Monday 25 August 2014

Girl time, memories, birthdays: Dark chocolate snaps

I'm very lucky. I've met a whole cast of fun, intelligent, creative, loving, unique individuals in my life so far. Friends made in hostels in the middle of nowhere in Australia, in cafes sharing mutually distasteful stories of strange customers, at  beaches and bus stops, airports, small one-horse towns and swarming cities. Each friend has been unique onto themselves, to who I was at the time and the place we were both in.

Dee and Eibhlin are two such friends. We met in a small town in Tipperary in August three years ago. It was on a permaculture course that changed my life in many beautiful ways. One particularly beautiful part of that ten day intensive course was meeting them. I arrived on my own, determined to finally do that permaculture course that I had promised myself I would complete for over four years. I was broke, confused about my life direction and utterly determined to do this course and point my life in the direction I wanted. I remember turning up, pulling into the carpark opposite the hostel and then having a mini freakout in my head. How was it I was capable of travelling solo across the world for ten months but couldn't gather up enough courage to go into a hostel in Tipperary on my own? I checked in and went to put my bags in my room. There, lying on the bottom bunk resting after a train journey was Eibhlin, my little pixie herbal remedy genius. Talking to her was so easy. Then this smiley girl arrived into the dorm with a bright yellow cardigan and wooly socks and jeans. The three of us started talking and I was instantly absorbed. There was something completely familiar about them. It was only when other people from the course filtered into the room and asked why the three of us had decided to come together and how we knew each other that we had to explain we had only just met.

Within an hour of meeting, everyone on the course had made the presumption that we had been lifelong friends and we had to correct them, even though correcting them felt wrong to me. It did feel like we'd always known each other. Some people mistook me and Dee for sisters. Dee and Eibhlin are like the extra sisters I never had. They have a sense of wonder about nature and music that only children still possess: wide eyed wonder with even wider smiles. They are my pixies and two of the kindest, strongest, honest, most beautiful women I have ever met.

Yesterday was Dee's birthday and it brought back the memory of her birthday while we were on the course three years ago. I had to go home just before the end of the course and returned a day later. All through the course, me and Dee had cooked up big meals for the rest of the group and so we were always in the kitchen. When I got back from my quick trip back home, I had to think of something easy and gluten free to make as a birthday treat that would also feed the other 25+ people on the course. Rice crispie buns. Winner. Keeping her out of the kitchen was tricky. Hiding a tower of rice crispie buns at the back of the fridge was even more difficult. Days before we would start a relationship, John kept guard and kept me company while I stealthily stacked one chocolate covered snack on top of the other. Then Alan got everyone in the living room to close their eyes and relax through a meditation (since we were all a little stressed with our end of course projects). Meanwhile, Eibhlin convinced everyone in her beautifully calm way to get involved as a distraction. I remember the loving sense of everyone working together to make the surprise work so that Dee knew how much we all cared. A little community all working together because we all love Dee so much. It was a success.

I'm not going to tell you how to make rice crispie buns. I have something so much more refined. Dark chocolate is for fancy women who are as awesome as Dee is. There is no greater combination than that of dark chocolate and toasted almonds, unless of course you also add sea salt and candied ginger. If the rice crispie buns were a child-like wonder version of a chocolate-laced birthday treat, these dark chocolate snaps are the food loving, heart warming, grown up version of deliciousness.

The recipe can be adapted with a variety of toppings. At Christmas, I usually get very creative with goji berries, hazelnuts, himalayan salt and mint essence. These birthday treats called for toasty, warming versions of the chocolate snaps. One, because I know Dee loves the combination of toasty, smoky almonds and sea salt and secondly, summer seems to have finished here. Rainjackets and September drizzle call for fireside flavors.

Here goes...

300 grams dark chocolate (75% cocoa or more)
10-15 whole almonds
6 (ish) pieces of candied ginger root
pinch good quality sea salt

Break chocolate into small pieces into a metal bowl and place bowl over a pot with 2 or 3 inches of boiling water. You don't want the bottom of the bowl to touch the water; it's the heat of the steam that melts the chocolate. This should only take 3/4 minutes. Make sure not to stir. Just let it melt of it's own accord.
While this is happening, get a baking tray and place a sheet of non-stick parchment paper on it, ready and waiting. Chop the almonds into halves and the ginger into thin slices.
Once chocolate is melted, using a tablespoon, spoon 1-2 spoonfuls onto the parchment paper, making chocolate disks. You can smooth them down with the back of the spoon. Arrange five or so pieces of ginger on half the disks and the almonds on the other half of the batch. Sprinkle sea salt onto the almond ones.
Place baking sheet onto shelf in the fridge (make sure it's level or they will drip out of shape)
Leave overnight if you can. Wrap up in a little box and gift them as the thoughtful present they are.

Happy birthday Dee, you amazing, beautiful soul sister. Happy un-birthday Eibhlin. You are every bit as awesome. Big love to you ladies. You both truly rock my world.

Thanks to Ben Bear from the Big Blue house for the photo from the street feast X

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