There is an emanation from the heart

which cannot be described,

but is immediately felt and puts

the stranger at his ease.

~Washington Irving


Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie


Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

Unfold your own myth.
~Rumi


May my life be like a great

hospitable tree, and may

weary wanderers find in

me a rest.

~John Henry Jowett


Thursday, 14 February 2013

Royal Wedding Chocolate Biscuit Cake

I don't think I ever look at a photo of Prince William without thinking of Diana.  Watching the royal wedding of William and Catherine in 2011, it was difficult not to shed a tear for all that was lost in that Parisian tunnel 17 years ago.  That's why it was so touching to know that one of the wedding cakes was Prince William's favorite, and a cake that his Mum had made for he and Harry as a children.

The Royal Wedding Chocolate Biscuit Cake
on display at Buckingham Palace
Their family favorite is a no-bake Chocolate Biscuit Cake made with McVitie's rich tea biscuits. Add some butter, and a very large amount of chocolate, and you can't go wrong.  It sounds like a simple cake and not something normally seen at a wedding, especially a royal one.  As it turns out though, it was a very regal looking cake, and the replica we saw at Buckingham Palace looked good enough for a future king and queen.


In 2012 Stuart and I made a special trip into London to see Kate's wedding dress on display in a special exhibit at Buckingham Palace.  The dress was absolutely exquisite--and very tiny.  We (the ladies at least) oooh'd and ahhh'd over her shoes, the samples of the lace and dress fabric, and especially the wedding dress itself.

At the end of the exhibit, replicas of the wedding cakes were on display in the Music Room, which we immediately recognized from the familiar photos of William's baptism. Sadly there weren't any samples, so I've been wondering since that day if the chocolate biscuit cake tasted as delicious as it looked.  Yesterday, as my mind wandered to Valentine's Day and then to chocolate, I decided to look up the recipe and try it out.



Reading through the recipe, it was immediately clear that it was perfect for a Valentine's Day chocolate binge, and why it would be family favorite.

        Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup (10 oz.) Digestive biscuits (Rich Tea, Marie, graham crackers, or Shortbread cookies)
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz.) unsalted butter cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup (8 oz.) dark chocolate cut into small pieces
  • 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz.) white chocolate cut into small pieces (optional)
  • 1/8 cup (1 oz.) chopped hazelnuts or almonds (optional)

        Instructions

    1. Prepare a cake pan (7 in. x 7 in. square, 8-9 in. round) by lining with parchment paper or use a silicone pan.
    2. Crush biscuits into almond-sized or smaller pieces.
    3. Melt the dark chocolate with the butter in a double boiler.
    4. Remove chocolate mixture from heat and add sweetened condensed milk. Stir.
    5. Add crushed biscuits, white chocolate and nuts. Stir until coated.
    6. Spoon and spread the mixture into the prepared pan. Keep spreading to smooth out (and get air bubbles out of the bottom - which will become the top of the cake).  
    I pressed the mixture down firmly with a wooden spoon after it was spread out.  I also crushed up extra tea biscuits and pressed them firmly into the top, which made a small crust once I turned the cake out onto a plate.
    7. Place in refrigerator for 4 hours or in freezer for 45 minutes to set.
    8.  Once the cake is set, turn out onto a plate, carefully removing the parchment from the top.  After 4 hours the cake was set, but it was much easier to cut into pieces once it had been refrigerated overnight--and of course it tasted better  too.
The finished product is rich and delicious and is a little more like
fudge than a cake.  I ended up cutting it up into 2'x2' squares
after it had been refrigerated overnight. 






Friday, 1 February 2013

Downton, Midwives, and Tickets

By now all of my American family and friends have seen and cried through the latest episode of Downton Abbey.  Last spring when I watched in horror as Lady Sybil died in childbirth, I knew I had to seal my lips and not breath a word of it to anyone back home--and it was hard not to even hint at the heartache ahead.  The secret is out now and I can finally commiserate with everyone as we discuss the arrogance of the plummy doctor and the shock of losing a loved one so quickly--something that, less than a hundred years ago, was still a fact of life for too many women and the families they left behind.


Women and childbirth is the theme of another series, this one done by the BBC, that Stuart and I have been glued to called, Call the Midwife.  It follows a group of young midwives and nuns in the East End of London in the late 1950's.  It's a time of transition in Britain as the NHS provides, for the first time, medical care and treatment for all, yet home births are still the norm.  It's beautifully and gracefully written, balancing the tension between the reality of East End poverty, and the grace and tender mercies these young women learn from people living the harshest of lives.  It's produced in conjunction with PBS in America, and series one has already aired in the U.S., so it's available on DVD and hopefully will be reshown very soon.  We're in the middle of series two here, so watch for it on PBS this spring or summer.

One more important note for Downton Abbey fans:  Tickets for Highclere Castle's summer opening are now on sale.  Tickets for Easter through to the end of May are already sold out, but tickets for July 14th to September 12th (Monday-Thursday) are now on sale.  My sister is coming to visit this summer, so ours are purchased and everything is set for our visit to Highclere in August.  You can purchase tickets here.