Memorial Day calls for an easy dessert after a dinner of husband-smoked pork ribs and an in-law-constructed glorious eggplant dish (from Ottolenghi’s Plenty, no less). Thus, it was the perfect time to trot out Donna Hay’s cookbook Flavours. As I have mentioned before (and before and before), I am a fan of Australia’s Ms. Hay, as her recipes are simple and easy to execute. There is nothing fancy or flashy about her work, but it is always tasty enough to serve to guests and easy enough for a weeknight meal.
Memorial Day was overcast and foggy up in Fort Bragg—the perfect kind of day for me, although others were disappointed that the fog didn’t lift and we were left eating indoors rather than out in the garden. However, the fog is the perfect vehicle for a morning spent grading and cooking and an early afternoon spent jogging by the beach while the husband grilled ribs and at one point seemed to be washing the side of the house with a long handled brush. To each his own.
I loved being at the beach, though, this weekend. The smell was that comforting but slightly grotesque aroma of rot and sand and sea. Clearly the tide had left behind a slew of tiny crab carcasses, and the birds were out in abundance picking through the bounty. However, said bounty left behind a heady, salty smell that took quite a few breaths to get used to. But locals and tourists alike were walking the beach with their dogs (some dogs in owners' arms, as was one short-legged dachshund who had gotten pooped out long before its companion Labrador mutt had), a gaggle of prepubescent and shirtless boys were playing baseball in a protected cove (despite the cold wind), and even I was playing in the sand. I’ll admit to two cartwheels, both of which solidified the fact that it has been years since I have done two cartwheels. The fog hung low enough to block the view of the cliffs that drop into the sea, but what view there was announced itself as beautiful, closed in and loud with surf. Oh!
Upon return, I showered and then settled in for a glass of wine before guests arrived. Quietly and skittishly, a red and grey fox trotted up to the porch and peered in the door, too quick to be captured by the camera. These are hardly the makings of a traditional barbeque, but certainly the makings of a memorable one.
These brownies with little taste bombs of raisins soaked in rum were a fine, simple way to end the meal. In reality, I thought the rum could have come through a little stronger. Perhaps a dark or a spiced rum next time? Maybe soak them overnight in the rum rather than quick cook them? However, the combination of rum, raisins, and chocolate is always a good one—nay perhaps even a perfect one following such a lovely day.
Rum and Raisin BrowniesAdapted from Donna Hay's Flavours
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup (6 fluid ounces) light rum
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
6.5 ounces butter
4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
2 cups sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8-inch square cake pan with cooking spray.
2. Place the raisins and the rum in a saucepan over low heat and simmer until almost all of the rum has been absorbed. Set aside to cool.
3. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
3. Place the butter and chocolate in a saucepan (double boiler preferable, but a saucepan is fine in a pinch) over low heat and stir until smooth. Add the sugar and stir until smooth again. Place the chocolate mixture in a large bowl and add the eggs, mixing thoroughly until each is incorporated. Then add the flour mixture until combined. Then slowly fold in the rum-raisin mixture.
4. Pour the chocolate batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until set. Cool completely before cutting into squares to serve.