Buttered Up: Tolerance in a no-bake chocolate cinnamon tart

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What is tolerance and do we have it in our long-standing culture?


Do we learn to reject the other at an age where we know no better or do we base our presumptions on a need to identify with those “like us” – those that share our palates, familial obligations and patterns of thought?

This might sound odd but I was raised as a non-traditionalist with a healthy dose of all things traditional. Allow me to elaborate.

Celebrating the special occasions of the Muslim, Christian and Hindu faiths, my parents continually strived to bring the best of all worlds to our already diverse household. A blinking tree, a maddeningly delicious roast and a row of personalized Christmas stockings would warm our winter home. Ramadan would bring a wealth of wondrous dishes and feelings of gratitude and appreciativeness while Diwali, the Indian festival of lights and perhaps the most beautiful of Indian festivals celebrating the triumph of good over evil, would cheerfully come with handfuls of sweet treats like Jalebi pre-soaked in syrup, a distant sister of the Egyptian “meshabek,” both sticky chewy swirly delicacies.

This, to me, was tolerance. In food.

As I traversed the foreign rows of unexplored supermarket aisles later in life, Malaysia brought to my attention the many uses of ingredients I usually never think of using. An example would be the underestimated condensed milk, used in the famed Malaysian pulled tea called Teh Tarik, drizzled onto ice cream sandwiches sold on roadside carts, and liberally poured onto colorful shaved ice desserts and peanut butter toast.

I found myself picking up a can or two, secretly mimicking the older and wiser Malay ladies stocking up for some late night sweet tea or a day of baking, made warmer with the company of their younger daughters.

Taking my sealed cans of condensed milk home with an open heart left me with a stronger connection to the tropical country that was hosting me graciously; hoping one day that I too might find a nice person to teach me the tricks of their striking cuisine and how to sneak condensed milk into the least expected of dishes.

So, if you have a friend who is intolerant to other cultures or sects in society or if you yourself have reservations, it’s time to take yourself and that friend out to the nearest unknown territory whether it be a neighbor’s home where there lies a deep belief in a religion that is not yours, a person who belongs to a different social standing or the nearest and most bizarre food stand you can come across on a hungry night. Find tolerance in food and the rest will follow. It all leads to a better place.

No-bake Chocolate Cinnamon Tart

1 can of condensed milk
1 teaspoon of dark unsweetened cocoa powder
Half a pack of digestive biscuits
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
60 grams of melted butter
12-15 almonds, blanched, peeled and roughly chopped

Blitz your digestives in a food processor or get a sandwich bag, put your biscuits in it, seal it, and pound away your rage. Add the cinnamon and melted butter. Place your biscuit mix in a tart or springform tin and press down firmly into the bottom and sides of tin. Pack it tightly. You don’t want a loose base. Now, refrigerate your base for 15 minutes to half an hour or until it holds. In the meantime, get a saucepan. Pour one can of condensed milk into your saucepan and put it on low heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Don’t let it boil. Add 1 teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder and whisk away until it’s super smooth with no lumps, clumps and unsightly bumps. Turn off the heat and add the almonds, now all chopped, into your chocolate condensed milk goodness. Stir. Mix until it’s all combined. Take the biscuit base out of the fridge and pour your liquid mixture all over it until it’s uniform and touching the edges all around. Put it back in the fridge and leave it for at least an hour and a half before slicing, serving, sighing and smiling. (Mine melted quite a bit because of the humidity.)

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