As I walked my dogs early Sunday morning, they raced to a cluster of white speckled weeds. I pulled them away thinking the white speckles were weed killer. But as I took a closer look I saw something I hadn’t seen in a while – frost. I stared at the icy weeds and thought about the last time I had been out this early in the morning and the last time I had felt this cold. It’s been a while! This July has been one of the coldest in Melbourne for quite a few years. What better way to celebrate the cold then with an icy morning walk followed by a trip to the country to visit the even colder town of Daylesford.
After enjoying a warming coffee and a visit to the Daylesford market we set off to the Convent Gallery for scones and art. The former convent is now an art gallery with a cafe, bar and souvenir shop. I loved seeing the artworks juxtaposed against the backdrop of catholic iconography – especially the nudes. It was a beautiful blend of history, religion and modern art. The scones were great too. I washed them down with a Pimms and lemonade garnished with fruit grown in the convent gardens.
We ended our trip to Daylesford with a visit to Lavandula, a Swiss Italian Farm. There were so many things to enjoy here but one thing grabbed my attention.
Two pomegranates, way past their use by date, posed decoratively in front of an old lantern on a rustic table. Every time I see pomegranates I think of Hades and Persephone, and the sweet fruit that “trapped” the even sweeter Goddess in the Underworld. I thought the paired, rotted fruit were a beautiful and poignant symbol of the God and Goddess, reliving the cycle of the seasons; from birth to death, from spring to winter. Persephone “escapes” every spring but for now she is underground and we are in the midst of a cold, harsh winter. It made me smile. It reminded me that spring is just around the corner.
Spring heralds the return of Persephone, the return of warmth, light and life, and the return of many creatures dwelling in the Underworld. I’m not looking forward to the return of some of those creatures! But for now, like Persephone, I will embrace the bitter cold while it lasts and enjoy the fruit of the Underworld in all its forms. Could the Lord of the Underworld tempt you with these deadly white treats?
Persephone’s Death By White Chocolate and Pomegranate Clusters
200g white chocolate, broken into small pieces
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
Line a mini cupcake tray with mini cupcake cases.
Fill a saucepan about one-third full with water and bring to a gentle simmer. Set a heatproof-bowl over the saucepan, making sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Add the white chocolate and slowly melt, being careful not to burn the chocolate. Remove from the heat. Gently stir in the pomegranate seeds until just combined.
Dollop into prepared cases and refrigerate until firm.
Bring the chocolates to room temperature before serving.
It’s funny how some recipes come about. A while ago I created a dish inspired by the Hades/Persephone myth symbolising Persephone being tricked into eating pomegranate seeds. It involved coating individual pomegranate seeds in melted dark chocolate flavoured with rose water. Once the chocolate coated seeds were set, they were served with sliced fresh lychees and dots of pomegranate molasses. Just by looking at the dish you wouldn’t know that it contained pomegranate seeds until you bit into a chocolate and crunched on the fragrant seed. I called the dish Persephone’s Surprise.
While watching a cooking show recently I saw a fabulous bright green sago pudding flavoured with pandan extract. I loved the vibrant green colour of the dish but my thoughts went straight to Persephone and pomegranates. I wanted to make that dish but colour it red! I could then add pomegranate seeds and hopefully they would be disguised in the pudding by their shape and colour.
I remembered having sago pudding as a child so I researched recipes and thought about ways of making the pudding naturally red. I thought of boiling the sago in pomegranate juice but most of the recipes advised rinsing the sago thoroughly after boiling and I wondered if that would wash away the flavour and the colour. I had a few ideas and as a last resort I was going to use food colouring.
I went to my trusted delicatessen and asked if they had sago. They didn’t have sago but they had tapioca pearls. I looked at the packet and saw that the image of cooked tapioca was red! I asked how to get the tapioca pudding red and they said it was a traditional Brazilian recipe which involved boiling the tapioca in red wine. Some more research and I discovered the trick was to cook the tapioca first, drain it and then briefly boil again in red wine. You then marinate it overnight in the wine before draining and briefly chilling. I added my pomegranate tweaks to create a new surprise for Persephone – a Tapioca Surprise.
1 + 1/2 litre water
1/2 cup tapioca pearls
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
cream for serving
Bring the water to the boil. Add the tapioca pearls. Bring back to the boil while gently stirring the tapioca. Once boiling, cover and remove from heat. Allow to cool for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.
Drain tapioca in a colander and rinse under cold water until clear.
Add the tapioca pearls, wine, pomegranate juice and sugar to a saucepan. Cover and bring to the boil. Once boiling, remove from heat. Stir through the pomegranate seeds.
Allow to cool before placing in a glass or metal bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Drain tapioca and place into a large serving bowl or individual bowls. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Serve with a dollop of cream.
The first Wiccan ritual I ever attended was Southern Hemisphere Halloween 25 years ago.
I can still remember walking towards the circle. The night was cold and I was happy that I was wearing a cloak. A drum beat an eerie rhythm as we walked towards our destiny. I saw the drummer and realised he was naked. My first thought was one of horror “NO, don’t tell me I have to get naked!”. My second thought was “isn’t he freezing?” Thankfully we didn’t have to remove our clothes. The night passed in a cacophony of drums, chanting, invocations and prophesies by campfire. We ended, as most rituals do, with cakes and wine.
So for Halloween tonight I would like to share with you one of my latest creations – my version of Death By Chocolate. These rich and decadent dark chocolate and black olive brownies are the only way to die.
death by chocolate brownie
olive oil for greasing
170g unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plain flour, sifted
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup finely chopped black olives
Preheat oven to 180C / 350F.
Line a 25cm x 25cm square baking pan with baking paper. Allow paper to drape over the sides. Lightly oil the paper.
Melt butter in a medium saucepan then add sugar, cocoa and vanilla. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
Vigorously whisk in the eggs one at a time and stir until the mixture looks shiny and well blended.
Add sifted flour and baking powder. Mix vigorously until well combined. Add the olives and mix until just combined.
Pour evenly into prepared pan.
Bake for approximately 20 minutes. Make sure the centre is still slightly moist.
Allow to cool before lifting out.
Cut into squares and serve.
I’m always looking for new recipes and food ideas. Let me know your favourite Halloween recipes or Autumn/Winter foods.