Rich and Creamy, Gently Mocha, Chocolate Mousse

Perfect Chocolate Mousse

Perfect Chocolate Mousse

When I was very young, my parents took us on a family holiday all over the South East of Australia. In those days, the main river flowing through Melbourne was a polluted, marshy mess with banks of sticky smelly muck by its side. Imagine my horror then, when Dad made some chocolate mousse and told me he was serving “Yarra Mud” for dessert. I was horrified and flatly refused to eat it, nor did I touch the stuff for decades afterward. My offspring however, were not so scarred, and eventually I overcame my revulsion to create this. 

Tart in Ymbre Day (Cheese and Onion Tart)

Take and perboile oynouns & erbis & presse out (th)e water & hewe hem smale. Take grene chese & bray it in a morter, and temper it up with ayren. Do (th)erto butter, safroun & salt, & raisouns corauns, & a litel sugur with powdour douce, & bake it in a trap, & serve it forth.

~ Forme of Cury circa 1390

Tart in Ymbre Day

Tart in Ymbre Day

Prior to the 1530’s, England was staunchly Roman Catholic, with all the trappings and rituals of that faith. Even after Henry VIII took control of his own marital affairs (and became a whole lot richer) by appointing himself the Head of the Church of England, Saints’ Festivals, Feasts and Fasts were observed.”Ember Days” were days in the liturgical calendar when the eating of meat was forbidden, but eggs and cheese were acceptable. As a result there are dozens (if not hundreds) of regional variations on this simple tart, the earliest recorded examples dating to the mid 15th century. I have taken two of these medieval recipes¹, sort of mashed them together, added my own twist and produced .. this.

Green Eggs and Ham

Deluxe Green Eggs and Ham

Deluxe Green Eggs and Ham

In my line of work I meet people who face daily challenges that would leave many of us gibbering in a corner. “Good” days are good, but a “bad” day is a dark and terrible place. The bravest thing I have seen anyone do was claw their way out of that pit, in the face of unspeakable pain .. so that they could get out of bed and take a shower. Ever felt totally helpless? Watch someone do something like that knowing that you can get them out of bed, but they have to get out of the dark place by themselves and the best you can hope for is that a smile might show them the direction to climb.

The lady in the wheelchair was having a “bad” day and my own throbbing headache was making it hard for me to engage in our usual banter. Indeed I was finding it hard to concentrate at all, so I accidentally added way more basil cashew pesto than I had intended to the cobbled-together omelette I made her for breakfast. She looked quizzically at the plate as I put it down. “It’s green” she said. “Should it be this green?”

Cheating at Quiche

When I heard that Best Friend was making the journey Down Under again, and (more importantly) coming to dinner, I was determined to be on my very, very best behaviour. On her previous trip I had made a complete arse of myself, opening my mouth wide and firmly wedging in both feet. (One day I may be brave enough to tell you that story). My gentle, forgiving friend eats no meat, so my usual stand-bys and signature dishes were off the menu .. until Gran came to my rescue once more. In common with most folks who lived through the Depression, Gran had a lot of ways of serving cheap, simple and nourishing. Eggs, mushrooms, onions and plenty of mustard with bread’nbutter turned into Savoury Mushroom Custard.  I kicked her recipe up a notch, including seasonal vegetables and herbs to transform “Simple” into “Gourmet”.

The meal was a success, we smiled, laughed and I managed to keep my feet well away from my mouth. I have made this dish many times and in many guises since, never without a fond smile of remembrance.

Savoury Mushroom Custard

Savoury Mushroom Custard

Savoury Mushroom Custard

So you really messed up this time; huh? You want to make amends but your budget doesn’t stretch to diamonds and caviar? Try breakfast in bed. Lock the pets outside, send the kids to Gramma’s, brew a pot of coffee (or tea), break out the good dinner service, whip up some of this .. et voilà, an apology (and no innocent flowers had to suffer!). You don’t have to save this recipe for an “oops” moment either. Served with a side salad or two, it’s a nice something to make for cheap-and-easy supper. Oh and guys .. best pick up line ever: “Let me cook breakfast for you” .. seriously.