5:30am. The street disappears into clouds of mist. We are marooned in our house and I am reluctant to venture into the grey, but Molly is eager, wound up, and so we set forth. The morning passed in the company of friends. We trade remarks about the cracked earth, and the clouds that have fringed and scuttled across the sky for the past week. We walk along a concrete path that still radiates Sunday heat. The day had begun.
11:00am. The heat advanced as the mist evaporated and as I set out to run I felt sticky, swimming through the molasses-thick air, my limbs heavy and tired. I conquered a distance less than I had hoped, but rivers of sweat let me know I had worked my heart enough. The pressure of the day is building. I feel something in the air: the intrinsic knowledge of a child of the subtropics where the weather can change on a mere puff of breeze and the colour of the sky can conjure the twins of dread and excitement.
2:00pm. The sky is darkening as I sit and devour a plate of sunshine-tasting salad. The bite of lemon brightens the dull afternoon as I contemplate a manuscript in need of my attention for a university assignment. My window provides glimpses of a sky that is colouring like a bruise in reverse: yellow, green, blue, black…
3:00pm. The wind has started to threaten danger. The first crack of lightening. A startled yip, a wooden crash, a canine whine: a mass of Malamute fur huddled against me seeking comfort and reassurance that we are safe in these four walls.
3:15pm. Thunder rolls its drums and leaves begin to gather the first drops of rain. The moisture lands heavily on the roof. Ears prick up, trained by a lifetime of summers to discern the different footsteps of rain and hail. Bare feet scratch and crush against the bitumen – move the car! Arms reach up into the sky and hair is torn by the wind – take in the washing!
3:40pm. A small sigh, a scent of freesia from tabletop vase, hands warmed around a mug of green tea, birds are calling out as the winter droughts are truly broken. Spring storms are here. The earth is ready to drink it in. I am ready for spring.
I must take pause, and thank everyone who has left comments on my last few posts both here and through other channels. I am a truly fortunate woman to have family and friends who helped me through that difficult time in my life. To write about it here feels like a different weight is being lifted from my shoulders: the weight of painful memories. I will return to the final few posts in the next few days, but first I had to share this recipe as a thank you for your kindness. I wish I could send you all some muffins, and a big hug.
Sunrise this morning, trooping through the grass with Molly, thunderstorm-scent lending a salty tang to the air: I sensed potential. The energy built up behind the bulkheads in the sky and unleashed this afternoon. Safely tucked away in the house Molly rested and I danced in the kitchen filling the air with musky roasted hazelnuts and spicy batter. A beautiful way to spend a rainy afternoon.
Some of my pleasantest hours were during the long rain-storms in the spring or fall, which confined me to the house for the afternoon as well as the forenoon, soothed by their ceaseless roar and pelting; when an early twilight ushered in a long evening in which many thoughts had time to take root and unfold themselves.
- David Henry Thoreau, Walden.
Roasted Hazelnut and Pear Muffins
Makes 12 large muffins.
- 100 grams raw hazelnuts
- 175 grams plain flour
- 50 grams hazelnut meal
- 100 grams golden caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- 200mL milk
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons rice bran oil (or other flavourless oil)
- 1 pear, peeled, cored, and diced
- Preheat your oven to 200°C (390°F) and line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.
- Spread hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 5 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Once the nuts are cool fold them in a clean tea towel and gently rub them to remove the skins. Pick nuts out of the skins, chop them roughly, and set aside.
- Into a large mixing bowl weigh flour, hazelnut meal, and sugar. Sprinkle in salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and cardamom. Whisk all the ingredients together.
- Into a separate bowl measure the milk, eggs, vanilla, and rice bran oil. Whisk to combine.
- Add milk mixture to flour mixture and stir until just combined.
- Measure out 75 grams of the chopped hazelnuts and add to the batter along with the diced pear. Fold through the batter gently.
- Distribute muffin mixture between the paper cases. Sprinkle remaining chopped hazelnuts over the top.
- Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove and cool.
Enjoy these muffins on your own rainy afternoon, or treat yourself to a delicious breakfast muffin. I believe these would be beautiful with some blackberry jam…
Tonight, the world is closing in on itself. Outside my window the view is obscured by rain; night is a damp, cold shroud over our house. No starlight can break through the cover of cloud. We are huddled in our little house, under blankets with our hands wrapped around mugs of tea. A little craving satisfied by a few chocolates, some strawberries from the local farm, and a few crackers with creamy dollops of avocado.
Here in this closed in world we are together, but alone. We all retreat to our corners to occupy our minds and hands with that which soothes our soul. Mum watches TV and loses herself in solving crimes. Dad drafts, and plans, and makes bits and pieces come back to life. The newlyweds do university work, or plan for their future.
Me? I read. Sometimes books, sometimes magazines, sometimes the beautifully crafted words of those who participate in this small, vast world of blogging.
On a night like this, I am losing myself in the words and images of these talented and insightful folks:
- Dreaming of my next grand adventure in the USA. I long to criss-cross the landscape, revel in the view outside my window, and be privy to small towns that are missed in guidebooks. I was thinking of driving, but this article in Audobon Magazine makes me think a train journey would be pleasant. I wonder if I could hop off somewhere in Colorado for a hiking trip?
- Falling even more in love with making bread, and wondering if I could have a bonfire night where I could use this idea from the inspiring lads and lasses at Kinfolk.
- I purchased ‘Tender Vol. 1‘ over a year ago, and received ‘Tender Vol. 2′ (a.k.a. ‘Ripe’) for my birthday. I admired their weighty promise on first glance, and managed a cursory look when they first came into my possession. On these long nights I am enjoying the conversation of Nigel Slater, the evocative earthiness of his words, and the new life he is breathing into my vegetables and fruits. Expect inspired recipes here soon.
Cliff House – San Francisco. Another rainy day. Hope to be back soon…
My bed is calling to me early tonight. I am going to hibernate under the blankets and warm myself with dreams of travel, the heat of a proving oven, and summer tomatoes from an English garden….
I dream about food. In fact, sometimes my waking dreams about food are so intense that I grab my phone and search for a recipe just to be sure that there is such a delicious thing in existence, unable to trust the ethereal matter that wove itself around my brain in my non-waking hours.
Sunday morning was such a day. I woke with a yen to make pancakes. Not for me, I am a rather stubbornly boring breakfast eater and will find something I like and latch onto it, consuming the same rice porridge for about six months until I happen to suddenly become enamoured of another a.m. food. No, these pancakes were intended for my Dad. The man who will unashamedly layer ice-cream and whipped cream onto his breakfast and devour it with gusto. He is my favourite pancake eater, and it has been a while since I made this breakfast treat. So Chocolate ‘Man-cakes’ were born.
Stack ‘em high
These fluffy creations are a subtle merging of cocoa and a hint of coffee and are brilliant when slathered with jam, caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, Nutella, or in true Dad-fashion, with ice cream and whipped cream.
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
4 tablespoons caster sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee powder
2 eggs, separated
- In a bowl sift together flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and 3 tablespoons sugar.
- Dissolve coffee powder in a small amount of the milk, then add the rest of the milk. To this add the egg yolks and vanilla and beat well to combine.
- Place egg whites in a bowl with 1 tablespoon sugar and beat to medium soft peaks.
- Add milk mixture to flour mixture and whisk until smooth.
- Add a third of the egg white mixture to the batter and fold until incorporated. Then fold in the remaining egg whites.
- Heat a large fry pan and spray with oil. Pour about 1/3 cup of batter onto pan.
- Bubbles will begin to appear on the surface of the mixture. When most bubbles have broken then flip the pancake and cook on the other side for 30 seconds.
- Place cooked pancakes on a plate and keep this covered while cooking the rest of the mixture.
- Serve with ice cream, whipped cream, fruit, jam, or any kind of delicious sauce you have in the cupboard!
The rest of our sweet Sunday was spent reclining and reading a stack of second hand food magazines that I unearthed on Saturday. In the afternoon Jess and I went for a wonderful walk in between the rain showers. Now, I’m off to browse some more fabulous food to fuel my dreams…
I woke this morning to the gentle tap-tap-tap of rain on a tin roof. Tucked under a triple layer of blankets and comforters in the guest bedroom of my dear friend’s Casey and Matt’s house I slowly opened my eyes and decided that this rainy Brisbane day would be dedicated to the art of cosiness.
Rainy morning view.
As is our usual want on a Saturday morning I met Mum at the farmer’s market for breakfast. Although there is nothing that compares to a bright summer morning when the vendor’s tables are groaning with fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes that smell of sunshine, I relish these rainy Autumn mornings that come so rarely. The crowd is thinned as many choose to stay in bed so the line for coffee is shorter; despite the chill and the wet I linger longer over my produce selection while I dream of creations that will warm both the body and the soul.
Grapes with the blush of the vine still on their skin.
My soul hungers for two cups of coffee on a morning like this: one to drink while I wake to the day and enjoy my breakfast, the second to end my market day before I leave the wonders of this vegetable playground and head back into the world. Creamy, smooth and sweet my Saturday morning cappuccino ritual is a background brush stroke of cosiness.
Coffee for the ladies of Saturday morning.
After filling our bags with enough fruit and vegetables to nourish our family for the week we walked through the flower seller’s stall. Tiny droplets cling to each precious blossom like diamonds left behind by the sky.
The beauty of the rose.
The day has just begun and I feel it is off to a wonderfully cosy start. A quick workout and a filling lunch and now to spend the afternoon snuggled under a blanket with a cup of tea and a Gothic Victorian novel.
Friends, what is essential for your cosy days?