On the 28th of November this year, Maurice Finberg was buried. His influence on my life – and, I imagine, on hundreds of others – was inestimable. Mr. Finberg, thank you.
Yesterday evening, the sky was the colour of the sky when it snows, although it will never snow here. As the colour of the sky was the same this morning, I decided to bake.
Nothing better than cakes warm from the oven on a chilly afternoon.
And then I added caramel buttons to half the cupcakes as Alex and Monkey love caramel.
While the cupcakes baked on a low heat, I cut fresh roses from the garden.
And then they were ready. This is the first time I have used metallic cupcake wrappers and I like them. They remind me of sunlight hitting the water on late summer afternoons.
Afternoon tea. My troops fell upon the spoils.
The fragrance was a perfume.
After a long and demanding week, it feels so incredibly good to sit down.
I have always been passionate about Turkish Delight, both coated and chunked with milk chocolate. Life being what it is, I can no longer eat milk chocolate *she throws herself upon the floor and begins beating the carpet with her fists* and so my Turkish Delight must now be entirely naked. Here is my recipe. May it bring you as much pleasure as it brought me.
MY LUXURIOUS TURKISH DELIGHT RECIPE
- 2 to 2.5 cups caster sugar
- 2 tbs lemon juice (or to taste – it perfectly complements the sweetness)
- 3 tbs powdered gelatine
- 1.5 tsp cream of tartar
- 2 tbs rosewater
- 1/4 tsp natural pink/red food colouring (artificial colours are the devil)
- Green & Black’s chocolate to taste (we only ever buy slavery-free chocolate)
- coconut oil for tray and knife
2. Place the cream of tartar, sugar and 270mls water in a saucepan over medium heat.
3. Stir constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Continue stirring.
4. Pause to boil water in the kettle. Pour 100mls of boiled water into a bowl and gently sprinkle the gelatine over it. Whisk with a fork.
5. Add the rosewater, colour and lemon juice. Continue whisking until the gelatine is completely dissolved.
6. Pause to coat a smallish glass tray with coconut oil. (The oil I recommend above is superlative – light and not overly coconutty, it cooks like a dream.)
7. Return to the sugar mixture on the stove, which should now be showing spectacularly glassy bubbles and filling the kitchen with a lovely sugary smell. Stir.
8. Having stirred the mixture for 15 minutes, pour it into the gelatine mixture and stir well.
9. Gently tip the combined mixture into the glass tray and refrigerate. Leave overnight.
10. The following morning, the Luxurious Turkish Delight should look something like this:
11. You can serve it plain, or shave or chunk a block of Green & Black’s and sprinkle it on top. Friends have suggested alternatives: pistachio flour (hurl pistachios into food processor and annihilate), toasted coconut, or the more traditional dusting of icing sugar.
12. Cut into pieces with an oiled knife and serve on beautiful plates with rose petals and linen napery, but do be careful; this is potent stuff, and must be used sparingly. If the Luxurious Turkish Delight is served to an adult of the opposite sex, you may find yourself overwhelmed by – and feebly submitting to – their unquenchable ardour. You have been warned.
To listen to an excerpt, click here. To buy the audiobook in MP3 format, please click on SHOP (above right).
Inspired by the lovely Laure at Petits Homeschoolers, Monkey and I decided to perform a magic trick: how to make an eggshell disappear without touching it. We took an uncooked egg, dropped it into a jar mostly filled with white vinegar and sat it on the windowsill. The shell immediately pearled with hundreds of minuscule bubbles. Monkey was mesmerized.
It began to turn, almost imperceptibly at first.
Rotating, it began to move upwards.
Viewed from the top, the egg appeared jewelled.
The egg then began to sink – sporadically rotating as it did so before settling. Every now and again, it would gradually spin. We left it to its machinations overnight.
The next morning, we changed the stinky vinegar and let it sit there for another night.
The following day, we observed that the egg had almost doubled in size. The acetic acid (CH3COOH) in the vinegar had separated the calcium carbonate (CaCO3) crystals in the shell, allowing the calcium ions (Ca2+) to break loose and the carbonate to brilliantly manifest as bubbles (carbon dioxide CO2). In short: a naked egg.
We removed it from its stinky vinegar with a serving spoon and rinsed it in cold water. Like a bad memory, the eggshell washed away, leaving a huge gelantinous egg with a visibly mobile yolk. Interestingly, it did not smell. The texture was so pleasing that we took turns in holding it before feeding it to the bush turkeys who trot over every evening to eat our food scraps.
Should you be inclined to replicate this experiment, please do not attempt to eat the result. Even properly home-pickled eggs can result in botulism.
This is Monkey’s droll comment on our somewhat malodorous darling, Gremlin.
Homeschooling was wonderful today. We studied the regions of France and the history of English. I was a little tired after staying up until 1:30am, but was mollified by roses.
Yes, our magnifying glass is held together by electrical tape. Everything gets dropped around here at least five times a month. And here is my beautiful little Monkey, painting.
She was beside herself on hearing that her new (and very handsome) little French penpal, Arthur, had written her a letter. “Will it get here before Friday?” she breathlessly asked.
“Focus on your roses,” I replied. She did. They were so beautiful.
“Arthur is homeschooled like me, isn’t he?” she asked. “He is,” I said.
She can’t wait to start writing her next letter.
And this? My take on kicking the habit.
Having spent the past million and a half weeks sewing moons and bats and jack-o’-lanterns for our Hallowe’en bunting, I today spent five hours baking.
Five hours. I baked dozens of bat sugar cookies with lemon glace icing.
Other than the first batch, they came out very well. (The first batch was a very frilly pink rather than a bloody red as Ribena + icing sugar = Barbie’s convertible.)
But sugar bat cookies and lemon glace icing? A very happy marriage.
I baked dozens of bone sugar cookies with lemon glace icing.
(They look like sausages here, but were fantastically horrible up close.)
I thought we would have dozens left, but so many ghoulies and ghosties and witches and monsters turned up with such sweet smiles at the door that all my cookies disappeared.
“Nibble, nibble, nubble … who gnaws my house to rubble?”" I would croak as I walked, in a black dress and my witch’s hat, to the door with a silver tray heaped with bones.
(When two little six-year-olds blanched, I had to revert to my everyday voice.)
Monkey was so happy. She loves all things spooky. So Hallowe’en? You can imagine.
She went trick or treating with Daddy, who was dressed as a pirate. Meanwhile, I baked a beautiful – BEAUTIFUL – skull cake (my very first).
No buttercream; I iced him with light cream cheese beaten with a mixture of icing and caster sugars and vanilla and arranged him on a wonderfully horrible old baking sheet.
Our silver mermaid goddess watched, impassive.
Mr. Cake was so realistic that cutting into his cranium was somewhat unnerving (I should have called on my old pal Erica, a neurosurgeon). I had to steel myself. Hacked into his head. The result was glorious – all white chocolate and rum. Our neighbours had seconds.
The Jack o’ Lantern grinned.
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
Darkness there and nothing more.
Monkey and I hit the beach late this afternoon and, as we left the water, I noted a big black bird roosting a metre or so from the tideline. Gingerly, we approached it. It was a mutton bird, otherwise known as a Short-tailed Shearwater, and its down was quivering in the strong winds. Thousands of these resourceful birds – regarded as a delicacy by the Aboriginal peoples – have washed up on the North Coast over the past few days, blown off course by storms in the South China Sea on their way from Siberia to Tasmania.
Our beaches are now littered with their corpses.
However, this one was alive – not entirely on top of its game, but clearly alive. “We have to take it home, mama!” Monkey wailed. “It’s going to drown in the tide!”
It didn’t resist when I stroked it.
Gently wrapping it in my sarong, I bundled it against my breast – it fought, if not very valiantly – and we walked home. I then rang the local seabird rescue organization. They were overwhelmed, they said. The bird would probably die, but there was always the chance it would survive the night if I kept doing what I was doing – namely, keeping it warm and quiet and offering it rainwater and tuna in brine.
“These birds are exhausted,” the woman said. “They travel twenty thousand miles over sea, and have been fighting wild storms and winds.”
Having refused all water, the bird turned away. Its head suddenly began to droop.
“Get the eye-dropper!” I instructed Monkey.
Monkey catapulted into the kitchen, clattered about, and returned with the dropper. I began dripping water into the bird’s beak. It spluttered, but began drinking. I fed it more. It lifted its head from the ground, enlivened.
“Will it live, mama?” Monkey asked.
“I hope so,” I said.
The bird is now nesting in my sarong, with a dish brimming with rainwater before it.
Such a beautiful creature, floored after travelling an unimaginable distance. I’m willing it to make it through the night. Please send it your blessing.