Morning or Afternoon Tea, Super Easy, Sweet

Leaning into Home / Banana, Coconut & Chocolate Loaf Cake

“And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.” Meister Eckhart

I’m sitting in my new coffee shop just around the corner from my new house, watching my new neighbours pass by. It’s noisier and busier than my old area, the barista doesn’t know how I like my coffee, there are fewer trees, and I haven’t seen a child shoot past the window yet — and a crooning voice says this is a mistake, that I should go running back to my old life, that I can’t possibly risk all of this.

I know this voice so well, it’s the sprawling bad neighbourhood in the city of my mind, and have learned over time to gently and kindly ignore its sentiments until another voice wraps itself around my fears and murmurs comfort, finding courage in just doing this one small step at a time. That I don’t need all the answers all at once. That not knowing what my world looks like beyond today is just fine. That my only job is to making a beginning and keep trying.

And then the universe lovingly joins in to console by sending a little boy, about the same age as mine, racing past the cafe so that he can beat his heavily pregnant mother to the crossing and press the button for the pedestrian light.  An old lady is leaning on her walking stick, also waiting to cross, and the three of them share a big smile before the green man appears to propel them across the road.

In watching their ease with each other and in deliberately moving to the peaceful parts of my head, I know in this moment that we’re going to be just fine here. We’re going to find new spaces to be happy and to live fully. My son will do what he does everywhere we go and make friends with everyone on the street, even people who don’t warm to me will be swept up in the joy he exudes with every heartbeat.

I’ll learn where I can join in and where I can be still, I’ll learn to do it standing on my own two feet, I’ll learn to smile in a new house and in a new car and in a new neighbourhood. I’ll learn to take photos in the new light. I’ll learn to bake in the new oven. I’ll learn where my joy has travelled with me, where old joys can be let go, and where new joys can be found.

Grief and fear are still present, but in this moment they are stilled by the possibility of truly living a full and authentic life. I deliberately started walking down this path to make sure I lived that way, and with each seemingly trivial step, I’m living bigger than I’ve ever lived before.

So welcome back to The Imperfect Kitchen everyone. I’ve no idea what the road ahead looks like, but the road today’s looking pretty good.

All starting with this banana, coconut and chocolate chip loaf cake. I wanted something that was easily transportable while we moved house, something low in sugar so my son could eat some without becoming manic, and something that I could make with ease in an oven I didn’t know much about. Philip’s fabulous Home Baking recipe book gave me the base for this recipe. The great thing about this cake, other than the gorgeous flavours and that it lasts for days in a cake tin, is that it’s quite hard to mess up; something that my distracted mind needs at the moment!

Enjoy.

  • 200g (7 oz) unflavoured Greek yoghurt
  • 110g (4 oz) shredded coconut
  • A pinch of salt
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 150g (5 ½ oz) raw sugar
  • 150g (5 ½ oz) wholemeal self-raising flour
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 100g (3 ½ oz) dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180˚C

Grease and line a loaf tin with greaseproof baking paper (my loaf tin is 22cm x 12cm, 8.5 inches x 4.5 inches)

Thoroughly mix the yoghurt, coconut, salt, banana and sugar in a mixing bowl before covering and placing in the fridge for about ½ hour (if you’re in a hurry don’t worry too much, it’s just slightly tastier to let the coconut soak and soften before baking)

Stir the chocolate chips into the banana mix before folding in the flour and cinnamon to create a smooth batter. Spoon the mixture into your tin to bake for about 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. I find that the top is brown enough after about 45 minutes but the middle takes another 15 minutes, so I place some tin foil over the cake to finish baking. Just keep an eye on it and do the same if you need

Remove the cake from the oven and rest for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool

Eat in great big slabs. On its own or with butter if you prefer

Standard
Dessert, Super Easy, Sweet

Community Molecules Dancing / Mango, Saffron & Pistachio Cheesecake {gluten free}

“Every person is defined by the communities she belongs to.”
Orson Scott Card

Every Thursday night I drive across town to a cottage at the back of a long, gravel driveway surrounded by a white picket fence and winding rows of lavender. Wooden steps and glowing candles lead to the front door, always left ajar for those who come. I’m one of fifteen or so women who meet here weekly and have done so for a number of years. We range in age from mid twenties to mid sixties and from the outside there’s very little we share of each other’s traits.

Every week I say to myself, “I’m tired, I’ll only stay for a little while.” and every week I stay until the moon’s halfway through its nighttime journey, surrounded by a level of companionship and support I could barely imagine a few years ago. We talk of everything, and often of nothing. We laugh constantly and take our turns in tears. We have no leaders, although one in particular’s silently acknowledged as our wise woman, not that she would respond to the title with anything but a top-shelf eye roll.

DSC_0789

Every week we discuss something from books we read together, chosen by group suggestions and a vote at the end of the previous book. Every week we promise ourselves that we’re going to read more than a paragraph before conversation sweeps in to claim its place at the centre of our night. Every week we fail spectacularly and don’t regret it for a moment. If we rushed, we might end up missing something that a woman was about to find the courage to say but needed to sink into the flow of other’s honest and open conversation before she found her own voice. We might also not hear our own answers — the ones we didn’t know we sought until someone voiced them in a moment of their own introspection.

Every week holds a magical moment when the universe appears to tune in and the molecules that make up our separateness start vibrating at the same tempo, connecting the very centre of ourselves into the centre of each other. If there’s any true magic in my world, it’s this feeling of utterly belonging in a moment with others.

Every week I take that feeling and carry it into the world with me. And for as long as it lasts, others are recipients of the connectedness in me. I imagine that after they’re in contact with it, they spread it into their world and that, for a short while, molecules all over my city are vibrating together in a jiggly dance of belonging.

Another jiggly creation of my mind is this deliciously simple, no bake cheesecake. I made it for my Thursday night ladies but it didn’t set in time so I’m sharing it with you. The flavours are a well known community, although on the surface they’re quite different. The complexity of saffron helps hold down the higher notes of mango and the pistachio crust’s flavour is like the grounding, base note of a music cord, while adding a gorgeously textured dimension to the cake. It’s also gluten free, not because I made it with gluten free in mind, but because it genuinely tastes better that way.

Enjoy.

TIK - Mango, Saffron & Pistachio Cheesecake

  • 250g raw pistachios + extra for decoration
  • 65g caster sugar
  • Large pinch of sea (kosher) salt
  • 60g unsalted butter, melted
  • 200ml double (thick) cream, whipped
  • 250g cream cheese
  • 100g greek yoghurt
  • 600g mango flesh (I got this from three 350g mangos, you can used canned pulp if you can’t get fresh mangoes)
  • 1-2 tbl sp caster sugar (to taste)
  • ¼ tsp saffron powder

Grease a 20cm springform pan and line the bottom with greaseproof paper

For the base, place the pistachios, 65g of caster sugar and salt into a food processor and blend until the mix resembles sand

Pour the mix into a bowl with the melted butter and stir until completely combined

Tip the mixture into the springform pan and press it down to form a smooth base, with a ridge of about 1cm around the edge

For the filling, put 400g of the mango flesh into a food processor and blend until you have a smooth pulp, taste and add more sugar if required

Mix the whipped cream, cream cheese, yoghurt and saffron powder together in a bowl

Gently add the mango pulp stirring until all the pulp has been incorporated but there are still plenty of lumps in the mix

Spoon on top of the pistachio base, smooth over the top and place in the fridge for 1-2 hours, or until set

When ready to serve, remove the springform pan and decorate with the remaining mango and pistachios before serving

Standard
Dessert, Morning or Afternoon Tea, Not So Easy, Sweet

A Messy, Hopeful Path / Ginger & Lemon Panna Cotta with Blueberries and Thyme

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”
C.S. Lewis

This year’s been hugely challenging and revealing. I’ve had an unshakeable instinct that life’s been headed in the wrong direction and the quiet, steady voice deep inside’s been nudging me towards alternate routes I’ve been unwilling to walk.

The only outcome to battling myself in this way is heartache; and some days the pain of the struggle’s been immense. I’d love to be able to see things are headed into shaky emotional territory and sensibly guide myself back into grownup land. I’m just not. I fight and holler and stamp my feet until, eventually, I’m curled in a ball on the floor, begging for ease of mind and promising anything to the universe if it stops the pain.

After lots of searching, I’ve found that this path’s about authenticity; specifically to drop behaviours developed in childhood as a reaction to feeling unsafe and unprotected in the world. At a young age, I subconsciously took the hand of the small, scared child I was, placed her in the middle of my heart and started building walls around her to keep her safe from whatever was happening outside. Thick, heavy, impenetrable walls. And I’ve kept her there ever since.

Blueberries - TIK

I built a personality designed to keep her protected and ensure no one could ever hurt her again. I became tough, standoffish, controlling, funny, prickly. I chose a career that guaranteed no softness. I surrounded myself with emotionally distant people who also kept everyone at arm’s length, forming no real connections, making enough money that I didn’t have to rely on anyone, never allowing myself to fully love.

Now, having walked a gentler path these last ten years, having fallen utterly in love the day my son was born two years ago, and having continued to seek a path through this pain all year; the girl in the middle of my heart has found enough courage to poke her head above the ramparts and start asking for a place in the world. And it’s terrifying. I keep wondering who’s going to protect her if I can’t anymore (after all, she’s me and, no matter how multiple personality-esque this piece might sound, I don’t have a mind capable of being more than one person at once…) — she’s the writer, the introvert, the dreamer, the idealist, the one who loves without constantly looking for an exit. She’s also vulnerable, easily overwhelmed and very new to the world.

When I’m her, I’m clunky and awkward. I say clumsy things that replay in my head for hours. I talk to people I no longer want to keep at a distance and find myself ducking for cover mid-conversation. I’m writing, baking and photographing for a living even though I’m not making money and yet the thought of walking back into a big corporate leaves me feeling nauseous. I’m not the me of 3 years ago, but I’ve nothing to replace me with yet.

In short, life’s messy.

TIK - Thyme

But I’m back on the path that brings ease and comfort. It’s muddled and awkward with more challenges to come, but it’s also full of the kind of hope I’ve struggled to find for a while.

On walking this new journey, I’ve already found an unexpectedly loving community in my area. This week, after an impromptu breakfast with a local friend, she went home to find ‘just because’ flowers from a neighbour on her doorstop; and I got home to find a book for my son’s current sleep troubles from a lovely friend in my mother’s group, propped against my front door. The most amazing part is how commonplace these acts of kindness are around here.

I’m also challenging myself to seek people who intrigue me, to see if honest and whole connection is possible; I’m particularly excited that those I’m drawn to are funny, smart and irreverent, with a passion for life and a hefty side-helping of quirkiness. This, in particular, remains a fragile area, but intimacy doesn’t seem like the distant planet it once was.

And if I can keep opening my heart and stay on this tangled path that still makes no sense at all; it’s possible those big, tough walls will be dismantled for good. And who knows which paths I’ll be walking then.

A path I’m entirely happy to walk is the one that ends with this delicious Lemon Panna Cotta and Gingerbread with Blueberries and Thyme from Alisa over at The Family Meal. I’ve been in serious sleep deprivation land again with my toddler’s night-time antics and have been pretty sick for the last few days (which is why this post is so late) so food of any sort is not high on my agenda. Luckily, Alisa writes one of my favourite food blogs and I’m happy to share any of her recipes anywhere, the main photo is hers as well so any kudos go straight to her! I made this about a week after she posted it onto her site and it is truly delicious.

Enjoy.

http://familymealblog.com/2014/07/17/lemon-panna-cotta-and-gingerbread-with-blueberries-and-thyme/

Standard
Dessert, Easy, Sweet

First Light’s Passion / Orchard & Date Crumble Cake

In a dawn’s mist that hovers lightly over muddy grass, market stalls gradually gather shape. Posts thrust in the ground, canvas covers raised overhead. Some are elegant affairs, with graphically designed fonts and glass-fronted cases; others are no more than a couple of tables, cotton tablecloths and a hurriedly handwritten sign.

In the middle of it all, a huge urn hums with steady steam and the smell of its whole-spiced chai intermingles with sizzling sausages, waiting their turn for bread and piles of caramelised onion.

If nothing else defines one of the 185 accredited farmers’ markets in Australia, it’s the sausage sandwich. Not a piece of plastic white bread, supermarket ketchup, or sugar-filled brown sauce in sight. At my local market, each individually-kneaded twelve-seeded roll is lovingly smeared with fresh aioli and a scattering of just-potted tomato salsa. The sausages are from heritage-breed pigs, raised in large plots, lovingly fed treacle porridge the morning they head to the abattoir. You can taste the producer’s pride in every bite.

And conversations with people at the market are one of the best parts of turning up. Ask any passionate producer about their product and you’ll hear about soils, seed stocks, butter churning and meat drying methods, why growing mushrooms using dowels from eucalyptus trees is so difficult, why purple garlic is so much smoother than white, why the best roast potatoes are cooked in top quality duck fat. And so on and so gloriously on.

It drives my terribly sensible and unaffected husband mad, and it’s true that the potential for pretentiousness is pretty high. But this is a fast-growing section of the Australian consumer landscape that plays a vital role in our everyday relationship with food. Not only can we buy local goods, therefore ensuring that our community is prospering, we’re also supporting produce that’s grown ethically, using methods that don’t include large amounts of chemicals or additives, and haven’t been stockpiled in huge storage bins for months before making it to our shelves.

My toddler loves to come along. Admittedly, the wagging dogs and free face painting holds most of his attention, but his winsome ways has procured him more than one free tomato, carrot or bagel as we’ve wandered. I love knowing that he’s going to grow up in these places, watching the seasons move by our food choices, and eating his way through passionately grown and harvested produce.

And for me? I know quite a lot about produce, at least for a consumer. I hit my formative years during the dark days of English meat causing headlines for all the wrong reasons. I’m not allowed to donate blood anywhere in the world, outside of England, because I lived in Britain between 1980 and 1996. Britain’s national story’s interwoven with the horrors of factory farming’s consequences, and the hard-won knowledge that cheap and plentiful produce definitely doesn’t mean better produce, or even that it’s always safe to eat.

And out of these domestic horrors came some wonderful goodies; The River Cottage, Waitrose supermarkets and Nigel Slater, to name just a very few who shaped and moulded me as I cooked and ate into adulthood.

I also grew up in the Italian countryside, gorging on organic, backyard tomatoes rested in sun-drenched bowls and local wild-boar sausage. I was incredibly lucky that my mother and her friends cared about food, long before it was trendy, and made sure we knew the taste of good produce.

So these markets are a dip back into my childhood, a tip of the hat to my future, and to the even more distant future I hope to leave for my son. My husband may not love to come along, but he absolutely adores the results pulled from our oven later in the day, like this orchard and date crumble cake, that I’ve adapted from Eric Lanyard’s Pear and Prune Cake.

I just love pears and apples in Australia’s early autumn, when they’re at their absolute giddy height. Pair either with cinnamon and dates and no matter where you are, there’s a part of your mind flinging autumn leaves above your head in sheer joy.

Enjoy.

Cake

  • 200g unsalted butter, softened
  • 200g raw caster sugar
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 eggs
  • 250g dates (preferably Medjool), stones removed and cut into quarters
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 medium pears, peeled and cut into roughly the same size as the dates
  • 2 medium apples, peeled and cut into roughly the same size as the dates

Crumble

  • 70g unsalted butter, soft
  • 125g plain flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 50g light muscavado sugar
  • 50g rolled oats

Pre-heat oven to 180˚C

Combine flour, baking powder & cinnamon in a mixing bowl

Cream butter & sugar until light & fluffy

Add the eggs, one at a time, to the butter and sugar. With each egg, add a scant tablespoon of the flour mix to prevent curdling

Gently fold in the dry ingredients until just combined

Gently fold in the dates & pear

Spoon into lined 23cm springform tin and smooth down

Add all crumble ingredients in a fresh mixing bowl and rub together with your fingers, squidging all the butter in your fingertips until the mixture seems like sand

Liberally cover the top of your sponge with the crumble topping

Bake for 60 minutes until cake has risen and crumble is golden

Remove from the oven and leave for 5 minutes before taking out of the tin and serving while still warm

***************

A big thank you to Sara over at Sunshine & Salad for suggesting this topic. She’s one of my favourite bloggers; weaving joy, grief and the simple pleasures of life into her wonderful writing – I highly recommend checking out her blog!

Standard
Dessert, Easy, Sweet

A Bright & Light Friendship / Roasted Cherry, Almond & Vanilla Tart

I can’t remember the first time I met Jen. I know logically that I’ve only known her for a few, short years. But it seems that one day she was there and it was like the part of my heart reserved for friendship had been keeping a space just for her. 

We don’t catch up as much as either of us would like. She has three near-teenage children and a large, busy house to manage. I have a sleepless toddler and before him, a time consuming, important-sounding career. But whenever she walks into my space I can sense a busying of the molecules between us, like they’re preparing for the laughter that comes from a place few reach like the connection of two, inherently reclusive souls who’ve found each other.

Most who meet us at first would miss the spark of similarity. Jen is unashamedly shy and quiet with most people, she hates to speak in groups and is quite happy pottering in her home making bagels and curtains from scratch. She’s from a Detroit blue-collar family and utterly unpretentious. Her father’s driven the same truck a quarter mile back and forth for 40 years of his working life. She’s horrified that I’m writing about her today (ha!).

I’m loud and opinionated, always quick with a joke and story. First to speak and last to draw breath. I scour cities for top baristas and buy organic, unbleached flour. My family’s from central London and my Australian husband explains us by telling stories about going to restaurants, where every one of us changes the menu to suit our tastes better, regardless of how the chef might feel.

But something happened in Jen and my friendship from the very beginning. She becomes louder, and her gloriously inappropriate and leg-crossingly funny sense of humour shines. I’m just as loud, but she brings out in me a capacity for a supporting role as much as lead band member. I want her to shine when I’m around her, just because she makes my life so much more enjoyable when she does.

She’ll cringe when she reads these words (and I’m already laughing thinking about it). We don’t have a friendship based on lovey-dovey-ness. We tease, we play with words, we wind each other up constantly, we glorify our own flaws until the painful becomes the brilliantly funny. I’ve had more than one insecurity disappear under the weight of laughter from her when I’ve taken the piss out of myself.

And then, a few months ago, she called me to say that her husband had been offered a job overseas and they’d be leaving. I’ve shed a couple of self-pitying tears since then. I have a lot of people I get along with and like, but very few I adore and have allowed in past the heavily guarded gates of my heart. As one who strolled through, whistling, almost from the first, it seems particularly hard to see her go.

It’s been a little awkward at times since then. We both trust slowly and I think the knowledge that parting is going to hurt has kept us from pushing too hard. But I adore her, and I’m trying not to resent her husband for being an internationally successful businessman who’s providing an amazing opportunity and life for his family. I joke to her that he really should have considered me more carefully when applying for roles. I think I’ve nearly managed to convince us both that I don’t mean what I say.

She leaves in a few days and I asked her to cook with me for this post. I wanted something that was ours. A cut-out in time that I can look back on.

I chose a cherry pie. Something about it seems wholly American to me, with no proof at all. Cherries are also coming to the end of their very short season in my neck of the woods and taste divine.

We started by exploding a pastry base all over her oven and kitchen, I got the timing completely wrong and, when taking it out of the oven, she forgot that we used a loose-based tin. Sloppy almond pastry base still tastes lovely picked off the oven door, if anyone’s interested.

I completely messed up a crème pâtissière recipe I thought would be delicious. So, Jen came up with a straightforward alternative of cream cheese frosting that works far better than my snooty idea anyway. And now her kids have the beginnings of an ice cream that they’ll inhale, French pâtissière style.

So, here are the results of a day spent with someone I love. Someone who makes my life brighter, my darkness lighter. Someone I’m going to miss very much. But probably still wont Skype regularly, even though it’s just in front of me – because pfft, that just sounds too hard and organised. Luckily, she’s exactly the same.

Enjoy.

  • 250g plain flour
  • 175g ground almonds
  • 225g raw caster sugar
  • 200g cold butter, diced
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 800g cherries, halved and pitted
  • 60g flaked almonds
  • 1 tbl sp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 250g cream cheese
  • 2 cups icing sugar

Pre-heat oven to 180˚C / 350˚F

Make the pastry by tipping the flour, ground almonds, 175g of caster sugar and the butter into a food processor, scrape the seeds from half the vanilla bean and add that as well

Pulse to the texture of breadcrumbs

Add the egg yolk, then pulse until it all comes together to form a soft pastry

Press the pastry evenly into a loose-based 25cm tart tin

Rest the tart in the fridge for at least 20 mins

While the pastry is in the fridge, place the cherries in a roasting tin, cut side up

Sprinkle the flaked almonds, lemon juice, ground ginger and remaining sugar over the cherries

Remove the pastry from the fridge and prick the base all over with a fork

Place the cherries and the pastry in the oven and bake for about 20 mins until the cherries are soft and golden

Remove the cherries from the oven and leave to cool completely

Continue to cook the pastry for 10 mins until biscuity and golden at the edges

Remove the pastry from the oven

Leave the pastry to cool, then carefully (!) remove from the tart tin and trim the edges with a sharp knife

Scrape the seeds from the other half of the vanilla pod into a mixing bowl with the cream cheese and icing sugar and blend until light and fluffy

Spread the cream cheese frosting over the cooled pastry and carefully spoon the cooled cherries on top

Keep in the fridge if not serving straight away

 

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/prompt-something-so-strong/

Standard
Morning or Afternoon Tea, Super Easy, Sweet

Nutty Nutella Cookies

I read a series of books by an author called Debora Geary. It’s a series that nominally deals with communities of witches, and are among the lightest and most enjoyable reading I have on my virtual shelf.

What draws me to these books is not setting fires with a click of fingers or any excuse to continue my Harry Potter book obsession (because I clearly don’t need a reason). For a series of books that profess to be light reading, Debora Geary offers an unusually grown-up and kind look at relationships and responsibilities. More than anything, I love the camaraderie, the compassion and the community. The characters on her pages are the people I want to be when I grow up.

All of this heartwarming writing is backed up by a large offerings of food. Seafood linguine, ice-cream by the ton, and lots & lots of cookies. But of all the food gorged on her pages, the one that always calls to me the most is Nutella Cookies.

I’ve written before about the affinity I have for baking biscuits (as they’re called in Australia and England), something about minimal ingredients that all have room to speak their flavours and support each other. The fact that they respond best to gentle treatment and don’t ask too much of any cook. They seem to me to be the quiet kids I always have a soft spot for, who ask for little and offer so much in return.

A short while ago, I was cruising on the pages of Sneaky Pudding’s blog – which is one of the things I like to do on a regular basis, and I noticed with absolute glee that she has a recipe for Nutella Cookies. O.h. m.y. g.o.d…….

While trying to hold back my suspicion of a baker who doesn’t include Nutella as a part of her daily diet I tried making them and immediately fell in love. I’ve played around with the recipe a bit, the original is a little too sweet for me (although if you have a sweeter tooth, ignore my recipe and quickly shoot over to her) so here I exchanged the choc chips for salted peanuts. Other than that there are only very small differences.

  • 1 cup Nutella
  • ½ cup plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup roasted and salted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste

Preheat oven to 180˚C/350˚F

Line a large baking tray with baking paper

Mix Nutella, egg, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl

Sift in flour, and stir until just combined – try not to over-stir as the biscuits become very chewy if over-worked (unless that’s your thing, in which case by all means break out the electric whisk!)

Stir in the nuts

Roll spoonfuls of the dough into 12 balls and place on the prepared tray

Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes or until slightly cracked on top

Transfer the cookies on the baking paper to a cooling rack to cool completely

Store in an airtight container

Standard
Dessert, Easy, Sweet

Belonging in Whispering Hope / Chocolate Torte

I grew up with a niggling sense that everyone else always arrived in the same car. They seemed to have an ease with each other that I could never master and I was forever tweaking my personality to try and make it appear as if I was created in the same mould. It was exhausting, and repetitively unsuccessful. The unmade me kept showing up and my attempts to push her down became increasingly frantic.

I tried on personalities like other people try on clothes. I had mental files on funny, serious, profound, engaged – and would update each of these files with a furious terror that never abated. I remember, in my darkest moments, looking at restaurant tables where friends sat in huddled-community, desperately wondering how they managed it, and whether I would ever learn to fake it.

I believed I was broken at a fundamental level. I thought my life’s work was to hide it and fit as best as I was able.

Ten years ago, on thunderbolt realisation, I started the experiment of me all over again. Through the profound fear of being unacceptable, I held tightly to a spark of light that whispered words of hope – may be the only person I truly needed to belong to was myself.

From that whispering hope, I gradually found where I belong. And then I found more than one place I belong. I’ve ended up finding so many places that I don’t have time for them all. I remember my astonishment the first time I realised I have more wonderful people and joys in my life than I have time to fit in. I remember the stunned awe the first time it dawned on me that, most of the time, I really like myself today.

And a big lesson I’ve learned in the past ten years, may be the biggest, is that I cannot experience the joy and connection I crave unless I am also willing to walk through pain and upheaval. And that the only thing holding me back from treading that path, is fear.

I was thinking about writing this post and then, in a book I’m currently reading, this quote crossed my path,

“But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing floor.
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.”

In the spirit of a happy community I thought I would make a chocolate recipe! This came to me as I was collecting eggs from a nearby neighbour who has a farm, and laughing with her and her husband about something inconsequential and fun. I thought afterwards that there isn’t a car in the world that would fit all the people who I want with me today. Using her delicious eggs for this torte seems highly appropriate…

  • 8 large eggs
  • 450g dark chocolate (I use 70% cocoa), coarsely chopped
  • 250g unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • Double shot of expresso coffee
  • Strawberries, or other fresh berries, to serve

Preheat oven to 220˚C / 425˚F

Line the bottom of a 21cm / 8 inch springform pan with parchment

Lightly spray or grease the inside of the pan

Cover the outside of the pan underneath and along the sides with a double layer of aluminium foil and sit in large roasting pan

Gently melt the chocolate, butter and coffee until smooth ( I use a microwave on medium setting, stirring well every 30 seconds). Leave the chocolate until barely warm

Beat the eggs using an electric whisk at high speed until the volume doubles and soft peaks form when the beater is raised, this should take about 5 minutes

Gently fold half the eggs into the chocolate mixture until almost completely combined

Fold in the remaining eggs until just blended and no streaks remain

Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and smooth the surface with a rubber or wooden spatula

Set the roasting pan on the oven rack and pour hot water to about halfway up the side of the pan

Bake for 15-20 minutes until a thin, glazed, brownie-like crust has formed on the surface (the cake will look very soft, don’t worry!)

Remove the pan from the water bath and set on a wire rack.

Cool to room temperature.

Cover in cling wrap and refrigerate until very firm, this should take about 3 hours.

Serve with fresh strawberries to everyone who fits into your life.

Standard