Sunday, 1 July 2012

Whisky Cardomom Chocolate loveliness

Dear Readers, 

Firstly, sorry for my absence of late. I'm in (what I hope will be) the final stages of editing my book and what with my fab-u new German class I haven't surfaced for yonks.

Still, a girl's gotta eat, right?

So today, when we were preparing a lovely Sunday roast, I stumbled a chocolate dessert recipe that is so simple and versatile, its suitable for most, including (with some tweaking) dieters, vegans and (if you remove the whisky) non-drinkers and so on (insert your dietary need here). Essentially its a classic, but with a little play I'd like to think I've enriched let me know.


Roche's whisky cardamom chocolate puds

(makes 2 servings)

A slug of Raphy's special Jura whisky (woops! But he forgave me when he tasted the puddings)

4 generous tablespoons* of fine cornflour

4 tablespoons of cocoa powder

2 spoonfuls of raw cane sugar (or sugar product of your choice, or try with Agave nectar)

4 cardomon pods, ground with pestle and mortar

400ml or so of milk of your choice.

For my base I took a chocolate pudding mix (schoko-pudding auf Deustch, how cute) from the supermarket, which, laughably, consists of all of two ingredients, cornflour and cocoa powder. Both of these goodies may well be in your store cupboard already. 

To this I added about two or three generous spoonfuls more of cocoa, because I wanted to achieve an intense dark chocolate taste and the schoko-pudding mix looked rather pale**. Then I ground up 4 cardamom pods with a pestle and mortar (after grinding remove the shells of the pods and use only the ground-up seeds).

In place of dairy milk I used oat milk. Of course you can use cow's milk and indeed cream for a richer, more indulgent variation. Stir 6 spoonfuls of the cold milk into your chocolate-cornflour base (you're aiming for a creamy consistency here, judge it by eye) and heat the rest on the stove to almost boiling point. 

The cold mixture will form a beautifully rich chocolate paste, to which you should add your sugar to taste and ground cardamom. 

When the milk is approaching boiling point, pour it over your chocolate mixture and stir together and then immediately return to the stove on a moderate to high heat. Continue stirring with a whisk, and very quickly your mixture should begin to thicken. Glorious. 

Only when removed from the heat, add the whisky, (we really don't want this to cook out, people). 

Pour into nice (sturdy, heatproof) glasses or ceramic ramekins. When cooled, you may like to add a layer of whipped cream, about a finger thick, or indeed a non-dairy equivalent (soya cream? get hunting). Allow to cool in the fridge for at least a couple of hours, or until dinner time! 

Dust with cocoa powder over to serve.

Cardamom and whisky compliment each other beautifully, but if you're avoiding liquor I also find that the cardamom and cocoa combination is rather intoxicating as well. 
*by which I mean ordinary spoons for eating, and not large serving spoons.
** My 'schoko pudding' base from the supermarket was 4 parts cornflour to 1 part cocoa powder, whereas my mixture used roughly even amounts of both.  

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Carnival à la Berlin...

Surprising the things you may encounter by following your nose around your vibrant Berlin neighbourhood. The Raphy and I stumbled upon a carnival (!!) and a beautiful one at that. 

This gorgeous event, took place over three days of a searingly hot weekend in the capital. We took to it day and night, naturlich. Where else can one enjoy a cocktail, nyam some jerk chicken and buy a djembe drum, all in the same evening?

I confess I had a few misgivings about what might unfold at an international carnival in a country that betrays dubious notions of what is known as 'integration'. Would this be the sort of one-sided integration I'd seen elsewhere? With all the emphasis on 'foreigners' to integrate and none on the Germans themselves? Would this world carnival be all exotic spectacle and gawping onlookers?

Well, no actually. Here was an event of genuine multicultural intermingling. We saw more brown faces amongst the revelers at Carnival than I have in the streets of Berlin for a long time. And amongst my favourite bands of the Sunday street parade were those with Germans playing Brazilian drums that move you down to your core. 

I was recently in London to interview a lovely elderly gentlemen for the final chapter of my book. He'd been a friend of pioneering feminist leader Claudia Jones, one of the originators of the first Caribbean carnival celebrations in London (the crucial forerunner to the Notting Hill Carnival). Berlin's Karneval der Kulteren resonates deeply with the original motivations of Jones and her collaborators as they weaved new dreams in smoggy, wintry, un-integrated London all those decades ago.

Thursday, 3 May 2012


Of both the literal and cultural variety this week, readers.

First the cultural. It all started last Thursday night, when we hit town and to take in the South African opera.

It was just the most amazing experience of a staged production I've ever had: ever, ever, ever. I loved every minute. This clip hardly does it justice.

By the end I was up on my feet, loudly showing my appreciation. The encore was a traditional South African song, and afterwards the man next to me asked me its name. I chose to be flattered, rather than annoyed, on this occasion, readers. I wish I did know its name and all the words. I've been slightly obsessed with South Africa, since it began its new life...South African arts, South African fashion...(of which, more later).

Now to the literal heatwave. I'm so pleased to tell this blog that Raphy and I continue our explorations into darkest Brandenburg...
As temperatures soared to 30 degrees, we took to our wheels... 
...and were to be found lakeside...
...and riverside on the beautiful, watery outskirts of Berlin.
Truly a bike will take you anywhere in this city. Its hard to believe that scenes like this are within the borders of the capital.

I'm really very inspired to create something from this image...
Ahhh, but since the heatwave seems to be over...This weekend, I'm looking forward to BE.BOP and a new exhibition Fashioning Fashion....

Peace peeps!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Colonising [Germany] in Reverse

Wat a joyful news, Miss Mattie,
I feel like me heart gwine burs
Jamaica people colonizin
Englan in Reverse

By de hundred, by de tousan
From country and from town,
By de ship-load, by de plane load
Jamica is Englan boun.

Dem a pour out a Jamaica,
Everybody future plan
Is fe get a big-time job
An settle in de mother lan.

What an islan! What a people!
Man an woman, old an young
Jus a pack dem bag an baggage
An turn history upside dung

Excerpt from 'Colonisation in Reverse', Louise Bennett (pictured), Jamaican poet and folklorist, 1966.[i]

One of the great ironies of life in Berlin is that its an oasis of hip! Its an urban, oh-so-cool island, in the middle of the former GDR, the repressive authoritarian East German regime that followed fascist Nazi rule. The suppressed trauma and the healing the past that needs to follow, is still a very young process. And, as for Germany reckoning with its colonial past, that process is younger still. And though Berlin is an island, that is not to say it doesn't also have pockets of far-right extremism, but most of my friends, be they people of colour, or not, celebrate Berlin joyously.

Its an artistic place, wonderfully immediate and socially alive. I've found friends, yoga, art, a new language, favourite cafes, beer-gardens, hang-outs, parks, riverside walks, knitters, the best tofu hamburger in town...through word-of-mouth, flyers and billnotes, and good old-fashioned exploration.

So it was with exploration in mind that Raph and I headed off into the countryside - darkest Brandenburg - last Saturday afternoon, thinking we'd find ourselves some fresh air and good-times on our bikes.

And that we did. Most people were cool, some even friendly. But was the feeling of hostility as we left the city boundaries, real or imagined? I don't suppose one gets good vibes from pissed-off drunk teenagers anywhere, but there was something eerily ill-at-ease about the small gangs we passed huddling under trees. Luckily, my brilliant bike Fifi has all 8 gears, and we could cycle blithely by.

Its no secret that far-right extremism isn't just a rebellious identity for youth, but also, socially acceptable in some parts of the country. The past year has seen renewed calls for national introspection as a result of the racist murders that were, in a show of remarkable arrogance and blindness, labelled 'Kebab-Murders', by the press (ie, the local equivalent of what the British press likes to call 'black-on-black' violence). The murders were hardly a priority for the authorities until the suicide pact of the neo-Nazis responsible exposed the extent of official complacency.

I'm not gonna lie, we've even encountered racist daubings on a bench overlooking a serene and beautiful lake (oh, the irony). But in the spirit of the irrepressible Ms Bennett and the brave Jamaicans she wrote about, tongue-heavily in cheek, colonising England in reverse more than 50 years ago, we continue to take pleasure in the surrounding green of Berlin island and 'henjoy weself'' in the great outdoors. 

And what's more, part of the experience of being black in Europe is defying preconceived notions of where black bodies belong. There's nothing inherently urban about me. My mother grew up playing in the grassy meadows of St Lucy, Barbados. And, like most Bajans, our family has been migrating to exotic new places out of need and from sheer curiousity, for many many generations.

Happily Deutsche Welle recently reported on the African Diaspora taking to Berlin to its heart and calling the city home. What a beautiful thing to witness, more Africans turning history upside down!


[i]               Louise Bennett, 'Colonisation in Reverse', in James Proctor (ed) Writing Black Britain: An Interdisciplinary Anthology (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2000),  pp. 16-17.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Frontier Girl

There's an austerity to the natural beauty of the mountains....

That takes some getting used to...

But, dear reader, I'm delighted to tell this blog that I climbed into a pair of skiing boots, and gave the thing a respectable try, somewhere near the bottom of this mountain.
At first it was tricky...
But I'm assured I did pretty well.
Inwardly, I'm also glad that no video footage exists...
Here is the Raphy in his element. Watching him career down steep slopes put me in mind of the Beeb's Ski Sunday, which I often sat glued to as a child. Oh, yes, I was the original 10-year-old armchair expert on a whole range of sports. A regular little pundit prodigy. People listened to me. Its a wonder that I somehow remained beneath the radar of Grandstand and Match of the Day, but, ours is not to question why...