FONDANT AU CHOCOLAT

April 18, 2017

Fondant au Chocolat

bank holidays are few and far between and so when one comes along, it should be mightily treasured, full of adventure, smiles, laughter and above all, time spent with crazy good people. Having prepared my Dad for the mischief my brother and I would no doubt be up to in order to make up for the lost time I'd spent with our parents from living away from home, the weekend was sure to be an exciting mix of jovial repartee from the youngsters, Dad jokes, scrabble-wars from my Mum and outlandish comments from the one and only Grandma Avent. 

Friday played out beautifully, with two rounds of tea and biscuits on the agenda matched with a historical retelling of some old photographs my Grandma had saved in crinkled, battered envelopes; our Great Great Great Grandmother sitting plump in the middle of 10 children, a babe in arms and a man, unknown to all, on her right. I wanted to revel in the family resemblance but all I could see was The Trunch from Roald Dahl's Matilda in her sturdy frame, the buttons of her frilled frock bursting and ready to pop (I imagine straight into the photographer's face). Her stern look and severely swept-back hair did nothing for her round features and the absence of a smile made me grateful that at least our traditional beach selfie would be far more charismatic than this.

We wheeled Grandma to the beach on Saturday, sending her down the zig zag hill to the pier, her whispy hair dancing in the wind and all our cheeks flushed with the pinch of cold in the air. There were surfers out in the waters; rather them than me! The warmth of the sun as it peeped out from behind the thick white marshmallow clouds was the only saving grace to keep us from getting too chilly, as each family member was slowly donating an item of clothing to keep Grandma from going blue. 

As we made our way home on Easter Sunday, after the best eggs my Dad had ever boiled in his life(!!) and an over of cricket which finished swiftly as I hit a six over the garden fence, I was already considering the options for a chocolate dessert to have that evening. A beautiful friend of mine brought me a cracking birthday present last year; a framed print with the words "whip it, whip it real good" neatly scrawled across the white background. It stands, propped against my bookshelf and trust me, the recipe I chose calls for a full eight minutes of whipping eggs and sugar so it's a philosophy that should be taken seriously.

Rather than receiving traditional Easter eggs, my parents decided that my love of salted caramel should also be taken seriously. Having purchased a jar of the sweet, sticky substance in Aldeburgh last weekend and additionally giving me a glossy cellphone bag of duck-egg blue speckled chocolate eggs that were also salted caramel flavoured, this dessert had to follow suit. After much whipping and a little pre-dinner preparation, I had set myself up for a taste-test like no other... I just hoped that the reality lived up to expectations! 

PICNIC ANTICS

April 12, 2017

White Chocolate and Pistachio Cake

london was in full bloom this weekend. Temperatures soaring above 20C officially announced that every single British person should whip out their summer wardrobe in an instant. Minus the suncream, for the brave. My priorities were somewhat askew when the first things that came to mind were cake, prosecco and strawberries: the necessities of summer soirées. Homemade picnics are the bomb; think creamy potato salads tossed with spring onions, quiche lorraine and chunks of French cheese, grapes from the vine with much-needed chilled rosé and bubbles to wash it all down.

So I spent the morning preparing a light but delicious cake that would satisfy the hunger of the Arup football team and compliment our nibbles and drinks delightfully. A light breeze ruffled the air, but the smell of fresh grass and the pinky-white blossom cascading from the bows in Regent's Park gave London its beauty, bathed, glistening in sunshine. The childlike excitement of seeing familiar faces, eyes wide and smiles beaming, a testament to the friendships fused over the years. We munched our way through cheese and cornbread, guzzled fizz and pulled out the croquet set to see if we were well and truly British. After completing two full games, of which I lost both, a mélange of franglais and a little bit more tipple, it was time for my cake to get eaten! 

The guys finished up their football match, t-shirts mottled with perspiration, rosy cheeks, hungover bodies and lazy legs collapsing upon the grass ready to devour the feast we'd laid out before them. This cake had to be finished, for I was not carrying it home with me. Delegating this accolade of Chief Cake-Cutter to one of the guys, he certainly did not fail at the task at hand, the soft crumbs and smear of buttercream coating my plastic tupperware box a tell-tale sign it had been enjoyed by all. 

As the sun set behind the rows of trees, and the cold chill picked up in the air, it was time to kiss the day goodbye (even if we never wanted it to end!) and hope for more summer evenings to come our way, just like this one...