‘Bye Poppet! See you on Sunday evening! You be good for Daddy now!’
With one final effort I succeeded in locking the garden gate, grasped my wheelie bag and strode away from home. The huge rush of euphoria nearly lifted me off the ground; I had to resist the urge to sing out loud and high kick my way to the station.
There is something so deliciously decadent about a girls’ weekend away. The chance to emerge from the cocoon of Motherhood and flutter your way to a hotel in England, not really sure of your child-less identity, but very sure that you’re in need of gossip, pampering, food and wine.
When all the time markers of your Mummy day are suddenly removed, it feels like a thrilling freefall into a world long forgotten. It’s 5 o’clock; time to think about tea. Actually, it’s 5pm, I’m about to catch a train, and grown-ups don’t eat for at least another two hours. 7 o’clock; I must get the bath running. Not tonight girlfriend, it’s 7pm, uncork that wine, snuggle into your Eurostar nest and shake out that English paper. Oh happy, happy day.
By 10pm, Emma, Kate and I were safely assembled in the hotel bar for our annual girlie weekend. We are as different as our drinks; Champagne for me, G&T for Em, and Cranberry & Vodka for Kate. Yet we have known each other for an alarming amount of years, and we share a basic human need to eat, sleep and drink. And catch up on gossip and spend far too much money in the hotel spa.
Between us we have 7 children. Through a complicated system of babysitters for the changeover period, garrulous lists, prepared meals and protracted negotiations, we had managed to leave our offspring in the loving care of their fathers.
One father wiped up vomit, took his children away for the night, ensured that homework was done and hair was washed. One father took his son to his very first tennis lesson and simultaneously entertained his 18-month old toddler. Yet another father drove he and his child north to stay with his in-laws. One of those fathers woke us ladies in our shared room at 0630 on Saturday morning. In his hungover state he called one of us to complain that the baby had been up since 5.15 and would not go back to sleep. The baby was not in distress, she was playing happily in the background.
I will leave you to imagine which father we had for dinner that night.
Husbands notwithstanding, our weekend slowed to a snail-esque pace. We meandered through breakfast, sweated profusely in the steam room, dozed gently during massages and watched the rowers on the Thames exert themselves. By late afternoon on Saturday, I realised that we had demanded nothing of each other. I’d come close to overstepping the mark when I asked Emmy to hold my paper, but apart from that we had existed companionably in our zones of self-contentment. No-one asked me to wipe their bum, no-one threw their food at me, and no-one wiped their nose on my top. Exquisite.
I can’t remember when I last read so many column inches. Friday, Saturday and Sunday papers, all devoured from cover to cover. And in between, we were just us. We questioned, listened, quizzed, aired opinions, compared make-up, asked advice, giggled at the cheeky underwear one of us produced, tried on each other’s clothes, and shoes, shared lipstick, and marvelled at a make-up removal product. It’s official: some girls just never stop being girls.
And in honour of my girls I made some truffles. I lovingly packaged them into boxes and wrapped them in narcissistic ribbon. If the sensual ‘ooohs’ and ‘ahhs’ were a judgement; I suspect the chocs were a hit.
We left each other on Sunday refreshed, but a little downcast. Before next year’s weekend we will try to lasso our three families together, let our children run riot and our husbands drink beer. However life may get in the way, and we may have to wait another year until we are all in the same place.
Although actually, that’s a small price to pay for a guaranteed, child-free, self-indulgent, egocentric, blissful two days away from the harsh realities of life. I mean really, what have I got to whinge about? Only 362 days to go…
Chocolate Orange Truffles for the Girls (makes about 30 truffles)
If you decide to make these truffles for a girlie weekend, may I make a suggestion? Although they’re extremely delicious, you will need to save at least one for Monday morning. After a weekend away pleasing yourself; that Monday morning school run is brutal.
You of course do not need to buy boxes and have ribbon printed, but if you did want to, I got mine from Swift-Hart Boxes, and received great service.
Regarding storability of these chocs...I was a bit perturbed that they'd lost their sheen by the time I presented them to the girls. I'm pretty sure it's got something to do with tempering and chocolate, I must investigate further. To be on the safe side, try and serve these as close to the making as possible. The delicious taste remains unaffected.
For the filling: (can be made up to 36 hours before and kept, covered, in the fridge)
1- 2 oranges
50-100ml extra orange juice (from a carton is fine)
180g gluten free, dairy free dark chocolate (at least 70% dark cocoa solids)
130g dairy free spread
3 tbsps Cointreau (optional)
3-5 tsps sugar
To coat the truffles:
3-4tbsps of cocoa powder
175-200g gluten free dairy free dark chocolate (at least 70% dark cocoa solids) (if you don't mind a bit of waste, err on the side of 200g)
Pretty truffle cases to serve
- Cut 1 of the oranges into pieces and remove any pips. Place in a blender, add about 50ml of orange juice and blitz to a smooth pulp. You will need 3 heaped tbsps of orange pulp for the recipe. My blender is a bit picky and won't properly blend just 1 orange. I ended up adding another but then having quite a bit of orange pulp left over, you may find this happens to you too. I don't really know what to say...
- Using a bain marie melt the 180g of dark chocolate. For the bain marie: Fill a small saucepan with a little water and place on a medium heat. Take a large, heatproof bowl that will sit comfortably on top of the saucepan without touching the water. Put the chocolate into the bowl and stir occasionally until it has melted. Do not allow it to get too hot
- When the chocolate has just melted, remove the bowl from the heat. Add the dairy free spread and beat until smooth
- Add 3 heaped tbsps of the orange pulp and mix. Add the Cointreau if using, and mix
- Taste it and see if you want it sweeter. If so, add the sugar. You might need to return the bowl to the heat in order to melt the sugar
- Now, take a small whisk and start whisking the mixture. I'm never sure if you really need to whisk it, but I always do and the truffles always turn out fluffy. I'm thinking, don't whisk at your peril
- Whisk and whisk and whisk (take a short break but don't let the mixture see you) whisk and whisk, and after a while the mix will suddenly start to thicken. When it does that you can stop, cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge to cool. It can stay there up to 36 hours, but you'll need to remove it from the fridge about an hour before you want to mould your truffles
- About an hour before you want to start making your truffles, remove the inner mix from the fridge
- Line a baking tray with baking parchment, and seive the cocoa powder onto a large plate
- Using a teaspoon remove a truffle-sized amount from your bowl. Dust your hands with cocoa powder, then roll the truffle mix into a ball. Place onto the baking tray
- Repeat until all the mix is used up, then chill the truffles for at least 2 hours, and up to 12
- When you're ready to coat your truffles, melt the chocolate using the bain marie method described above. Then drop the truffle ball into the melted chocolate, and using a metal spoon and your fingers, cover the ball with chocolate. Use the spoon to remove the ball, trying to let any excess drip off into the bowl. Put the coated truffle onto the baking tray (you may need to use two baking trays). If there are holes in your coating, use the spoon to blob on a bit more chocolate
- Repeat until all the truffles are coated. Chill them in the fridge
- When the chocolate is hard, use a small knife to trim off the flat base of the truffles, and place them into pretty cases
- Now, hurry, or you're going to miss your train to the UK...have a lovely time!