Tag Archives: snack

mama’s nutmeg cake

29 Nov

Did you forget to water the plant? Is it now weeping leaves? (Aren’t you glad at least that it’s not a neglected cat, half-bald?)

Did you forget to do the washing up? Are you too lazy? Maybe paper plates are a better idea?

Did you step on someone’s foot and, in apologising, accidentally grab their boob?

Did you miss the bus and all of your new found intentions to be on time? Did you jump and down and curse? Did you maybe curse again later, a little too loudly in class, realise that fuck is easily translatable in most languages?

This cake is the answer to all your problems. No lies. Only one bowl, no washing up. Have a slice in bed for breakfast, hand out more slices as thank-yous and sorrys.

Be impressed by the contrast in texture – a layer of biscuit crunch and a layer of mahogany cake – all wrapped up in persistent nutmeg. Be amazed again at how easy it is, and yet how successful it makes you look.


Nutmeg cake

(A favourite recipe from my darling mama, in her words.)

 125g (4oz) plain flour

125g (4oz) self-raising flour

125g (4oz) butter

200g  (7oz) soft brown sugar

1 tsp bi-carbonate of soda

250ml (9floz) milk

1 egg

½ a nutmeg,  grated

optional 50g (2oz) walnuts, chopped

Put the 2 flours and butter in a bowl and rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. You can use a food processor for this. Then stir in the sugar.

Butter a 20cm (8″) cake tin and tip in half the mixture. Press it flat to form a base.

To the remaining mixture stir in the bi-carb and  the nutmeg followed by the egg and milk. Pour the batter onto the cake base and sprinkle with walnuts.

Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 40 for about 40 minutes.

Note – if you don’t have self raising flour add 1 tsp of baking powder to a total of flour (250g).

party food : duck and persimmon kebabs ; pear and ricotta croutons

22 Nov

Fruit is  healthy, obviously, but you don’t care about your guests’ waistlines. More importantly and superficially, it’s pretty. Next to your sombre piece of duck, a bright cube of persimmon takes all the glory. Add a round red tomato and you are in business. And a skinny sliver of pear makes a boring piece of toast as elegant as a spring hat.

(Am newly addicted to persimmons. Like a winter melon, neon orange and full of juice. Pairs with lots of things: cheese, chicken, prosciutto.)

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Duck and persimmon kebabs

As my mother used to sigh during her cooking classes: yes, it will work equally well with chicken. I happened to have a packet of duck wing bits, already deboned, in the freezer.

Marinate the duck overnight: about 200g of duck breast or deboned wings. Lie the meat flat in a shallow bowl and top with equally generous sloshes of soy sauce and rice vinegar. Add a teaspoon of honey and a teaspoon of tamarind paste. Add lots of pepper, chili if you like it and a teaspoon of something sour: mango powder is good.

The next day: quickly fry the duck in a large frying pan with a touch of oil until still slightly pink. Chop into bite-sized pieces and thread onto cocktail sticks with cubes of persimmon and halved cherry tomatoes.

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Pear and ricotta croutons

The chutney is the key to a strong and interesting flavour here – pick a good sharp one: tomato-chili or red onion would be good. I used Indian date and ginger, delicious.

Cut some squares of white sliced bread. Melt a little butter in a large flat frying pan and fry the bread to golden and crisp croutons. Alternatively, drizzle melted butter over a tray of bread squares and bake for 10 minutes.

Mix some ricotta with enough salt and pepper to give it a bit of bite. Quarter, core and slice a couple of pears wafer thin, lengthwise to make a nice long point. Leave the slices in a bowl of cold water with a squeeze of lemon so they don’t brown. When you are ready, top each crouton with a teaspoon of ricotta, a slice of pear and a little blob of spicy-sweet-sour chutney.

a glass of red wine

18 Nov

A toast to the Beaujolais Nouveau.

(Yesterday in France, maybe elsewhere too, lots of wine buffs and general keen wine drinkers got together to taste the first bottles of Beaujolais, to sniff and to make informed comments.)

A toast to the lady in the wine shop who invited us all the way in to taste three different Beaujolais, despite the fact that we only wanted a petit vin at 4 euros. She offered us a neat rose of salami slices, listened to our uninformed opinions. The bald man butted in too, recounting the history of Beaujolais Day (it’s not called that). It was generally companionable and nice.

A toast to this stupid country, the France that provides me with angry tears from its illogical rules (I have to take a badminton exam? what?) then follows up with free wine, no snobism in sight. She even lets you drink out of non-wine glasses.

And in the spirit of tipsy sentimentality, to my dad, who had a collector’s love of wine and the mental encyclopaedia to go with it, and to my mother, who has just written a marvellous cookbook.

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What would you like to eat with your red wine aperitif? Delicate cheese biscuits, conjured in a quarter of an hour? The subversive prunes wrapped in prosciutto? Maybe the pear and ricotta croutons or the beefy sausage rolls with goat’s cheese that I haven’t quite posted yet…

While you’re waiting, pour yourself a glass and go toast someone else, someone you like very much.

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