When Lilacs Last In The Dooryard Bloom’d
In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash’d palings,
Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle—and from this bush in the dooryard,
With delicate-color’d blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig with its flower I break […]
An extract from a melancholic poem that upon reading seems to lift my soul, yet its sorrowful tune tugs gravely at my heart strings. As of late, I have been going through some rough and emotional times. Djamo and I have never had the need to make many, not to say any, visits to doctors or clinics; making the impact of a recent focus of needing to do just that substantially harder to cope with.The stress coming from the sudden and mysterious shortening of my PhD programme has not helped us either. But slowly we have begun to adjust to the current climate of our lives, and the awareness it has brought us on both how we live our lives and how we hope to live our lives in the future. My mother always tells me that these so called ‘bad’ happenings are blessings in disguise. And surely, after the initial shock and sudden hopelessness, a window in my dark room has been opened, allowing streams of light and purifying air to relieve me of my burdens and carry forth a more positive attitude. After all: trying times are here to help and develop us, to make us more aware of the ailments and built-up anger we hold towards our true selves.
For a few months now, a deeper, wiser part of me has yearned to seek contact with a dear friend of mine. Somehow, I continuously found myself postponing, pushing myself deeper into my work, sometimes staring ambiguously at my computer screen, weekends spent somewhat aimlessly and uninspired by the always present beauty of life. In hindsight, I believe it was the elusive, mysterious fragrance of the dark purple hues of Syringa Vulgaris that awoke me from my saddened state. Dreams and stories of the faerie folk dancing and residing within its branches, its mystical qualities of protection, and the echoing reminder of the gift of life.
I stared, in awe, at its darling purple buds, as I made my way across the street to inhale their delightful scent. I thought back to the times when I had learnt about the language of flowers, the dark purple lilacs symbolising the first emotions of love. Such happy connotations for such a delightful bloom. Only then did I see the vicious circle I had ensnared myself in. Needless to say, my evening was spent pouring emotion and words onto paper, before sending it to my beloved friend. The words of wisdom she returned to me seemed to be exactly those words I had needed to find throughout my ordeal.
Life, she believes, is filled with distractions on which we are fixated and that mesmerise us, which can secretly lead to a life where we no longer continue to walk down a path that will neglect the life we desire and the self we deeply aspire towards. This path, leading us away from where we are meant to be, can only be seen as a false preoccupation, leading us to believe that treading it is the only ‘right’ thing to do. This type of procrastination often takes place in times of heartbreak, misery, and dispiritedness, or when we refuse to confront the problems that we are finding within ourselves. Only through compassion, understanding, self-acceptance and self-love, regardless of our ‘imperfections’, can we truly transform ourselves into our better selves. In times of struggle, we need to accept the situation and listen to the lesson that is there to be learnt, rising forward, strengthened and empowered by the experiences we face, reminding ourselves that we are not failures, or undeserving.
Her words, beautiful and strong, resonated within me, filling me with encouragement, inspiration, and a desire to backtrack myself to a place of acceptance and remembrance of life as a wonderful gift. Dear friend, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Lemon Sugar Dusted Bomboloni with a Rich Lilac Crème Pâtissèrie
Cooking time: 4+ hours
Makes: 12 balls
150g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
110g wholewheat bread flour
2-3tsp caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, seeds scrapped
1 egg, beaten
400ml rapeseed oil
50g lemon sugar (recipe to follow)
300ml of lilac crème pâtissèrie (recipe to follow)
On a low heat, warm the milk and the vanilla slightly (2-3 minutes) on the hob, before pouring it into a small bowl with the yeast and caster sugar. Remove seeds from the vanilla pod and add to the milk mixture. Leave for 5-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, sieve the plain flour and the wholewheat bread flour together in a bigger separate bowl. Set aside. Mix the melted butter with the beaten egg and pour slowly into the milk mixture, stirring constantly.
Now, pour the eggy-milk mixture, a small amount at a time, into the flour until a dough is formed (note: it should be slightly sticky). Cover with a kitchen towel and leave to prove for 2-2 1/2 hours in a warm place.
When the dough has doubled in size, flour your hands and a tray or baking sheet, before tearing golf ball sized sections of the dough and rolling these into a ball with your floured hands. Place on the tray and set aside for another 1-2 hours.
When ready, pour the oil into a deep saucepan until filled halfway and place over a high heat until a temperature of 190c (375f) is reached. Place 2-3 bomboloni at a time into the oil and fry for 2-3 minutes or until gold brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and pat dry with paper towels.
Moving quickly, pierce the balls with the pipping bag filled with the crème pâtissèrie and filling the inside of each bombolini, before rolling in the lemon sugar. Continue with the next batches of bomboloni before serving. Eat immediately or whilst warm.
Cooking time: 10 minutes
50g caster sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1/8tsp ground cardamom
Zest the lemon and place with the sugar and the ground cardamom into a spice grinder and blitz until equally dispersed and the sugar granules are finely ground. Store in a sealable jar and use within 7 days.
Rich Lilac Crème Pâtissèrie
adapted from: Great British Chefs
Cooking time: 20 minutes, plus cooling
Makes: approximately 300ml
70g lilac sugar (recipe to follow)
3 egg yolks
10g cornstarch, plus extra if required
10g plain flour
1 vanilla pod
Warm the milk and vanilla pod on the hob on low heat, stirring occasionally until it begins to boil. Remove from heat, cut the vanilla pod lengthways, removing the vanilla seeds and adding this to the milk.
Meanwhile, mix the lilac sugar and the egg yolks together before adding the cornstarch and the flour (note: sieve the flour and the cornstarch together before adding to the egg mixture). Mix well.
Now, one tablespoon at a time, begin to add 1/4 cup of milk to the egg mixture, whisking constantly to ensure the eggs do not scrabble. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan over a medium heat and allow to boil and thicken, stirring well and ensuring that the custard does not burn on the bottom (Note: if the custard is still far too runny, simply add 1 tbsp more of cornstarch).
If the custard becomes too lumpy, strain through a fine sieve before pouring into a bowl and allow to cool completely. When ready, add the crème into a piping bag and set aside until needed.
Cooking time: 1 + hour, plus infusion time
Lilac sugar, with its intense floral aromas and haunting undertones of green foliage after a spring shower, brings a mysterious, elusive fragrance and flavour to everything it is dusted with. Delicate and delightful. This sugar is slightly labour intensive as you will need to remove each blossom individually, however, it is definitely worth the effort. As with all flowers, ensure that they have not been sprayed with pesticides and are not collected next to a road.
5-6 lilac clusters
500g caster sugar
Clean the lilacs and allow to dry thoroughly. Begin to remove each blossom from the stem and place in a sealable jar along with the caster sugar. Seal and give a shake before storing in a dark dry place. Allow to infuse for 4 days, shaking intermittently before changing the lilacs for fresher ones and repeat the process another two times. When the sugar has been infused, remove the lilacs and store, as before in a dark dry place until needed. Can be stored for up to 6 months.
Alternatively, place the lilacs and the sugar into a spice grinder until finely ground. Allow to infuse for at least a week before using. Can be stored for up to one month.
Thank you for reading.