Tuesday, October 30, 2012

unexpected fluttering

We're big on notes in our family. Not so much of the 'thank you for the thoughtful gift' variety but more often than not our handwritten notes feature the details of a new favourite restaurant, important bus route numbers or, from when we've holidayed together, instructions as to our whereabouts - 'gone to the shop to get fish, bread, milk etc back soon.' 

I have always been a collector of words (I still have all my childhood and teenage journals, detailing fervent plans to have exciting haircuts and boyfriends and amazing clothes and I've kept just about every birthday card I've ever been given) so I find it hard to throw these notes away. I feel like there's something of the person preserved in the note. Sometimes when pulling a cookbook out from the shelf a note will come unexpectedly fluttering out from between the pages and I'll find myself tearing up at the sight of my Mum or Grandmother's handwriting. 

I came across one of these such recipes the other day, for Armenian Nutmeg Cake, and knew that I wanted to make it as part of this month's cooking club challenge (which incidentally is all about recipes handed down by voice, handwritten notes or memories). The funny thing is I can't remember for the life of me who usually made this cake, whether it was my Mum or my Dad, as they're both pretty good cooks. Dad was normally in charge of dessert when they were having guests over but the nuts and spices in it has all the hallmarks of a Mum-type cake, the kind that as a child I would probably not have been interested in picking at before the guests arrived.  

Regardless of who was the author of this cake, the minute I tasted it I was transported back to Sunday guest lunches in our old house in Pennant Hills. I think it somewhat miraculous that time can be preserved in a recipe like that. In sharing this recipe with you, hopefully you can make it and create your own new timeline.

Armenian Nutmeg Cake

2 cups brown sugar
2 cups wholemeal flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
125g butter
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon carbonate of soda

Set your oven to moderate (180°C) and grease a 20cm cake tin.

Combine the brown sugar, sifted flour and baking powder; rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Place half of this mixture evenly over the base of your cake tin and press down lightly with a fork to form a base. 

Dissolve the carbonate of soda in the milk; add the beaten egg and nutmeg. Pour this on to the remaining crumb mixture in your bowl and mix well. Pour this onto the tin, sprinkle with chopped walnuts. Bake in a moderate oven for an hour. Check on the cake about halfway through the cooking time and if it's getting quite brown you can cover it with aluminium foil. Once cooked through, allow the cake to stand in the tin for five minutes before turning onto a rack to cool.

And there you have it. 

It's sort of halfway between a cake and a slice and is at once both chewy and slightly crunchy, caramelly and spicy. Not the most beautiful of cakes but a damn good afternoon cake or one for when friends drop by. One thing though, if you're prone to colourful dreaming perhaps avoid having it just before bed. I don't think the teaspoon of nutmeg is enough to bring on the screaming jeebies but just to be on the safe side...

For a lot more wonderfully inspired recipes and memories have a look and see what the other cooking club members got up to this month:

Lucent Imagery  (cooking club founder)


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

street moments

Greetings again! It's quite surreal to realise I've been back now for almost a month! Coming back to Earth has been a bit tricky and I'm still wading through a heck lot of photos and trying to get my head into Sydney and this topsy turvy spring weather and work and things. Still, there is something lovely about extending the trip feeling for as long as possible....

I was a bit like Alice in Londonland during our trip. I couldn't see enough. Everything was fascinating and magical: from misspelt, ardent graffiti to abandoned street cakes to little folk, spotted at the vibrant and loud Columbia flower market. I loved hearing the flower sellers there yelling out prices to the passing crowd, or in one vendors case giving good weather advice: 'Don't be a wally, grab a brolly, two pounds a bargain!'

There's something to be said for really looking at a place and retaining that sense of childlike wonder about the little details. Looking up and down brings into view a whole new world. I'm hoping to keep my travel eyes in place a bit longer and re-discover some of the little wonders of Sydney too.

Next up the promised food and markets!


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

unexpected and wonderful

Well hello!

It's hard to believe I've been to London and back since my last post. What a trip - surprising, inspiring, vibrant, overwhelming - London was unexpected and wonderful and almost impossible to reduce to any one experience or moment.  Here are a few of my first impressions:

What an amazing city! London greeted us with blue skies and sunshine and so in the early few days we picnicked in parks and walked our legs off. We stayed in an apartment in Bethnal Green, which is near Shoreditch and Brick Lane in East London and was very vibrant and villagey. I loved that you could walk for fifteen minutes in any direction and encounter so many vastly different neighbourhoods, architectural styles, people, food....

One morning we walked for an hour or so from our apartment across town to Clerkenwell to find a shop, which sold nuts and bolts of all things, and accidentally stumbled across the best coffee in London from a tiny, little, Italian cafe in Hackney, and all because I needed to find a loo.

I think that is always my favourite way to explore a new city - no real agenda, no plans, just wander.
And what a city to wander in!

The above pics are from Bethnal Green, Brick Lane, Millenium Bridge, Carnaby Street, Shoreditch, Bloomsbury (British Museum), Hampstead and Bethnal Green again (where I had a 'how much is that doggie in the window?' moment).

Looking back over my photos from the trip I've realised I've got quite a few bakeries, shopfronts and markets to share with you too but for now it's good to be back home and also back here. I've missed this space while I've been away and missed you guys too. Hope all is well where you are.