I was quite entertained. Amused, inspired and amazed even. Surprisingly, even the girls. I've hired the DVD through the local online no-late-fees rentals, and quite frankly we've had it since more than 4 weeks ago. After that day, I have once again started working out the kitchen oven while my gym membership is accruing every fortnight. I wonder if there is phase in a year when a fraction of the world's population all march to the beat of one drum and swarm back into their kitchens to cook, bake, create until the phase dies and dwindles down and they go back to their lives and then be inspired again after a few weeks or months. Like the phases of the moon - full moon, half moon, quarter, new moon and then all over again. Or maybe not quite like the moon, but the commercial effects of TV, movies, ads, events and so on. Like the day I met Julie and Julia, along with Simca and Louisette.
The movie for one is totally entertaining. While I marvel at the life of Julia Child in Paris in the 40s portrayed by Meryl Streep, I was also quite fascinated by Julie Powell's life. For a once pencil-pushing bureaucrat to rise from the second floor apartment on top of a pizzeria is something of a feat. But to cook all the 524 recipes of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking is an absolute achievement. And Amy Adams portrayed it so well.
Before the Julie-Julia movie, I only know of Julia Child from mentions in cookbooks I've already owned, read or borrowed from the library. I also heard the name once in a conversation with an aunt who lives in NJ in the US , ...."about spending time in the kitchen so much ala Julia Child"... which was what kept her busy after retirement (she's been baking empanada on the side while still working in the UN but have orders sky rocketed beyond the roof when she retired. One time we were on the phone talking, she was busy preparing 300pcs for an individual order!) Which makes me clueless about Julia until I met both of them, together.
And so, like all food enthusiasts, I try and challenge myself every now (inspired as I was after watching the film) and then to make and create something that will take more than just measuring cups and mixing, but includes serious reading, understanding and involvement. And what could be less than inspiring than the Reine de Saba (Queen of Sheba) featured in the film - the Chocolate Almond Cake by Simone Beck.
The occasion to create something like Simone Beck's Reine de Saba requires more than the indicated preparation and baking time. I have been reading the recipe over and over again for weeks (the book on my bedside table - Mastering the Art of French Cooking and Martha Stewart Cupcakes. But hey, I also have Dreams from Father by Barack Obama so don't think I only dream of cupcakes everyday. Or maybe.....) A cake like this requires a special audience (I was quite sure my girls will not be the right audience for this) and so when the right invitation came, the time to actually bake the cake has come to fruition.
This cake found its way as dessert (alongside a new baking staple in our home - the Lemon Yogurt Cake) to one lovely evening in Cammeray with the Vega's. A lovely dark moist cake, with flaky roasted almonds. The cake is not sweet and has the dark chocolate taste that I oh so love, made even more bitter with the choice addition of espresso in the batter (the ingredients called for either rum or espresso and I chose the latter). While I thought I burned the almonds in the oven, it gave the cake a lovely crunch outside and the roasted taste of the flaked almonds added the extra flavour to this lovely, lovely chocolate cake. A word of caution though - this cake is not your average-kids-party-kind-of-chocolate-cake. This cake is sophisticated. And will definitely be one of those recipes I will want to perfect, by heart. Simone Beck - you are an artist for creating this glorious cake! And as Julia Child always says, "Buon appetit!" There most definitely be a time and place for that Boeuf Bourguignon some day. Meanwhile, all hail to the Queen of Sheba!