I treated myself to a couple of wind chimes the other week, partly thanks to my ongoing fascination with not-quite-all things Japanese but also because of my basic inability to resist an appealing Amazon shop. (Cherry blossom jam! An umbrella in the shape of a lettuce!!) I bought two wind chimes: a delicate glass one painted with blue dragonflies (much too fragile to go out in our windy garden) and this little iron owl who is much more robust. As you can see, pretty much as soon as he was hung from the tree he got rained on. You can’t see in that picture, but this type of chime features a strip of paper* that hangs below the bell itself and catches the breeze. When used ceremonially, prayers, wishes or remembrances of the dead can be written on the paper but mine was blank when it arrived. I did wonder about writing something but felt a bit daft and hung him out on our cherry tree as he was. That first night was a breezy one and he made much too much noise so the next morning I came up with an ingenious idea to make the paper easily detachable by fixing it on with a safety pin. That way, we could easy pop out and remove it, thus keeping him quiet on breezy nights without having to take him off the tree altogether.
A ghost story floated its way into my head. What if, by hanging the chime out without something written on there, I’d accidentally attracted a wandering spirit who was roaming the night looking for the wind chime that should have been hung out for her by her grieving relatives, but they had forgotten or disowned her or had been prevented from doing so, so she latched onto mine? And even then, everything would have been fine if I’d left the paper outside where it should be, but then I’d gone and made it easy to bring indoors – so now the ghost was trapped in my home, lost and cross and vengeful? The first I’d know about it would be when the chime that would ring mournfully even when the day was still and with the paper pinned safely indoors: that, and the crushing sense of sadness and anger that would descend whenever I was in the right room. When tiny misfortunes and accidents keep happening, I’d eventually figure out that I was living under a curse of sorts and take to the internet to come up with a solution (as people do, in these sorts of stories, not having a conveniently placed Japanese scholar to help with tricky plot holes) which would probably be something involving water and fire…
* Tanzaku, that’s what the papers are properly called. I think.
I have no time to actually write said story, of course! But I’d like to. I think it would be fun…
These little chocolate biscuits were fun to make too – the ‘dough’ mix is really easy to work with and I did go to the effort of weighing out each blob to make sure they paired up nicely. Dan’s recipes are very generous with filling/icing – there was almost too much for this many biscuits. Well, ok, I’m not complaining!
Mint Cream Chocolate Biscuits
(Makes 12, recipe originally in Short and Sweet)
- 75g unsalted butter, softened
- 75g caster sugar
- 75g good dark chocolate
- 125g plain flour
- 1 level tbsp cocoa
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- 150g icing sugar
- 50ml double cream
- 8-10 drops peppermint oil
- Beat the butter and caster sugar until fluffy, then melt the chocolate and beat this through, too. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder, and beat in.
- Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan-assisted)/350F/gas mark 4. While the mixture is still fresh and relatively soft from the mixing, make teaspoon-sized balls (10g-15g each) and carefully press on to a baking sheet lined with nonstick baking parchment. The pressed dough balls should sit about 0.75cm high, and though the dough will crack around the edges as you press, it bakes firmly.
- Bake for 25 minutes, then remove and leave to cool on the tray. For the filling, beat the icing sugar with the cream and mint oil, then sandwich the biscuits together.