Monday, October 17, 2005

Chocolate Fudge Sauce

As a child my first encounter with sugar came when my dad slipped a chocolate under both my sister’s and my pillows while we were asleep. I woke up and found the chocolate and ate it immediately. My sister was still asleep at that point, so I got out of bed, retrieved her chocolate, and ate that too.

This early acquired obsession led me to an exploration of sugary after school delights, in the absence of my parents of course! My favourite, for sheer ease of access, was the chocolate sprinkles jar. Step one: remove lid. Step two: pour contents into mouth. Repeat until satiated. I tried this one on my little brother recently. Since I’m a grown up and he’s not, I think he was shocked by my childish behaviour!

Another favourite after school snack was Milo mud. You get a glass, half fill it with Milo, drip some fresh milk into and mix it until it forms a thick, pasty mud. Then you eat it with a spoon.

I also liked making sherbet – only I didn’t bother with the excessive sifting process that combines the sugar and the tartaric acid together. I’d just stick the two in a glass, mix until the lumps in the icing sugar had crumbled, then up-ended the cup into my mouth. I never failed to choke at this point, coughing fine white particles of sugar through my nose, across the kitchen bench.

Sugar is great! But I understand it’s also addictive (although my propeller head friend, Jeannette, will tell you otherwise!). A man once came to Mahatma Ghandi and asked him how to break his addiction to sugar. Ghandi told the man to come back in four days and he would give him the answer then. The man went away, puzzled, and came back four days later. Ghandi then told the man how to give up sugar. “Why did you need four days to give me this answer, Ghandi-ji?” the man asked. “Because I had to break my own sugar addiction first!” was his reply.

100g dark cooking chocolate
2 tblsp sour cream (light if you want to kid yourself!)
2 tsp Kahlua (coffee liqueur)

1. Melt the chocolate in the microwave oven for approximately two and a half minutes. If you don’t have a microwave you should get one. Just kidding! You can melt the chocolate in a double bowl over simmering hot water.

2. Quickly stir the sour cream into the melted chocolate. Continue to stir until both are well combined. Mixture will thicken and become quite fudgy.
3. Add the coffee liqueur and check for taste. Add more if you want a stronger flavour.
4. Serve hot with icecream. You could have enough for two serves here, but only if silly enough to share!

Extra Notes on Fruit Cake

An anonymous reader left a message saying they'd over cooked their fruit cake, so I thought I'd add some more on this topic.

Firstly, I want to say that where cooking is concerned, let your intuition be your guide. Begin with the aroma of the thing you're cooking - in this instance, the fruit cake. Your cake will release its aroma as it begins to reach completion. That's the time to start checking on its progress!

1. Check the surface of the cake. Is it shiny? Is it sticky? These indicate it's not yet cooked.

2. Pierce the centre with a skewer, pushing all the way to the bottom of the tin. Draw the skewer out and check for raw cake mix. If the skewer is clean, the cake is cooked.

3. Is time up? I've found all my fruit cakes require the full cooking time. I then give them an extra 15 minutes, just to be sure.

4. Is the aroma making you want to get out a Christmas tree and decorate it? Do you feel like bursting out into song? Namely, Christmas carols? If the answer's yes, it's probably because the smell of your cooked fruit cake has weaved its magic spell on you.

5. Failing all else, you can cut a hunk off the cake in question and eat it. THEN you'll know if it's cooked. But you might have to bake another one to replace the cake you ate!

And for those who enquired - yes I have cooked my wedding cake! All three tiers of it. Each tier has been quietly sitting in an airtight container for about six weeks now. We cut one of the spare cakes (there are three) the other week when my parents met my future in-laws. Despite having given up eating wheat and gluten, I tried the cake and was delighted to see it was seriously moist and gooey! It could easily have been consumed with a big dollop of brandy custard!

After the wedding I'll experiment with wheat free cooking. Come back for more great recipes then!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Pumpkin Dip

I’ve mentioned my first cat, Bill, and I’ve mentioned my current furry friend, Derek, but I think I have completely overlooked Angus, the gorgeous ginger manx who came to live with us when I was seventeen years old.

Angus came to us via Vesna, a girl at school who lived on a farm out near Ludenham. She spread the word at school that she was giving away kittens, and I thought my sister, who had just moved in with her boyfriend, was in desperate need of a little kitty kat.

It took some time for Angus to be handed over – he was the last of the litter, and the runt to boot. His mother kept taking him off and hiding him in the paddock because she didn’t want to lose her last baby. Never the less, Vesna arrived at school one day with Angus in a box. He hadn’t been weaned yet, so I had to take him to Mrs Knoffs, an art teacher and a well known animal lover, who helped me show Angus how to drink milk from a saucer.

He was a sweet little ginger and white angel who attended French class (he was held up before us all and declared “le chat”), slept through history class, and finally made it after school into the arms of my sister. She invested so much love in Angus, he grew to be big, bold and intelligent – undoubtedly the best cat that ever lived. His eyes were like gold jewel facets, and when I looked into them, I was positive there was a person in there, staring back at me through his feline form.

I went to live in Hong Kong in the early nineties, and my greatest fear while I was away was that Angus would forget me. But when I came home after eighteen months for a holiday, Angus came strutting down the footpath, meowing and carrying on. Not only did he recognise me, I felt like he was demanding to know exactly where I’d been. That night at the dinner table, Angus sat on a stool next to me, his right front paw poised on my left forearm arm, not (I don’t believe!) in demand for food, but simply to be close, to acknowledge, “You’re here. I’ve missed you.”

My mother had grown some amazing pumpkins that summer – they’d sprung up from some jap pumpkin seeds she’d thrown in the compost. Every time it rained they expanded ten fold, it seemed. When she finally picked one, I decided a photo session was in order – the cat and the pumpkin! I laid out a sheet on the back verandah and positioned the pumpkin in the middle of it, then coaxed Angus to sit next to the giant vegetable. He was not pleased. Not really that interested. But he was patient. He let me get the shots. They are great shots, I think.

When Angus passed away it was awful. He had pink skin and had sported a cancerous growth on the end of his nose for some time. We had to let him go. It was the decent thing to do. But I expect, when my time comes, Angus will greet me on the other side. And I’m sure he’ll say “You’re here. I’ve missed you.”

1 cup steamed butternut pumpkin
3 tblsp low fat natural yghurt
3 tblsp tahini (sesame paste)
2 tblsp lemon juice
1 clove of garlic (raw, although roasted would be good too!)
1 tblsp water
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tblsp ground cumin

1. Place all the ingredients in a blender.

2. Blend on high speed until all ingredients are combined and mixture is smooth.

3. Serve in a gorgeous presentation bowl with white corn chips, lavosh crackers, or raw vegetable crudites. Garnish with lots of parsley to neutralise the garlic!