My neighbour just dropped me in a stock cube after I texted his wife asking if she had any. "I just made tasteless soup, need stock or something, please help". She sent her husband over with the errand and he knocked on my door wearing his pyjama bottoms, I opened my door wearing mine, plus other clothes too of course. You have to love conceding to a little bit of relaxation on the streets here, just don't go to the Crescent shopping centre in your nightwear please!
I digress. My neighbours and I enjoy one of those lovely foodie exchanges that I think I can take the credit for starting. I've been working on an on-going food project that requires me to make many things I just couldnt eat on my own, so I send them round to the pals, mostly the same PJ wearing friend and his wife and kids. They report back with, "yum" or "a bit over-cooked" or other constructive criticism, or just sometimes an empty plate comes back. Sometimes PJ Dad stays at the door and wolfs what he is given without saying a word to the kids, mostly this is when it's donuts or cake of any kind. They dropped me over some potato cakes one night that my son stole all for himself and most recently, I got a large piece of lasagne on a Saturday evening when I had just arrived home, frazzled after having to adress some horrible personal business. The comfort that the food brought me completely took away my pain and gave me a warm hug, better than any expensive meal in a flashy restaurant ever could. Sharing food with someone says "come join us, have what we're having, take a weight off, everything will be ok".
Cake can be the most powerful food language of all. It's sweet, it's easy, like all of our favourite things in life. When there are birthday parties, I try and send out a few cupcakes and brownies to sweeten up the street. )We've had our neighbourhood turned into an armageddon recently by bad local planning and it's not unusual to come home and find your pathway gone, or stuff fallen off shelves from the vibrations).
There's a reason why cookbooks about cake baking sell so well. Cakes, cupcakes espescially, are so easy to make and produce delightful results that make the baker clap their hands and jump up and down with self-fulfillment. Few things that come from eggs, fat and sugar can make so many people happy so quickly, and impress people too. I worked as a photographer at a national newspaper of ill repute for over a year when I brought in a box of brownies to the staff as a Christmas present. It was only at the festive party that I then met the MD who came up to me, gushing about how great the brownies were. Funny, he never said I was any good at taking pictures, seems the writing was on the wall all the way back then, but I didn't get the hint.
When life is tough, we lose our appetite, our stomachs say "no, now isn't a good time, come back when everything is better". Not eating is a symptom of feeling unwell, out of sorts, upset. Eating is good, eating well is great.
They say that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, I don't know about that but I do know that I can't be with a man who doesn't love food, who has no appetite. One of my favourite pass-times to share with a loved one is to make his favourite thing and then serve it up, I will sit in front of him and watch his face as the spoon goes in his mouth. The eyes must close and he has to float off somewhere for a little while, that's where I get my buzz. It doesn't stop at the man, it applies to all people, watching people get happy for just a moment from food you've made (chocolate works best) is a sweet little thrill, they get happy, you get happy, everybody wins.
And so, to share as much food as a blog can share. My latest favourite recipe from one of the hottest chefs of the moment; Yottam Ottolenghi. I blog this cake because the recipe makes two which means I can keep one for myself and welcome callers, and I can give one away to my parents who love it or to someone else I am feeing loving towards. It is so easy, literally a batter in two tins. You can get the Orange Flower Water from any Asian food shop, I got to the one near the Tait clock in Limerick, it costs 99cent. Bake this and share it and feel the love come back to you.
SEMOLINA, COCONUT AND MARMALADE CAKE
- ¾ cup sunflower oil
- 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- ½ cup orange marmalade
- 4 eggs
- grated peel of one orange
- 1/3 cup caster sugar
- ¾ cup dessicated coconut
- ¾ cup plain flour ( I use white spelt)
- 1 cup + 1½ tbsp semolina
- 2 tbsp ground almonds
- 2 tsp baking powder
To serve: greek yogurt with one or two drops orange blossom water
- 1 cup caster sugar
- ½ cup + 1½ tbsp water
- 1 tsp to 1 tbsp orange blossom water, to taste
1. Whisk oil with orange juice, marmalade, eggs and orange peel until marmalade dissolves. In a separate bowl whisk flour with semolina, almonds and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until well combined. Mixture should be runny.
2. Divide batter between two 1 L loaf pans (or one large loaf pan) that has been greased and lined with waxed paper. Bake in a preheated 180 C/ 350F oven for 45 to 60 minutes
3. When cakes are almost baked, place sugar and water for syrup in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Add orange blossom water to taste. As soon as cakes are done, start brushing them with hot syrup using a pastry brush. Do this a few times allowing syrup to soak in. Be sure to use all the syrup.
4. When the cakes have cooled down remove from pans and cool completely. Serve with Greek yogurt flavoured with a few drops of orange blossom water if you wish.Makes 2 cakes
This cakes improves with age so tastes beter the more you eat it, so keep eating