When it comes to desserts none are quite as exceptional as those of my dear friend, Julia Lucia over on The Farmer’s Daughter. She has been on a well-deserved hiatus from blogging to focus on her catering business but is about to make a much welcomed return. In celebration we thought it apt to collaborate and spend the day making one of my all time favourites – her sumptuous Chocolate Torte. Staggeringly rich chocolate ganache is filled with a hidden layer of berries and encased in smooth pastry; it really is as heavenly as it sounds.
It goes without saying that the fresher the berries the better the torte, so early one morning we filled ourselves with coffee and headed to a local farm to gather our own produce.
The skies were full and the air was thick with the threat of rain. The dew lay fresh on the leaves as the grass soaked through our shoes, dampening our toes almost immediately. The slight chill is invigorating and as we meander through the fields an acute sense of commune settles in, a feeling that somehow we – two humble beings and this vast, beautiful expanse – are connected. There is something so organic about rising with the dawn and watching nature unfold in its morning salute to the sun.
So often we berate the wet weather, avoiding the elements and hiding away from our climate. The reality is we are very lucky; our crops flourish and our fields are awash with lush vegetation. Standing in the middle of a burgeoning field as far as the eye can see is a surefire way to heighten that appreciation. Everyone that can should feel the rain on their skin once in a while. Allow yourself to really feel and you will begin to really live.
We wander, we taste and we gather. Plump raspberries, blackcurrants and ruby-red berries fill our baskets to overflowing. Our only measure of time is the berry-stained skin on our hands. We have far more than we need but there is a silent, mutual understanding that neither of us is quite ready to leave. There is something special about these quiet moments; a gentle therapy, yet another whispered gift from the earth. Eventually we muster the strength to tear ourselves away and begin to retrace our steps, passing a stretch of young sunflowers on the edge of bloom.
Through an unimposing barn door lie farmer Finlay’s headquarters, an eclectic homage to the produce he displays on every available surface; some fresh, some dried, some frozen. The amber haze from the overhead lights casts a honeyed glow across the stone walls as we weigh our haul and chat about his harvest. It is a warming return to reality. As we stand face to face with the man who planted the fruit we now hold, the man who is trading tips on how best to cook his berries, I realise that this is shopping local at its very best.
Our insta-culture is breeding an impatient race. The slow moments that keep us present are becoming harder to pin down. We want things now, we want things cheap and we want them easy. Shrugging off the uncomfortable notion of accountability is much easier when we don’t see the people behind the produce. A return to conscious consumption cannot wait for a general consensus or for corporations to change their stance; it’s personal. Taking a trip to our local farm shops, observing their considerate practices, stopping to appreciate the labour and love behind our food – these deliberate, unhurried moments are significant yet simple steps towards mindfulness. Maybe it’s not possible all the time, and that’s ok. Start small, but start. Your food will taste better and your heart will feel lighter; surely that’s no bad thing?
Foraged berries in hand, our next stop is home to discard our sodden shoes, re-fuel and get started on baking this incredible torte. Next week sees the concluding part of our first culinary collaboration and the result is pretty spectacular. Be sure to join me and I hope you enjoyed the journey so far! In the meantime go and pay Julia Lucia a visit on The Farmer’s Daughter and have a browse through her amazing recipes and food photography.