My sister and I were on the waterfront in a small town named Parapat, in Sumatra Indonesia, the sixth largest Island in the world . Even with a population of 50 million people, buses were barely adequate and the bone-crunching all stops ride from Pematangsiantar, a sliding 2 hours away, had left us relieved to be standing looking at the water. Sliding refers to the travel time that is a fluid clock, sliding at all times from 2 or 3 hours difference to the timetable depending on the number of stops and the amount of chickens, bikes, baskets, fruit and vegetables and people loaded in and out of the bus. This trip followed our sleepless night in a memorable hotel.
There we were, looking out over Lake Toba, 640 square kilometres (247 sq miles), when we were approached by a youngish man, who gestured towards his boat and said “Samosir” with a flirty grin …just where we wanted to go!. Samosir is in the middle of Lake Toba the largest island, within an island, (Sumatra) and it’s the fifth largest lake island in the world. We had heard that lots of the places on the Island had their own boats, and ferried people across, and of course he told us his “Uncle” had a great place to stay. (If you have any reservations , you would be feeling smug right about now). The journey from Parapat should take 1 hour ending in Tuktuk the main tourist town about 10 minutes from the ferry stop. Our boat ride took 2 hours and ended in another place. Feel uneasy?. So did we.
We pulled up to a small jetty with an old wooden building next to it. The young Skipper had done the best he could all journey flirting and trying to touch, being rebutted each time. By the time we reached the wharf he was in a very sulky mood. The amount of men standing on that jetty as the boat drew in was the exact time we realised we were not in the right place. Unfortunately the Skipper was no longer in any mood for us and threw our bags on to the jetty , unfurling the rope and taking off again , leaving us to yell after him…….but where are we?… come back!. I wish I was making this up.
The jetty swayed with each wave that hit its’s side as the Skipper restarted the engine, turned quickly and disappeared into the dusk. The building beside the jetty appeared to be a cafe/ bar/ hotel. A man sat at the low desk with an interested look on his face. One side of the cafe was open to the jetty and the tables started to fill as the audience of men returned to get a comfortable seat and a drink to watch our little show and have a laugh. After some sign language and the help of a few yellow toothed Lotharios, we found that there was no regular boat service from this jetty. As it was night fall, they showed us to an upstairs room , a winding rickety staircase to an attic above the “bar”. An old lady was busy knocking cobwebs from between the beds and smiling with a toothless grin. Yes , OK be quiet, noone had stayed here since ……..? the end of never, apparently. We were not willing to wash in the lake, (the only bathroom) and we had free use of the squat toilet in the bar ( yay!). We were a bit scared to leave the building, ( better the devil you know eh?) so we sat at one of the tables and ordered dinner. I cant remember what we ate , but we just pointed and hoped it would be alright. We had the idea that alcohol may kill any germs we were unlucky enough to encounter and help us sleep, so we ordered the only brew available. A sort of coconut Arak, that caused the bar to erupt in whoops of horror and delight. In hindsight probably not wise either. Another long sleepless night, and we still hadn’t quite got to our destination. But that’s another story……………..
Chocolate Ricotta Tart Recipe
Mean time, here’s something we could have taken as a picnic on our boat journey. It may also have distracted the skipper with its lovely chocolate base and light ricotta custard.
- 1- ½ cups plain flour (200gm)
- ¼ cup pure icing sugar (40gm)
- 125 gm (1 stick)chilled unsalted butter, chopped
- 1 egg ( 70gm)
- 1 Tablespoon of cold water
- 100gm melted dark chocolate ( 3.5oz)
- 500gm ricotta (8 oz)
- 5 eggs ( 4 separated)
- 1 tablespoons cornflour
- 90gm (1/3 cup) castor sugar
- ½ vanilla bean scrapped
- zest of a small lemon
- 3 Tablespoons caster sugar extra
- Cocoa for dusting
- Put the flour, sugar and cold butter pieces into the food processor and blitz till it is combined and crumbled, with no lumps of butter left.
- Put the egg and water into a cup and whisk together lightly.
- With the machine going pour all but a teaspoon of the egg mixture into the machine and let it mix for several seconds until the dough comes together in a ball. If it appears too dry add the remaining liquid. Dont be tempted to add extra liquid, until you are sure. Wet pastry becomes tough and hard. Rest till cold, the freezer makes this quicker.
- Roll out to fit a 23cm ( 9-10in) tin with a removable bottom and chill.
- Bake the case blind ( full of beans or rice). In a 170 degree oven until golden.
- Trim the case and spread the melted chocolate ( you can melt it at 1- 1½ minutes in the microwave) over the base of the pastry and leave to dry..
- Beat the egg yolks, and whole egg, sugar and vanilla & zest till nice and light and fluffy. Then, I like to puree my ricotta in the food processor till it is smooth, then add it a ⅓ at a time. This makes a very smooth fluffy base. However, you could just add the ricotta as it is a bit at a time mixing well if you want to skip this step then beat till very smooth. Then sprinkle over the cornflour and incorporate well. Pour the mixture into a bowl and set aside.
- Using a very clean bowl and whisk pour half of the egg whites into a bowl ( reserve the others for another use) Beat till frothy and white then add a Tablespoon at a time of sugar and beat till glossy and holding it's shape.
- Fold the whites into the ricotta mix half at a time, making sure that the air isn't knocked out of it. Pour this into the pastry case leaving a little room at the top.
- Bake the tart at 160 till just set. Approximately 20-25 minutes or for a deeper tart for around 60 minutes
- Cool in the tin before removing from the tin.
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