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)


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