Backstage bites

It’s tradition in the world of opera to write good luck cards for the cast and crew on the opening night of a show, and I like to accompany these with a home made treat. So preferable to a bag of Haribo. For the production I’m in at the moment, I’m staying in a very lovely but minimally equipped studio flat. One of the other sopranos is gluten free and the counter tenor has a nut allergy. I decided to go for a good old brownie (nut free) - a cinch to make, with simple ingredients and no electric whisking required. I can’t remember when I first started putting blueberries in my brownies, but it’s something I’ve been doing for many years. You get a burst of tangy sharpness in an otherwise rich treat.

It had been a week of highs and lows. Bathed in mostly glorious sunshine, it was a stonking time to be working at the beautiful Iford Manor near Bath. Our week of British Summer couldn’t have been more welcome. When there is a five minute, outdoor walk between your dressing room and the theatre, rain is major inconvenience. With four days in the space before the public dress rehearsal it was touch and go whether everything would come together in time. Half of the cast were struck down by a wretched lurgy, despite the heat, and we had only one day of rehearsal with the orchestra. Just before curtain up we were told we had to cut fifteen minutes of the opera to avoid having to pay the musicians overtime, which the company can’t afford (union rules dictate that an instrumentalist can’t play for more than three hours at once. They’ve probably got it about right as WHO wants to sit in a theatre for longer than that?). The forlorn director raised the proverbial guillotine and lopped off nuggets great and small. Heads were rolling.

After the smash and grab dress rehearsal, the opening night didn’t go as smoothly as it could have, either. On set, there's a functioning shower in the middle of the stage which is supposed to turn on for about three minutes at the beginning of the second half. This was all well and good, except that then it didn’t turn OFF. It ran for the ENTIRE rest of the show, meaning we couldn’t use the middle of the stage and people had to improvise around the deluge. As we were wearing microphones, this also put us in danger of electrocuting ourselves. One guy had the genius idea of using an umbrella prop to shelter under during his aria. Singing in the rain? Indeed. To make matters worse, the four onstage beds, which we all run and clamber across at various moments, had had their mattresses replaced, which kept slipping off onto the floor. Slip, slide, splash we went.

The brownies, luckily, were a triumph and I’m sure helped everyone through the slightly stressful performance. They are a little messy to eat so I think the designer was a bit anxious about us all indulging in our brighter than WHITE costumes. Oh well, needs must.

RECIPE

Gluten free chocolate brownies

Makes 24 small brownies, 15 minutes prep, 15 minutes baking

dessert / gluten free / easy peasy / nothing fancy / perennial / party / ready in a jiffy / baking

These are SO gooey and fudgy. They are gluten free but I wouldn’t say they’re a healthy option.

* Butter - 120g

* Soft brown sugar - a medium mug-full (I didn’t have any measuring devices!)

* Dark chocolate - 300g, chopped

* Vanilla extract - 1 tsp

* Eggs - 3, beaten

* Cornflour - 4 tbsp

* Blueberries - 150g (optional. replace with dried cranberries or nuts of your choice)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Start by melting the butter and sugar in a saucepan. Next stir in the chocolate until completely dissolved. Leave to cool slightly so the eggs don’t curdle, then add the rest of the ingredients. Stir vigorously for thirty seconds, until the mixture is smooth and glossy.

Pour into a large baking tin (I used 30cm by 25cm) lined with baking parchment and bake for 15 minutes. The brownie should still be very gooey. If you are using a smaller tin, cook them for a little longer, as the mixture will be deeper.

Leave to cool and then transfer to the fridge to set. Delicioso.

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