Exam Time Comfort : Chocolate, Perhaps ?

Even though you live in different hemispheres ( but not for much longer!!), crunch time for you and your sister coincide. You are in the throes of many long essays due one after another, and here, after a week of tests, your sister goes into her final week of EXAMS. Stress levels high all round.

With so much distraction here as we pack up, I am infinitely grateful to a couple of ‘aunties’ who have come to your rescue when you needed a change of scene from Grouse while you wrote essays. You stayed last week in Middle Park, by the Bay in a household of people you have known virtually all your life. They cooked and fussed and teased, and chatted, and left you alone to write, write,write. D’s chief form of showing her love is to cook, and I’m sure you got your fair share of it!

This week-end, you are in Albert Park, in another comfortingand familiar household, with a newly installed desk in your girl friend’s bedroom to accommodate your studies. How kind of JC. Somehow the distant hum of a household in motion ( dogs mooching from room to room, washing machines whirring, and the occasional telephone ring) is a comforting backdrop to an intense moment of research and writing. I know that feeling. Both you and you sister never wanted to study at your desks, always preferring the kitchen table.

Well no matter where you girls are, one things is for certain: there are always a few snacks handy to munch on while you work.  You like halved avocados with balsamic dressing, or hummus and pita chips. Claudia likes almonds, rice paper rolls and…..CHOCOLATE.  Izzy, you almost never eat anything sweet at all, but if you do, it is chocolate too. And neither of you gals ever say no to a milky Milo drink when you are deep in work. Haha! Good old Milo! I’m usually whipping one up for you at some unearthly hour as you burn the midnight candle.

The chocolate brownie recipe is one I have had for a very long time.  The recipe comes from a gorgeous little deli I used to frequent in Manuka. Dad and I had bought lovely crunchy bread and cheese and baby quiches to take on our first picnic (at Lillypilly on the South Coast)……I am sure one of their delicious brownies was tucked into the basket too.

Last Christmas the Newly Weds in our family gave me a gorgeous cook book by Anna Gare. I must have spent the whole first half of this year cooking constantly from her book ‘Homemade‘. The book and I just clicked, you know?  Gare has a great choc cake recipe she calls ‘Neverfail’ which is pretty much what it is: I have made it a few times, and it is TRUSTY!  I have even experimented with it, and substituted the flour with almond meal: excellent too! You won’t have a bad result with it, Izzy. So go ahead and try it!

I am thinking of you in Albert Park, in that lovely airy family home of our good friends, and I hope you are inspired to work hard and write well: you are in the finally stretch, darling. Hang in there!

And since you said when we were texting yesterday, that you missed the dogs, I have added a picture of Alice.  She was out in the front garden recently sniffing gently at a newly bloomed peony. I always said she looked like a chocolate brownie dusted with icing sugar! And if you really don’t have  the time to make anything yourself right now, a good slab of chocolate from the milk bar down the road will do the trick!

Chocolate Brownies

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 cups castor sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 500 g. chocolate
  • 200g butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup toasted and roughly chopped walnuts
  • icing sugar for dusting


  1. Beat the eggs, castor sugar and vanilla together.
  2. Melt over a very low heat and in a heavy based saucepan, the chocolate and butter, and leave to cool.
  3. Mix 1 and 2 together.
  4. Add the flour gradually, finally add the walnuts.
  5. Pour into a shallow greased and floured baking pan.
  6. Bake on a moderate heat for about 25 minutes.
  7. Cool and dust with icing sugar.

Anna Gare’s Neverfail Chocolate Cake

  • 400g dark chocolate
  • 360g unsalted butter
  • 360g caster sugar
  • 6 heaped tablespoons plain flour (or I’ve used almond meal)
  • 6 eggs
  • icing sugar for serving


  1. Preheat oven to 200degrees C
  2. Melt the chocolate, butter and sugar in a heavy pan over a gentle heat, stirring often until the mixture is smooth, and then remove from heat.
  3. Add the flour and stir until smooth.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating the mixture well with a whisk or an electric beater.
  5. Pour the mixture into a lined, 20 cm square cake tin.
  6. Bake the cake for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 150 degrees C, and bake further for 40 minutes.
  7. Turn off the heat, leave oven door closed and allow the cake to cook slowly.
  8. Turn the cake out of the tin when completely cooled and dust with icing sugar.