IMG_0683Are you in need of something ridiculously easy, melt and mix, niftily dairy and gluten free to make as treats for the holiday gifting/ just to help keep your own sanity in keel while you scoff it in the pantry? If so, I think I can help. This luxe rocky road has been helping with lots of things as of late. If you’re in need of the recipe, stat, skip straight to the matching photo at the bottom. If you’re after some chat and endorsements and a little apology for WHERE DID THE LAST THREE MONTHS GO (?), read on.

So, somehow it got to be December. We’re still here, I just haven’t much been here. Life got in the way. (Don’t fret. I don’t mean the creation of life. That factory is shuttered. We are two and done.) I mean more the daily fractious kerfuffle of solo parenting in large quantities, two children with a predilection for croup/asthma/bronchiolitis, an ongoing renovation saga that shall henceforth forever be known as #fencegate, preparing a small person for big school next year and two gritty back injuries that saw me hobbled and prone for extended periods, spending large amounts of money and time with a Thor-like man mountain of a physical therapist and now having to strap my hips for 40 minutes every night before I go to sleep, like some kind of trussed holiday turkey. (It turns out that the party trick I used to have of turning my feet backwards, thanks to some hilariously lax hip ligaments, when combined with two pregnancies, births, the hormone doses of breastfeeding and a new zeal for running are not friends). There will be no more running for a while. 

Hence, I’ve had to be turning to some other mood-stabilising devices. Like this Rocky Road. Let’s not start on the rant of the emotional labour that most often falls to women in this mad month of December. The magic that must be made, the expectations that must be managed, the end of year dance concerts (have you booked tickets?) and graduations (can you make sure he has a plain green tshirt for the performance?), the ‘we must catch up before Christmas!’ (do you have a spare night? Any chance you can find a babysitter?), the presents that must be cataloged for childcare workers and co workers and neighbours and ‘oh, did you remember that there’s a Kris Kringle at this party too?’ And the fact that for many small businesses, freelancers – this just happens to be one of the busiest periods of the year.  It can be a little crazy-making. So… exhale.

Hence, I present to you this Rocky Road. Make three enormous batches of it, slice it and stash it in the freezer. Buy some cellophane bags (or assign that duty to someone else). You can just take a bar out, wrap it and either gift it, or hide in the pantry and eat it yourself with some of the cooking sherry until you feel a spark of joy come back to you.

Meanwhile, here are some Christmas things I’m looking forward to. I’m looking forward to our family tradition of Christmas Eve carbonara (we carve off a little bit of the Christmas ham, serve it with fresh egg tagliatelle, egg yolks and a terrifying amount of parmesan) and a screening of ‘Elf’. I’m looking forward to Christmas morning with two small people who really understand what Santa is about, to spending time with family, to soaking myself in salt water and Campari (perhaps even at the same time). I’m looking forward to us stopping and spending time, before the year starts again with terrifying volition. I’m looking forward to reading, and writing, swimming and singing. 

I’m looking forward to returning to you. Hoping things are glorious where you are.

Nb, here are a few other things that are going on.

Visiting: The kids and I had the most delightful jaunt out to visit some of our oldest friends who have embarked on a tree-change to Orange, in NSW’s central west. It was glorious, particularly the afternoon spent at Philip Shaw winery, sipping pinot noir while the kids rumbled on the grass and we all ate cheese. 

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Also a special call out to Sharon for her unblinking response to her delightful three year old son’s very specific brief for his birthday cake. He wanted a ‘green triangle cake, with a jug, a dragon and a light on it’. Nailed it. (The look of glee on his face when he saw exactly what he’d dreamed of is one of those sights I’ll hold tight for a long time). 

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Reading: I’m in a bit of a female domestic novel glut at the moment. I’ve charged through Liane Moriaty’s ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ (not her best, in my opinion, but then I do think it would be hard to top ‘Big Little Lies’).  Next was Meg Wolitzer’s  ‘The Wife’. I’m hanging out to see the film with Glenn Close in it (I would watch Glenn hang out her washing most days), but this short novella about a woman diverting her dreams and talents to the betterment of her other half is a cracker. “Everyone knows how women soldier on, how women dream up blueprints, recipes, ideas for a better world, and then sometimes lose them on the way to the crib in the middle of the night, on the way to the Stop & Shop, or the bath. They lose them on the way to greasing the path on which their husband and children will ride serenely through life.” Go Meg, go. There’s also a great interview with her on ‘The High Low’ podcast archives following the release of ‘The Female Persuasion’ (also a winning summer read). She mounts a great defense of the domestic novel, about why there is some nominal hierarchy that makes them seem trivial, just because they are concerned with the grist of women. 

Listening: As listed above; ‘The High Low’. An incredibly easy listen podcast from two English journalists about high culture, low culture, the intersection between the two, all done with the most nostalgia inducing, plummy London accents. Also, this fantastic three part series on the changing, never-more-important sands of consent in Radio Lab; ‘In the No’. And, if you have the stomach for it, the Ezra Klein interview with Rebecca Traister on how women’s rage is transforming America is fantastic. And if you’re up for a long drive, then Slate’s ‘Slow Burn’ season two on the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal is sobering listening.

Eating: In Orange after we had ingested our body weight in cheese on the first night, the second I pulled ourselves back from the brink on the second night. This is a version of the ‘steak tagliata with mushrooms and lentils’ which is in the blog archives, but is a great way to make up a family style platter and stretch one piece of meat for a crowd. 

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Sautee 2-3 thinly sliced garlic cloves in some olive oil, add chopped 1-2 courgettes and 1 – 2 chopped double handfuls of Tuscan kale to the pan and sautee until slightly charred and softened. Then tumble in 1-2 tins of rinsed brown lentils. Season well with salt and pepper. In a griddle pan, or on a barbecue cook your steak until medium rare. At the same time (or while your steak is resting) griddle 1-2 bunches of asparagus and one lemon cut in half, face down. Serve the lentils and greens with the charred asparagus, some crumbled ricotta and the caramelised lemon halves. Serve the steak thinly sliced over the top, or on another platter with some baby rocket and shaved parmesan. Too easy. 

Writing: These pieces on asparagus for Harris Farm (including a cracking recipe for shaved asparagus with manchego, lemon and mint that would make a lovely festive side for those in the Southern hemisphere) – see here, as well as these on greens – see here , just in case your holiday season indulgences need a little slaking. 

Drinking: I’m loving this red wine from Mexican Cellars. An online outpost to celebrate Mexican wines, this has been a very happy accompaniment to chorizo quesadillas in this house. (Also bonus, free shipping on any orders over $50). 

On the wish list: I’m itching to get into ‘The Power’ by Naomi Alderman, a piece of speculative fiction on what would happen if women had physical power over men. Me, with some large aperol spritzes and some quiet time in the hammock will report back from the other side. 

Gift inspiration: You’d be hard pressed to find someone who loves food who hasn’t got stuck into Samin Nosrat’s ‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat’, either in book format, or the Netflix series. But if you have, then a copy of the book, plus some quality olive oil, vinegar, Murray River pink sea salt flakes and a Le Creuset spatula would be the kind of Christmas present any food lover would swoon for. Also on my book wish list, Niki Segnit’s ‘Lateral Cooking‘. Her ‘Flavour Thesaurus’ was one of the best food books in the last decade, and this looks like an amazing companion to it.

Also on the to buy list; beautiful keep cups, beeswax food wraps, the ‘full focus planner‘ , Moo Goo sun cream and the ‘Who’s She’ guessing game for kids (get it here). 

Luxe Rocky Road

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Luxe Rocky Road

This is a luxurious twist on rocky road that works well for gifts, or as a sweet treat for friends and family who pop in. You can swap the puffed rice/ rice bubbles for puffed quinoa if you like, but it’s worth putting one sort in, it brings a very fun crackle to the party. One tip is to use kitchen scissors for cutting the Turkish delight and marshmallows – they make prepping the ingredients a cakewalk. This is a good one to get the kids involved in. Just melt, mix and set.

Makes 5 bars, or 25 small pieces. Scales up easily.

Ingredients

400 g dark chocolate (minimum 70 per cent cocoa solids)
190 g packet of rose Turkish delight, snipped into small pieces
200 g packet pink and white marshmallows, snipped into quarters
100 g pistachios
100 g almonds, toasted
20 g puffed rice/ rice bubbles/ puffed quinoa
50 g dried cherries

Here’s how we roll

Grease and line a 23 cm square cake tin with baking paper, leaving an overhang to help you lift the rocky road out of the tin.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Melt the dark chocolate in a microwave safe bowl in short bursts, stirring in between, or in a heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water.

Pour the melted chocolate over the ingredients, stirring to combine. Pour into the prepared cake tin, being sure to pat down firmly into the corners and smooth the top as best you can.

Transfer to the fridge for two hours to set. Remove and use a very sharp knife to slice. Transfer to cellophane bags and tie for gifts.

This will keep in the fridge for a week, or can be frozen for up to a month.