Shakespeare: The Aftermath

There are a lot of posts I need to write.  I need to write the gargantuan photographic post about Pericles (NB: There was definitely enough food.).  I need to write about going to the market and finally – finally! – getting asparagus (and in such large quantities I’m having difficulty fitting it all in my fridge).  I need to write up the recipe I randomly invented at 6:00 this morning when I should have been sleeping, and had to get up early to make even though I assure you there was already quite enough food.  I even need to write about the new exciting cookbook I got last week that is filling me with joy.

But it’s still obscenely hot and humid and stuffy, and I’ve only just got dinner underway (pasta bake involving leftover marinated artichokes and sun dried tomatoes, feta dip, eggplant dip, leeks, tomatoes and – surprise! – asparagus), and I’m not sure I can face that much writing tonight.

But you will get a sneak preview of just one of the things I cooked, because it looks like it escaped from a Dr Who episode (probably one from the 1970s), and amused us all no end.

Scary jelly, surrounded by highly inauthentic brandied stuffed dates

It’s called Balouza, and it’s a rose-scented jelly made with water,  rosewater, sugar and cornstarch.  And pistachios.  I actually think it’s quite pretty, but I seem to be in the minority.  I was originally aiming for it to look like water surrounded by ships, because normally it’s left un-tinted, giving it a strange, opalescent, whitish colour, but when I saw the colour of it I changed my mind, because it looked far too much like something you might step on at the beach.  And I wasn’t quite ready to colour it blue, so I went with matching the rosewater.

My guests thought it looked both revolting and hilarious.  I explained to them that apparently, it is a compliment for a belly dancer to have her tummy compared to a belouza, so of course it was inevitable that someone would try to make it jiggle in a belly-like fashion…

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Shakespeare readings at Casa Cate.  Truly, we are a bastion of high culture.

Americans reading this are probably mystified by our amusement with this dessert, since I understand that a lot of American puddings are thickened with cornstarch and thus have the weird, clammy, jelly-like texture that this dish does (please tell me this pudding doesn’t look completely normal to you), but in all honesty, we don’t do puddings like that in Australia.  The default image of ‘pudding’ tends to be something hot and cakey in texture, generally with a sauce of some kind, and I, for one, find it deeply disturbing to gaze into a saucepan that was only moments ago filled with an innocent-looking, milky substance only to see a jellyfish-like object coming to life before your very eyes.

And really, that is one disturbingly textured dessert.  I only wish we’d manage to get footage of two of our Shakespearites attempting to create a standing wave in the jelly.

I must say, though, disturbing textures and colours aside, it’s really quite a lovely, cooling thing to eat in hot weather – very cooling and delicate in flavour, like a subtler, less sweet version of Turkish delight.  I’m told it’s often served cut into cubes and floated in a rosewater or orange flower water syrup, with raisins and almonds scattered over it.  I’m not sure what that would be like, but personally, I think it would be absolutely lovely on a summer night with strawberries and cream or icecream.

Maybe tomorrow night…

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