February 20, 2007


I come by my love of sweets, my version of sanity, honestly.

If you grow up in a British household -
- It means every car ride starts with a bribe, I mean offer, of a hard sweet to suck on, or a polo mint. Only one goal in mind, keep the kids quiet for as long as the journey takes.
- It means that in every dinner second course wasn't the meat following the fish course, it was dessert: pie, cake, bread pudding, trifle, plums and custard.
- It means that with every cuppa comes a biscuit, a scone, a toasted crumpet, a bit of fruitcake, a jam tart (and if you were lucky you got to spoon the jam into the pastry shell), a bit of battenburg cake with its pretty colours, or a raisin filled to busting eccles cake. My favourite cookbook to look at when I was little was Mum's good housekeeping compendium...and the cakes section with all the eye popping ways to ice them. If we can do that, no wonder we made it to the moon.

I don't eat dessert often anymore - I like to think of it as evolution, but I think it's more puritanical than that.

But then there's the British sweet shop. Holy Dinah.

Cadbury's fruit & nut.
Cadbury's whole nut....whole hazelnuts encased in milk chocolate.
Wine gums.
Fruit pastilles.
And something we used to call squirrel gums...does anyone know what they are?

And then there were chocolate Flakes...logs of flaky chocolate that would break all over you. And if you refrigerated them and made them crunchier...heaven is a chocolate flake.

Why I even have teeth is beyond me and my dentist.

I was put into this state of diabetic reverie by my dear Aunt. My mother's sister - who has been an antique dealer, a medieval caterer (the food was contemporary and the recipes ancient - I'm pretty sure that's how it worked), made sandwiches and tea in the back of a van in the 60s as the chief cook for my uncle's band that travelled around Germany, then in the back of a van again when my uncle took up racing vintage cars at racecourses all over England, then at 60 graduated from university with an honours degree for her passion in Tudor history...never go to the Tower of London without her.

Her oldest son, the lovely Andrew and his equally lovely partner Sonia are off in South Africa, windsurfing off Cape Town. Her youngest son, my beloved cousin Joff, is riding around the world on his homemade penny farthing bicycle...He's in Tasmania now and left England almost a year ago. And she's off to Paris she writes, "and yes, we are going to the newly opened and refurbished Orangerie to see the waterlilies as they were meant to be seen when Monet painted them."

She's been reading my blog and is questioning the genetics of my sanity. It should be obvious now, if this is insanity, bring it on. I come by all this honestly.

Anyway, she wanted to contribute - naturally she contributed something with chocolate, cream and other stuff....but the chocolate and cream seem the most important bits to me. So this is from my dear Auntie Mags to you.

Chocolate Crunchie

4 tbsp cocoa
4 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp instant coffee (i.e. coffee granules made up with a little water)
4 oz breadcrumbs (yes! breadcrumbs)
4 oz brown sugar
1 pint whipped cream

Mix together everything except the cream and you will end up with a bowl of dryish brown crunchie crumbs.
Layer them into a glass bowl with the cream (needs a bit of skill with a butter knife and a spatula otherwise you can lose the layers) finishing with a top layer of cream.
Grate a bit of chocolate over the top, wrap it in plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge overnight.
It will, like magic, turn itself into a lovely moist, squashy, chocolaty sort of thing and the amazing thing is, nobody seems to recognize the breadcrumbs. (Well, perhaps a Michelin star chef might, but who needs them!)


SusieJ said...

Thank you for this. I'm assuming that you do not whip the cream -- right?

Nicola said...

Actually I believe the cream is whipped. I'll double check with her and make sure...

Nicola said...

yes...cream...whipped first.

Anonymous said...

Squirrel Gums?
If you mean those tiny little hard gums, then it's Floral Gums. Still available from online retro sweet stores! Fantastic!

Nicola said...

Peter...peter...peter...thank you..floral gums...yes. yum.