I hate to gamble. I’m not a huge one for picnics. There’s nothing worse than coming to the end of a day and seeing girls with too many glasses of cheap fizz down their gullet, feather head fixings all askew and slingbacks dangling from their fingers.
But there are few things that make my eyes water like beautiful horses surging at full clap. In the lands of fiction, Seabiscuit and Secretariat have both reduced me to a blubbering mess.
This morning it’s all about Black Caviar, the Australian mare We’re off to Ascot. Us and 5000 other antipodeans in London and who have flown to the other side of the world for the pleasure of seeing her win her 22nd straight race.
Those in the Royal Enclosure will have to contend with hats that are 4inches in diameter, 1 inch straps and lads in tails and top hats. For us it’s a good suit, a nice frock, a pair of flats stuffed in the picnic bag and a hat I made myself from black netting and some pins.
These brownies are now my ultimate and are in honour of the horse. They’re as black as pitch and rich as hell. Instead of the light trilling of white sugar, there’s only muscavado, adding a solid caramel note to the proceedings. The chocolate is minimum 70% cocoa solids- then there’s cocoa powder as well for an extra layer of intensity. For a little bit of contrast there are toasted hazlenuts and walnuts bobbing about- and on the top- there’s a little sprinkling of sea salt. Black caviar needs a little bit of salt.
They’re baked for 25-30 minutes, depending on your oven and your dish. Pull them out at 23 minutes and check. You want the skewer to have a bit of goo on it, but not liquid. They will continue to solidify as they cool.
They’re coming to Ascot in our picnic basket, as well as the famed pea, feta and mint picnic dip and a quiche lorraine of outrageous proportions, that nearly broke me yesterday.
There may be tears when she wins . There may be tears when the brownies are gone. And I have a sense that after eating them, I too will be overcome by an overwhelming urge to run.
Black Caviar Brownie Recipe
250 grams of unsalted butter
200 grams of chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
200 grams of muscavado sugar
80 grams of cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
90 grams plain flour
50 grams toasted nuts (mix of hazelnuts and walnuts)
Pinch of seasalt for top (optional)
Here’s how we roll
1) Preheat oven to 170 C/340 F
2) Grease a rectangular baking dish the size of an A4 sheet of paper, then line with parchment paper, making hospital corner style folds in the corners.
3) Place a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water (don’t let the water touch the bowl). Melt the butter and the chocolate in the bowl (alternatively, melt them together in a microwave).
6) Lightly beat the eggs and fold them into the mix. Gently keep stirring until all incorporated. It will look like a terrifying slurry for a moment, but have faith, it will come together.
8 ) Bake for 25-30 minutes. Pull it out at 23 minutes and check with a cake stick. You want there to be a little bit of cling to the stick, but not liquid. If it is liquid, return to the oven for another two- four minutes. Keep checking and returning until you pull it out and there are some light crumbs on it (nb, if you like it to be more like a sludgy fudge, take it out when it’s still a little gooey).
She won. But here’s a little nip of advice for anyone heading to Ascot in years to come. If you plan on catching the train from Waterloo or Clapham Junction out to Ascot, my advice would be to beat the crowds and head out early. Dashing from platform to platform, desperately trying to squeeze onto already rammed trains, hats and picnics in tow is a trying exercise. As is standing, squashed for 55 minutes.
Once you get to Ascot, it’s also a little bit of a walk, depending on where you’re meeting people (we were over in carpark 8). I had a pair of fold up flat shoes in my bag that I became very grateful for. And English weather being what it is, I was also very glad of the pashmina that I threw in as a last addition.