Portia’s Coals from Julius Caesar

truffles

The tale of Julius Caesar is well-known: Julius Caesar, ruler, leader, head of the Roman dictatorship, first to invade Britain, stabbed (quite literally) in the back by his friends, and not just a salad dressing dude.

Whilst the Shakespeare play bears his name as its title, Julius Caesar appears alive in just three of the play’s scenes. Now, Shakespeare didn’t write 100% factual plays, so let’s take this play with a pinch of salt.

It opens with Roman commoners celebrating Caesar’s triumphant defeat of Pompey’s sons in battle. Two officials berate them for their petulant change in allegiance from Pompey- whom they had once supported- to Caesar, and they break up the celebrations. There’s a parade about to take place, and they don’t want Caesar to appear too popular.

Caesar arrives with his wife Calpurnia, Mark Antony (Caesar’s biggest fan), Brutus and his wife Portia, and Cassius. Caesar’s enjoying his parade, when he’s warned by a soothsayer, Beware the ides of March, a curious warning that Caesar dismisses. He is a dreamer, let us leave him.

Exeunt all, except Brutus and Cassius. Now, Brutus- well liked and admired by most of Rome- hasn’t been himself lately. He tells Cassius that it’s because he’s conflicted over what’s going on, but he doesn’t want that to affect his fond friendship with Caesar. He’s worried that Caesar will be made King- a fear that Cassius shares- and they don’t want to kneel before someone they don’t respect as a superior. Cassius thinks Caesar is a weak, feeble man and not worthy of being ruler. It doth amaze me a man of such feeble temper should so get the start of the majestic world.

They start to question why Caesar has become the ruler, and not either of them, and decide that the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, and our lack of ambition and of taking action against Caesar.

Cassius then hears that Caesar will be made King the next day, and swears to the heavens that he will defeat the weak tyrant. His next move in his defeat of Caesar? To turn his friend Brutus against him. Cassius gathers a group of conspirators, visits Brutus, and convinces him that they must kill Caesar.

Meanwhile, Calpurnia’s been having nightmares about Caesar’s murder, and begs him not to leave the house. In fact, everything seems to suggest that Caesar should stay at home, but Caesar won’t, because today’s the day he’s going to be crowned King.

Act 3, Scene 1. Caesar arrives at the Senate. The conspirators gather too, ask him to change his mind on a couple of his policies, but he refuses, compares himself to the Northern Star and Mount Olympus. Then in the play’s most famous scene with the play’s most famous line, Caesar is stabbed by the conspirators, and as his friend steps forward with a knife, he asks, et tu, Brute? You too, Brutus?

The conspirators make it clear that they assassinated Caesar for Rome’s sake, and Brutus makes a speech to the crowds to defend his actions. But friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears, as Mark Antony stands over Caesar’s corpse and tells the crowds to remember the good that Caesar did, his sympathy for the poor, how he initially refused the crown, and to mourn him as a hero. He rouses the mob and they drive the conspirators out of Rome.

It’s all going wrong. An innocent man is murdered when the mob thinks he is one of the conspirators, Cassius and Brutus argue (then reconcile), they prepare for a war with Mark Antony, then Caesar’s ghost appears to Brutus during the night and warns him that he shall be defeated.

Cassius and Brutus enter battle and knowing they will both die, smile at each other and hold hands (read into that what you will). Cassius asks a servant to kill him after hearing of the capture of his friend, Titinius, who wasn’t really captured, and Brutus commits suicide by running on his own sword.

And amidst it all, Portia, the wife who had worried for Brutus and who he had refused to confide in, commits suicide herself by eating hot coals, after the stress of Brutus’s leaving.

But don’t be alarmed; they might look a bit like coals, but these truffles certainly aren’t poisonous. They’re so easy, no cooking required, and are made of crunchy oreo biscuits and dusted with cocoa powder. The oreos are separated, the crushed biscuits added in the melted chocolate mix, and the cream filling is mixed in to give these truffles a proper oreo taste- I bet Portia wishes she’d eaten these crunchy coals instead.

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MAKES 14 truffles

PREP 15 mins

CHILL 30 mins

▪ Will keep for 2 days in airtight container

 

100g oreos (about twelve biscuits)

100g dark chocolate

100g milk chocolate

1tbsp semi-skimmed milk

50g butter

2tbsp cocoa powder

 

1 Start by separating the oreos. Put the biscuits in one bowl and reserve the cream filling in another. Crush the oreo biscuits into crumbs. You can do this by using the end of a rolling pin to crush the biscuits in a bowl, or by putting them into a plastic bag and bashing with the rolling pin.

2 Roughly chop both the chocolates into shards and add to a large bowl. Warm the milk and butter in the microwave, then pour over the chocolate. Leave for about a minute, then stir to melt the chocolate. If it cools too much and the chocolate won’t melt fully, pop in the microwave for about ten seconds.

3 Stir the crushed biscuits into the melted chocolate mixture. Heat the oreo cream filling in the microwave for about 30 seconds to melt it, and stir this into the mix as well.

4 Cover with clingfilm and chill for about 30 minutes in the fridge. Once set, scoop a generous teaspoon of the mixture and roll into a ball using the palms of your hands. Tip the cocoa powder into a bowl and roll the truffles in the powder to coat them. Keep in the fridge until needed. ▪

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