I might call this “Surprise Victory Cake”, instead of its actual descriptive name, because I did not expect this to work, and my god, it did. It really did.
I just about half-followed a recipe: made the topping up as I went along; tasted and guessed at the spice quantities; set to work bringing it all together with bowls strewn around the kitchen. The mixing stage was nerve-wracking, and for a split second, I wondered if it was a a waste of time and ingredients.
But then I put it in the oven and the kitchen filled with the smell of autumn. Cut into it and found it had the perfect level of springiness, just the right amount of cinnamon and nutmeg flavour.
It turned out to be a cake that you take into the office and ten minutes later start getting “Oh yes 10/10” messages. A cake that might make your flatmate mutter, “Marry me,” as they take a bite. Maybe a couple of “I feel all warm and cosy inside”s. Read More
That’s right – vol au vents. We’ve done some wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff and landed squarely in the ’70s.
Maybe it’s because I wasn’t around for their orange-tinted heyday that I have a soft spot for a bite-size foods. Or it could be that they leave your other hand free for a drink. The actual reason I like canapés? There’s a lot of scope for using cheese, in more ways than you could with one of those cheese boards that only feature as many varieties as cheese knives in that long-abandoned box (four).
It’s the tooth-squeak of a grilled halloumi skewer. The tongue-tingle of a good quality cheddar paired with pineapple. The nutty quality of an aged Comté. The soft ooze of burrata. If it came to it, I could give up steak, or bread, or pasta. Just don’t torture me, alone(y) without torta mascarpone.*
The cheese of the hour is goats cheese. To some people, it tastes “like a farm”. (When and why and where have all these people been licking barnyards?) But truly, it delivers an unbeatable tang that sits so wonderfully alongside sweet fruits and honey. Here, a soft goats cheese nestles with lightly honeyed caramelised onions and jammy fig to make a vol au vent that’s very much for the modern age. Read More
Anyone who’s been through a school system that kicks off in September knows this: it’s the real new year. As we dodge kids in too-big jumpers on the pavements, it’s hard not to get nostalgic about new bags and catching up with all your mates after some time apart and trying some “new year, new me” magic via the medium of shoes*. And for those of us who throughout the summer crave wool tights and cosy corners, crunchy leaves and steaming mugs of hot chocolate, the type that fit perfectly into the curves of your hand, it’s 30 days of hope and promise.
September, in food too, is the great month of overlaps, its bounty made obvious by a glance at the seasonal calendar**. It’s our last chance for several months to grab short-season gems like plums and blueberries, but our first chance to get in on some sweet butternut squash lovin’. It’s very nearly soup season. Today, we’re focusing on plum, courgette, and the sweet and jammy fig. Read More
This courgette cake was a long time coming. The cake stand in my kitchen had gathered dust. Perched atop the cabinets, it’s stood unloved since the Marvellous Night Circus cake, a state of affairs that 2012 me would never have predicted.
She also wouldn’t have predicted me being caught out with a cache of enormous courgettes that need eating.
Those ones went into courgette and Comté gratin (recipe tbc), but they got me thinking about courgette cake. When I said those words, people recoiled slightly, much like they did with avocado cake, but I’ve proven ’em wrong once and I’ll prove ’em wrong again.
This cake is perfect for this time of year, when strawberry season comes to an end, courgette gluts leave home gardeners desperately pressing the vegetable into the arms of visitors, and the clouds open to remind us that yes, we’ve had a delightful three days of summer but we are still in England, giving you just enough time to put the oven on and consider branching out into wearing sleeves again.
Today, we’re nearly halfway through the Idiot Challenge for Idiot People. Set and voted upon by a group of university friends, the challenge forces us (the idiots) to work out in some way every day for the month of April. It’s less stupid, now, than it otherwise might have been – we’ve negotiated “lighter” exercise, like yoga, in, in an effort to give our bodies a little rest. Two weeks in, and a few people have dropped days, but thanks to a refusal to give in, most of us are going strong, despite aches and the necessity to wake up before the sun to squeeze things in. We’re all exercising more, and better, for it – I guess it’s the way we support each other. This is what I left university with: one degree, and several stubborn, idiot friends.
And then, sticky dancefloors and counting coins in the half-dark. Bubbles up my nose and a too-strong fruit taste. Half-carrying my friend’s dad back to his house after too many “mystery strength” Somerset varieties. These are my memories of most ciders.
It was university, of course, that did that too. May we never drink cider and black again.
Quite understandably, I shy away from cider a little these days, lest I get caught out by something overly sweet and too full of bubbles; still, when given the opportunity to try the new ciders from Aspall, I leapt at it because, well, I have faith in Aspall.