Posted by Tania Kindersley.
THE PARCELS ARE POSTED. THE PARCELS ARE POSTED.
This is not code. I am not doing espionage. These are not Moscow Rules. I am not sidling up to a sauve-looking gent in St James’s park and murmuring: ‘The geese are flying south for winter.’ I am not communicating with my handler. I actually went to the actual post office with actual packages and put actual stamps on them and sent them off.
The postmistress thought the whole thing very funny. I was right up to the deadline this year; only by next day delivery could I guarantee success. Never mind. Someone has to keep the Royal Mail going, and this year it is I. (The queue behind me did not think it quite so funny, as I produced package after package.)
I gave the postmistress some of the special fridge cake, which I had wrapped up in a silver bag and tied with a ribbon. I was afraid that this might count as bribing a public official, or that health and safety would forbid it, but she seemed delighted. And for a special bonus, she was speaking Doric as I came in. ‘Are ye biding at hame, or fit are ye doing?’ she was asking a venerable old gent. (Trans: Are you staying at home, or what are you doing?) I love biding at hame. I am the mistress of biding at hame.
More Christmassy miracles happened. A kind gentleman arrived with a vast load of beech logs, so there shall be crackling beechy fires this Christmas. I made some more of the fridge cake and took it over to The Landlord’s office, which is just across the road. There are about eight of them in there, still working hard, and I thought they needed festive chocolate. And then, dear Amazon in America informed me that if I ordered in the next two hours, and paid an extra seven pounds, I could make sure that the godson in Santa Monica would get his present tomorrow morning. (That does seem almost in the realm of the impossible, a real magical elf feat.) I threw in a present for his mother, my old friend The Expatriate, because I love her and miss her. So they shall have happy reading on Christmas morning.
And since I seem to have dragged myself out of my Scroogish mood, here is the fridge cake recipe for you. I invented it last year. I was starting to make my traditional Christmas truffles for The Brother-in-Law. He adores them, and I like to give him a batch each year, made with love. But there was no cream, and I could not be fagged to go to the shop. So I improvised with what I had, and I came up with this very special sort of fudgy, truffly, chocolaty thing.
Take five bars of best black chocolate. I used Chocolat Menier this year, because it was on special offer in the shop. Also, I love the beautiful green wrapping, and I remember it fondly from my childhood. Add one bar of milk chocolate. I used a Green and Black one with butterscotch chips for extra loveliness.
Break them up and put in a big non-stick pan. Add 150g of unsalted butter, and two tablespoons of runny honey. Very, very gently, melt the whole lot. This will take about five minutes over a low heat. Give it a stir from time to time, but try not to disturb it too much. It’s a texture thing. Chocolate can go a bit funny if you fuss it.
Then take about 100g of hazelnuts and roughly chop them. You can do this by hand, or blitz them up in a processor. Ideally, you want quite big, rough chunks, not nut dust, so go gently.
Then take a pot of glacé cherries. Do not be alarmed. I know that glacé cherries are ghastly orphans of the 1970s. Also, if you are like me, you may have strong feelings about not mixing chocolate and fruit. However, the cherries in this do not taste at all. I think the chocolate mixture is so strong that it overpowers them. What they do is add a wonderful gooey, chewy texture to the whole. Roughly chop them too.
At this stage, you may want to add some bashed up biscuits. This is entirely up to you. I am currently favouring no biscuits.
Put the nuts and cherries into a shallow, rectangular dish. I use a nice white porcelain one that is meant for vegetables; it is about ten inches long, six wide, and two deep. Think about the size of a hardback book.
Pour the chocolate mixture over. Using a spatula, very gently mix it all up, so the nuts and cherries are evenly distributed. Put in the fridge, and chill for at least six hours, or until well set. Then cut it into small squares. It is very rich, so you don’t want huge pieces. The cutting is quite hard, since the thing is very dense; you need a good sharp knife. Then you will have to lever the stuff out with the point of the knife. The end result is not terribly neat, but it has the virtue of looking very homemade indeed.
This amount will make about thirty pieces. If I give these for presents, I put them in pretty silver paper freezer bags and tie them with blue and red striped ribbon. You could put a label on, if you were being creative. I can guarantee that anyone who gets them will love you very, very much, with a fierce cupboard love. I often do inventions which are rank disasters. There is a reason that recipes are recipes. Sometimes, when you go off-piste, you end up arse over tit in a snowdrift. (Did I extend that metaphor a bit too far?) But in this case I got lucky. This really is a lovely and indulgent thing, and absurdly easy to make. I hope you enjoy it.
This is what it looks like:
And, in other pictures:
It was sunny and mild today; the light was quite outrageous. As you may see:
Inside, it was getting quite Christmassy, and the tulips were still going strong:
Suddenly realised we have had an awful lot of Serious Pigeon lately. Here is a smiling one:
The happiness is because she has a really, really splendid stick:
And the blue hill:
Finally, for those of you in my hemisphere, there is GOOD NEWS. Yesterday was the winter solstice, which I quite missed, but which always makes me happy because it means that from now on, the afternoons shall get lighter, little by little, each day. I love the thought of that.