Most families have at least one person like her — the warm one, the one with all the culinary skills, the one who is most likely to watch cartoons with the kids, or play games. The one who’s motherly without necessarily being your mom. In my family, her name is Opal. And she’s always been there for me.

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My mama bella is a go-getter, and she’s been a career woman her whole life. She’s inspired me to strive, to achieve, and to never stop trying. While my mom worked, her youngest sister Opal was there to see the kids come home from work, to make us the delicious treats we craved, to watch Sesame Street and as I got older, MTV. One of my most vivid pre-teen memories is of watching Headbanger’s Ball with my auntie, and trying to explain to her who Joan Jett was. And now today, my auntie helps to take care of my nieces Dominique and Isabella. It delights me to think that the tradition continues – except today, my nieces are watching The Backyardigans and Dora the Explorer with Auntie instead.

Auntie Opal is in many ways, the heart and soul of our family. When I think of her, I think of companionship, floral housedresses, and her infamous Chelsea Buns. This is the recipe, for the teatime treat that fills our house with the aroma of deliciousness.

Auntie Opal’s Chelsea Buns

1/2 oz fresh yeast
1 tsp sugar
7 fl oz warm milk
12 ounces plain or all purpose flour
pinch salt
3 oz melted butter
1 1/2 oz sugar
1 1/2 oz raisins (optional. I’m not a fan of raisins!)

for glaze: 1 tbs sugar, 2 tbs milk

Cream yeast with 1 tsp sugar, warm milk & sprinkling of flour & set aside until frothy.

Put flour and salt into a warm bowl and add 2 oz of butter and the yeast liquid. Mix well and knead thoroughly.

Cover & leave for about 45 mins until the dough has doubled in size. Re-knead into a rectangle and brush with remaining melted butter, sprinkle with sugar & raisins and roll firmly like a Swiss roll.

Cut into 1 1/2 inch thick slices. Put these on a greased baking tray, fairly close together but leaving room to swell. Cover & leave in a warm place for 10 mins. Brush with a little beaten egg & bake in a hot oven 230 degrees C (or 450 degrees F) for 15 mins.

Melt the sugar in the milk and brush this glaze over buns as soon as they come out oven. Then sprinkle lightly with castor sugar.

I see Auntie Opal on my too-infrequent trips to Trinidad, and whenever the family is gathered, we talk on the phone. I can’t wait till the next time I go home, to get a warm hug and catch up with her. Hopefully over a cup of tea and a plate of Chelsea buns!

(here I am with my two aunties, Gemma on my left, and Opal on my right!)

I love you, Auntie!! Thank you so much for everything you’ve done to help raise me right. Happy birthday!!!!!!!

Do you have an Auntie Opal in your family? Tell me about her! And if you do, don’t hesitate to let her know how much you love and appreciate her (even if it isn’t her birthday!)

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