It’s nearly Christmas which in a strange contradictory way feels like it should come as a great shock, as in “good grief, what happened to November, or the rest of the year for that matter?”, but at the same time I feel I can wave my hand nonchalantly and say Christmas schmistmas (try saying that out loud, difficult.) Not because I don’t care and not because I don’t crave more than anything a day or two to spend with family and friends eating and drinking, but because when it all boils down, that’s really all we need to worry about in our house – the food and the wine.
In November blog readers around the world were inundated with Thanksgiving recipes and stories and photographs of turkey. Most writers spoke of the comfort that can be found in having the traditional Thanksgiving menu year after year, while other writers posted recipes for the new and the different. After several weeks of pumpkin pie recipes and cranberry sauce and tales of gathering at the family table I had had enough. If I read another turkey stuffing recipe or ideas for how to use the leftovers I might have screamed. My animosity towards Thanksgiving might very well stem from jealousy, I’ll be the first to admit it. I would love another holiday so close to Christmas, another opportunity to cook and eat with the people I love, but I must wait to Christmas here.
So I became eager and excited for the days when our family could plan our Christmas meal. We usually try new things, experiment with new flavours. There are special ingredients, like scallops, that we save for days like Christmas but otherwise the wonderful thing about our Christmas table is the food doesn’t seem too far from our everyday. This makes our Christmas menu sound a bit boring, perhaps? As if quick week night meals were on par with our Christmas fare. The difference between the everyday and Christmas is time – we have all day to prepare our meal. We spend the day pottering and tinkering about in the kitchen, occasionally taking breaks to eat chocolates, pour more bubbles, open presents or lounge in the sun (the joys of a southern hemisphere Christmas). Then, suddenly it’s 2 in the afternoon and our table is full.
I love the rituals of our Christmas, the unstated guidelines our family has about how long to spend in your pyjamas in the morning, how we set the table, the bowls of chocolates or roasted nuts for people to pick at during the day and the annual trip to Kirk’s Christmas shop to choose our decoration. This reflection on Thanksgiving and Christmas, family and food, prompted me to think of my family’s favourite recipes – the ones held constant throughout my life. There are quite a few on this list but whether they were held constant in the reality of my childhood or whether I have fabricated their near perpetual existence in my memory, as I am prone to doing, I cannot say. But they are good and I hope to share them all here, one day. First though is the chocolate oat cookie, revered in Lowe family lore.
All four of us have made this recipe countless times and nearly every time the cookies have turned out differently. Someone may have added too much butter and the biscuits become flat crisps. Other times perhaps the butter and sugar were not creamed properly, or maybe a smidge too much baking powder and we have high, fluffy, scone like biscuits. Every time these biscuits have been good, perhaps made in haste but never without love. These inconsistencies are not a fault of the recipe, instead they are testament that with chocolate, oats and butter there is not a lot that can go wrong.
Sometimes these biscuits have been made with chocolate chips, other times with a roughly chopped block of dark chocolate. A few times we have abandoned the chocolate altogether and used raisins instead. These days roughly chopped Whittaker’s dark chocolate is the way to go; the hunks of chocolate are molten fresh from the oven but hold their shape within a thin seal ready to burst into warm fudge as you bite through. The binding flavour here, what differentiates this cookie from a regular chocolate chip, is not the chocolate used, or the (significant) quantity of butter, or the addition of sweetened condensed milk, but the oats. That nutty, soft flavour I find irresistible in so many things seems to bring me home every time I eat them. Chocolate oat cookies did that perhaps, and for that I am thankful.
Chocolate Oat Cookie
Once you’ve added the flour and the rolled oats, the ratio of dry to wet ingredients seems a bit out and the mixture too dry. Work it well with your hands or a really large spoon and all will be ok.
250 grams butter
3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 and 1/2 cups flour
1 and 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
150 grams roughly chopped dark chocolate
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray. Cream the butter, condensed milk and sugar together for at least 8 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Cook for 15-20 minutes until a nice golden brown.