Wednesday, December 01, 2010


“Here I am, bag and baggage,” she said briskly. “Mother sent her love, and was glad if I could do anything for you. Meg wanted me to bring some of her blanc-mange; she makes it very nicely, and Beth thought her cats would be comforting.”

“That looks too pretty to eat,” he said, smiling with pleasure, as Jo uncovered the dish, and showed the blanc-mange, surrounded by a garland of green leaves, and the scarlet flowers of Amy’s pet geranium.

“It isn’t anything, only they all felt kindly, and wanted to show it. Tell the girl to put it away for your tea; it’s so simple, you can eat it; and being soft, it will slip down without hurting your sore throat…”
- Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

I've fantasized about giant wobbly towers of blancmange ever since I read the Wishing Chair stories, by Enid Blyton. I still remember how I got the book. I was seven and enamored of my roller skates. We had a pair each, Ken and I. We'd strap them on as soon as we returned home from school and spend hours whizzing along the corridors of the house, crashing into walls and scaring the dog. Even when Amma sent us on errands to the neighbourhood kirana store, we couldn't bring ourselves to take them off, so we'd skate to the store on the tar road of our colony, sounding like miniature thunderstorms.
One afternoon however, as I was rolling blissfully about the house, with the dog barking at me from under the bed, Ken came speeding in the opposite direction and the edge of his skate went neatly under the nail of my second toe.
The nail hung on determinedly for the next couple of days, by a mere scrap of skin. Under my interested gaze, my toe swelled up to twice its size and turned a rather garish purple. Finally, Appa took me to the hospital, to have it professionally dressed. The nurse there said she'd have to remove the nail for the wound to heal properly. So Appa held me down and the nurse got out a nasty looking pair of pliers, with which she seized my nail and yanked it out. I didn't cry. It wasn't from any particular form of bravery, events were just moving too fast for my seven-year-old mind to grasp. By the time I understood that they wanted to pull out my nail, it was already out and the nurse was efficiently bandaging my toe. To cry then seemed a bit anticlimactic.
But Appa was thoroughly impressed with my courage and I encouraged the idea. He drove me straight to a bookstore from the hospital and I emerged from there with "The Wishing Chair" proudly clutched in my arms.
I was doubly triumphant over the book, both because I had already convinced myself that I had been incredibly brave, and also because it was a fairy story, the sort that Ken would disdain, and consequently, would be entirely my own.
It was in that book that I first read of wobbly chocolate blancmanges. The pudding finds mention in other novels, Little Women being one. Each time I read of it, I longed to recreate it, something I finally did today.
With the slight erudition of taste that is the difference between seven and twenty two, I chose to flavour my blancmange with orange as well as chocolate, imagining the flavours would play well against each other.I also accessorized, rather unnecessarily, with a pour of my crunchy chocolate sauce, a recipe that I'm still working on and will share with you once it's perfected.
Blancmange really isn't for everyone. I can't countenance eating any other flavour of it besides chocolate, it is too weak tasting, like food for the sick. But when you add copious amounts of cocoa and a spoonful of marmalade, freeze it stupid and embrace its wobble, it tastes like childhood, all over again.

Chocolate Blancmange flavoured with Marmalade
Milk: 2 cups
Cornstarch: 2 1/2 tbsp
Cocoa: 1 1/2 tbsp
Sugar: 3 tbsp
Orange marmalade: 1 rather generous tablespoon
Boil the milk. Whisk together the cocoa and cornstarch. When the milk is bubbling, spoon some into the cocoa-cornstarch mixture, enough to reduce it to a thin, gruel-like liquid. Pour this liquid back into the milk in a thin stream, whisking continuously. The milk should thicken almost immediately. Working fast, stir in the sugar, turn off the heat and then stir in the marmalade. You can also add in a scant handful of walnuts at this point, like I did, but they are unnecessary. Immediately pour the mixture into a wetted mould, taking care not to leave air bubbles on the surface.
Set in the freezer for about two hours, then turn out on a serving dish. Cut into pieces and serve, if you like, with a pour of chocolate sauce.


Anwesha said...

Looks really yummy. :) Btw, awesome photography Nithya. Have you been taking these photos yourself? They look very professional.

Nithya said...

@Onnesha, thank you :)
All the photos so far have been by me. I'm glad you like them.

Vartika said...

am not sure whether to drool over the dessert, your photography or your writing..!

Nithya said...

Aww Vaati, you pay the nicest compliments :)

Ayesha said...

This is really a good stuff, This sounds good. I like it. Photo Recovery