In Sydney, Australia, in 1979, my Godfather was my best friend. For a girl at Boarding School at age 11, away from her parents, my Sydney-based Godfather was the closest family I had. He used to treat me dinner at fancy Steak houses (The Black Stump; which had meltingly buttery steaks with whole jacket potatoes seeped in sour cream and chives) and revolving glass restaurants (The Summit). Where he would sloppily dip his fingers in the small jugs of milk supplied for our supposed after-dinner coffee, and draw upon the unsuspecting glass windows, maps, freely and loosely, maps of the entire world. “Here is Turkey”, he would say. Dipping his fingers in the milk and drawing a giant circle around the middle of the pane of glass. “You need to go there. And then, while you are there, you need to go to Greece, which is here”. By the time we finished dinner, the windows were graffitied with artistic milky trails. The restaurant hated us, the waiters despised us. We never had so much fun.
When my godfather passed, I lost the accent that I was born with. I wandered around the city and never sounded the same. People didn’t recognize me. I no longer belonged to my homeland, and when I spoke a ridiculous voice came out which wasn’t the voice I was born with. People didn’t notice any difference though. How could they notice? Nothing could ever be the same now that my Godfather was no longer around.
He was found splayed, dramatically, by his house. His feet coming out from under an ordinary Lemon tree that grazed the garden path by his girlfriend, who lay with him for 3 hours until the coroner came. Rubbing his arms and hugging him tightly. While my father, who was his best friend, methodically took charge of his feet and gently, one by one, scraped the mud off his brand new shoes. (Shoes that were one size too small for him, we were later to find out).
So, I moved house. Recently.
The problem with moving is that you get to go through all those drawers of stuff, that you don’t necessarily want to see again. Stuff that you can’t bear, for one reason or another to throw out, but just keep, tucked away in the back of a drawer hoping you’ll never have to really look at, or deal with it again. It was in one of these drawers that I found something that had belonged to my Godfather.
It might sound a bit odd, but when my Godfather died, while the aunts and ex-girl-friends were fighting hard over who would get his material possessions; the bookshelves, the cheap paintings and the dishwasher (good lord), I wanted to slip away with something that really reminded me of him.
He had had a sweet tooth, but never milk or dark chocolate, only white. He would buy bars of white chocolate, never finishing it, and then methodically and practically cut the chocolate up, and put the remains in an ordinary screw-top jar.
In the death of a loved one, you don’t remember the funeral, because you don’t remember being there, well, not in any living form, really. You’re a ghost. So, before I knew it, standing in his pantry. The place that I loved to be. With his rows and rows of BBQ sauce, (he loved to grill all kinds of meats, outdoors) I had popped the jar of cut up white chocolate in my suitcase and gently, carefully, bought it back in to the United States.
WHITE CHOCOLATE PANNA COTTA with GROUND LEMON MYRTLE LEAF and POACHED APRICOTS.
A dish fit for anyone who’s memory you might be holding dear! The main ingredient? You guessed it; White, milk chocolate, with a good teaspoon of ground Lemon Myrtle Leaf. A native herb indigenous to Australia. My godfather would have loved this dish. RIP my dear friend.
Take 1 envelope of powdered Gelatin and pour it into 2 tablespoons of water. Mix in. Set aside. In a saucepan over medium to low heat, put 3.5 oz of broken up white chocolate, 1 cup of heavy cream, and a quarter cup of raw sugar and 1 teaspoon of Ground Lemon Myrtle leaf. Stir with a wooden spoon until sugar and chocolate are melted. Take off the heat, Add the gelatin and 1 cup and a quarter of whole milk. Stir and pour into ramekins or small glass jelly jars and refrigerate overnight. Serves 4.
What is Ground Lemon Myrtle Leaf? It’s a fragrant Australian Native plant which bears leaves with an intense lemon fragrance. To purchase, go here. A suitable substitute might be ground lemongrass. Adding a teaspoon to this panna cotta creates a very very subtle flavor. It is not overly lemony at all. A little grainy, a little earthy. You still really taste the White Chocolate.
To make poached Apricots: Put 4 halved apricots in a saucepan with half a cup or sugar and half a cup of water. Cook for 5 mins, on Med/High heat. Then remove Apricots before the fall apart, and reduce the liquid down by half. Pour the liquid over the apricots and serve.
Photographs by Tara Donne
(Food, concept, Art Direction; Dimity Jones)