'You're very attractive for a woman in her dancing years,' Peter said to me one evening, as he gazed deep into my eyes. 'How very charming,' I thought to myself. My heart was all-a-flutter and I held those romantic words of his in a special place -- until I mentioned them to him during a playful moment a few months later.
'I never said that!,' he insisted. 'Yes, you did,' I responded, detailing the exact time and setting. 'No, I didn't say that,' he insisted again, shaking his head. And then I saw a wave of realisation cross his face as he began to chuckle — his eyes wrinkled and his dimple showed. 'You deaf thing,' he laughed, tickling my nose. 'What I said is: "you are very attractive for a woman in her advancing years".'
'Oh!'. My shoulders slumped. 'How dare he refer to me as someone of advancing years', I thought, feeling quite deflated. Hey, I was a youngster in my forties and, after all, Peter and I were born in the same year. Actually he is about seven months older than I. Hmph.
However, he was right about my hearing, for I'm bilaterally deaf, which is unusual for someone my age and most likely from a childhood ear infection. To make matters worse, I have tinnitus that comes and goes in one ear too, thanks to an extremely loud pop concert in the 1980s. I liken the sound to something you would hear if you'd just walked into a rainforest full of cicadas! So, yes, I have issues with my ears, but hey, I feel grateful that somebody still finds me 'very attractive'.
Anyhoo, this conversation took place eight or nine years ago but we still laugh about to this day. Actually, we laugh a lot and we act like a pair of kids. I don't believe I've laughed quite this much since my childhood. Finding the funny side of things is part of why we're so well suited to each other, methinks. He always tells me that I'm 'cute' and 'a great cook', albeit bit of a 'nutcase' — and I think he's just plain funny and quite charming at times — if not a little forgetful.
'How long has that bush been there?,' he asked earlier this week when he came inside from checking the mail. 'Which bush?,' I queried. 'The big one that's covered in little flowers. It's right near the mail box,' he said. 'The Correa with the bells? It's always been there,' I replied with a laugh. 'It dies back every winter and I cut it down to the ground and then it flourishes again.' I said. 'Really?,' he said, looking puzzled. 'I don't think I've ever noticed it before,' he added, scratching his head. 'Well it's always been there,' I smiled, quietly remembering that he himself had helped me remove the prunings in early Spring.
And, so I adore this man who can laugh with me at my quirkiness, and I at his. Growing older (albeit a little deaf and, maybe even forgetful) together is looking good!
Here in Australia, the season is changing from summer to autumn, or fall, and this is one of the best times of the year, particularly in my home city of Canberra. The evenings and early mornings are crisp and cool, while the days are still warm. Fruit and vegetables are particularly good right now. Aussie apples are just coming into their best time, oranges are sweet and juicy, and rhubarb is abundant at greengrocers and supermarkets.
My recipe for rhubarb and apple galette is a celebration of the new season, the beautiful weather, the fact that in my retirement I can spend my days cooking and gardening to my heart's content, and that, despite the storm clouds that can sometimes gather from the blue to darken our days, for the most part life itself is pure sweetness and joy.
RHUBARB AND APPLE GALETTE
one quantity pâte sucrée a la Lizzy (see below)
For the filling:
340g rhubarb, washed, leaves discarded
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored (see image)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
juice and finely chopped zest of an orange
1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
1/4 cup golden caster sugar
For the baking:
1/2-1 cup rice crumbs or almond meal (for the base)
1 free range egg, whisked
1 teaspoon golden caster sugar, extra
1 teaspoon butter, extra
First, make the shortcrust pastry and pop it into the refrigerator to chill. Next, cut the peeled and cored apple into 8 segments, then cut each of those in half again. Sprinkle lemon juice over the apple to keep the flesh from turning brown. Chop the rhubarb stalks into 1.5cm lengths. Combine the rhubarb pieces, apple pieces, juice and zest of the orange, vanilla extract and the sugar in a saucepan, and heat gently. Poach for 5-10 minutes only, stirring occasionally. Do please take care not to let the rhubarb soften or over-cook, as you don't want mush for this galette. Set aside and allow to cool.
Preheat oven to 190 degrees C. Roll out the pastry on a floured board to a 28cm circle. Neaten the edges with a crimping tool if you like. Transfer the pastry to a lined baking sheet, lifting it by rolling part of it back onto the rolling pin. Spread the rice crumbs or almond meal in the centre of the pastry, allowing an 8cm border around the outer edge for the fold.
With a slotted ladle, spoon the fruit mixture over the top of the rice crumbs or almond meal. Now fold the edges upwards and in, working carefully, and then pinch together at the seams. Spoon the fruit liquid from the pan over the top of the fruit. Brush the pastry with the whisked egg and sprinkle with the extra sugar.
Bake for 25 minutes at 190 degrees C (keeping an eye to ensure the pastry doesn't brown too quickly - this will be dependent on your own oven), then lower the temperature to 170 degrees and bake for a further 20 minutes* until the pastry is golden. *In the last 5-10 minutes, pop a teaspoon of butter on top of the fruit and allow it to bake through. Serve warm, dusted with icing sugar and with a dollop of mascarpone. Store in an airtight container. Serves 6.
PÂTE SUCRÉE or SWEET SHORTCRUST PASTRY
200g plain (AP) flour, sifted (this aerates the flour)
1/2-1 tablespoon pure icing sugar
100g unsalted butter, chilled, diced
1 free range egg, lightly whisked
1-2 teaspoons water, as needed
If you feel like releasing the Earth Mother from within, make the pastry by hand. Combine the flour, icing sugar and butter in a bowl and rub the butter into the dry ingredients with the tips of your fingers, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs (oh, and do brush a little flour onto your cheek, so that you partner can see and appreciate your efforts!). According to my 1970 edition of The Commonsense Cookery Book, you should lift the flour/butter 'well out of the basin during the process to admit the air' or in plain terminology, to aerate it. Now add the eggs and mix into a ball. Then you add the water gradually, as needed, to make a pliable, but not-too-dry dough. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
If you like you can also use a stainless steel pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour, rather than your hands.
I have also successfully made pastry in my food processor. To do this, combine the sifted flour, icing sugar and diced butter in the bowl of the processor and pulse until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Then add the whisked egg and pulse again. Now add the water (not all of it), just until the dough comes together. Place the pastry onto a floured bench top and shape it into a ball. Please don't knead the dough or over handle it, as it will become tough. Chill the pastry for 30 minutes.
The pâte sucrée a la Lizzy...
The rhubarb and the apples...
Does my bum look big from this angle?
Tell me dear readers, are you able to find the funny side of things? Have you ever misheard a compliment? And what's the weather like in your part of the world?
Do please leave a comment, I really enjoy hearing from all of you. Love and hugs from my kitchen to yours, Lizzy xo
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.