Exactly a year back, armed with a handful of baking recipes, a pocket camera and loads of encouragement from my close friends and family, I decided to start writing a food blog. And much like life, the ensuing year would turn out like nothing I expected. Yes, I baked, I photographed, I wrote but what I did not expect was that this blog would teach me some of life's finest lessons. Lessons that I have read about and I have heard before, but never has it been better understood, by me, than today.
No better time than today to look back at all that this blog has taught me.
I have learnt that when you put your mind to something, there is nothing you can not achieve. But, the even bigger lesson that I've learnt is that all too often when we set our goals, we get too caught up dreaming about the end result. We forget that the end result that we wish for tomorrow is achieved from the small steps that we take today. You start where you are and every day you build on yesterday. And, I promise you the journey will be more exciting than any of your wildest dreams.
I have learnt that when you share your best with the world, the biggest beneficiary is you. Because the reality check you will receive, whether good or bad, will be one of the most insightful lessons of your life. Yes, at times, you will falter or fall short on what you want to deliver but there are also times, when you will surprise yourself with what you can achieve.
I have learnt that for too long in life I have ignored the importance of a hobby in my life. The beauty of a fulfilling hobby is that it takes the edge off the other aspects of life that are not working out the way you want or have let you down in some way. You pursue a hobby only because it makes you happy.
I have learnt that you can never stop learning in life. As my mother will always tell me, if there is one thing that will keep you alive and vibrant in life, it is your thirst to know more. Be it the baking, the photography or the blogging, I've repeatedly said the words "I don't know" and it's been one of the most liberating things I have done in my life.
I have learnt that there is always a story to be told, even if it is a simple chocolate cake. Because, food has this amazing ability to evoke our strongest emotions and memories.
I have learnt the power of a kind word and how it can brighten up your darkest day. All too often, we get judgemental in life and forget to appreciate another's honest work. Nothing prepares you for the spirit of warmth, sharing, encouragement and generosity that is the world of food blogging.
And I would have not learnt any of this, if it had not been for you, the reader of my blog. Whether you came intentionally or you stumbled by, you will never know how much I appreciate that you dropped by my tiny corner of the world. Not only have you bought a smile to my face but you have taught me to believe in myself. And for that, I will be eternally grateful to you.
So, to celebrate my first blog birthday, I decided to make this chocolate ganache tart with port jelly and strawberry. It has chocolate, strawberries, wine and truck loads of calories - all the things needed for a celebration. With my love for all things petite, instead of making one large tart, I made four smaller ones.
The recipe is from the Masterchef Australia website. It is adapted from the same recipe that got the contestant, Audra into the Top 24. A bite of this tart and the judges didn't need to think twice to let her qualify for the main draw. Make this and you will understand why.
Even if you love chocolate as much as I do, you will agree that a chocolate ganache tart can get a bit too much, almost to the point of making you feel sick. And that's where the port jelly and the strawberries comes in. The port jelly not only adds another layer of texture but has a certain acidity which along with fresh strawberries helps to cut through the richness of the chocolate ganache. And for a non-alcoholic version, substitute the port with pomegranate juice.
It all comes together beautifully, making this a very elegant dessert, worthy of a celebration!
As I embark on a new year, what do I look forward to? Better photography (much needed), better writing (it could do with fewer exclamation marks!) and as for the baking, I want to bake more with fruit, more savoury and make a tiny foray into gluten-free baking. But more than all of that, I look forward to all the little surprises and lessons that lie ahead that I have no clue about. To say that I am excited would be an understatement. Won't you please come along with me on this road trip?!!?!
A year ago: Dark Chocolate and Strawberry Muffins
Dark Chocolate Strawberry Tart With Port Jelly
Makes four 4-inch tarts.
- 110 gms plain flour
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon icing sugar
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 70 gms unsalted butter, chopped
- 2 tablespoons iced water
- 250 gms dark chocolate
- 100 gms unsalted butter (I reckon cream should do the trick better)
- 150 mls port (the original recipe uses cherry port) For a non-alcoholic version, you can substitute with pomegranate juice.
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
- 2 teaspoon gelatine powder
- 2 tablespoon cold water
- A handful of strawberries
- 1 tablespoon icing sugar
- Pre-heat the oven to 200 deg C.
- For pastry, combine flour, salt, sugar and cocoa in a large bowl. Add butter and rub it into the flour mixture, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add iced water slowly until it forms a dough that just comes together when pressed. Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
- For ganache, chop chocolate in a food processor until finely chopped. Place butter in a large bowl over a saucepan with 3cm of just-simmering water, tip chocolate onto butter. Turn off heat and stir occasionally until chocolate and butter have melted. Keep bowl on saucepan until ready to use.
- For jelly, Sprinkle gelatine over cold water, let it rest for 5 minutes. Pour port and sugar into a saucepan over medium heat, stir until sugar has dissolved. Boil for 5 minutes, remove from heat. Add gelatine to warm port mixture, stir until dissolved, strain and keep warm until ready to use.
- Roll pastry out between two sheets of baking paper to 3mm thick. Remove one sheet of baking paper and lay pastry over each of the four round fluted tart tins with a removable base. Press into tin especially into sides. Remove baking paper and trim pastry. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Blind bake for 13-15 minutes until sides are crisp. Remove baking paper and pastry beads and bake for a further 10 minutes until base is dry. Cool in fridge for 10 minutes.
- Pour warm ganache into cooled tart tin, shake gently to level. Allow half a centimetre for the jelly layer. Refrigerate for 10 minutes to set the ganache. Pour warm jelly into a jug, bring over to fridge and pour a layer of jelly on top of the tart. Allow to set in the fridge for 30 minutes or until ready to serve.
- For strawberry coulis, simply whiz the strawberries with the icing sugar until liquid.
- Decorate tart with strawberries and drizzle with strawberry coulis.