Time for a perfect chocolate cake

16 Jun
 

 

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It’s Spring time in France and as the flowers open and share their beautiful colours and perfume with the world, we begin to emerge from our homes and taste the first days of freedom, life on the ‘other side’.   

For those days inside the bubble of confinement, when masked-face trips to the shop weren’t so frequent and shelves not always so full, this Chocolate Almond Cake – comprising only a few basic ingredients, has been so easy to prepare and gives that little whoop to the spirits that only chocolate can provide.  And the added bonus – there is NO FLOUR.

I discovered this recipe many years ago, thanks to the Australian chef Stephanie Alexander , but at the time had to drop a couple of the key ingredients (I’ll explain) – and my edited version remains our family’s favourite cake.  If you are a lover of chocolate, it is perfect… 

First up. Let me explain why this cake.  Anyone who knows me knows I hate dessert.  Not hate exactly, but if it comes to ordering the Tarte aux Pommes or Crème Brûlée at a restaurant, I prefer looking up the cheese selection.  Even better, let me flick a few pages back and pore over the starters again: grilled squid, pan-fried scallops, croquetas… Imagining these small plates takes me back to the anticipatory thrill of seating yourself down at a table, excited by the unknown – ready to open that first bottle and savour that first sip.

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But!  I have a huge love for chocolate (why doesn’t everyone serve a discreet square of dark chocolate with coffee like they do in France?) – and many years ago, to mark a very important occasion, I stumbled upon this recipe.

To be honest, it was the first time I’d ever made a cake.  For the first time in my life, I had a sincere desire to bake because our baby Lilas (our first and only child) was about to turn one.  It was an important, necessary task.  There HAD to be a cake!

But where to turn with this sudden urge to take the leap and Make a Cake?  I picked up my food bible, Stephanie Alexander’s ‘The Cook’s Companion’ , and landed on the chapter Chocolate.  Chocolate won me over and so did the recipe’s provenance – it hailed from France’s ‘Reine de Saba’/ Queen of Sheba cake.  Lilas being an Australian-French baby, it felt right.  So was the idea that the ingredients were few and the method uncomplicated – it was a beautifully simple sounding cake.  And it was a perfect fit for a one-year-old’s toddler guests – so long as I dropped the brandy and the coffee.

So here’s the recipe, and apart from reducing the cooking time and adding more chocolate than the original recipe, we have served this same cake for many birthdays since Lilas’ ‘premier anniversaire’.

(p.s. I have not ever since added the brandy or coffee.  For me, spare the confusion, I adore savouring each one on their own)

(p.p.s. If you are a lover of wine like me, you’ll find this cake is a beautiful companion to wine, be it a sticky, sweet Rivesaltes-style dessert wine, a lovely red, a fresh white and why not, a glass of bubbles.  There’s a pretty damn good one that I like to match it with too…

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Chocolate Almond Cake

(adapted from Stephanie Alexander’s Chocolate and Almond Cake)

ingredients:

140g dark chocolate (70% cocoa or higher )

100g unsalted butter

100g ground (flour) almonds

100g castor sugar

3 eggs, separated

icing sugar (optional for sprinkling)

method:

Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius

Line a 18cm baking tin with baker paper

Melt the chocolate on the stove in a double-boiler/ bain-marie

When chocolate has melted add the butter

Stir together when melted and then add almond flour and sugar, mix well

Remove from heat

Lightly beat egg yolks and stir into mixture

Beat egg whites until firm and then fold slowly into mixture, pour into tin

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Bake for 25-30 minutes for a softish centre  (the original recipe says 40-45 minutes but I find the cake is dry and too cake-like)

Cool in tin and then remove

Serve with a dusting of icing sugar or surrounded by fresh strawberries or raspberries …and some sweet or sparkling wine 😺

Et voila!

Kat xoxo

I’m back

1 Jul

I'm back photo

Who would have thought.  The goddam ‘Kat’ came back.

It’s been a bloody long while, so I thought I might re-introduce myself.

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I am Kat and I live in a region in Southern France called the ‘Minervois’.  I’ve been here for nearly 20 years, yet still feel like the ‘foreign’ Australian marvelling at the exotic sights, sounds, smells and tastes of this part of Europe. Which is just as well, because with family and friends so damn far away, there’d better be something in it to keep me here!!  The exoticism… and the Vigneron.  He’s called Benjamin and he’s French.  He’s the reason why I am here and the biggest reason why I stay here.  Together we have a child, a lovely 13-year-old called Lilas (which in French means ‘lilac’).

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Why did I start a blog?  To keep me sane!  Living in a foreign world with foreign ways and customs can be so exciting, so frustrating. And so wonderful. I wanted to record it all down and the more I shared, the more I realised I loved living here and noting down my days and collecting images of it all was a fun way to keep the diary going that I never wrote.

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La Liviniere, Minervois, France

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jardiniere cooking

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Then it all came to a screeching halt.  Why it came to a screeching halt was not just one, but a few major events that took my mind off me, then back to me… events that came crashing, unwelcomed, into my family’s life.

But I’m still here!  And in this time I’ve never stopped watching and observing – even if at one point, watching like a stray cat after a fight with only the one eye open.

 

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No of course this isn’t me, it’s Ryan Gosling.. giving you an idea of me as the stray cat after the fight

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…this is me, x-ray version

It’s been a way of distracting myself, to watch and admire the beauty and ‘Frenchness’ around me and snap images to hold it all for longer.  I didn’t continue with my diary/ blog, but I became obsessed (call it OCD) with recording visually the places and people around me and posting on Instagram (they are to be found here).   It’s the same kind of behaviour, you could say, as when I first arrived in France; in not being able to communicate with French people, I was forced to step back and observe.  It was forever tiring and challenging, but in watching and listening, I was taking in the extras that surrounded conversations.  Now, 20 years later, I understand much more of the conversations around me, but my eye has sharpened and I love the extras that surround everything.  Recording all of it has been my way of healing.

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So here you find me many years later, back clunking around on the keyboard, sharing scenes and recipes and wines from the Minervois.

Thanks for your visit!

Kat xoxo

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the locals

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Mum

13 Sep

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Jan Livesey (outside the church for my Christening )

Showering you with flowers for your birthday Mum.

Love Me xoxoxoxo

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13.09.1937 – 11.07.2016

La Force

4 Sep

If you could register* all the events in life – the good, the bad, the memorable and the ones you are reluctant to remember…  You cherish them, are thankful for them, ignore them, fear them.  They make you what you are and hopefully, influence you to carry yourself forward, strong and determined to keep looking around the next corner.

“Life’s not a straight line,” I still hear Mamy (my French grandmother) saying to me, many years ago when I’d had my first taste of mortality, at a time I would prefer to forget.  I was sitting there at rock-bottom, listening to the words of this discreet and loving 87 year-old woman as she reeled off dark events in her life (nursing my baby for me, far physically stronger than me – my baby the beautiful being in this heavy time).  She spoke with dignity and humility. I’d had no idea of what she’d been through in her life – this petite, elegant woman who I already loved for how she observed people around her (I was doing a hell of a lot of that myself, not understanding or speaking the language of my new home), her conspiratorial grin and her willingness to accept me into the foreign family I’d suddenly landed myself in.  I looked upon her with new eyes.  She told me with certainty I would get through this time.  Mamy’s strength and empathy empowered me.  I thought, if she got through all of that, I can.

Many events have followed this conversation – and amidst the beautiful, there’s bloody well been a steady drum roll of tough ones for our family in the last few years.  But I understand the thread that runs through all of them, the good the bad, that collects me in its force and nurtures me.  It’s love. I sound bloody kitsch.  I don’t want to imply ‘lurve’, the cliched Hallmark cards or tits and arse ideas of lurve. I mean the big love. Love for and from the people in this life with me.  It empowers me, making me cherish today and determined to see tomorrow.

*I’ve been OCD-recording visual images on my Instagram feed, vigneronswife

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Eight-Oh Dad

4 Sep

Love you Pop xo

Image 05-09-17 at 13.06

Image 07-09-17 at 13.32

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