First lovingly assemble your ingredients on a wooden board
I’ve had the weekend to myself, as Tim has been away in the South Island touring with his choir. I haven’t taken advantage of this absense to cook anything particularly idiosyncratic for myself (ie, mushroom-heavy). It’s all too easy these days to be tempted by grabbing cheap take-out from the squillion eateries dotting the landscape and twinkling in my peripheral vision. I tell myself it’s all in the name of keeping the economy alive. For lunch on Saturday I simmered some elderly tofu in half a jar of spaghetti sauce that had also seen better days as some way of counteracting the excessive time spent not in the kitchen.
Yesterday morning I bussed out to Brooklyn, one of the ‘burbs that huddle round the central city of Wellington, to see Every Little Step at the Penthouse Cinema. Every Little Step weaves two stories together – the inception of ground-breaking musical A Chorus Line in 1974, and the audition process for the revival of the same musical in 2006. A documentary about people auditioning for a musical about people auditioning for a musical. It was fascinating to see some more established Broadway names (oh hi, Amy Spanger, Yuka Takara, Charlotte D’Amboise, etc) learning choreography, waiting for phone calls, pacing back and forward, being told to repeat songs…The dancing was eye-popping and I was actually tearful in one audition scene where this beautiful young guy just nailed a ‘difficult’ monologue to the wall with his intensity. If you get a chance to see this, please do – I don’t think you need to be versed in musical theatre or dance to get a (ha!) kick out of it.
Seeing it really, really made me want to dance again. As I mentioned on Twitter, I was once told by some grand dame in a pashmina at a ballet workshop, that all passion and no talent can only get you so far – and all talent and no passion will get you even less. Unfortch I always erred on the side of “all passion”. That said, after ballet productions and recitals I would often get told by complete strangers that they loved watching me dance, perhaps because I looked so utterly happy to be twirling round on stage or something. It’s unlikely that there is an audience out there for an enthusiastic, past-a-prime-she-never-really-had dancer but I’ll keep my ear to the ground (which I can do surprisingly deftly, having maintained my dancer’s flexibility if nothing else).
With Tim’s impending return and the cake tin empty I thought a lazy Sunday afternoon would be as good a time as any to do some baking. Not that I’m some kind of 1950s housewifely type. No ma’am. To pluck an example from the air, I still can’t work a washing machine (just this evening my red sheets dyed yet another white tshirt pink) and Tim does 99% of the cleaning and dishes. But I’ll be damned if he ever has to cook himself a meal in his life. I guess it kind of balances out into something healthy-ish.
Speaking of healthy-ish, what I ended up making was a recipe that caught my eye from this Australian Women’s Weekly chocolate cookbook that I’ve had for a year or two now. I’ve been pretty good lately at not eating half the cake mix as I go but for this I really couldn’t stop myself. Cast your eyes over the ingredient list and nod in agreement with me. It’s marvelous stuff. It’s full of oats which I’m not even going to try and brightly joke makes it good for you, but it certainly can’t hurt. And chocolate is healthy in that spiritual way, so.
Chocolate Oat Slice
Adapted from Sweet and Simple: Chocolate, an Australian Women’s Weekly book.
2 tablespoons golden syrup or condensed milk
100g milk chocolate
2 tablespoons good cocoa
2 cups rolled oats, lightly toasted
1/2 cup pistachios, toasted and chopped (I used walnuts)
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
Resist where I couldn’t, my children!
In a good sized, heavy based pan, melt together the butter, chocolate and golden syrup/condensed milk. Resist the urge to grab a spatula and chaperone it directly into your mouth. Stir in the cocoa, oats, nuts and coconut. Spread this mixture into a lined 20cm springform tin and refrigerate. It should set fairly quickly, and once it has, ice with chocolate buttercream if you want (and I did, as the song goes) and slice into triangles or whatever takes your fancy.
Might sound a bit strange, all those uncooked rolled oats just sitting there. But the oats soften up with all that butter and chocolate, and provide a fantastic chewy bite that makes it difficult to stop at one ‘test’ piece. The oats also soften up the sweetness somewhat. It’s not overwhelming, but this slice would be really good with a cup of thick black tea or strong black coffee to temper all the sugar. The Australian Women’s Weekly is renowned for triple-testing all their recipes, I can only imagine the sublime happiness emanating from the test kitchen during the writing of this particular book.
Did you know I’ve been asked three times in the last week if I’m still in high school? For fear of making myself sound even younger I’ll try not to rant about it too much, but really. I’m 23. I have a degree. I have a job where I make important decisions for the greater good of the nation. I’ve traveled. I’m legitimately grown-up. (Except I can’t drive or operate a washing machine.) Yes, I am generally more ‘clunky pun-dropper’ than ‘intimidating sophisticate’ but the idea that I carry myself like a high school student, that I don’t exude worldly-traveledy-employedyness…is not so fun. But enough personality dialysis! Let us focus on the positive: living in New Zealand under a gaping ozone hole has not left me a withered crone older than my years. Also, in a few years I’ll no doubt look back on myself with and dismissively think “Oh, 23 year olds. So annoying,” as I overheard someone on the bus once saying. I thought 23 was a pretty decent age to achieve, but the lesson is there’s always someone older than you who will greet your every action with disdain. Unless you’re 90, in which case you can drink whisky and eat cake and talk disdainfully about anyone you like.
On Shuffle whilst I type: (the other day, Tim said “I’m sure you just put whatever song you feel like talking about on here, not actually what’s on Shuffle. To which I sigh and say, “Oh 23 year olds. So annoying.”)
You Got The Love by Chaka Khan and Rufus, from Rags To Rufus. Chaka Khan. It’s always the right time.
Connection by Elastica from their eponymous album. This song is…very cool.
Something 4 the Weekend by Super Furry Animals from their album Fuzzy Logic. It’s a great song, I like that they’re connected to the Welsh language so strongly and their name always makes me think of bunnies and kittens and such. What a package.
Title brought to you by: I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You from Evita, by the exquisite Patti LuPone. If you’ve got the time, you must check out this promotional TV ad for Evita. The voiceover! The fervour! The sass! Patti’s eyes at the end!
Next time: Signs of Spring are popping up everywhere but I’m still yet to see asparagus at a satisfactory price. When I do you can be sure this blog will be overflowing with the stuff.