Who would have thought a simple birthday/anniversary cake could cause such problems?
The raisins, currants and sultanas had been soaking in brandy for a month: plump and boozy. All the other ingredients were neatly pre-weighed ready for the mixer. The recipe was just a quarter of my basic Christmas version https://youtu.be/Y81yGF72dUQ but, like the Easter variation https://pennysddblog.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=2283&action=edit I replaced sugar with our own honey.
Eggs were added to fluffy butter and honey; flour folded in with citrus zest and juice; cherries, apricots, dried apple and nuts were embalmed in the spicey mix. All spooned into the cake mould; into a low oven and timer set. Smugly triumphant as it had taken only 30 minutes.
Horror on realising that the jar of carefully pre-soaked fruit had been forgotten: cake out of the oven and the late additions gently folded in. Thank heavens for a silicone cake mould that didn’t need lining.
Time to start planning the finishing touches: a week of daily injections with the reserved fruity brandy before marzipan and icing. But did I have enough icing sugar in the cupboard? Out came the container and, with a sickening crash, it hit the floor.
You can hardly imagine the spreading power of icing sugar when dropped from a height. And it has special staying sticking power. Three washes of the floor by indomitable co-cook, Karen, and we were still finding traces days later. There’s that special gentle sucking kiss of shoes on a tantalisingly tacky surface.
Hence, this week, a simpler supper dish as prepared by the sous-chef: a Tian Provençal which is ideal when we have gluts of summer vegetables:
1 large aubergine, sliced in half lengthwise.
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced.
salt and pepper.
1 or 2 courgettes.
4 or 5 tomatoes.
tablespoon thyme leaves.
tablespoon rosemary leaves, finely chopped.
Stud the aubergine halves with the garlic slices, douse with about a tablespoon of olive oil and season generously before wrapping in cooking foil.
Bake the aubergine package in the oven at 180C, Gas 4 for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, slice the courgettes and onions.
When cool enough to handle, scoop the softened flesh of the aubergine into the base of an ovenproof dish.
Fill the dish with upright alternating rows of tomato and courgette, sprinkling herbs and seasoning between each row.
Drizzle another tablespoon or so of olive oil over the rows and bake in the oven at 180C, Gas 4 for about 45 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
This dish has many variations according to what you have available. For example, thinly sliced peppers could be included and other herbs added. We made a simple topping of toasted walnut pieces to add crunch (toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds would have been as good).