White Chocolate, Raspberry & Basil Soufflé with Toasted Almonds

Number 8 Maine Street was as strategically placed a house as any kid could hope to grow up in. Walk left out the driveway to the end of the street, turn left again then walk for a brisk five minutes, and you’d find yourself on the grounds of Hillcrest Primary School. Walk right out the driveway to the end of the street, turning right again and walking for the same brisk five minutes, and you would find yourself diving into the pools of the Dannevirke Public Swimming Baths. In the opposite direction turning left was Dannevirke Domain, with the Lower Domain below that. The best direction to leave the house however, was to turn left out the driveway, up to the end of the street, turn right, and within a hundred paces you found yourself on sacred ground; inside the doors of Tinkerbell Dairy, home of the Gobstopper, Fizzy Lollies, and Goody Goody Gumdrops ice cream.

Even though the directions for getting to school were fairly simple; turn left out the driveway, left at the end of the street, down Swinburn Street to the end, and finally left into the school, I still vividly recall the day in my first year at school when I decided to take a shortcut home … and got lost. Rather than reverse the simple ‘left, left, left’ journey, I opted to instead walk straight ahead, missing the first turn, walked for another ten minutes, took a random right turn, walked another five more minutes, cried, walked back to my random right turn, cried, turned left, cried again, before finally one of my older brother’s friends walked out of his driveway and inquired as to where I was headed. I cried. Sensing something was amiss, he called up home, and within five minutes my older brother was biking up the driveway to the rescue; perhaps the last time for the next ten years he went out of his way to help me … As glad as I was to see my older brother, I still remember feeling a little miffed, through all the tears, that Mother had delegated her younger son’s rescue to the eldest; but I guess we had previous form for being late home from school …

Hot summer days and tar seal on the roads were the optimum ingredients needed for a spot of popping ‘tar bubbles’; a delightful pursuit we took up one afternoon after school on the way home. Returning late, Ma was beside herself with worry. Worry quickly turned to anger, then to what could loosely be described as a form of child abuse, as she spent the next hour and a half with a bottle of menthylated spirits and an old rag, scrubbing our feet raw to rid them of the tar. In a sad indictment of our stunted ability to weigh up actions and their consequences, it was not to be the last time she battled with our tar-covered feet. Sometimes, those bubbles were just too damn irresistible.

Summer at Hillcrest Primary always meant school trips to the Dannevirke Swimming Baths. If you had a nice teacher, in the afternoon you would take the short trip across the top field, down a small shingle path, then across the street to the pool. A not so nice teacher (I’m looking at you Mr Simpson …) would have you heading over in the morning, your bag weighed down for the rest of the day by your wet swimming gears. And if you misbehaved at any point before your scheduled trip to the pool? No swimming today, unfortunately (still looking at you Mr Simpson). It was the height of embarrassment to forget your togs (that’s right; not swimming trunks, not swim shorts, we called them togs …) as you were exiled to the stands, forced to watch on as your classmates practiced atomic bombs, staples, and superman dives into the pool. During those summer days Ma knew her single most important task of the morning was to ensure she left out on the kitchen bench three fifty cent pieces; the after-school entry fee for the pool. If we had spare change we would hire out a ‘flutter board’, a polystyrene swimming aid that we put to good use as a Frisbee, seeing how far we could fling it from the water. Losing the fifty cents or so it would cost for the flutter board was a price well paid for the pleasure of seeing it fly over the fence, down into the depths of the Lower Domain. When the frequent summer rains would pass over, and the announcement came over the loudspeakers to exit the pool for fear of lightening strikes (which never, ever, happened) we would stay in the water, loving the sense of heat the change in temperature would bring to the water. Afterwards, arriving home, we would devour bananas smothered in peanut butter, famished from our aquatic adventures. When I think of summer in Dannevirke, my thoughts immediately go to those Public Swimming Baths, and the hours we spent swimming there.

In front of the Baths were the local cricket nets, and beyond lay the fields of The Dannevirke Domain, home to my early incompetence with bat and ball. Every Saturday morning, dressed in white, I would venture out onto the pitch, swing my bat, and occasionally meet leather. When it was my turn to bowl, I would embark on a junior rendition of the infamous ‘Bodyline Series’, with the ball hurled at all parts of the batsman’s body, or any foolish close in fielders. Trudging home with abysmal figures recorded, I would smile at Ma and tell her how great a game I played. And do it all over again the following Saturday, year after year … Scattered around the Domain were the ageing grandstands, a small toddler’s swimming pool, some swings, a fountain, and what we called the ‘ark’; a kind of giant merry-go-round that swung up and down as well as around, old tires strapped to the bottom to aid in the ‘bounce’. It was a regular occurrence for a random child to fall to the (concrete) ground and get hammered beneath the tires with the motion of the ark, others laughing at the poor child’s attempts to escape the ark’s clutches. Those ‘other’s’ may or may not have been us three brothers … And we may or may not have swung the ark so hard that small children scattered over the sides, flying through the air …  There was never any conclusive proof fingering us as the culprits, and no witnesses ever came forward. Case unsolved I guess.

You could easily walk down to the Lower Domain by heading down Christian Street, but we usually chose the small dirt track leading down from the top of the Swimming Baths. And we never really walked, we were far more daring riding our BMX ‘Dirtbusters’. And it wasn’t really a small dirt track, more a cliff edge on a slight incline, old gnarled roots ready to snarl those who weren’t concentrating their full strength to defeating the forces of gravity. It would take a leisurely five minute walk to reach the Lower Domain from Christian Street; I’m proud to say we could do it in thirty seconds, down that devilish dirt track on our Dirtbuster’s. It could be done in ten seconds, but no spokes, wheels or skin arrived at the bottom unscathed. Down the Lower Domain, past the A-Frame camping huts, the stagnant lakes of water, the picnic tables and the rusty public barbecues, was the deer enclosure. For reasons I have yet to fathom, my brother and his friend, at the height of the breeding season, stags stomping and making their mark everywhere behind the two metre high fence, decided to climb over, I think to see what was on the other side. Never have I seen such a sudden look of comprehension dawn on someone’s face, when staring at an obviously angry stag not more than a metre away from them, my brother thought to himself ‘maybe not such a good idea’ … Within three bounds they were up, over, and onto the other side, unfortunately covered in the musky smell of marauding stags that covered the fence. That smell was so bad, we were forced to come up with a new adjective, and now, if we ever come close to encountering a similar smell we whisper to each other; ‘that guy smells like stageena!’

But it was those few hundred paces from home, that small shop on the corner, Tinkerbell Dairy, that was far and away our favourite landmark close to home. Those signs outside, the cabinets within, the stocks of sugar, and the wages of the staff; we must have financed some of that, so often were we in there sampling the goods. We were there through all the trends; fizzy sherbets, hard candies, soft sugars, all iterations of the gobstopper; small, large, and extra large. Chocolate covered toffee bars that came perilously close to cracking teeth apart; sour balls so explosive that for a second or two after they entered your mouth, you simply could not speak, head shaking uncontrollably with tears streaming down your cheeks from the shattering sourness. There were two metre long tapes of chewing gum which we shovelled into our mouths with careless abandon, hours later still chewing, jaws aching. Blood Bites and Zombie balls would create fountains of red or green in your mouth, and we would stumble across roads, the colours cascading down our chins, attempting to scare anyone driving by. They never stopped, apart from the one time we mixed the two together; small children sprouting brown goo from their mouths was obviously cause for concern.

From K-Bars to Crunchie Bars, we tried them all, and it was from Tinkerbell Dairy that our family’s life-long love affair with confectionery was born. For years no meal seemed complete without something sweet to eat afterwards, and dinner would have forever continued on like that I think, well into old age, had my teeth not finally given in. After months of pain, at the tender age of 25, I was in the dentist’s office having the final remains of one of my back teeth removed. It came as no surprise to me that a day later my twin brother was on the phone, telling me he too had to have the exact same tooth removed. Now, when people find out I have a twin brother and ask if we finish each other’s sentences, or know when the other is in pain, I simply reply no; our teeth just fall out at the same time.

I still adore anything sweet, but for the future health of my teeth I have had to dramatically cut down on sugar. I’m sure my older brother will be shaking his head when he reads that sentence; his idea of dramatic and my idea of essential are maybe a little different. It would perhaps be more precise to say that rather than have a bag of sweets beside me every night after dinner, I’ve downgraded to every second night, with the occasional bout of ice cream in between. It’s a start I think; I have years of addiction to wean myself off …

White Chocolate, Raspberry & Basil Soufflé with Toasted Almonds

White chocolate and raspberry are two flavours that meld together extremely well. Raspberry and basil complement each other perfectly. And toasted almonds? They’re exceptional with all manner of desserts. Don’t let the soufflé part daunt you, this is a fairly easy recipe to pull together. With the right amount of preparation this can easily be knocked together in around 15 minutes, and for the half hour it takes to cook you can regale your dinner companions with your own stories of the local corner shop …

Ingredients:

  • 200 grams Good Quality White Chocolate (the cooking kind)
  • 100 grams Unsalted Butter
  • 3 Egg Whites
  • 2 Egg Yolks
  • 30 grams Castor Sugar (superfine works best)
  • 25 grams Brown Sugar
  • 30 grams Almond Meal
  • 200 grams Raspberries (I use frozen …)
  • Blanched Almonds
  • Fresh Basil

This is enough to serve four people, in medium sized ramekins.

First … A Bit of Mise en Place:

Start by turning the oven on to 180 degrees.

If you’re using frozen berries, defrost them quickly in the microwave (besides softening ice cream, perhaps the only other thing I use the microwave for …). Next you need to spend a good couple of minutes passing the raspberries through a sieve. It’s the juicy pulp you want, not the pips.

With that done roughly chop around a quarter of a cup’s worth of fresh basil, and five to six whole almonds. Toast the chopped almond pieces in a pan for a minute or two, being sure not to burn them.

Next, get out the kitchen scales and separately measure out the brown sugar, castor sugar, butter and almond meal. Mix the egg yolk in with the brown sugar once you’re done.

Finally, grease your ramekins with some butter then lightly sprinkle some castor sugar inside, shaking out any excess.

Next … The White Chocolate:

Melt the white chocolate over a double-boiler (pot on the stove, water gently simmering in it, white chocolate in a glass bowl perched on top of the pot). Be extremely conscious of the heat; white chocolate is fairly unstable, and if the heat is too high the cocoa butter and milk solids will separate, and you’ll need to start again with a fresh batch of chocolate. While the chocolate is gently melting away, in a pan melt down the butter then stir in half the basil, infusing the flavour. When the chocolate has melted through remove from the heat, and stir in the basil butter. Mix in the rest of the basil, the raspberry juice, toasted almonds (reserving a few for later) and the almond meal, then the egg yolk and brown sugar mixture, stirring constantly. Set aside and move quickly onto the egg whites.

Next … The Egg Whites:

In a bowl use an electric beater (or for the uninitiated; a hand whisk …) and beat the egg whites until firm. Still beating, slowly add the castor sugar, and continue beating until stiff peaks are formed. Pay attention to when those stiff peaks are formed; if you beat the whites too far water is introduced to the mixture later on, resulting in half-set soufflé’s at the end.

Next … Putting It All Together:

Mix a small amount of the egg whites into the other mixture to lighten it up, then start gently folding (not stirring) in the rest of the egg whites with a spatula. This should only take a minute or two, be careful not to take too long folding, as you will start to loose the air trapped in the egg whites. Pour the mixture in evenly into the ramekins, place in an oven tray and pour some boiling water into the tray. This helps regulate the heat and cook the soufflés evenly. Place on the bottom tray of the oven, then cook for 25 to 30 minutes. Sprinkle some of the toasted almonds over the top and serve immediately. Be careful though, they’re still pretty damn hot …

From gobstoppers to soufflés, it’s been a sweet journey; and it all started those few hundred paces from 8 Maine Street. The Dannevirke Domain and Lower Domain are still there, but the Ark long gone. The Swimming Baths have been renamed the AMP Wai Splash Community Pool, and some of the magic seems gone now. Hillcrest Primary School closed a few years ago, amalgamating with the enemy; North School. However, it brought a smile to my face to see when searching Google Maps, that still there, some odd thirty years later, was Tinkerbell Dairy.

M Cameron

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About strive for tone

I grew up in a small town getting up to all manner of shenanigans with my twin brother and older brother, aging our mother far beyond her years. Since then I've waited tables, ran restaurants, and shook a shaker more than once. I make coffee now from a beautiful custom gold FB-80. In the past I've washed dishes, poured wine, crumbed white linen and peeled potatoes. I like food. I like writing. Its a good match. I take a bite, grab a pen, stare straight ahead and strive for good tone. M Cameron
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2 Responses to White Chocolate, Raspberry & Basil Soufflé with Toasted Almonds

  1. Jen says:

    I was crying with laughter while reading your article. I too was taught by the sadistic Mr Simpson (I HATED those morning swims), have bought lollies at Tinkerbell Dairy, and was forced to do cross country down that old dirt track. I’m curious…what years did you attend? I can’t for the life of me remember twin brothers there at the same time as I…though your last name rings a bell. Was a Robert Cameron a relative of yours?

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