Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Birthdays: Some donate chocolate mousse, others hire a stripper.

( Nigella's ( not quite) to die for chocolate mousse)

( The object of our mirth - Nicci, of course, in her magenta frills and Camper boots)

( Marie-Louis and I, having so much more than just a quiet giggle)

My friend Nicci celebrated her 39th birthday with a birthday lunch on Saturday. It was big deal for all of us. In our darkest moments we weren't sure if she would live to celebrate it. In August last year the doctors gave her 3 weeks to live. She is well past her deadline. Macabre use of the word, I know, but sometimes laughter is the perfect antidote to grief. And Nicci likes laughter. She also loves colour. And flowers. And vegetables. And 80s music. And gardening. And Greece. And Napier. Throughout her illness, Nicci continues to astound and inspire us with her determination to LIVE and to live well. Sometimes she spends prolonged periods in hospital tied to a morphine drip gathering her strength and then she comes home to spend time with her children and family and friends. She seems to cram more into those 'good days' than the rest of us do in months/years/ a lifetime of being healthy.
So she called me from the hospital a few days before her birthday lunch, and she tells me she wants to ask the divine Karen Dudley to make some home-cooked food. Tired of hospital food and soups she wants comforting tomato bredie. We both love Karen and have spend many happy/sad, laughter/tears mornings eating love sandwiches and almond croissants at The Kitchen in Woodstock. Anyway, she then asks, me, ME! to make my chocolate mousse, well it's not really mine, It's Nigella's. But I take full credit for it, because I make it so well. And my friend wanted me to make it for her for her birthday...Now considering how many foodie friends she has and what an outstanding cook she is, I was flattered ( and smug) beyond belief.
The recipe is dead easy ( damn that word again - see, we laugh in the face of adversity.....) and the best thing ( no the 2nd best thing, the first is the chocolate) about it is the absence of eggs, which makes it perfect for those with a salmonella fear.
The recipe can be found on page 159 of Nigella Express. You should have this book, but if you don't...
Instant Chocolate Mousse
150g mini marshmallows ( I used ordinary ones and cut them in half)
50 g soft butter
250g good dark chocolate ( I used Lindt 70% cocoa)
60ml hot water from recently boiled kettle
1 x 284ml tub double cream ( Woolies has 250ml tubs, so I bought an extra tub, for that extra bit - cream is good)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put marshmallows, butter, chocolate and water in a heavy-based saucepan.
Put the saucepan on the hob, over heat, though keep it fairly gentle, to melt the contents, stirring every now and again. Remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, whip the cream with the vanilla extract until thick, and then fold into the cooling chocolate mixture until you have a smooth cohesive mixture.
Pour into individual glasses or ramekins. ( Or the lovely crystal bowl from your Aunty Janet)

Serves 4-6.

I doubled up the mixture. Simply loved the decadence of breaking 5 slabs of Lindt chocolate into a pot. Small pleasures....

Both the party and the promising presence of my chocolate mousse cooling in the fridge) was lovely, if somewhat sad. (No obviously my chocolate mousse wan't sad, but you get my meaning).
When in walked Nicci's birthday present from Bianca's. A Stripper! I swear, I would die of embarrassment ( again that word) if that ever happened to me. And for the record, we're so not a Ladette -Let's-Hire-A -Male-Stripper group of friends. Of course, all (well most) of the men left to enjoy their cold beers outside, leaving the rest of us to watch the show. And Nicci's extremely funny reaction. The glorious tacky hilarity of it all was just what we needed to remind ourselves that our various friendships with Nicci have always been defined by riotous laughter and colour. And on this significant, very special birthday celebration there were no tears of sadness only tears of laughter. Because our friend Nicci, even now, is so much funnier and more vibrant than the rest of us could ever hope to be.

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