Life often takes you far away from where you intend to go. And then, when it appears least likely, you can suddenly find yourself where you really want to be. Out of the blue, and with equal parts luck and persistence. We’ve been revisiting our dreams and goals lately. Which has been a somewhat dispiriting exercise, as for many reasons, these seemed so terribly out of reach for now. Silly really, because our dream is quite simple: to live in the bush, by the sea. A humble, handmade life with a vegie garden, a few chooks, time for creative pursuits and a little family. Idealistic perhaps. But it’s been our dream for as long as we’ve known each other, and individually, long before that.
Well, last week we had some news. Some once-in-a-lifetime, pinch-me kind of news. Which has made what seemed very far away, sneak up on us and actually… happen! K – who has been job-hunting for a very long time to supplement his freelance biz – landed a job on Moreton Island. A sand island national park, captivatingly stunning and wild. Remote, yet only a 75-minute ferry ride from Brisbane. Just look at this place…
This is a totally plum job, lifestyle-wise. A job which comes with a house nestled in the bush by the beach. I know! We are still pinching ourselves! Although it means a bit of time apart for us for a few months, it will very soon be our home together when we are three. I can’t imagine a more wondrous place for our little bunyip to grow up. Whales, dolphins, dugong and turtles in the backyard! Two freshwater lakes. Beach walks, saltwater swimming, kayaking. Starry skies and the haunting stone curlew song a night-time lullaby. We let our dreams run away with us initially to the utterly fantastical idea that we might be living in one of the lighthouse keepers’ cottages! Well, this didn’t eventuate. But it’s not out of the question, down the track. Who knows, perhaps one day… we’ll keep dreaming!
So it’s been a hectic couple of weeks – we only had a week’s notice – getting K packed and ready to move to the Island. I made these little treats – unfortunately for him – after he left. I’d been itching to make this gorgeous looking chocolate hazelnut slice, but when I got around to making it, found myself in the thick of a hazelnut crisis. Sweet tooth pushing me on, I found a recipe, similar in spirit, for chocolate fruit and nut balls from Feeding the Bump (a book on high rotation here) and made a couple of variations on that, adding ground wattleseed, from the indigenous Australian Acacia tree.
I was almost tempted to call these babies ‘ugly bombs’. They aren’t much to look at. But they are nutritious, made with little more than nuts, seeds and dried fruit which provides ample sweetness. And importantly, they are very chocolatey, with a toasted nuttiness and a slightly bitter dark chocolate/coffee taste from the wattleseed which I LOVED. You can find ground wattleseed at specialty food stores in Australia or order it online. If you don’t have wattleseed, or any of the ingredients, have a play with what you’ve got. Any kind of dried berries would pair well with the chocolate. Or try a teaspoon of ground coffee instead of the wattleseed. I also tried rolling a few of the balls in shaved coconut – I think these were my favourites!
A quick word on the technology. See how I said I wanted a handmade life? Well, I’m not a luddite (promise), but I do not own a food processor. Mostly because I don’t have the kitchen space. But I have come to love what this means. It means I find workarounds (use my creativity). I use my mortar and pestle a lot. I have come to prefer rustic textures in my food. I know there’s a place for food processors, and if I had one I’d have probably used it for this recipe. So feel free to do so.
Photos of our island home to come soon!
The mixture is very sticky, so have a bowl of water nearby to wash your hands in between rolling the balls. Try substituting various nuts and seeds too.
1/3 cup cocoa + extra for dusting
1 tbspn wattleseed, ground
1/4 cup milk
2/3 cup mixed nuts (I used hazelnuts, almonds and pecans)
1/3 cup pepitas, ground
1 tbspn sesame seeds
1/2 cup dried dates, pitted
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup prunes, pitted
Roughly chop dried fruit until quite fine. Roughly chop nuts and dry roast in a skillet or in the oven until lightly toasted. Keep an eye on things to avoid burning. Remove nuts when you can smell them toasting. When cool, remove and discard hazelnut skins. Chop and grind pepitas in a mortar and pestle. Mix fruit, cocoa, wattleseed and milk in a bowl. Add nuts and seeds and mix well.
Line an airtight container with baking paper.
Roll fruit and nut mix into balls. Dust with cocoa and place in container. Refrigerate for an hour or more.
Stores in fridge for up to a week (apparently… this part is untested!).
Makes 24 teensy balls or about 16 more reasonably sized balls.