Tag Archives: chocolate

Our Visit to Charlie & the Chocolate Factory… the Musical.

On Tuesday, my daughter and I ventured into Sydney with a group from her dance school to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…the Musical. Being a Roald Dahl tragic and chocolate lover, this musical was a must see.

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My daughter with her dance teacher, Miss Karina Russell, at stage door after the performance.

However this production had an added attraction. Miss Karina Russell, our dance teacher, was playing Veruca Salt. That’s right. She was playing that awful rich brat of rich brats who I remember so clearly demanding: “I want an Oompah Loompah and I want it NOW!!” However, that’s not all. We’d already seen her costume when the cast performed at Carols in the Domain and she’s wearing  what looks like a double-yoker of a tutu, a double-decker tiara, a faux mink jacket and pointe shoes and she actually manages to get some ballet in before she meets her demise. She looks amazing. Indeed, all the costumes were fantastic. However, that’s all I’m going to say about the show other than, you should try and see it.

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Does doing adult dance classes make me the ultimate dance Mum? After years of driving my daughter to classes and concerts, I suddenly wanted to get out of the chair and have a go myself and I loved it. Found them so invigorating and creatively it blew me away.

However, if we go back to the title, you’ll see that this post addresses our visit to the musical, and it is in no way intended to be a review of the show. Rather, this is more of a review of how yours truly can complicate matters and achieve the extraordinary without even leaving her seat. It also looks at my personal connection with Roald Dahl. I know that might sound a bit full of myself and you’re probably wondering what this mad Australian woman has in common with Roald Dahl the literary genius. “Tell ‘er she’s dreaming!” Well, I’ll get to that.

inside the theatre

Inside the theatre.

If you know anything about me at all, you’ll know that when my daughter and I went to see Charlie & the Chocolate Factory- the Musical, that it had to be out of the ordinary. That since we don’t do anything via the road well-travelled, that we’d wind up on our own trajectory.

Firstly, as I explained, OUR dance teacher, Miss Karina Russell, is playing Veruca Salt. Yes, that’s correct. Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. She is OUR dance teacher. I know that probably sounds preposterous… Rowena learning dance when I have a debilitating cocktail of significant disabilities/chronic illnesses (hydrocephalus, dermatomyositis and Institital Lung Disease). However, somehow I found a pathway through and around all of that to take adult dance classes at the same studio as my daughter, Dancin Mates, here on the NSW Central Coast. I did some sessions of lyrical and contemporary dance with Miss Karina a few years ago. Moreover, in addition to the steps, she took us on a journey through how contemporary and lyrical dance rose out of the relative straight-jacket of classical ballet and introduced me to a range of choreographers and their philosophies. Naturally, this was of particular interest to me as a writer, and I’d go home and Google them all. Of course, Miss Karina asked me if I watched them dance. Of course not. I was interested in the words.

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Stage Door

Secondly, while we were sitting in our seats waiting for the curtain to rise, we had a drama of our own.  While it’s our role as audience to sit in our seats while the performance is on stage, yours truly took off her glasses for a group photo, and put them on the floor under her seat. Of course, you know what happens next, don’t you?!! They disappeared. In a truly farcical “only you, Rowena” way, my glasses vanished. So, I start blindly groping under my seat probing through the dark like my fingers have eyes. Yet, on the first couple of sweeps, nothing. My daughter is sitting next to me, she gets recruited and switches on the torch on her phone. Tips out all our merchandise and starts going through our backpack (which was packed with the kitchen sink) searching for them. Nothing. Although I lose my glasses almost every morning under my bed and always find them, I’m now starting to panic. Really panic. Here we are on our musical theatre experience of a lifetime, and I’m not going to see anything at all. CATASTROPHE!! Of course, I didn’t want to alert the rest of our group. I didn’t want to be the problem child, especially when I was one of the parents. However, just as mysteriously as my glasses vanished, they returned. They must’ve gone off in the Tardis and returned.

Anyway, as I said, our experience of Charlie & the Chocolate Factory…the Musical was unique and treading down roads few have trod.

This takes me onto Roald Dahl and my incredibly personal connection to the man. While we know his books, Roald Dahl himself is an enigma of his own making. Indeed, when it comes to getting to know Roald Dahl, he’s quite the slippery fish.

I first started researching Roald Dahl a few years ago, when I included him in my blogging series: Letters to Dead Poets Letter to Roald Dahl. What particularly attracted me to Roald Dahl the man was our shared experience of going through a major neurological event and how that impacts on just about every part of your being.

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Roald Dahl with his plane.

You see, during WWII, Roald Dahl was a pilot in the Air Force and he fractured his skull when his plane crashed and experienced personality changes as a result. Indeed, it was after this accident that Roald Dahl started writing and left behind his job working as an engineer for Shell. His biographer, Donald Sturrock, wrote:

“A monumental bash on the head” was how Dahl once described this accident in the Western Desert, claiming that it directly led to his becoming a writer. This was not just because his first published piece of writing was a semi-fictionalised account of the crash, but also because he suspected that the brain injuries which he received there had materially altered his personality and inclined him to creative writing.”

His daughter Ophelia recalled her father’s fascination with tales of people who had experienced dramatic psychological and physiological changes – such as losing or recovering sight – after suffering a blow to the head. He also told her that he was convinced something of this sort had happened to him, as it explained why a budding corporate businessman working for Shell, without any particular artistic ambition, was transformed into someone with a burning need to write and tell stories. This hypothesis was doubtless attractive, too, because it pushed potentially more complex psychological issues about the sources of his desire to write into the background.

Nowadays doctors might well have diagnosed Dahl as suffering from what is called post-concussive syndrome. The initial symptoms of this condition are normally forgetfulness, irritability, an inability to concentrate and severe headaches. Dahl suffered from all of these. In some patients the symptoms disappear, but leave behind longer-lasting behavioural changes, which are usually associated with mood swings and an increased lack of inhibition. In some cases, too, it can also result in a fundamental alteration of the perception of the self.1.”

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Roald Dahl with wife actress Patricia Neal

However, that was not the end of Roald Dahl’s involvement with the neuro ward. 5th December, 1960 Roald Dahl’s son Theo was out walking with his nanny when a taxi veered into his pram and he was thrown into the air and landed head first onto the pavement fracturing his skull. Moreover, Theo also developed hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain and was given emergency brain surgery where they inserted a shunt. However, shunts were particularly unreliable back then and were notorious for getting blocked. This required a surgical fix, and there were serious concerns about how these surguries would affect Theo’s cognitive development. I remember how my Dad rallied when my shunt blocked, and how Dads can be a mighty force fighting to save their child no matter how old they are. So, I wasn’t surprised that Roald Dahl decided to take matters into his own hands. Dahl recruited the guy who made the hydraulic petrol pumps for his model planes and Theo’s paediatirican and togehter they developed a new shunt which saved thousands of lives, before it was superceded.

Then, as if the Dahl family hadn’t already seen enough of the neurology ward, in February 1965 his wife Patricia Neal suffered a severe stroke after an aneurism burst while she was pregnant with their fourth child, Sophie. She spent three weeks in a coma and then Roald Dahl devised a grueling rehabilitation program, which saw her return to the screen.  However, that is a story in itself.

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Who would’ve thought that a secret harbour was inside my head?(Hydrocephalus)

As you may be aware, I was born with hydrocephalus after Mum had a very difficult birth (not unsurprisingly I was facing the wrong way something which hasn’t changed unfortunately). However, for some reason it lay dormant like a volcano until my mid-twenties, when for some strange reason whatever had been compensating for the presence of this harbour in my head stopped and within about a six to twelve month period it blew its stack. Indeed, just about the only symptoms I had growing up was being a bit clumsy, rather extroverted and impulsive and having difficulty finding a hat which fit. It was only when I was 26 and a sense of vertigo I’d had after a bad flu didn’t clear up that I went back to the family GP who’d been treating me since I was 12, and the long and short of that, was that I was diagnosed with Dandy Walker Syndrome, a variation of hydrocephalus. After a grueling six months where I rapidly went down hill, I had brain surgery in July 1997, where they inserted a shunt. I was off to rehab for 6 months as an outpatient and left wondering if I would ever reclaim my life. The impact of all of this was like being struck by a bomb only I could never see or confront my enemy and it took a few years to feel vaguely myself again.

So, rewinding back to 1997 in Perth’s Mount Hospital, you have a young Australian woman who experienced a reversal of Roald Dahl’s big bang. Instead of having all my neurons suddenly switched up at once, mine were all switched down just as suddenly, when the shunt was put in. I very distinctly remember waking up from surgery and feeling like someone had turned down the lights. Not in terms of what I could see or hear, but I guess something along the lines of how I processed everything. I felt very, very quiet. This wasn’t, I believe, something which was apparent to those around me and I am still to this day, an extrovert and I’m sure countless people are still trying to tone me down. This was all about how I felt inside myself. Naturally, when I read about Roald Dahl’s experience, I understood what he went through immediately. Wished I could talk with him about it.

There is so much more which could be said about how personal tragedy shaped Roald Dahl’s writing. However, that will be another post. However, I hope this might encourage people who have experienced an adverse neurological event, that there is hope. That the light can switch back on. Never give up. You might even become a best-selling author, especially if you actually get your book finished!

Best wishes,

Rowena

Here’s a link to my Letter to Roald Dahl from my Letters to Dead Poets series: Roald Dahl: Letters to Dead Poets

And Roald Dahl’s Fictional Reply

Sources

Roald Dahl: The Plane Crash Which Gave Birth to A Writer

Donald Sturrock, Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl.

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Heading Home. This is outside Sydney’s historic Central Railway.

Weekend Coffee Share- 5th August, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share! Why don’t you pull up a chair and I’ll get you your choice of tea, coffee or water for the more adventurous.

How has your week been? I hope it’s gone well. If not, my thoughts are with you. Life seems to be more about ups and downs, than smooth sailing.

As you might recall, it was my birthday last Sunday and the family went out with my parents for dinner at the Central Coast Restaurant & Bar. Unfortunately, thanks to the big cough, I haven’t been able to do much since. I consider these celebrations “postponed”. They will happen.

chocolate eclairs

However, a friend and her daughters put on a tea party for me. Her 10 year old daughter made chocolate eclairs from scratch and arranged them on the plate in the shape of a butterfly and dragonfly. Not only was I very impressed, it also touched my heart. It was so unexpected. A real touch of human kindness, and I feel such gratitude.Rowena & Amelia

 

This week, it was Education Week in our schools and both the kids’ schools held an Open Day, where parents could visit. Due to my flu, Geoff stayed home and drove me up to our daughter’s school which is an hour’s drive away. Her school put on an Art Show as well as a musical concert. My daughter sang in the choir, but there were also performances by the Indigenous choir and didgeridoo group. We never had any Indigenous culture in the schools I went to growing up, and it’s so important.

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Visiting my daughter’s classroom these days, is very different to when she was at our local school and I was in and out of her classroom almost every afternoon. I did the publicity for the Parents & Citizens Association (P & C), helped with the class reading and knew many of the parents and most of the kids personally. Our daughter changed schools after being accepted into an Opportunity Class for gifted students. This was a blank slate. You’d expect that with changing schools. However, usually you live in the area and there are those interactions or ties to the local community. We’ve had none of that, and didn’t realize how important all of that was to me, until we’d left. You’d think as the parent, that it’s not my concern. That it’s my daughter who is at the school, not me. However, there have been those family emergencies. Not knowing anyone who could pick my daughter up if required. There wasn’t that network we fall back on as parents. Thankfully, we managed to connect to some extent through kids’ birthday parties and my daughter also catches the train to school with a few local kids and we’ve got to know their families in the same way we would at the local school.

So, I was really looking forward to Open day and having the chance to meet up with my daughter’s teacher, meet other parents and see my daughter’s work. I love seeing all the kid’s work on the wall and intrigued by some of their learning techniques. Being a class for gifted children, their teacher has some great ideas which get me thinking for my own writing and organization. I have also found that the school also knows how to communicate things with kids, and I’ve picked up a few good ideas on these open days before. So, it’s not just a day for me to meet, greet and have lunch with our daughter, it’s also a learning experience.

Wednesday night, we had Open Night at my son’s high school. This was quite understandibly quite different as the students don’t have a set classroom and move around the school. I did get to speak to some of my son’s teachers in a casual setting, which was great. I think it’s important that the school knows you’re an invested parent. That you care about your kid. This is harder to relay in high school when your physical presence is most definitely NOT REQUIRED by your teen. That reminds me, I’ve been meaning to get involved with the P & C since he started last year. I’m getting there…

Having the flu and a very nasty cough, I haven’t been out and about this week.

 

That hasn’t stopped me from travelling online. Indeed, I’ve spent the last few days in London. While I was sorting through some books at home, I dug up a book about London from the 1950s and there was a three page letter with a recommended itinerary in the front. I thought I’d get onto Google maps and try to retrace the writer’s footsteps. I believe the author was a male writing to a woman and that the letter may date back to the 1950s. I spent a week in London myself back in 1992. So, I’m also trying to retrace my own footsteps and feel am having better luck with the stranger. I don’t remember terribly much. Not because I was under the weather in any shade or form. It’s just that 25 years and alot of flotsam, jetsam and dead cows have passed under the bridge since then. So, stay tuned.

This had been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share.

xx Rowena

Masterchef 2017 Finale…Three Minutes To Go.

Tonight, I wanted to share the magic, pressure and suspense of the Masterchef 2017 Grand Finale with you from the comfort of my loungeroom, which may not be so cosy with all of us in it.

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Fake Bilbo watching Masterchef with the family.

As much as I love Masterchef, it does terrible things to your nerves and loyalties. I had no idea who was going to win this year and the producers were very sneaky. They built up all these other characters and we pinned our dreams onto them, only to watch them fall like dominoes as their hope and dreams were dashed, along with our own.

There’s been much discussion, at least in our house, about who was going to take out this year’s title. It wasn’t who we thought. Indeed, you could say this year’s winner fell under the radar, but in aiming for the thrilling twist at the end, I presume the producers kept her fairly low key throughout. Yet, she was incredibly consistent, had the inner stillness  you need to overcome all these uber-stressful challenges, and she plated up with such flair. Of course, I obviously can’t comment on the taste. Indeed,  watching Masterchef makes the perfect case for taste-TV.

Obviously, in the time it’s taken me to write this post, my three minutes has well and truly expired. The show is over and tonight is almost gone as well.

I know who won.

However, we’re just going to reverse back a bit and go back to the start of tonight’s show. Back to where I was poised in front of the TV set with only three minutes to go.

….

Tonight, we’re parked in front of the TV watching the finale of Masterchef Australia 2017, where Diana Chang and Ben Ungermann are fighting it out. We have watched every single episode at least once. Well, at least I have. I’m hooked.

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It seems it takes more than divine intervention to win Masterchef. It really looks like I caught Ben in prayer in this snapshot.

While they had to get through three challenges tonight, the first two are a prelude to the dessert challenge. I swear the judges must travel the globe to find the trickiest, bastard of a dessert on earth. I’m not even sure that a word exists to describe their dessert challenge which was terror stacked on terror.

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Trust me. This is the dessert they had to recreate and not real fruit.

Tonight this involved tackling a dessert by “Queen of Chocolate”  Kirsten Tibballs  When they lifted the cloche to reveal their challenge, there was platter of fruit sitting there and I was thinking…where is it? Where’s the dessert? Well, those fruits were the desserts. If you think recreating the outside is tricky, the interior was worse. As beautiful as it looked and surely tasted, it was pure hell in terms of complexity and technique, with layer upon layer of scrumptiousness. Well, it would’ve been if I’d been there to actually taste this thing, instead of watching the whole thing from my lounge chair at home, feeling like I was on the set of Gogglebox

 

 

Just to share a bit of the action. I took some screen shots with my camera (definitely NOT my phone. Get real!!) and you can see rows of my prized tea cup collection on the shelf above the TV. So, you can feel right at home, even though there are no photos of me. My SLR doesn’t do selfies. That’s justification enough for me!!

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You can get some “interesting” effects photographing things on TV.

So, as it turned out, Diana won Masterchef 2017. Congratulations! Well done and well deserved.

However, I couldn’t help feel sorry for Ben who came in at number 2 and Karlie at number 3. So close and yet, too far.

Of course, this leaves me with the terrible realization that everybody on Masterchef 2017 has gone home, including the judges, and there will be a huge void in my TV wtahcing. Well, at least until The Batchelor starts on Wednesday night. This year’s Batchelor is Matty J, who was the runner up in the Bachelorette last year, so we’re old mates. Not that I watch a lot of TV. However, I do find these TV competititons the ultimate in people watching. They fascinate me. Well, the ones where the contestants are nice to each other do. I switch the rest off. There’s enough bitchiness and hate in this world without adding to it or becoming part of the audience.

Indeed, I’d much rather watch Friends. That’s what the Masterchef contestants were for 2017, and I think for every other year too. Despite the huge stakes, there’s such a supportive and enouraging vibe and I truly love it. So much  so, that I’ll be playing it again Sam. Watching re-runs on catch up TV without shame.

Who knows, one day I might even throw my hat into the ring with Rowena’s Vegemite Toast. 

Something tells me, I might need to reinvent that dish just a little…

Have you ever watched Masterchef and what sort of cook are you? Do you have a speciality dish? Mine would be pavlova.

xx Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share 16th July, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

There’s a chocolate cake in the oven at the moment, so if you’re patient you’ll be able to have a slice of luscious chocolate cake with your choice of coffee, tea or Bonox. Quite frankly, I don’t recommend the Bonox and to be honest, I don’t think we have any. It’s just an expression my mother’s always used. Have you heard it before?

What have you been up to?

The kids have been on school holidays for the last two weeks and go back on Tuesday. I’ve been running around like a maniac trying to get the house and the kids ready. So, making the chocolate cake wasn’t such a good idea. Cocoa spread all over the kitchen and is a beast to clean up and while the icing was scrumptious, the cake itself was very dry and has been deemed a fail. The fan isn’t working in the oven and it’s clearly time to wave the white flag and put baking on hold until it’s fixed.

The school holidays have flown past. Our daughter’s been doing dance workshops and preparing for her upcoming Grade IV RAD ballet exam. Meanwhile, our son spent the first week at my parents’ place and the second week he was rehearsing for Gang Show, an annual variety show put on by Guides and Scouts. We attended their performance last night and loved it and were so proud of him. He smiled throughout the entire performance and really must’ve been enjoying himself. If you have an opportunity to attend a Gang Show near you, I strongly encourage it. Society is so quick to judge our young people when they do something wrong, but they also need our support when they’re doing something right. You will probably see more polished performances elsewhere, and you might find some of it slow or geared towards another age group, but there’s also a magic in a good, inclusive amateur performance. Something which leaves you warm inside, simply because.

By the way,  I should mention that the theme for this year’s show was holidays and included classics like Surfing USA by the Beach Boys, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from Mary Poppins. Hearing those classics again, is always good.

Alongside these activities, we have still been grieving the loss of our precious Border Collie, Bilbo three weeks ago. The grief is starting to lift now, and writing about him has helped. I’ve also been writing about our first tentative steps without him. This has included being sorely tempted to adopt Stella, a four year old Maltese x Tibetan Spaniel which a friend had in rescue. However, we have decided to wait awhile and get a Border Collie pup in the New Year. In the meantime, I spotted a pseudo Border Collie and brought him home. He’s been christened “FB”, or Fake Bilbo. Having him around, has been unexpectedly good. Perhaps, we could also call him “Clayton”…the dog you have when you don’t have a dog, although Lady just growled at me and reminded me that we still have a real dog.She was most upset.

As it turns out, I’ve been driving the kids around a fair bit over the last two weeks. For me this is a bit on a mixed bag. On the one hand, being in the car is ideal for catching up with them and I love driving them around with their friends in the car. I learn so much and feel part of their lives. On the other hand, it can be stressful driving to unfamiliar places, especially when they’re late. It can feel like you’re putting too much of yourself out there, and it can be quite draining.

It’s just not the driving, but lately I’ve been feeling quite lost. Like I’ve pouring myself out all the time and there isn’t much left. That I’m running close to empty and aside from having a nap, I’m not sure how to recharge myself. The usual sparks like trying to write my book or going out for coffee with friends, aren’t lighting the fire. I had thought of going away for a few days in the holidays by myself, but after losing Bilbo I didn’t want to leave Lady at home by herself. I know these thoughts are leading me in a new direction and I’m currently at that point where you can’t see the dots joining up and the overall picture is still obscured. That it will come. My daughter starts high school next year and won’t need so much taxiing which will be good. Yes, I can see myself finding my feet again in the new year, although there always seems to be something going on  and it’s my job to be the wind beneath their wings. Yet, I also need to fly and it’s a struggle to find that balance. Indeed, sometimes this song comes to mind:

“What about me? It isn’t fair
I’ve had enough, now I want my share
Can’t you see, I want to live
But you just take more than you give”

I have no doubt that kids forget their parents also need to be nurtured, recharged and get that all-important pat on the back. No one can keep giving and giving and keep living. If you’ve ever read Shel Silverstein’s: The Giving Tree, I find that illustrates this well.

Have you ever felt like this as a parent?

On the other hand, these trips often take me to places I wouldn’t go and while I’m waiting, I can go exploring.

Last week, I ended up in Gosford for a few hours while my daughter was at a birthday party. I ended up talking to a bloke I met in the lift for an hour. He turned out to be a musician and a writer, but then started to talk to me about aliens living amonst us and conspiracy theories and I decided to go for a walk.

Gosford is a funny place. It terms of location, it has so much going for it. It’s on the waterfront and has a train station and is 30 mins to Sydney and just over an hour to the heart of Sydney. Yet, it somehow became the old part of town and many parts of it are tired if not derelict. It’s clearly a place which could use and well deserves a good facelift, and this is slowly coming along.

So, after walking to check out some Autumn trees, I came across the skating rink, which had been set up for the holidays. My daughter had been keen to go, but has been too busy. That’s a bit of a shame, because skating outdoors like this isn’t something we’re used to in Australia and it’s rather special. So, it would be good to experience and support it. I want them to keep it up.

To fill you in on recent posts, there have been a few about dogs:

Resisting Temptation.

Our Surrogate Dog

There’s also been my usual contribution for Friday Fictioneers: A Shimmer of Moonlight and an account of my first go at cooking with fennel, which is quite an odd looking thing to me: Cooking An Alien Being

So how has your week been?

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Part-Time Monster Blog.

xx Rowena

 

 

 

Yummy Marshmallow Mud Toastie.

Easter is the perfect time for experimenting with marshmallows and chocolate. The oozier the better.

While I’m not sure whether Isaac Newton would agree, that placing marshmallows and chocolate in between two slices of brioche and applying heat and pressure constitutes a scientific experiment.

However, although he’s obviously not around to ask, I’m sure he’d be licking his fingers and declaring the results: “scrumidillyumptious”!

As for myself, I concluded that further experimentation is required.

marshmallow mud toastie

Ingredients

2 slices of brioche loaf (I get mine from Aldi)

Chocolate (I chose Cadbury Dairy Milk)

Marshmallows (I chose pink).

Here are the Basic Directions:

Place a single slice of brioche in the sandwich press for each person.

Arrange pink marshmallows and your choice of chocolate as desired on top of the brioche. You will observe in the photo below that I prefer a rather oozy, messy outcome. On the other hand, our daughter wanted to minimise the ooze and even placed hers in the fridge for a bit to firm it up a bit.

Cover with a second slice of Brioche (the lid) and close the sandwich press.

Remove toastie using lifter when golden brown and contents have melted. Watch out for hot melted contents  and the risk of burns.

I started out by simply melting Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate in between two slices of brioche.

That was just begging for a few marshmallows.

Finding that combination rather sweet, I added a few blueberries for a bit of tang.

I’m now planning to try a rocky road version with nuts and glace cherries to balance out the very sweet chocolate and marshmallows.

Personally, I can see the Marshmallow Mud Toastie satisfying those late night chocolate cravings without creating a huge mess.

Well, let’s just say the mess is contained to your face and fingers.

Of course, I understand that these innocent  Marshmallow Mud Toasties will have their critics. That puritanical do-gooder wowsers, will shoot them down. Slam their insane sugar and calorie content and the evils of “food therapy”.

However, personally I believe scoffing one of these oozy treats, is a hell of a lot better for you than some other cures for depression or a rough trot.

Therefore, I don’t believe I’m stretching the truth too far, to say these scrummy treats are actually “healthy”.

What do you think?

xx Rowena

 

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“Healthy” is all a matter of perspective and while they have their critics, retail and food therapy can be a lot better for you than some of the alternatives.

Oops! Tasting More Than A Little Chocolate.

While I was madly collecting brochures on board the Spirit of Tasmania, one really stood out and captured my attention. It was (drum roll)… The House of Anvers. Serendipitouslythis was only 5 minutes drive from the ferry terminal and also very close to where we were staying!!

Well, you might ask who Anvers was, and what was so good about this house. What was the big attraction?

Two words sold me on this place: “chocolate factory”.

It turns out that Anvers is another name for the Belgium city of Antwerp. Proprietor, Igor Van Gerwen,  studied at the Institute of Foodstuffs in Antwerp and was trained by Roger Geerts, the world renowned confectioner and author of “Belgian Pralines”. So, that’s the connection.

Ever since I first saw Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, let’s just say I’ve had my dreams, fantasies and most of them can’t be mentioned here. Just like cheese, chocolate can make you do all sort of things, which are completely out of character. Indeed, they can take you from being a law abiding citizen and throw you straight into the “criminal class” with no returns.

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Another place I’d like to call home. Does anyone have any shrinking solution?

Like Ashgrove Cheese, the House of Anvers has free tastings, although it’s much more limited. We were able to sample both dark and milk chocolate buttons and three types of fudge. The one which captured our attention in a rather ravenous wolf kind of way, was Fudge D’Anvers Butterscotch. Yummy!

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Our son swore blind this was one piece of Butterscotch Fudge.

Indeed, this Butterscotch heaven again stretched all my restraint beyond breaking point. Having already gone across to the dark side, this time I didn’t care if I got caught. I couldn’t stop eating that fudge.This time, however, I did notice a sign and I wish I’d photographed it. It clearly stated something about leaving some for someone else.

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Perhaps, I’ll need to put him in here when we open up our last packet of Butterscotch Fudge.

Absolutely smitten, we bought two boxes of it to take home. One’s already been eaten…a sad casualty of it’s own beauty. It didn’t even get the chance to leave Tasmania, before it was gobbled up by this gang of desperadoes.

We also bought a curious looking chocolate, which we still haven’t tried as yet. This is called Fortunato No 4 Peru. It’s a  68% Organic Pure Nacional and is genetically certified to be “Original Cacao”.  The pure Nacional Cacao was thought to be extinct in 1916.  Later on Criollo and Foresterra varieties were and are being sold as Nacional; they are not!!!  The Cacao beans were discovered 10 years ago by Brian Horsley and Dan Pearson in the Maranon Valley in Peru.  They have been genetically certified as the original cacao by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The beans are grown at 3250ft and produce purple and, unique to this variety, white beans.

Brian Horsley has set up farm and still works with the farmers to produce these exquisite unique cacao beans. The beans are shipped off to Switzerland and made into couverture chocolate using traditional roller conching methods. Anvers Confectionery has the exclusive rights to be able to introduce this chocolate into the Australian market.

“In my 30 years as a Chocolatier I have never experienced a more rewarding chocolate than the Fortunato No. 4 Peruvian Nacional. The complexity and balance of the flavour profiles satisfy my tastebuds. The social responsibilities and sustainable farm practices engaged in the making of this chocolate, satisfy my conscious.”

— Igor Van Gerwen

However, the House of Anvers also has a fascinating chocolate museum. They have an informative, beautifully displayed range of antique chocolate moulds, chocolate tins and advertisements from around the world and I think this was the first time I’d ever seen a cacao bean. They also tell the story of the discovery and development of modern chocolate, taking you on a journey from the Aztec Indians, to when chocolate was only consumed as a liquid in the 1700’s, on to Henry Nestle who mixed the chocolate with milk (in 1875), onto modern chocolate.

While touring the museum, I found out one of the distinctions between good and fine chocolate.

By the way, I stumbled across this comment on their website:

“Igor (Van Gerwen) has found the Tasmanian cream and butter to be the richest in flavour of any in the world, ideally suited for truffles and fudge. He believe the reason for this is that the pastures in Tasmania’s pure environment stay green almost all year round, eliminating the need to feed the dairy cows on grains.

I found that quite interesting because I have found Ashgrove Cheese particularly creamy and obviously their milk has these special qualities.

Being known for my weird sense of logic, I can somehow justify consuming vast amounts of chocolate and Butterscotch Fudge in the interests of gaining an education.

Besides, like the Ashgrove Cheese, this chocolate is so good, I’ll indulge now and repent at home. I think I’ll be sentenced to a diet of lettuce leaves by then.

Sweet Dreams!

xx Rowena

Even the garden is magic!

Nigella’s Nutella Cake with Rowena’s Raspberry Cream

After a very extensive preamble, here is my revised version of Nigella’s Nutella Cake. The ingredients are the same but I’ve added more detail to the directions after I encountered difficulties.

If you check out Nigella’s recipe online, she writes: “Not only is this one of the easiest cakes to make, it happens – joyously – to be one of the most delicious. My household is totally addicted!”

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Yum! Just check out all that Nutella and melted chocolate.

To be perfectly honest with you, this cake is NOT easy to make. You have to separate eggs and whisking the egg whites by hand, is open to disaster and exhaustion and after two attempts, we’re still fine tuning the cooking time. It also generates a lot of washing up.

However, there’s something about this cake that encourages me to persevere. It definitely improves after a night to set in the fridge and I love it served with fresh raspberries and cream and I needed a good coverage of roasted hazelnuts on top to break up the richness of the cake. They also provided that much sought after “crunch”.

So, I would consider this a special occasion cake for adults.While my kids do have a very sensitive palate and don’t like dark chocolate, they found the cake “too bitter” and really didn’t like it.

As I found Nigella’s icing too runny after two attempts, I have included an alternative recipe for dark chocolate ganache, which has worked for me in the past.

Nutella Cake

Ingredients

For the Cake

6 large eggs (separated)

1 pinch of salt

125 grams soft unsalted butter

400 grams nutella (1 large jar..NOT the jumbo size)

1 tablespoon frangelico (or rum or water)

100 grams ground hazelnuts

100 grams dark chocolate (melted)

Dark Chocolate Ganache

  • 250g dark cooking chocolate, chopped
  • 1/3 cup double cream

100 grams hazelnuts (peeled weight)

Raspberry Cream

Double Cream

1 punnet fresh raspberries

Sifted icing sugar to taste.

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark 4/350ºF.
  2. Melt chocolate in the microwave, following packet instructions. Put aside to cool slightly.
  3. In a large bowl 1: whisk the egg whites and salt by hand until stiff but not dry. This means soft peaks but not until the foam starts to ball up. Put aside but you need to move quickly or the foam will liquefy.
  4. In Mix Master bowl 2: Beat the butter and Nutella together, and then add the Frangelico (or whatever you’re using), egg yolks and ground hazelnuts.
  5. Into Bowl 2: Fold in cooled, melted chocolate, then lighten the mixture with a large dollop of egg white, which you can beat in as roughly as you want.
  6. Bowl 2: Fold in remaining egg white a third at a time.
  7. Pour into a 23cm/9 inch round greased and lined springform tin and cook for 40 minutes or until the cake’s beginning to come away at the sides, then let cool on a rack. The cake will still be moist and wet inside, so do not overcook.
  8. Hazlenuts: Toast the hazelnuts either in a moderate oven or in a dry frying pan until the aroma wafts upwards and the nuts are golden-brown in parts: keep shaking the pan so that they don’t burn on one side and stay too pallid on others. Transfer to a plate and let cool. It’s imperative that they’re cold they go on the ganache while If your hazelnuts have skins on then after toasting in the frying pan transfer them to a slightly dampened tea towel and rub them while they are still warm to remove the skins.

To Make The Icing

  1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the cream, liqueur or water and chopped chocolate, and heat gently. Once the chocolate’s melted, take the pan off the heat and whisk until it reaches the right consistency to ice the top of the cake

Assembling The Cake

Unmould the cooled cake carefully, leaving it on the base as it will be too difficult to get such a damp cake off in one piece.

Ice the top of the cake with ganache, and cover with whole, toasted hazelnuts.

Slice cake into small portions, as it is quite rich and plate up with a generous scoop of raspberry cream.

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….

Enjoy and if you do make the cake, please let me know how it goes. I’m rather curious.