The other day, I noticed that I was paralysed by the warmth of my morning shower. Looking out the window, I saw that only a few withered leaves protected the oak trees lining our street from total butt-nakedness.
As I got dressed, I noted that the number of clothing layers I needed to brave the cold had leapt from my usual two to five or six. My inability to stay warm notwithstanding, it’s time to face the facts. Some people further down the line may laugh, but listen up Aucklanders – we’ve got to start making our preparations for the long, temperate winter ahead (“long, harsh winter” sounds better, but we have to be realistic – Auckland is subtropical, after all).
All over the city, we are swapping our t-shirts for skivvies and our flip flops for those big ugly boots that look like oversized slippers. We are replenishing our stock of tea and replacing hot water bottles and we’re forgetting to close our curtains at sundown. We all have our seasonal routines. In our household, we have begun to nest.
Nesting consists of three crucial stages: getting into pyjamas, dragging the duvet onto the couch and watching comfort television. Pyjamas are an extremely important part of the nesting ritual. Universally recognised as the world’s most comfortable clothing, pyjamas provide the general feelings of relaxation necessary to begin the nesting process. The duvet brings an element of warmth to the mix. For some reason, a duvet on the couch is at least three times as comfy as a duvet in bed. For maximum duvet efficiency, we arrange it into a nest around us. The best nest has the capacity to gently catch your head when you begin to nod off.
Comfort television is a blanket term for the trashy TV that envelops you and supplies an emotional warmth, however artificial, that staves off the winter chill. I use the winter nesting season to nurture my long-standing love affair with Detective Olivia Benson on Special Victims Unit (she’s so sensual, yet so maternal and protective! Be still, my beating heart!), whereas my girlfriend prefers a healthy dose of the space western Firefly.
Two more things polish off our winter nesting ritual: Slow cooker meals and the noble hot chocolate. The benefits of slow-cooker meals are numerous. For a start, they require far less prep time. And let’s be honest: every minute spent over the stove is a minute not spent curled in a ball in your couch-duvet-nest. Add to this that the meals can be hearty, nutritious and magically warming and you’ve got yourself a winning combination.
Hot chocolate is my favourite part of our household’s nesting season. We’ve spent many winters improving our hot chocolate recipe. We like our chocolate hot, dark, creamy and a little spicy. We’ve experimented with whipped cream, cinnamon, chili, rum and amaretto. Our years of experimentation have brought us to what we believe is the golden recipe for hot chocolate perfection. It brings together two of our most cherished winter traditions and my girlfriend and I have decided to share it with the world, so that you may recreate the nesting ritual in your own home. Be aware, it is decadent and your arteries may clog in protest, but it is worth it. This recipe, much like the winter season, is best shared with friends.
Nancy and Steff’s Bittersweet Petit Chocolate Mort For Slow-Cooker
Serves 8-10 (or 4-5 if you can stomach two hot chocolates in a row)
Ingredients: 7 cups milk, 1 cup cream, 1 cinnamon stick, several pinches of chili powder to taste (optional), ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 block (250g) of dark chocolate, chopped (we like our chocolate to have a cocoa content of at least 70%), 4-6 tablespoons of drinking chocolate or cocoa (we prefer Trade Aid’s drinking chocolate mix), Icing sugar for extra sweetness.
Combine the milk, cream, cinnamon stick, vanilla extract and a few pinches of chili powder in the slow cooker. Start your comfort television show of choice. Heat mixed ingredients on high for one to two hours. Pause your show. Add your chopped chocolate and the powdered drinking chocolate/cocoa. Extra points if you thought to chop the chocolate in advance. Mix in the chocolate so that it melts evenly. Taste. Taste again for good measure. If the chocolate is too bitter for your liking, add icing sugar to sweeten the beverage. Use a ladle to dole out even portions to your friends/partner/yourself. This is where we like to customise. We’ve found that Kahlua, amaretto and rum (not necessarily together) go well with hot chocolate. Add it to your mug before you pour in the hot chocolate. Take your mug back to your nest, restart your programme. Warm your hands on the mug. Relish the wintertime.
| Nancy Howie