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Christmas Add-ON

I published a Christmas article in signalhouse edition. With their permission I've included it here:


Dorothy Kitchen went to work for my grandmother-in-law in the 1940s as a sort of ‘mother’s help’. She was a 14-year-old orphan without prospects and the redoubtable Mollie took her in hand. Do, as she was known, became a qualified nurse. She helped look after my husband and his two elder brothers when they were babies alongside embarking on an independent career. Eventually, after his first wife died, she married the kindly and by-then elderly radiographer, Fred for whom she had worked for years. They had one year of married life together before he, too, died of galloping cancer, possibly the result of all those years spent in and around primitive x-ray equipment. A year later the gold Mercedes Benz he had bequeathed to Do was stolen from a street in the smart suburb to which he had taken her to live, and was never seen again. A year after that she travelled to Italy where her purse, passport and all personal identification were stolen. She is the only person I have ever known whose hair went white overnight.

When I first met her, she was a pale-skinned, red-haired, middle-height, slightly stocky woman of late middle-age with a blunt-featured face and bright eyes. At that time, she was still living with Mollie, a ‘companion’ in Mollie’s widowhood, but working nine to five as a nurse in Freddie’s rooms. A few years later she moved out – scandal! – into her own home for which she’d saved all her working life, and some years after that, she and Fred married. About a decade after his death, she developed sudden onset dementia – from seemingly completely fine one day to barely functional a few months later – and died about fifteen years ago.

I do realise this is all an unimaginably different world to now. Things were slower. People were more constrained. Active charity was a thing where neither party second-guessed each other’s motives. Honour was a thing, too. I came in on the tail-end of all that and found it admirable. I feel an immense nostalgia for it sometimes.

So. Do was a fixture at the glorious, rambunctious Christmases of my husband’s family. She contributed two items. Hedgehog Slice, and Brandy Butter. This is the Hedgehog Slice. (I’ve changed the quantities to decimal). Can we raise a glass to a good woman, who took on life’s vicissitudes with fortitude and élan and never, ever complained?

Hedgehog Slice

1 packet of plain biscuits (I have checked other recipes – they suggest 250 grams. VL)

½ cup desiccated coconut

½ cup walnuts, chopped

2 tbsp cocoa

150g dark chocolate, chopped

100g Butter

250g can condensed milk

A few leaves of chopped mint.


200g dark chocolate, chopped

50g Butter

1. Grease a shallow baking tin (*and line with baking paper VL).

2. Crush the biscuits (with rolling pin).

3. Put in bowl with coconut, walnuts, and cocoa.

4. Heat the chocolate, butter and condensed milk over a low heat until melted.

5. Allow to cool.

6. Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the bowl, plus mint.

7. Mix well.

8. Press firmly into tin (use wooden spoon).

9. Refrigerate until firm (30 minutes).

10. For topping: Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.

11. Stir until the chocolate and butter have combined.

12. Pour topping over the hedgehog.

13. Set in fridge for approximately one hour.

14. Cut the hedgehog into slices and serve.

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