We had our friend’s dog Izzy to stay for a few days over the last week while her owner, Linda, went to Istanbul for a short break. Izzy has stayed with us several times before, and visits every Sunday, but seems to have a certain amount of learning difficulty when it comes to our cats.
Typical scene in our house:
Izzy: ‘Oooh, look, there’s a cat. I might chase it, or possibly even nick its breakfast. OWW!’ (*dog exits stage left, sounds of yelping*)
Approximately three minutes later…
Izzy: ‘Oooh, look there’s a cat. I might chase it, or possibly even nick its breakfast. OWW!’ (*dog retires to basket, sounds of yelping*)
Approximately three minutes later…
You get the idea. She is not a fast learner and I am sure she was very glad indeed when Linda got back here and rescued her. In the meantime, she decided to have an altercation with a very large wild boar while we were out on a tea-time stroll in the field below our house. Unfortunately, Robin had decided to take a slightly different route to the one that Izzy and I were taking, so that he could walk in the last little bit of sunshine. Izzy and I rounded the corner and came face to face with a male wild boar about the size of a Shetland pony. Very cross-looking, enormous tusks and very stinky indeed – you really wouldn’t want one as a house guest. At this point, please banish any thoughts from your mind about nice pink domestic pigs – these chaps have a coat like an old yard broom, are built like Sherman tanks, armed with long and very sharp tusks and can be very nasty indeed if disturbed.
Izzy (slow learner, remember) decided she would puff herself up to her fantastic 20cm height and bark at him. I yelled at her like a fishwife to come away, but she is absolutely stone deaf, so this was to no avail (though it certainly distracted the boar’s attention away from the dog and on to me – hmmmm). I yelled louder – something must have got through to Izzy because she turned and looked at me briefly just before she decided to try her luck again with the boar. It was already going through my mind how I was going to break the news of Izzy’s unfortunate demise to Linda when Robin came storming around the corner, alerted by my fishwifeliness. Not being in such a blind panic as I was (he wasn’t the one trying to catch a tiny dog without getting within tusk range of an enormous porcine monster), he chucked a few rocks towards said pig, waved his hiking stick at it a few times and Mr Boar sloped off in a huff, pausing occasionally to show me his tusks and eye me up as next week’s tea. Eeek.
Needless to say, all further twilight walks were taken with small dog firmly on the leash and we didn’t stray from the footpath – not that this would deter a boar – we often watch from our terrace as the boar hide behind cars when humans are passing, or we see a mother and her brood following some metres behind oblivious residents, on their way back from the bus stop.
After last week’s tornado, the weather has been a little quieter over the last few days and we’ve had some amazing late November sunshine, which has encouraged us to spend most afternoons on the beach. Beach always involves tea and most of the time cake of some sort or other (oh, is that why my bottom is not getting any smaller?) I had some egg whites left over from making ice cream last weekend, so I decided to make some friands to use them up (any excuse).
If you’ve not come across these before, they are basically the Australian version of what the French call financiers (I think they are Australian, I’ve never come across them elsewhere, but am happy to be corrected if anyone knows better). You can buy a special friand tin, which is like a muffin tin but with oval moulds – I just use a normal muffin tin, as no-one around here cares whether their cakes are oval or round, they just care about whether there are seconds.
They have a lovely light texture and buttery flavour and take only minutes to mix up. Their only slight drawback is their tendency to stick to the tin, so make sure you butter your tins very generously, and then coat in flour or ground almonds if you can be bothered. If you are really worried about getting them out of the tins, you could line the bases with a disc of baking paper (waxed jam pot covers are exactly the right size – just saying). Make sure you remove them from the tins while they are still hot, or the sticking issue becomes worse – if things get really bad, just give everyone a spoon and eat them out of the tin.
You can use the basic recipe and switch the other ingredients to suit what you have to hand – I made a coffee and walnut version, which was delicious, and you can always replace the ground almonds with ground hazelnuts if you prefer – raspberries would go well with them.
This recipe comes from ‘MIX’, published by The Australian Women’s Weekly – check out their website, it has some great recipes.
Pear & almond friands
You will need a muffin tin or friand tin – buttered and floured, bases lined with discs of baking paper if you wish (or you can line with cupcake papers if you want to be sure they don’t stick)
125g butter or dairy-free margarine, melted
80g ground almonds
160g icing sugar
75g plain flour
1 pear, peeled and cored (eat the other half)
4 egg whites
A couple of handfuls of chocolate chips
A handful of flaked almonds
Pre-heat the oven to 190°C.
Melt the butter and leave to cool while you mix the rest of the ingredients (I do mine in the microwave – it only takes a few seconds).
Weigh out the ground almonds, icing sugar and flour, and stir to mix.
Chop the pear into small dice – the friands only bake for around 20 minutes, so the pears need to be chopped small so that they cook.
In a bowl large enough to take all of the ingredients, whisk the egg whites until they are just starting to go white and frothy – it only takes a few seconds.
Gently tip in the dry ingredients and the butter and stir to combine – I find a rubber spatula the easiest tool for this job.
Once the mixture looks smooth, stir in the pears and the chocolate chips.
Use a spring-action ice cream scoop to spoon the mix into the muffin cups – if you don’t have one, just use a spoon, but the scoop makes things very easy.
Sprinkle with the flaked almonds and then bake for around 20 minutes. The friands should be golden brown and should have risen a little in the middle – like a little volcano erupting.
Run a table knife around the sides of each friand, then remove to a cooling rack (if you find that you leave a little of the friand behind on the tin, just plaster it back into the gap with the knife – it will stay attached as the friand cools).