Monday, 7 May 2012

May 7th - The cottage at the end of the world, and cakes for rainy days.

Dear Nigel,

The season of rain has driven me to cake...again. I made a fine coffee shop cake which got me lots of brownie points with a friend whose attic i'm about to invade with my excess furniture as i attempt to move myself and the  kids to a shoe box in the sticks.

The cake was a white chocolate maple cake which had a lovely creamy texture to it as the white chocolate was melted and added to the cake mixture itself. I love cakes that are not too sickly sweet and this one was perfect. It comes from 'Secrets of AGA cakes' by Lucy Young ( who works with Mary Berry), but cooks perfectly in an ordinary cooker like mine, too. Lucy Young is a very under-rated cookery writer, i think. I use her recipes a lot as they are very practical and quick, and often with an unusual combination of flavours or ideas, which i find refreshing.

I made a second cake from the book this evening - a swedish apple cake, to be eaten warm with custard for pudding (the richness in the cake deriving from the half pint of single cream added to the mixture).

When not making and eating cake i  have been organising our house move lately. At long last the children and i are moving to somewhere where i can breathe a bit better. The cottage at the end of the world is waiting for us. There is a tiny stream behind it and a field to play in for the dog.Today i took the children for a visit. "Where's the garden", said Sophie, looking at the garden. I could see that selling a shoe box to them was going to take a bit of creative thinking and imagination. In the end they could see themselves paddling in the stream in their swimming costumes in the Summer and eating a picnic lunch in the shade of the oil tank.

Houses either shrink or they grow as you look at them. By my second visit the cottage had grown as i became accustomed to the low ceilings. This time, having spent hours with graph paper and scissors arranging the furniture to fit, it seemed to have shrunk again and i begin to doubt my own measurements.

We have been welcomed with open arms, and we're not even there yet. The village is organising a jubilee tea - like hundreds of other villages up and down the country - and it seems a great way to say hello and meet people. Tom (16) refuses point blank to go. I like the whole idea of a community tea or a street party. They are events that you remember and hang on to. "Where is the Queen's castle?" Molly wants to know. "London". "And she's having her party here?" "Yes."... I expect she'll be joining in the children's sports, too, and playing on the seesaw with you both...

You are having something between a late lunch and early tea. What do you serve someone at two forty-five in the afternoon? Pancakes. The recipe is for orange and ricotta pancakes and seems like an enriched version of a drop scone or scotch pancake.I like to cook-and-eat these little bites in one smooth movement. Like you, they are best eaten straight off the pan. Sometimes i see them packaged in cellophane boxes in the supermarket - all lightly-coloured and flabby. Mine are often blackened (maybe a bit much then), scalding hot and dripping with butter and syrup - almost a different product entirely.I can almost feel the pain of scalded tongue already.


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