“The day I get interested in gardening is the day I know I am old,” I used to announce, rudely.
My mother loves gardening. Our garden is overflowing with colour. Flowers, fruit trees, spiky vegetables plants. I was never that bothered. I ate the raspberries. Admired the tulips. Picked herbs for pizza and lavender for shortbread.
Then I got a balcony. And my mother, sly as she is, sent me some packets of seeds. Radishes and rocket. Suddenly growing something from scratch seemed very exciting. Dragging bags of soil back from Castorama, I realised I probably am old.
But I got my hands dirty. Planted some herbs and daffodils of my own in a cute little window-box. And the seeds in some big tubs. Watered them, waited. Rang my mother to check if I had it right. Like Bella in our old student house, I wanted to dig them up the next day to check if it was working.
This Saturday I rang her again. The seeds were now straggly teenage sprouts, poking up their long heads. I didn’t care that much; I had had a long tiring day with the bambini and, all alone again in the apartment, just wanted to cry. As only she knows how, she talked me out of my neurosis, cheered me up, made me hungry with stories from the cookbook she is writing. That she is always patient and kind, positive without being relentlessly cheery, is endlessly amazing to me. So I made her cornbread and ate it in bed with Amélie. (Still good.)
The cornbread disappeared within 24 hours. Flavoured with rosemary and thyme from my balcony, with a pleasant heft from the bright yellow cornmeal. Made in a stylish ring tin, it had plenty of crisp crust as well as a soft cheesy centre. Served warm, torn from the tin and spread with fresh ricotta, it was dinner in itself. Then breakfast with scrambled eggs. Then a snack with orange slices. The second one, made with sundried tomatoes this time, vanished equally quickly, much appreciated. Just as if she had made it for me herself.
Here is her recipe, as written:
Rosemary cornbread with scrambled eggs
150g (6oz) self raising flour
1 tbs caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
100g (4oz) fine polenta (maize meal)
50g (2oz) grated cheddar cheese
½ cup chopped fresh herbs
250ml (9floz) natural live yoghurt
75ml (3floz) sunflower oil
200ml (7floz) cream
pepper and salt
To make the corn bread mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Add the eggs, yoghurt and oil and then stir to make a batter.
Pour into a 500g/ 1lb loaf tin that has been greased with a little oil or lined with baking/silicone paper. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 45 minutes until set and when tested with a skewer it is dry in the centre.
Whisk the eggs and cream together and season with pepper and salt. Cook in a non stick frying pan over a low heat stirring until the egg starts to set. Don’t over cook – stop cooking and stirring just before you think it is ready. The eggs will keep on cooking, so if you stop now and serve them, they will be perfect.
Serve the scrambled eggs with thick slices of warm corn bread.