My chapped hands and sore shoulders look forward to what should be their final week of house painting (for now). The finish line appears in the near distance as we stumble wearily towards it, hearts firmly propped up with thoughts of a warm family Christmas and a rest of longer than 24 hours.
The birch plywood is morphing into a kitchen and stairs, our bathroom glistens patiently in the warehouse. Porcelain tiles, maple worktops, vintage doorhandles and simple skirting boards wait for their moment to slot into place and become part of the house.
Aching muscles aside, I feel an enormous sense of homecoming each time I step through that new front door. The light dances on freshly painted plaster and rushes with abandon into the chapel of the stairwell. It is a bijou palace, neat and clever. I know every square inch of it, inside and out. We have welcomed it slowly into the family and now it welcomes us back.
Autumn is finally here, strangely sudden after a late spell of warmth. Strong winds and chill mornings remind us that Winter is a coming, lest we forget to dig out our woolen coats and gloves in time for the inevitable snap.
Spices are just the thing to bring a warming glow to soups and stews, and medicinally they bring warmth to the body. Not just chilli - cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, cumin & turmeric are amongst the many spices that keep the body warm from the inside out. Rounding out the sweetness of roast vegetables, lending depth to braised meat and excitement to the greens of Autumn, I use them with a liberal hand at this time of year.
This month's theme for Go Ahead Honey, hosted by Nooshin of For the Love of Food, was Spiced Desserts. Perfect as the nights draw in! I thought about pumpkin pie, spiced chocolate fondants, raw-food cinnamon cheesecake and nutmeg posset before settling on a quick and delicious dessert that can also stand in as a tea time nibble - or even a little walking treat - to help the troops on when enthusiasm is flagging. At the moment I just don't have time for elaborate desserts, so it had to be something quick.
I love the exotic menthol of cardamom with chocolate - it sings through the rich darkness like an upscale After Eight. Both flavours absolutely sing with sweet, bready, toasted almonds, so a simple tray of Chocolate Bark it was. Made in minutes with the minimum of fuss. You could even make this and pop the shards of scented chocolate in a fancy box as a Christmas gift?
Cardamom Chocolate Bark
80g Dark Chocolate (we use 90%)
40g Flaked Almonds (about a handful)
7-8 Fat Green Cardamom Pods with Black seeds
Toast the flaked almonds gently in a dry pan until pale golden. Cool.
Break chocolate into small pieces.
Grind cardamom seeds to a rough powder in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder.
Melt 70g of the chocolate in a bain marie (bowl over simmering water) without stirring.
Off the heat, add the last 10g of chocolate and leave to melt.
Stir in cardamom and 3/4 of flaked almonds.
Scrape onto a baking parchment lined tray and spread out in a thin layer.
Top with remaining toasted almonds and allow to cool until it is set.
Snap into random pieces and cookie monster the lot.