare’s The Tempest)
- I Hope You Dance by Beth Moran (a really lovely novel that’s as much about the importance of good friendships as it is a romance)
- The Lost Sights of St. Kilda by Elisabeth Gifford (a beautiful historical novel about a remote island in the North Atlantic)
RK: We read lot during lockdown! What is a challenge you faced during the Covid Crisis?
CW: A big challenge is juggling looking after my toddler son at home while still trying to do my job (I work in charity communications). I’m thankful that my immediate family are here, but I barely get a moment’s peace and quiet!
RK : Is there a surprising benefit of the CC 2020 shutdown?
CW: More time for gardening and more meals together as a family. Quality time for the whole household.
RK : What is something you cooked during the Covid Crisis that you may not have tried without a shutdown?
CW: Wild garlic and potato soup. There’s a lot of wild garlic growing near my house in spring time, and my mum suggested that I should try making some soup with it. The smell of the leaves reminds me of childhood walks in the woods.
RK : What do you read or write when you’re feeling blue during the shutdown?
CW: I’ve shelved all the dystopian fiction for now, and am reading uplifting stories or familiar favourites from childhood. I’ve written some poetry and am working on a novel full of fun and intrigue, which is a welcome distraction.
RK : What do you do with your family when you’re feeling cooped up?
CW: I set out a picnic in the garden and make afternoon tea for everyone, complete with scones and jam. We were meant to be going camping this summer, so I think we might pitch a tent in the garden and recreate the holiday at home, complete with toasted marshmallows!
RK: I think diversity is delicious. What has been your favorite experience of another culinary culture?
CW: Every month, our church hosts an international brunch. Everyone brings food from their home nation, and it is wonderful! The table is packed with curry, pastries, Iranian rice dishes, Caribbean chicken, Chinese pork buns and Indian sweets. It’s feels like a real honour to share food with people from different backgrounds: I love the surprising things you learn about different cultures this way!
RK: That is so cool! I’d love to try that at our church. Do you have a family recipe you could share?
CW: Yes! My mum made these beautiful sweet loaves of bread for my sister’s wedding. She decorated them with fresh wildflowers.
Thank you to Liz Fitzgibbon for her recipe for Bara Brith.
Thank you to Claire Wong for being my first guest on Eating With Cool People!
Claire’s Mum’s Recipe for Bara Brith
6oz sultanas (raisins are fine)
8oz light brown sugar
10fl oz strong hot tea (try PG Tips brand or Irish brand)
10oz self-raising flour
1 egg, beaten
2lb loaf tin
1. Measure the fruit and sugar into a bowl and pour over the hot tea. Cover and leave overnight or for 8 hours. Good idea to stir the mixture from time to time to prevent all the sugar sticking to the bottom of the bowl.
2. Pre heat oven to 160˚C. (325F)
3. Line loaf tin with greaseproof cake tin liner or baking parchment.
4. Sift flour into a large mixing bowl. Pour in the fruit and sugar mixture with all the liquid. Add beaten egg. Mix thoroughly (I use an electric mixer on a low speed for 2 minutes).
5. Turn mixture into cake tin and bake for 1 – 1 ¼ hours.
6. Leave to cool and turn out.
Can be eaten plain or buttered.
As You Wash Your Hands: a poem for the pandemic
by Claire Wong
As you wash your hands, may God wash away your fear. As you do what you can, not just for your own sake, but to protect family, friends and strangers, playing your part in a global story, know that God holds you and all of us in his spotless hands.
May you have wisdom in your choices and courage in those long moments when dread’s shadow sweeps in and threatens you with tales of hopelessness; remember they are only tales.
May you keep hold of your beautiful heart so full of love. And in these strange times may you find new ways to love others, to care for the vulnerable, to remember the overlooked, to be a light.
Don’t be ashamed of your fear. In feeling it, you are human. But when you face it and choose faith, choose hope, choose love, know that the Lion is at your side.